rising to the challenge: cinnamon buns with dried cranberries & lemon zest

cinnamon buns

Sometimes in order to attain comfort you must move outside your comfort zone. I shy away from finicky recipes. Complicated steps and unfamiliar ingredients scare me a little bit. But I do push myself to try new techniques or try to see something in a whole new way. The rewards of putting yourself out there are always a bit risky, but the rewards are great.

These cinnamon buns are an example of a great reward. I’ve never made cinnamon buns before because they seemed a bit too fussy for my liking. But I really wanted to make the tightly swirled buns found at the market in my neighbourhood. You see, the Union Market makes 2 kinds of cinnamon buns – the large, blown-out style covered in icing, which I always pass on because they’re just too sweet and give off a bad attitude. But the other cinnamon bun is a shiny golden-hued bun laced with cinnamon and raisins. It sits meekly next to its brassier neighbour and I like this bun best, the one that doesn’t shout. It’s sweet but not overly so and with your morning coffee there’s nothing better.

cinnamon bun

I didn’t know if I could replicate them, but I wanted to give it a shot. While I’ve gotten over my aversion to using yeast, I still shy away from recipes that need rising time. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of girl and I just hate the waiting, but I went at it anyway. In the morning I mixed together butter and flour and yeast and pushed myself to wait it out and watched that lump of dough grow and rise and arch its body over my largest mixing bowl. In the evening, I rolled it flat and slathered on the butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and dried cranberries before rolling it up tight – but not too tight. I arranged the dough in pans and put it in the fridge until morning. I got up extra early to let the buns rise again, my patience once again tested. But when the buns got fat and chummy with their neighbours, into the oven they went. And the scent filling your kitchen smells as good as any bakery.

Oh, trust me, it’s worth it. The fussiness, the wait, the reward. And maybe you’ll love them so much that you’ll make them again and notice that the things that bothered you in the past have now become routine. Your nerves (what nerves?) are relaxed and you don’t need to go over your recipe with a fine-toothed comb. The sense of pride in knowing that “it’s no big thing” is a wonderful place to get to. It’s a badge of honour – you’ve climbed that mountain – you’ve made it!

second rise

I loved these buns. My husband really, really loved these buns. But I should mention that they aren’t the same as the buns I wanted to replicate. I’m okay with that. I certainly could rise to the challenge and work and try again and fiddle with the proportions and add an egg wash. But I also could walk the six blocks and pick up 2 cinnamon buns with raisins from the friendly owners and walk back the six blocks to enjoy them with our morning coffee.

oh yes!

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24 comments to “rising to the challenge: cinnamon buns with dried cranberries & lemon zest”

  1. 1
    Mary (What's Cookin' With Mary)   February 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

    One of my husband fav baked goods are cinn rolls. He’d be so excited if I made these! Great recipe.

  2. 2
    Michelle   February 25, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I love cinnamon rolls. I was also utterly intimidated by yeast and bread, oddly enough my first bread baking experience were these rolls. They turned out lovely and from then on I have been hooked on making my own bread. GOOD FOR YOU!

  3. 3
    Chihiro   February 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

    These look so deliciously rustic and soft. I’ve never tried lemon in a cinnamon roll before, but will try to remember to add it to my next batch of sweet bread. Can’t wait :)

  4. 4
    Jacqui   February 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Cinnamon rolls are so worth the effort! Hint: make a double batch and freeze half. Then when you plan on having them, pull them out the night before, cover them with a clean towel and let them rise through the night. They’ll be ready to go in the oven first thing in the morning, without to much waiting!

  5. 5
    kickpleat   February 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks Mary, my husband loved them too. I think they’re instantly a husband fave :)

    Michelle, hooray that we’ve got this in common. They’re great, aren’t they?

    Chihiro, they are soft and rustic and I love that. The lemon zest adds an extra dimension that I think works so well.

    Jacqui, great tip! In fact, I just did that with the other pans and it worked well. Doh, I’ll amend my recipe to include that, smarty pants :)

  6. 6
    The Rowdy Chowgirl   February 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I’m really impressed! I am much more likely to walk the 6 blocks than spend the time to make the cinnamon buns myself, but I have a lot of respect for those who make the effort. :)

  7. 7
    Meister @ The Nervous Cook   February 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    These look incredible — the best thing about them is you can tell just by looking at them that they’re just sweet enough, without being cloying. Really beautiful.

