First, I can’t believe we’re entering the third week of March already. Second, I can’t believe Easter is this week. I know Easter is early this year, but holy moly, it has come around quickly!
Every year I make a batch of hot-cross buns, but I figured it’s time to shake things up a bit. I’m still on a “small-batch cinnamon bun” run, so I’ve merged my classic hot-cross bun recipe with my small-batch cinnamon buns, and voila – Hot-Cross Cinnamon Buns for Easter!
I’ve never been a big fan of store-bought mixed peel. You know, those containers of crystalized fruit chunks, sitting in some weird, super-sweet syrup, that never seem to have a best-before date attached to them… But I do like orange zest and fresh-squeezed orange juice! Adding this to the goo-mixtures really gives these cinnamon buns a good spring-time flavour.
There are a few changes I made for these hot-cross cinnamon buns:
I tried raisins in my first batch, then dried cranberries in my second batch. It may not be a classic ingredient, but Jonty and I both loved the sweet-tart flavour of the cranberries!
While the dough was rising, I squeezed the juice from one orange and the zest from half the orange into a small bowl. I let the cranberries soak in this mixture, to soften the fruit.
Like my previous cinnamon bun recipes, I opt for the overnight method. Once the buns are rolled and placed into the tray, I cover them tightly with plastic and place them into the fridge overnight for a slow rise. You can definitely bake them the same day you make them – I’ve done both, and both are wonderful – it’s just a matter of how much time you have spare.
The goo in the bottom of the pan is a mixture of brown sugar, orange juice and orange zest. It infuses into the dough just enough to make your cinnamon buns taste like Easter buns 🙂
With a bit of cream cheese icing piped into a cross shape on the top, I think these Hot-Cross Cinnamon Buns will be a welcome addition to your Easter breakfast menu!
30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the filling
50 g (4 tbsp) brown sugar
12 g (1 tbsp) white sugar
7 g (1 tbsp) ground cinnamon
40 g (1/3 cup) dried unsweetened cranberries
15 g (1 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
For the goo
40 g (2½ tbsp) melted butter
50 g (4 tbsp) brown sugar
Juice from 1 orange
Zest from ½ orange
1 - 2 tbsp water
For the icing, if using
40 g cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp icing sugar
2 - 4 tbsp milk
In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, dried yeast and all of the spices. Add the warm milk and melted butter. Knead with the dough hook attachment for 5 to 8 minutes, until you have a soft, slightly tacky ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, one tablespoon at at time, kneading thoroughly in between.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly-floured surface briefly, then return the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
While the dough is rising, place the orange juice and orange zest into a small bowl and add the dried cranberries. This will infuse some of the orange into the cranberries and help to soften them. Mix together the sugars and cinnamon, and set aside.
When you're ready to assemble the cinnamon buns, sprinkle the counter-top with a bit of flour and roll the dough into a long, narrow rectangle. Pour the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mixture, right to the edge of the dough. Remove the cranberries from the orange juice, squeezing out any excess juice, and spread them over the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Starting at the narrow end, roll the dough into a log shape, as tight as you can make it. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces.
Make the goo for the bottom of the cinnamon buns by melting together the butter, brown sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Add water to reach a pourable consistency. Pour this into the bottom of a 8x8-inch pan. Arrange the four cinnamon buns on top of the goo mixture.
Cover tightly with plastic and either refrigerate overnight, or leave in a warm place to rise (about 1 hour).
When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375F. For the overnight method, leave the buns on the counter for least 30 minutes before baking.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the goo mixture is bubbling.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
If icing the cinnamon buns, beat together the softened cream cheese and icing sugar. Add in the milk, 1 tbsp at a time, until a smooth, pourable icing is achieved.
The Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Buns? This isn’t a phrase one should take lightly!
But it’s true – after many (many!) attempts, I think I’ve found the perfect recipe for our small-batch of Ooey-Gooey Cinnamon Buns 🙂
I haven’t changed the standard dough recipe from my earlier cinnamon bun recipe, but I have tweaked the ooey-gooey part, the baking time and temperature, and have found a few little tricks to maximize that caramelized butter-and-brown-sugar goodness.
