October/November 2013

Quicker Cinnamon Buns

Making cinnamon buns is a project. Most shortcut recipes use quick biscuit dough, but the results just aren’t the same. We wanted to find a way to make yeast hurry.

Why This Recipe Works

Most recipes for quick cinnamon buns result in something more like a biscuit—they rely on chemical leaveners (baking powder and soda) instead of yeast. To get the soft sweet-bread texture and yeasty flavor of a true bun with a quicker timetable, we use both yeast and baking powder. After shaping, the buns need only 30 minutes of rise time. A low oven temperature ensures that they have enough time to rise high before the tops set, creating a fluffy interior. A buttery brown sugar filling and tangy cream cheese glaze make these buns irresistible.


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Makes 8 buns


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¾ cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 ¼ cups whole milk, room temperature
4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ¾ cups (13 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted

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Makes 8 buns

Since the filling, dough, and glaze all require melted butter, it’s easier to melt all 10 tablespoons in a liquid measuring cup and divvy it up as needed. Stir the melted butter before each use to redistribute the milk solids. We developed this recipe using a dark cake pan, which produces deeply caramelized buns. If your cake pan is light-colored, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and increase the baking time to 29 to 32 minutes.

Watch the Cook's Country cast make this recipe

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1. FOR THE FILLING: Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in bowl. Stir in melted butter and vanilla until mixture resembles wet sand; set aside.

2. FOR THE DOUGH: Grease dark 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper, and grease parchment. Pour ¼ cup milk in small bowl and microwave until 110 degrees, 15 to 20 seconds. Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and let sit until mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 5 teaspoons sugar together in large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, yeast mixture, and remaining 1 cup milk until dough forms (dough will be sticky). Transfer dough to well-floured counter and knead until smooth ball forms, about 2 minutes.

4. Roll dough into 12 by 9-inch rectangle, with long side parallel to counter edge. Brush dough all over with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving ½-inch border on far edge. Sprinkle dough evenly with filling, then press filling firmly into dough. Using bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen dough from counter. Roll dough away from you into tight log and pinch seam to seal.

5. Roll log seam side down and cut into 8 equal pieces. Stand buns on end and gently re-form ends that were pinched during cutting. Place 1 bun in center of prepared pan and others around perimeter of pan, seam sides facing in. Brush tops of buns with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover buns loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

6. Discard plastic and bake buns until edges are well browned, 23 to 25 minutes. Loosen buns from sides of pan with paring knife and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert large plate over cake pan. Using potholders, flip plate and pan upside down; remove pan and parchment. Reinvert buns onto wire rack, set wire rack inside parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool for 5 minutes.

7. FOR THE GLAZE: Place cream cheese in large bowl and whisk in butter, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Pour glaze evenly over tops of buns, spreading with spatula to cover. Serve.

Test Kitchen Discovery: Twice the Power, Half the Time

By adding a lot of yeast to an ordinary biscuit dough, we combine some of the speed of biscuit-making with the flavor and texture of sweet yeast dough. With both yeast and baking powder, our Quicker Cinnamon Buns take just 2 minutes to knead and 30 minutes to rise.

FOUR TEASPOONS OF YEAST: Add to biscuit dough for a biscuit-bun hybrid that’s the best of both.

Test Kitchen Discovery: Light Pan Makes Underdone Buns

We’ve long known that dark cake pans produce more deeply browned cakes, but it wasn’t until we tested our Quicker Cinnamon Buns recipe in both light and dark cake pans that we understood how great the difference can be. We developed our recipe using a dark cake pan, which absorbs heat more efficiently. Made in a light-colored pan, the same recipe yielded doughy, pale, and sunken buns.

BAKED IN A LIGHT PAN: No dark pan? Increase the time and temperature, or your buns will be pale like these.

Watch The Full Episode

Test cook Bridget Lancaster shows host Christopher Kimball how to make Quicker Cinnamon Buns at home. Next, tasting expert Jack Bishop challenges Chris to a tasting of frozen orange juice. And f...

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