  8. 8
    Colene   February 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Cinnamon buns are my weakness! I’ve taken to sneaking over to the Whole Foods to buy the yeast-free blueberry cinnamon buns because they’re not too sweet like the iced ones you mentioned. I’ll try making my own sometime…maybe this weekend! Mmmm.

  9. 9
    Julie   February 25, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    I know what I am attempting on Sunday morning. Or I could just duck into the Union Market (my best friend Sarolta lives two doors down!) and pick these beauties up. Of course it would not be the same at all…

  10. 10
    Maddie   February 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I probably shouldn’t have read this post this morning, right as I’m about to move and my cupboards are bare! Yum…stomach=mad grumbling now.

    And along the line of Jacqui’s tip, I’ve made “overnight” cinnamon buns before by reducing the yeast slightly and letting them rise for 10 hours in the fridge as I sleep, which is much easier on your REM cycling.

  11. 11
    Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul   February 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Yummy! I bet these are great with the lemon zest!
    I wish I could make them for tomorrow’s breakfast, but I’m at my boyfriend’s, and he has none of the ingredients : (
    You know, I bet I’d love them with orange zest too.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. 12
    Bijoux   February 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Oh cinnamon buns! You’ve read my mind :) I’ve been wanting to make cinnamon buns for a while now but had no idea where to begin. Now I know where to go for a tried and true recipe which is better than Googling and then debating which recipe to make.

  13. 13
    susan   February 27, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Hi everyone- I share your fear of yeast breads…I have only recently ventured into making pizza crust with yeast–not too difficult and not a long wait. I do have a really great cinnamon roll recipe that is not made with yeast. It is easy enough to make for breakfast…I found it on a set of recipe cards that I received in the mail I think from a crafty book club membership…I think you can def. adapt the recipe to the type of flour you like to use, sugar, etc…I have tried cutting down the amount of butter in the recipe–it still tastes good but the biscuits are more delicious will all the butter.

    Here goes:


    2 cups sifted all purpose flour
    1 Tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup buttermilk
    8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick) softened
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 cup milk, optional

    1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir in vegetable oil. Add buttermilk and stir just until blended.

    2.Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough into a 15 x 8″ rectangle.

    3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9″ round baking pan.

    4. Spread butter over the dough. Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over butter. Roll up rectangle, jelly roll fashion, starting from one long side. Pinch seam to seal.

    5. Cut the roll into 1 1/2 inch slices. Arrange slices, cut side up, in the prepared baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Pour milk over the top if desired (I have never done this…so not sure if it is tasty or not). Serve hot.

  14. 14
    bellcurves   February 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

    These look great!!!

  15. 15
    heather   February 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Yeast, I believe you’ve been conquered! I’m a “tightly woven bun” kind of girl myself. I’m also one to steer clear of gooey icings and cream cheese slathers, as well as new and interesting flavors in an old favorite. All in all, this recipe is tucked into my bread and rolls file for safe keeping until a lazy weekend comes around!



  16. 16
    kickpleat   February 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Rowdy Chowgirl, it’s true – 6 blocks is a short walk for great cinnamon buns, but now I’ve got a new weapon in my breakfast arsenal! It’s a good skill to master.

    Thanks Meister!

    Colene, I hope you give these a try! They are delicious and not too sweet at all. And next time you’re in the ‘hood – give the ones from Union Market a go – they are incredible.

    Julie, well either option is a fine one.

    Great tip, Maddie!

    Jenne, orange zest would be wonderful too! I’m going to try that next time.

    Bijoux, I can’t believe you haven’t tried making cinnamon buns yet. I’m sure you will soon in your baking classes!

    Thanks for the recipe Susan – I love that it’s a yeast-free version for all those yeastaphobes!

    Thanks bellcurves!

    Yes, Heather what is it about those tight buns :)

  17. 17
    Melody Fury // GourmetFury.com   March 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Hot damn, girl! My dream would be to wake up to this on my bedside with a mug of hot coffee. This looks awesome.

  18. 18
    kickpleat   March 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks, it’s the best thing to wake up next too, I think ;)

  19. 19
    Peggy   March 23, 2011 at 5:50 am

    I’m definitely a fan of baked goods that don’t “shout”. I would love waking up to one of these! =)

  20. 20
    kickpleat   March 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Peggy, glad to hear it – they are a great thing to wake up to :)

  21. 21
    Ashley   April 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Ahh cinnamon buns, my favourite. You did a beautiful job with these. I used to think cinnamon buns must have frosting on it but now I prefer them without.

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