Calgary·RECIPES

Recipes from Julie Van Rosendaal: Cinnamon buns as an act of self-care

Homemade cinnamon buns have always been popular for holiday weekends and leisurely brunches, but this year, they've become a go-to comfort in a time of pandemic baking.

These buns are almost always made to share, a means of showing love to those around us

During the pandemic, homemade cinnamon buns can be seen as a form of therapy during trying times. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Homemade cinnamon buns have always been popular for holiday weekends and leisurely brunches, but this year, they've become a go-to comfort in a time of pandemic baking.

It's no wonder: the smell of fresh bread, butter and cinnamon makes the house smell fantastic, and we have more time than usual to dedicate to their production and rise.

And yes, there are those of us who see baking as a form of therapy. But most importantly, cinnamon buns are almost always made to share, a means of showing love and support when the people around us need it most.

The go-to recipe

Below is my go-to sticky, gooey cinnamon bun recipe, which makes two pans: one to eat immediately, another to share, or wrap and freeze to bake on another day.

To make a single mega-bun: halve the dough recipe, let it rise and roll it out into a rectangle (still about 11x15, or a little longer), spread or brush with ¼ cup very soft or melted butter, sprinkle with ½-1 cup packed brown sugar (once scattered overtop, I spread it out evenly with my hand) and sprinkle generously with cinnamon.

Cut the rectangle lengthwise into four strips. Roll up one of the strips, then move it over to the end of another strip of dough, and pinch the ends of the dough together. It doesn't need to be perfect — they will bake together inside the roll.

Continue rolling up that strip, and then carefully continue with the remaining two strips, making one giant roll.

I use a bench scraper to gently ease up the dough, and then transfer the whole roll into a buttered or parchment-lined nine-inch square or round baking dish, deep cake pan or ovenproof skillet.

Once you've finished the rolling, you'll bake the mega roll for 50 to 60 minutes. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Scatter any brown sugar that has fallen out onto the counter over the dough. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for an hour, and when you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the mega roll for 50 to 60 minutes, or until deep golden and puffed. Whisk together about half the glaze (I usually up the melted butter a bit) and drizzle it over with a fork while the bun is still warm.

Gooey Cinnamon Buns

If you want to assemble these the night before to bake in the morning, you can slow the rise by putting them in the fridge overnight, take them out and let them warm up on the countertop while you preheat your oven.

Dough:

  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp salt

Goo:

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Rogers' golden syrup, corn or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup water

Filling:

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Glaze (optional):

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 tbsp butter, soft or melted

Preparation

Put the water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand for five minutes, or until it dissolves and gets foamy. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the milk and eggs together with a fork.

Add to the yeast mixture along with three cups of the flour and the remaining sugar; mix until well blended and sticky.

Add the butter, remaining flour (hold a bit back, just in case you don't need it) and salt and stir by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until you have a soft dough.

Knead for about eight minutes, or until it's smooth and elastic — it should still be quite tacky, but will swell and smooth out as it sits.

Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour or two, or until doubled in size.

A mega roll sits unbaked in a pan. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Meanwhile, make the goo: combine the butter, brown sugar, syrup and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until well-blended and smooth.

Divide between two buttered deep dish pie plates, nine or 10-inch baking dishes or cake pans, pouring it over the bottom.

Divide the dough in half and roll each piece (you shouldn't need to flour the countertop — it will cling a bit better without) into an 11x15 inch (or thereabouts) rectangle.

Brush each with half the melted butter and sprinkle with half the brown sugar, smoothing it over the surface.

Sprinkle with cinnamon. Starting on a long side, roll each piece of dough up into a log.

Using a serrated knife or dental floss, cut it crosswise into thirds, then cut each piece into thirds — this is easier than eyeballing nine pieces.

Place the rolls cut-side-up in the pans, placing one in the middle and the rest around it, or in three rows of three.

Cinnamon buns have become a go-to comfort in a time of pandemic baking, says Julie Van Rosendaal. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour, or if you're making them the night before, cover and refrigerate. In the morning, take them out and leave them on the countertop for half an hour or so before baking.

If you like, wrap one of the pans and tuck it away in the freezer for another day — you can bake them from frozen, or thaw them first.

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F and put a baking sheet on the lower oven rack to catch any drips. Bake the buns for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they're deep golden.

Let them cool for five to 10 minutes, but invert onto a plate while they're still warm. If you wait too long and they stick to the pan, slide them back into the oven or rewarm them on the stovetop, then try again.

To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar, milk and melted butter. Drizzle over the buns with a fork.

I like to drizzle the buns with glaze, invert them onto a plate, and then invert them back onto another plate — this allows gravity to pull the goo down to the tops, then back again, which is what I did for the photo.

Serve warm.

Makes 1½ dozen buns.

The buns should be served warm. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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