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Cinnamon buns are an autumn favourite in my house. Come by, around the end of September, and a wonderfully rich cinnamon aroma will invariably hit you. A lovely family tradition, kept alive by my sister’s unconditional love for cinnamon buns.
On my side, the least I can say, is that I’m definitely not fighting against this ritual. Honestly, cinnamon buns are the perfect treat to warm up a cold autumn day; spicy, sweet and deliciously buttery.

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You can thus imagine how priceless my family’s response was when I told them I had to make cinnamon buns for this month’s daring bakers challenge (Marce, my parents and sister are eternally thankful for your choice).

The experiment
The cinnamon buns are made of three components:
- a mildly rich buttery dough
- a sweet and aromatic cinnamon sugar filling
- a great and dead-easy-to-make vanilla fondant

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The buttery dough was a delight to work with. Before starting, I intended to follow a regular brioche procedure. Basically, I wanted to mix the dough, place it in a bowl and refrigerate overnight; before proofing and shaping.
However, as soon as I started to work with it, I realised that the extra steps weren’t going to be necessary.
With only one egg and 80g of butter, this dough is less rich and wet than your usual brioche dough (it also contains milk which isn’t used in classic brioche), and thus, very easy to handle, making the whole process a doodle to follow.

This enriched yeasty dough is made of sugar, butter, vanilla, flour, yeast, egg, milk and salt (I diluted fleur de sel in the warm milk).
As you can see, I substituted the lemon zest for vanilla seeds because I couldn’t figure out what role the lemon could play, and thus, preferred to use the floral tones of Tahitian vanilla beans to balance the warmth of the cinnamon sugar.
For this recipe, it is very important that all the ingredients are at room temperature (22°C) before you start.

Here, I used flour type 45, which is quite not the same as bread flour. Though, given that the wheat grains are ground very finely for this type of flour, the gluten is widely available; and the small size of the flour particles ensures a soft and ropy dough.

The yeast isn’t fresh yeast as you might have expected, but instant yeast. I think Peter Reinhart’s choice comes from the fact that instant yeast is easier to find in the US but also more reliable (indeed, fresh yeast is very sensitive to temperature changes, which might results in the death of a great number of cells and thus, in a loss of effectiveness).
I generally prefer to use fresh yeast as, when used properly, it won’t give any yeasty taste to the dough and will result in more puffed breads; however, this time I went along with instant yeast and I was more than happy with the results.

The dough came together very easily; it was slightly soft and sticky at first, but as soon as I started kneading it, it became stronger and smoother. I decided to knead the dough by hand, because I just love to do so but also because the method I use (which is actually Dan Lepard’s) yields to extraordinary results.

The first fermentation was very quick, in an hour, the dough had almost doubled in size indicating that it was ready to be shaped. Actually, a dough should never be left to proof bigger than twice its size or the yeast will start to produce unwanted components, resulting in bitter or acidic aromas – so watch your dough!

At this point, I rolled the dough (note: you should deflate your dough before rolling it or you’ll have troubles – the cinnamon sugar is likely to escape and your rolls won’t be tight) – one cm thick -, and dusted with the cinnamon sugar, which simply is a mix of ground cinnamon and caster sugar.
Once the buns were shaped, they were left to proof and then baked at 175°C for 25 minutes.

The fondant, made of warm milk, icing sugar and vanilla seeds, and drizzled over the warm buns, was smooth and fragrant.

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Soooo…
These cinnamon buns were an absolute hit and Peter Reinhart’s recipe replaced my old and trusted one, which means a lot.
The dough was soft and aromatic with vanilla and butter. It wasn’t very sweet, but nicely balanced by the sweetness brought by both the cinnamon sugar and fondant.
The cinnamon sugar stayed right inside the buns, making for a tender, syrupy and cinnamon-ish hearts.
A new favourite in my house.