Cinnamon buns are one of my favorite things of all time, but I'd never, ever made them at home before. I had no idea where to start (an internet search for recipes yielded, as you can imagine, an overwhelming number of options), and so I consulted my new go-to: my tweeps.
They came through with two very different recipes: one a quick-rising, buttermilk-based, biscuity version, and one a more traditional yeasted bun, with nuts and a caramel topping. Both are delicious, but different enough to satisfy two very different kinds of cravings. (Click the link for the buttermilk recipe; see below for the for yeast-risen recipe.)
The buttermilk biscuit version is chewy, slightly salty, and tangy from the buttermilk and cream cheese topping. The yeasted version is lighter in texture and has a deep, caramel flavor, made even richer by the addition of nuts to the filling. It also makes about three times as many rolls, so be prepared to either freeze your leftovers (they keep well for a few weeks) or invite over an army of friends to eat them while they're hot.
No matter which you choose (or if you make both), make sure to roll the filling tightly into the dough, something key to an evenly-baked, moist bun. And, of course, you must enjoy at least one bun with a cup of coffee - there really is nothing better than that.
Katie's Cinnamon Nut Buns
Makes approximately 24 buns
For the rolls:
1/4 cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
2 packets (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (110-115 degrees)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
6 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for work surface)
For the filling:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
For the glaze:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. water
Sprinkle yeast on water in small bowl, let stand until foamy (5-10 min.).
Butter two 13x9 (or three 9x9) baking pans; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, butter, salt, sugar, and eggs. Add yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 6 cups flour, until you have a soft, shaggy dough (if needed add more flour).
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface; knead until smooth (5 to 10 min.) Butter the inside of a large bowl; place dough in bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, at least one hour.
Place all of the filling ingredients - except for the butter - in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until coarsely ground; set nut mixture aside.
Divide the risen dough in half (keep the other half covered). On a flour-dusted surface, roll dough out into a rectangle about 16 inches by 10 inches. Spread 4 tablespoons of the butter over dough, leaving about 1/2-inch border all around.
Sprinkle half the nut mixture over butter. Leave a border around the filling so it doesn't spill over.
Roll the dough tightly, crosswise, like a jelly roll. Once you've finished rolling, use a sharp knife to cut the log crosswise into 12 equal pieces.
Place buns, cut side down, in the prepared pans. Cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm spot until doubled in size (about an hour).
Place the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 375°F. Bake buns until golden brown (25 to 30 minutes), rotating pans back-to-front and top-to-bottom halfway through.
Remove pans from the oven and let cool in pans, on racks, for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze:
Buns keep well, cooled completely and then frozen in plastic bags, for up to four weeks. Thaw overnight and warm gently in the oven before serving.
Many, many thanks to @lostplum and @KathrynYu for the awesome recipes!