I may have mentioned it a few times already, but we have a tendency to go a little overboard when trying to find “The Best Of…” something. In Vancouver, we’ve definitely done “The Best Cinnamon Buns” round. The top choices here seem to revolve around these three:
Grounds for Coffee: These buns are definitely good. You can get them with our without cream cheese icing, they’re soft and buttery, and there’s a hefty dose of cinnamon in them. This, we like.
Solly’s Bagelry: These cinnamon buns don’t come with icing, but do come with a seemingly impossible number of swirls in them, always covered in a lovely caramelized good. This, we like.
Whole Foods Market: We’re often like kids in a candy store – there are always so many tasty treats to gaze at. The cinnamon buns are a mile-high, and are heavy on the pecan-studded goo. This, we like.
Come up with a recipe that will combine the best bits of all of our favourite cinnamon buns.
They need to be soft and fluffy
They have to have the right amount of brown-sugar goo (you know, the kind that trickles down into every nook and cranny)
They have to roll and roll and roll forever
They have to be bold in their cinnamon flavour
They have to work well on their own, or when topped with icing
The keys to making our Ultimate Gooey Cinnamon Buns for Two:
Shape: Roll out the dough to a very long, but very narrow rectangle (like a 16×60-cm or 6×24-inch shape). The longer, the better.
Filling: Use more cinnamon than you think you should. I use a heaping tablespoon for 4 cinnamon buns. Many other recipes I’ve looked at would use that much for one dozen.
Goo: Make sure the butter-brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan is fairly runny and keep adding water until it is. If this mixture is too thick, it will harden too quickly after it cools, turning the caramel into more of a jaw work-out than it needs to be.
Baking: Before baking, I take a little pastry brush to transfer some of the goo from the bottom of the pan, to spread on top of the dough. I try to drizzle some of this into the spirals on top, so that when the buns bake, the butter-brown sugar mixture will seep down. This also helps keep the cinnamon buns from drying out.
Jonty thinks I’ve mastered it, and that’s good enough for me 🙂
Add the instant yeast, warm milk and melted butter.
If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until a soft, smooth ball of dough forms. If needed, add a bit of flour so that the dough it not sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Remove the dough and knead by hand on a lightly-floured counter top for a few moments.
Place the dough back in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 20 - 30 minutes.
For the filling:
Mix together the brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon. Set aside until ready to use.
Melt the butter, when ready to roll out the dough.
For the goo:
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir until melted and combined. Add 1 - 2 tbsp of water and stir. You want this mixture to be fairly loose and runny.
Pour the mixture into a 8x8-inch pan when the cinnamon buns are assembled.
To make the cinnamon buns:
On a lightly floured counter top, roll the dough into a very long, very narrow rectangle (16x60-cm, or 6x30-inch in size).
Brush on the melted butter, right to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture, making sure it is spread right to the edges.
Starting at the short end, roll (and roll and roll!) the dough fairly tightly, until you have a thick log formed. Pinch the short end of the dough to seal the edge.
Slice the dough into 4 equal pieces. I use dental floss to get a nice clean cut.
Place the rolls into the goo-filled pan. Cover the pan tightly with plastic and refrigerate overnight, OR let the dough rise in a warm place until risen (about 1½ hrs). If you are refrigerating overnight, take out the buns about 45 mins to 1 hour before you plan on baking, to bring them up to room temperature.
When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375F. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are a light golden brown.
Let the cinnamon buns cool for about 5 minutes, and then invert them onto a flat plate. The goo from the bottom will seep down through the buns.
Serve warm with, or without icing.
I will often make the cinnamon buns in the evening and refrigerate them overnight. I have left them as long as 24 hours in the fridge, and they bake up just fine. If you go this route, before baking the buns, gently spread some of the goo from the bottom of the pan around the outside of the buns. This helps to add moisture while they're baking.