Cinnamon rolls or buns are a timeless luxury best savored with a good cup of coffee or fresh pot of tea. Sweden claims to the home of the “kanalbulle” or cinnamon bun. Since 1999, October 4 has been celebrated by the Swiss as Cinnamon Roll Day.
This classic pastry, a sweet, yeast-based dough filled with cinnamon and sugar, has many regional variations. Often raisins, nuts or even chocolate chips, are added before rolling out the dough. Once baked, the buns may be covered with frosting, powdered sugar, or a light glaze. Home bakers and local cafes have their own specialty, but everyone agrees that the ideal cinnamon roll is finger licking good.
My family has always enjoyed Cinnamon Rolls. The welcoming aroma of a fresh pan baking in the oven brightens the most gloomy, grey day. And with time, practice and patience, the rolls are easy to prepare.
First start with a basic sweet roll dough. In this recipe, the dough is sweetened with sugar, has plenty butter, and is enriched with an egg. For a “healthy” version, I often use a combination of whole wheat and all- purpose flour. This dense dough, which can also be used for dinner rolls or raisin bread, needs at least two hours to rise.
Once the dough is ready, divide it into two pieces, and roll each piece into a rectangle about 16 by 10 inches. The larger the rectangle, the more area to use for the filling. To get the spiral shape, roll the dough the long way, and slice into pieces.
I like to pack the pieces into a pan so they just touch each other and all bake together. For individual rolls, place each filled spiral in a greased muffin tin. Bake the buns until nicely browned and golden.
The finishing touch is often a light glaze prepared with confectioners sugar and water or milk. A more elaborate version would be a thicker frosting, sometimes flavored with orange or lemon. Personally, I prefer the taste of Cinnamon Rolls without the gloppy frosting, so often just finish them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
After the Age of Exploration, cinnamon became more accessible around the world, with bakers adding it to their sweet breads. In Sweden, as variations of Cinnamon Rolls developed, so did the cherished custom of “Fika”: drinking coffee and eating pastries while talking with friends or coworkers. As the depth of winter descends, try a spot of fika, and enjoy this treat with family and friends.
FOR THE DOUGH
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour optional, may use all-purpose
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour estimate
FOR THE FILLING:
- 4 – tablespoons soft butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- Assemble ingredients and tools.
- Add the sugar and salt to the bowl of your mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and water and melt the butter.
- Pour the warm milk mixture over the sugar and salt. Slowly stir to dissolve sugar and finish melting butter. Beat in the egg.
- When the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees or lower, add the yeast.
- Add the whole- wheat flour and beat with the dough hook. Continue to add flour and beating until the mixture forms a nice, smooth ball.
- Remove dough from bowl, cover with a damp, clean towel. Let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
- To prepare the filling: in a small bowl, stir together the soft butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- After the dough has risen, punch it down and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into two pieces. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 16x10-inch rectangle.
- Spread ½ of the filling over the dough, and roll the dough lengthwise as for jellyroll.
- Seal the edges and cut into 1-inch slices, about 16 slices per piece of dough.
- Fit the rolls into a greased pan, cover, and let rise until double, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Bake in a 375- degree oven until nicely browned, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from pan. If desired, the rolls may be drizzled with a confectioners sugar glaze. Makes 32 cinnamon rolls.