When I was a teenager, my mother began a tradition of making cinnamon buns on special mornings when all the kids were home in the roost. When I became an unsalted-European-style-butter snob and pillowy dough fanatic, I revamped her recipe. I now run the stand mixer, and Mom has happily replaced me as the official taste tester. I make these delights for every houseguest; any excuse for a breakfast of cinnamon buns is a good one.
1 cup whole milk, warmed
1 tablespoon warm water
1 packet (21⁄4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
41⁄2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar 51⁄2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
21⁄2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
Start with dem bunz: Whisk together the warm milk, water, and yeast in a small bowl. Let sit until foamy, 5 minutes or so.
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix together on low speed. Add the egg, egg yolk, butter, and the yeast concoction and mix until the dough comes together as a thick, sticky mass. This should take 6 or so minutes. (For extra hardbody points, mix the dough by hand. It’ll be messier but more satisfying.)
With a rubber spatula, scrape the dough out onto a work surface and form it into a smooth ball. Put that glorious ball into a greased-up bowl, seam side down, cover it with a kitchen towel, and set it in a draft-free spot (I like the microwave or a turned-off oven) to rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make dat goo: Mix together the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
Grab that proofed dough, punch it down, and put it on a well-floured counter. Use a rolling pin or wine bottle to roll it into a 16-inch square. Spread the cinnamon goo evenly over the surface, then roll the dough up into a big, tight tube, making sure to keep all the filling inside.
Using a sharp knife, slice the tube into 12 rounds, each about 11⁄3 inches thick. Arrange the rounds cut side down in a 9 × 13-inch baking dish or two 10-inch pie pans, leaving 1 inch between them. Let them rise for another 1 to 2 hours, until they’ve doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 375°F.
Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on the edges.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on high for 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and paddle on low to combine, then whip up a fury on high for 2 minutes, or until the frosting is a pale white and incredibly fluffy.
Remove the buns from the oven and, while they are still warm, spread the frosting generously over them. Serve immediately, and watch as they disappear before your very eyes.