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Cinnamon Buns

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Those fragrant flecks swirling around a pillowy, chewy roll always get to me. I tweaked the original cinnamon roll recipe from Ambitious Kitchen by reducing the sugar content and substituting granulated sugar with a mix of brown sugar and coco sugar for the dough and filling respectively.

For the cream cheese glaze, I didn't have powdered sugar so I used coco sugar yet again, reducing the measurement by half, and adding a tablespoon of milk to allow it to soften with the cream cheese. Instead of a half teaspoon of vanilla, I used 1 teaspoon of vanilla-based rum, which actually helped to soften the filling further (it must be the acidity from the alcohol?) and lent a heady vanilla scent.

The second time I made these cinnamon buns, I changed the active dry yeast to a cup of homemade starter* (2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast with 80 ml water can be roughly equivalent to a cup of starter). I should have expected the dough to rise like crazy -- with all the glutens wanting to stretch in all directions -- because I should have moved the sourdough buns version to a larger, and rectangular, baking pan, to allow it to rise freely. Instead, I confined it to a round baking casserole, which made the dough go nuts and rising at least two inches above the maximum height of the casserole. Lesson learned: when making sourdough buns, err on the side of the larger baking container!

Anyway, if you skip the starter and just use yeast, it should fit into a round cake pan and you should be able to get pretty results like the flower-shaped roll below.


Baking time: 30 minutes

Yields: 7-8 rolls



3/4 cup warm whole milk

2 1/4 active dry yeast (mixed with 80 ml water and half a teaspoon of sugar to activate)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg and 1 egg yolk, room temperature

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil, for oiling

Cinnamon filling

1/3 cup coco sugar

1.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened*

Cream cheese glaze

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup coco sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or Don Papa Rum

1 tablespoon milk

*Update on the sourdough version of cinnamon buns:

So I finally used the rectangular baking pan for the sourdough cinnamon buns, and it made a whole lot of difference! The shape will allow each bun to expand. All you need to do is add 1 cup of starter in the dough ingredients, and swap the sugar: for the dough, use 1/4 cup coco sugar, and for the cream cheese glaze, use 1/2 cup brown sugar. It made a softer and fluffier dough and a lighter consistency in the glaze.

1. Warm milk in a microwave for 40 seconds. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle active yeast on top. Add in sugar, egg, egg yolk and melted butter. Beat until combined. Then stir in flour and salt with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon slowly until a dough forms.

2. Transfer dough to a clean, well floured surface. Use your hands to knead the dough into a ball for 10 minutes. Or, you can also use two rubber spatulas to stretch the edge of the dough towards the centre, doing this about 8 times clockwise, until you get a full turn and a ball-shaped dough.

3. Oil the mixing bowl. Transfer the dough ball back into the bowl, cover with a plastic lid or tea towel and let it sit at room temperature for 1.5 to 2 hours for it to rise. The dough should have doubled in size by then. While the dough ball is resting, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Do you see some of the trapped bubbles in this ball of dough?

4. Transfer dough to floured surface and roll it using a rolling pin into a 9 x 13 rectangle (or 10 x 14). Spread softened butter over dough surface. Sprinkle the cinnamon-coco sugar mixture over the buttered dough, then rub the mixture to spread evenly with the butter.

If you have a nonstick baking mat, you can use this to guide you to knead the dough into a rectangle shape, taking care not to over-knead and spread out from the edges.

5. Tightly roll dough horizontally, pinching the seams together to sealing the end of the dough. Cut into 1-inch sections with a dough cutter or floss. You should get about 7 or 8 large cinnamon buns.

Carefully roll the dough with filling, and use a dough cutter or a dull knife to shape them into even-sized rolls.

6. Place rolls in a greased 9 x 9 inch baking pan or a round 9-inch cake pan or baking casserole, cut side up. Freeze rolls in pan, covered, for about 1 to 2 hours, to firm up the dough, then transfer it to the refrigerator for its second rise overnight. If you want to skip the overnight chill, you can chill them for at least 3-4 hours, and bake them right after.

Arrange them into a flower pattern if using a round baking container, or lined up two in a row, if using a rectangle baking pan. Allow dough to chill overnight in the refrigerator for its second rise.

7. The next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let rise for the third time, covered with a tea towel, about an hour. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

From the refrigerator to the table: allow cinnamon bun dough to warm up a little over an hour before putting it in the oven to bake.

8. Remove towel and bake cinnamon rolls for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges. If you’re using a baking casserole with a lid, cook it covered for 20 minutes, then remove lid and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Check the middle — we want them soft. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before frosting.

Golden brown edible swirls

9. While the rolls are cooling, make the frosting. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, cream cheese, coco sugar and vanilla extract or rum, until fluffy. Spread over the warm rolls and serve immediately. You can also separate the coco sugar glaze, if you want to control your sugar intake. Keep the glaze in a small covered container and refrigerate when not in use.

The light brown glaze comes from the coco sugar. If you want it silky white, feel free to use refined white sugar.

Consume these buns immediately!


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