Monday, April 25, 2011

Not Your Grandma's Cinnamon Buns

Let me start out by saying, Paul and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this month.  For 30 years I've listened to Paul reminisce about his Grandma Mescher's cinnamon buns.  I'd venture to say that these "sacred" cinnamon buns have not touched his lips in over 45 years, yet their memory remains strong.  Years ago I asked my mother-in-law if she had the sacred recipe, but unfortunately, she did not.  Every cinnamon bun that crosses his path is held in comparison to the esteemed Grandma's Mescher's cinnamon buns.  For as long as I've known Paul, he has been on a quest to find the perfect cinnamon bun. He has never found one that measured up, but he has enjoyed the journey. I've made several attempts to satisfy Paul's memory for cinnamon buns, but they have been nothing more than a valiant effort.

The other day I was thumbing through some old issues of Fine Cooking magazine, when I stumbled upon a recipe for Fastest Cinnamon Buns.  I was intrigued.  The author claimed that these cinnamon buns can be whipped up in less than an hour.  Really?  Obviously if they were "fast" they could not be made with yeast.  I was anticipating they would be a biscuit in disguise.  Cinnamon buns usually require a huge commitment of time which is why I tend not to go there.  It really doesn't make sense to me to spend so much time making something that you really shouldn't be eating anyway.  I kind of have my own formula worked out in my head.  It's my "time commitment food value ratio, which I divided by my taste and appeal ratio".  Anyway, I'm also leery of recipes with the word fastest in the title.  Nevertheless I kept reading.  What really intrigued me was the presence of buttermilk and cottage cheese in the recipe.
Those two ingredients could potentially result in a light and moist cinnamon bun and not turn out like a biscuit.  It was worth a try.  Heck, it was just an hour's commitment.

It was true.  These buns can be whipped up in less than an hour.  It was amazing.  When Paul walked into the kitchen in the morning, his nose was desperately sniffing the air.  Poor thing, between his allergies and his broken nose, his olfactory senses are shot.  "I know you are baking something" he said, "but my nose isn't working."  As I cracked the oven door, a smile came over his face like a child on Christmas morning.

These buns did not disappoint.  They were fragrant, light, gooey, tender, moist, and most of all delicious.  When all was said and done, Paul was a happy camper.  A definite two thumbs up!  No, they were not his Grandma's cinnamon buns.  I've decided that those buns only live in his memory.  And I wonder, after all this time, does he really remember how they tasted?
I've made a few slight adjustments to the original recipe, just a personal taste thing.  I've upped the cinnamon, omitted the cloves, and added a sprinkle of nutmeg.  I used low fat cottage cheese, the original recipe called for 4% fat.  I had to sub walnuts for pecans, only because that's what I had in the house.  Either one would work fine.  I changed the glaze a bit as well.  I made a buttermilk glaze. The tang of the buttermilk tones down the sweetness of the powdered sugar and I don't find it as cloying.  Another interesting little factoid, those mall type cinnamon buns each have about 900 calories.  The calorie count on these buns (yes, they are not as big, but they are big enough) is 300 calories - that's if you are using the 4% cottage cheese.  They are not exactly light, but pretty darn good if you need a cinnamon bun fix.
Fastest Cinnamon Buns
Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking 88, pp 72
Yields 12 buns
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease sides and bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan with cooking spray.
To make the dough:
Place the cottage cheese, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor.  Process for 10-15 seconds until smooth. 
Add the dry dough ingredients, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a few time just until the dough comes together.  Do not over process or your dough will become tough.  The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead about 5 times until dough is smooth.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough out into a 12 x15 rectangle. 
    To make the filling
    Combine the brown sugar and spices in a bowl.
    Brush the rolled dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border, unbuttered around the edge.
    Sprinkle the buttered dough with the sugar and spice mixture.
    Sprinkle the nuts on top of the sugar and spice.
    Using the palm of your had, gently press to set.
      The buns
      Starting at the long end, gently roll the dough like a jelly roll, making one 15 inch log.
      Pinch the long seam to form a seal.
      Using a very sharp knife, gently cut the roll into 12 pieces.
      Place the cut pieces, cut side up in the prepared pan. Start around the outer edge of the pan and work your way in.  They will gently touch, but fit comfortably.

      Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 25 minutes.
      Remove from oven and let sit on a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
      After 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan, and release the outer ring.
      Transfer the buns to a platter.
        The Glaze
        In a small mixing bowl, whisk glaze ingredients together.  If too thick, add a few drips more of buttermilk.  The glaze should be pourable, but on the thick side.
        Drizzle the glaze on the warm buns and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.

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