Baker’s Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Buns

The Thespian Hall was near empty this time of day. Most of Baldric had not yet risen, or perhaps more realistically had not yet retired. Most were still out enjoying the last few precious hours before Athas’ sun returned to restore the blistering heat to the desert world. Atrix stood in the back pantry pushing aside containers, frantically searching. Finally she was rewarded when she noticed the small wooden chest near the back corner. Clasping onto it she held it close and returned to the kitchen where her father was rolling down muttering under his breath as he went.

Atrix held out the chest carefully as he flipped it open to reveal a dark rich powder. Cinnamon. Atrix’s father inhaled the sweet smell of the spice and smiled. “Were the very sands of Athas made from this, the world would not be so terrible a place child.” He reached in and pulled out a good handful, sprinkling it down into the dough, folding it in with his hands.

Atrix nodded and closed the chest, returning it to the hiding place back among the taverns other wares. Returning to the kitchen to help her father finish crafting the Hall’s well known breakfast. The food that would fuel Baldric for another day. “You must treat the roll as you would a child” her father would tell her. “Be firm with it, but gentle. Give it time to rest when needed and do not be in a rush to have it grow. Your patience will always be rewarded.”

Hours later, Atrix placed the rack near the window and clicked open the shutters; the smell wafting down the winding streets, calling the Hall’s many patrons back home.

The recipe is based on that of grand artificer Alton Brown’s “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls”. The ingredients and amounts vary somewhat, though the techniques remain mostly intact. Best not to mess to much with a good thing. It should be noted that this process takes awhile. In fact, it is probably more accurate to measure the preparation time for this recipe in days rather than hours.

Yes, I know that probably makes you want to run toward the Pillsbury Druid and his insta-rolls, but trust me. Though time consuming, the results are well worth the effort and leave themselves open to tremendous variation. Plus when you show up at the pot luck or group brunch or family reunion and drop these on the table, you win. As we all know, life is about two things and two things only. Eating delicious food and winning.

Apple Cinnamon Buns
Makes a dozen buns. Note: prep and cooking time for this recipe is 10+ hours

Ingredients:

Dough:

4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
6 ounces buttermilk
4 1/2 cups of flour, sifted.
1 package instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Equipment:

Stand mixer
Rolling pin
Baking pan
Mixing bowl

Filling:

1 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 medium apples diced
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of orange zest
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

Icing:

1/4 cup of cream cheese
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Directions:
Using the whisk attachment of the stand mixer, whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, butter (melt beforehand), vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and buttermilk. When thoroughly combined, add in half the flour along with the salt and yeast. Continue to whisk until the mixture comes together, then switch to the dough hook attachment.  Slowly add in all but 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and knead until combined. At this point the dough should not stick to the hook or the bowl very much, but be moist to the touch.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute. Form into a ball and place in a oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow the dough to rest and increase in volume for two and half hours.

Before the dough is finished rising, combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt and orange zest in a bowl. Separately, peel and dice the apples into small pieces. Mix together with the teaspoon of lemon juice to prevent browning. Then using paper towel, pad the apples dry to remove excess moisture. This step is critical, as leaving too much moisture in the apples will cause the apples to leach liquid into the buns during baking, making them soggy (and messy). Finally, add the apples to the bowl with the sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a well floured surface. Begin to gently kneed the dough then using a rolling pin form a rectangle with the dough. It should be about 18 inches across and 12 inches high, but do not allow the dough to become too thin.

Spread the filling onto the dough packing it down and covering all but a 1 inch section along the top. The filling should cover as much area as possible but try and keep it as thin a layer as you can or else rolling will become a serious issue. Next, spread the melted butter over the area of dough left untouched.

To roll; start with your hands in the middle of the dough on the long section nearest you. Using your fingertips slowly begin to crimp and fold moving outward from the middle. When you reach the end, simply reverse and roll back toward the center. Form as tight a roll as possible and continue to do this until you have completed rolling. Once near the end, pull the far end of the dough (with the butter on it) over the top and pinch with your fingers to seal. Take the rolled dough and turn it so the seal is facing down.

Using a long knife, make single slits about an inch apart from each other (to mark out each roll). You should be able to get a dozen rolls. Using a single long slice, cut through the dough by pulling the knife back and forth; do not press down.

Place each roll into a baking dish that has been thoroughly lubed with oil or butter. Cover and place in a refrigerator for 2-6 hours (or overnight). The rolls do not need to be spaced too far apart, but they will expand during baking so be sure that there is at least an inch or two around each roll.

When ready to bake, place the rolls (uncovered) in a cold oven and place a pan of boiling water underneath them on a lower rack. Close the oven for 30 minutes. This is called “proofing” and will help the rolls plump up a bit as well as become moist prior to baking.

Remove the pan and the rolls, preheat the oven to 350. Bake the rolls for about 30 minutes or until they become brown on top and slightly firm when pressed down. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool, while you contemplate icing.

Using a mixer whisk together the cream cheese and milk. Add in the powdered sugar a bit at a time and incorporate fully until smooth. At this point you may also add flavorings or juices like orange if you want to change up the taste of normal cream cheese icing. Once the rolls have cooled, spread the icing over each one and serve IMMEDIATELY.