gooey cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing

I’ve never been the sort of a woman who can assemble things. Manuals give me vertigo, and when faced with a litany of bolts, screws, nails and wooden parts, I come undone because I know that I’ll be forever trapped in the space between scattered parts and something complete. For years, I took comfort in things already put together, and it’s only recently that I observed the irony in the fact that I write and bake, two passions that focus on assembly. Here are these words in your hand — conjure. There is some flour and a whisk — play the fakir. In both pursuits I start with nothing but end up with such beauty, and I wonder how I’m able to write a story and bake a cake but I can’t assemble a bookshelf?

And it occurred to me that I start with a shiver. Something, it could be anything, that makes my head turn, makes me do a double-take. Anything that puts my heart on pause. It could be a song, a photograph, a word or a movement, whatever’s around, loose, and it sets me off. I’ve got to find the shiver and then I’m in the blue room; I’m baking croissants, writing scenes.

Last night, when faced with two unopened packages that contained all the parts to form a bookcase, I lay down on the floor and started to visualize all of the books. The arrangement of them and the color of their spines, and this vision of a home belonging to someone who’s having a life-long love affair with books gave me the shiver. So I opened my toolbox, followed each step slowly, and finally put two bookcases together.

Granted, I made some mistakes along the way and they aren’t professional by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re sturdy enough to provide my books shelter. I went to bed last night feeling a warmth I didn’t initially recognize, that warmth coming from a home coming together. Of parts being assembled, of something coming to complete.


This morning, between calls and emails, I tried out a new cinnamon bun recipe, and while these buns are nothing to slouch at, they’re not perfection. I worked with dead yeast and the buns didn’t rise, nor were they as fluffy and aerated as I knew they could be. I didn’t focus on the shiver, only with the urgent need to bake something because I hadn’t for a while. It’s that itch, you know? This is what happens when you scratch the itch and ignore the beauty. You get something pretty good, but not great.

This weekend, I’m giving these buns another go with good yeast, and I’ll share a little post comparing the buns. Enjoy. xx

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of The Flourishing Foodie
For the buns
1 cup whole milk
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup + 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 oz butter, room temperature
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

For the cream cheese icing
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, heat the milk to 100ºF on low heat. Remove from the stove and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar (do not stir). Let it sit until the yeast foams (5 minutes). Whisk in the melted butter and egg yolk. At this stage, a batch of my yeast turned out dead {you’ll know when yeast is dead when no bubbles occur and the liquid appears stagnant. I made this batch anyway as I was in between long emails + conference calls, and I assure you that your loaf will not rise and be as aerated as it could be. My advice? If you’re dealing with dead yeast? Dump your batch and start over. Also, it’s important that your temperature not go above 100. I have a candy thermometer, and I removed my mixture immediately, as too-hot liquid can kill yeast.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and stir. Make a well in the flour and add the wet ingredients. On low speed, combine the ingredients, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture becomes sticky. Turn the speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes until the dough forms a ball around the dough hook. If this does not happen by 4 minutes, add 1 – 2 tbsp of flour until it does. Remove the dough from the bowl, and form it into a ball. Rub the inside of a large bowl with butter and then roll the dough in the bowl to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for 1 hour and 15 minutes to let the dough double in size.

Once the dough has doubled in size, roll it into a large rectangle. Spread 3 oz of butter on the dough leaving a half inch border on all four sides. Mix the cinnamon, 1/4 cane sugar, and nutmeg until combined and sprinkle the mixture evenly onto the dough, making sure to leave the half inch border. With the dough in front of you, the longest side placed horizontally, begin by rolling the dough tightly from the bottom to the top. Once you have reached the top, spread a small dap of water on the top 1/2 inch border and then seal. Pinch the ends tight, and then with a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into 1 inch rounds.

Grease a large loaf pan and then place the dough rounds into the pan. Don’t worry about being fussy or pretty — you’ll just slather icing on these puppies anyway. Cover with a cloth and let double in size for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Place the buns into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until they are brown on top and soft on the inside. Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan for 5-7 minutes.

With a hand mixer, beat 1/4 cup of cream cheese and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until combined. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 – 1 cup of heavy cream, until the icing has reached a pourable consistency. Stir in the zest from one orange.

Remove the chocolate rolls from the loaf pan and drizzle with the icing. Serve warm.


11 thoughts on “gooey cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing

  1. “And it occurred to me that I start with a shiver.” <– haunting!

    Dead yeast and all, you still manage to make these buns look drool-worthy!!!


  2. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat among a pile of assembly instructions and furniture pieces whimpering at the fact that I have a masters degree, but can’t assemble simple furniture. Following specific directions is hard for me…and also the reason why I’m not a very good baker.


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