Snacks & Treats
Fun and Festive Cinnamon Bun Tree
BY JULIE VAN ROSENDAAL, DINNER WITH JULIE
Nov 29, 2016
Let’s face it — the holidays are just one long excuse to bake cinnamon buns. Those cold, leisurely mornings allow the time to putter and wait for dough to rise, and on especially festive days, it’s tradition in many households to assemble cinnamon buns the night before, then slide them into the oven as the coffee brews.
So if you’re going to make cinnamon buns, why not arrange them in the shape of a Christmas tree? Cut a roll of dough in 12 pieces and you have just the right number to assemble an edible tree — one that could be decorated with glacé fruit, candied cherries, pearl sugar, straight-up candies, or splattered with a simple icing drizzle or dusted with snowy icing sugar.
It’s a fun project to do with the kids, especially when it’s cold outside; there’s the added bonus of feeding the yeast and watching it rise (science!), punching the dough down, rolling and sprinkling and rolling again, all with a delicious reward at the end. It’s perfect for holiday brunches, breakfast in bed, or even to bake for teachers on the last day of school, or as a party gift. What host wouldn’t love some freshly baked cinnamon buns at the ready for breakfast the morning after?
This recipe is easily doubled if you have a large crowd to feed. They can be kept plain, studded with raisins, dried cranberries or chopped pecans, or if you want to add a special festive touch, drop small spoonfuls of Seville orange marmalade or all-fruit mincemeat over the filling before you roll them up.
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Cinnamon Bun Christmas Tree
If you want to make these the night before, assemble them to the point of arranging the slices on the baking sheet, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove them from the oven first thing in the morning, and let them warm up a bit on the countertop while the oven heats.
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water
- 2 tsp (10 mL) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk, warmed
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade or fruit mincemeat (optional)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp orange juice or milk
Put the warm 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 5 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it and buy fresh yeast.)
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Add the milk, egg, flour, butter, salt and remaining sugar to the yeast and stir by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until the dough comes together. Continue to knead with your dough hook or by hand on the countertop until the dough is smooth and elastic — it should be slightly tacky, but not overly sticky. Cover and let rest for an hour, or until doubled in bulk. (At this point, you could refrigerate the dough overnight and continue assembling the buns the next morning.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter and scatter with brown sugar; smooth the sugar to evenly distribute it, and if you’re using it, drop the marmalade or mincemeat in small spoonfuls evenly overtop — don’t worry about spreading it out. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Starting on a long side, roll the dough up into a log. Using a serrated knife, cut it crosswise into quarters. Cut each piece into thirds — this is easier than eyeballing it to get 12 even pieces. Arrange the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet starting with one at the top for the tip of the tree, then two underneath, then three, then four — and the two left over go on the bottom to make the trunk. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the buns are deep golden. Let cool for a few minutes before drizzling with icing. To make the drizzle, stir enough orange juice into the sugar to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle overtop. Makes 12 buns.
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