There is nothing quite like fresh homemade cinnamon buns on a weekend. I’m sharing my Grandma’s old-fashioned recipe with you for a special treat!
My Grandma Laurin (my dad’s mom) was FAMOUS for her cinnamon buns. I asked her one day if she would pretty please spend the day with me teach me all of her tricks – I’m so grateful now that I took the time to do this. I don’t know if I had any clue how grateful I would be for that memory with her when I was 16. We spent the day playing crib, making cinnamon buns and going through old pictures: it’s my favourite memory of her.
It’s funny because old fashioned recipes aren’t really recipes… you know what I mean? There is so much information that is passed on through hands-on teaching that is often not captured on paper. If you’ve ever flipped through an old-school cookbook you will see what I mean – there is a lot that is left unsaid.
I think about my granny’s (Boomba’s) pirogies, all of Charles’ Hungarian recipes that he learned from his dad before he passed away and these cinnamon buns as examples. If we don’t take the time to learn these skills, which are really gifts, from our elders these traditions are sadly lost.
How to Make Cinnamon Buns
There is so much feel to making something like bread or cinnamon buns. I used the (egg free version) of my Perfect White Buns to make these; baking bread is a bit of an art. But don’t let that intimidate you! I think this recipe is pretty fool proof.
Start with a dough that, when you make it, feels like a baby’s bum. It should be soft but not sticky and smooth and elastic. I’ve gone back and forth on a double rise for my buns, but have settled on not rising it twice – I still get a great result and it saves a lot of time (you form your buns after the first rise).
You can use a rolling pin to roll these out BUT I have found that you get a flatter and less fluffy and tender roll – so use your fingers to spread out the dough. I use the ‘best brown’ sugar which is not the darkest or lightest (in between) – that being said you can use any brown sugar you can get your hands on.
Last, like most of my recipes, don’t worry about getting these perfect. If you find that all of your buns don’t fit in your pan (you need to leave a bit of room around each bun to rise, but I like it when they touch after they rise/when they bake as it makes them softer), just place any remaining ones in a smaller pan and bake them at the same time.
Sometimes Foods vs Everyday Foods
Now, these cinnamon buns (like most) are super indulgent. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make something taste great with as little sugar and butter etc as I can. After MANY attempts, I have to say that these are one of those ‘go big or go home’ recipes …. we call them ‘sometimes foods’ in our house.
To be quite frank, I almost passed out the day that I watched my grandma make these. It was back in the 90’s when we were all fat phobic, and my jaw dropped to the ground when I saw how much butter she used (of course there was no measurement which made creating this a bit more challenging). And let’s not get started on the brown sugar. There’s a reason why they taste so good!
Now, if you’re looking for a slightly lighter cinnamon bun recipe check out these Apple Honey Whole Wheat Cinnamon Buns that are super yummy!
As I write this we are all hunkered down in our homes due to COVID-19, and many of us are finding comfort in baking and cooking for our loved ones. As always, I feel that there is a balance with foods like these cinnamon buns and healthier recipes. Eat your greens, drink water, exercise, and for most of us, it’s ok to have the occasional cinnamon bun in moderation.
Here is my granny’s recipe – it’s like a giant food hug… that I’m sending to all of you today.
happy baking, xo
Granny’s Cinnamon Buns
Granny's Cinnamon Buns
My grandma was famous for her cinnamon buns - this is her old fashioned and very indulgent sticky bun recipe!
For the dough
- 2 tablespoons honey (or sugar)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups water, divided
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 6-7 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for flouring the surface)
For the cinnamon buns
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened (or vegan butter)
- 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Make the dough
In a medium microwave-proof bowl melt the butter and honey in the microwave. Stir and add 1 1/2 cups of room temperature water and the salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl or liquid measure, stir the sugar into 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (just warmer than room temperature) to dissolve, sprinkle the yeast on top and gently stir. Let it sit for around 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and 'activates'.
In a large mixing bowl add the honey and butter mixture and stir in 1 cup of flour to combine. Add the yeast mixture, stir and gradually add more flour one cup at a time and stirring after the addition of each until the dough gets too stiff to stir (note that you will not have added all of your flour at this point). At this stage transfer your dough on to a clean floured surface (ie: your counter) and continue kneading the dough by hand until you get a soft but not sticky dough. It should feel squishy like a baby's bum when done!
Transfer the dough into a large greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and place in a draft free warm area of the house to rise until doubled, around 1-2 hours.
Make the Cinnamon Buns
Deflate the dough by punching it down and lightly flour a large clean surface (your counter).
Using your fingers, spread the dough into an even 2x2' square (approximate - it doesn't have to be exact). You can use a rolling pin for this step, but the dough will not be as light and fluffy so I recommend just spreading it with your hands!
Once the dough is spread out, evenly spread the butter on top of the dough (I use my hands for this step). Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the butter and sprinkle the cinnamon evenly on top of the brown sugar.
Roll the cinnamon buns starting at one edge and carefully roll it up into a tight log. Using a sharp knife or dental floss (wrap a long piece of floss under the roll and cross the floss to cut through the dough if you don't have a very sharp knife) the buns into 2" sections (approximate) - you should get 12 or so buns.
Grease a 9x13" baking pan and place the buns cut side down in the pan: 12 buns will fit nicely into this size pan. Depending on how thin you rolled your dough and how you cut your buns you may have a few more buns than 12. If so, simply place a few of the buns in an additional small pan (greased) if they don't all fit into your 9x13" pan. Cover the pan(s) with a clean dish towel and set aside to rise in a warm draft free area until doubled, about an hour.
Once the buns have doubled in size preheat your oven to 350F and place a large piece (bigger than your pan) of aluminum foil or parchment paper on your counter. Bake the buns until the brown sugar mixture bubbles and the tops of the buns are golden brown, about 25 minutes. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven carefully invert the pan onto the parchment or foil and let the buns cool slightly before eating!