Best morning ever: Quick cinnamon buns from ‘Cook’s Illustrated’

Food porn. Not the first thing you think of when picturing a team of cooks led by a bow-tie clad (not in a dapper, ironic way) man. I am speaking of America’s Test Kitchen, the intrepid team lead by Christopher Kimball. They are the people behind the magazine Cook’s Illustrated and the spectacular cookbook Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion For The Home Baker.

The cover of the book features a voluptuous whisk with a creamy dollop of whipped cream. Mmmm. . . It is rather suggestive, now that I think of it. There are more food pictures to get you excited in the centerfolds, but you get a sense of the cheeky, yet scientific minds behind this book just from reading the title page. The subtitle states, “with 350 recipes you can trust. Fallen cakes, crumbly cookies, soggy pie crusts. We’ve made these mistakes (and more) so you don’t have to.” They test their recipes obsessively.

They are as devoted to the food as to the science backing it. Actually what differentiates anything created by America’s Test Kitchen from your average cookbook is their passion for correctness and being the absolute best. Their test kitchen will churn out dozens of iterations of any given recipe until they find the ideal one both in taste and in loyalty to what that food is traditionally supposed to be. Then, they taste-test dozens of food brands used in this “best recipe” to make sure they are using the ingredients of the highest quality.

That being said, they do sometimes rock the boat. Traditionally, cinnamon rolls are a yeasted extravaganza. The test kitchen wanted to remain loyal to what a traditional cinnamon roll is, yet find a way to produce buns with a biscuit-like dough that does not involve the lengthy waiting period that yeast-raised rolls require.

Here’s what they look like (and no I couldn’t wait to take a bite, or two, or three):

They are grand. And much tastier than those from Grands. Not to knock Pillsbury and their product which is admittedly more speedy to make than these. But these will knock your socks off. Those cheeky buns! That sweet, sweet cream cheese glaze!

Got buns, hun? Sorrynotsorry. The Book Cook never met a word joke she didn’t like. Just make these and see if you don’t fall in love.

Quick Cinnamon Buns with Buttermilk Icing adapted from Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter (you will be using it for different elements of this recipe, so keep a tablespoon at hand to divvy it up)

For filling:

  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and the work surface
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk (I used 5 Tbsp. buttermilk powder + 1 1/4 cups water)

For Icing

  • 2 Tbsp. cream cheese (I used a lower fat version)
  • 2 Tbsp. buttermilk (or 1 1/2 tsp. buttermilk powder plus 2 Tbsp. H2O)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Put the oven rack in the upper-middle section of your oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a 9-inch round pan and use 1 Tbsp. of your melted butter to grease it. They say to also spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray but I skipped it and it worked out.

Make the filling: Mix the brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Add 1 Tbsp. of your melted butter and stir with a fork until it is like wet sand.

Make your dough: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If you are using buttermilk powder, stir it in here too. In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk (or water if you are using a powder) with 2 Tbsp. of the melted butter. Add the liquid ingredients to dry and stir them up until the flour is absorbed. This dough is terrifically sticky. Flour a work surface generously, and turn dough onto it. If need be dust with more flour and knead just a wee bit to smooth the dough out.

Then pat it into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 Tbsp. of the melted butter. Sprinkle the filling over this, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around, and pat it in a little. Roll up starting on the long side. You may need to use a bench scraper to get the dough rolling. Once rolled, pinch to seal, then arrange the seam down to cut into eight slices. Turn them on their sides as you place them into the 9-inch round pan. If you were like me and rolled too loosely, you may need to press and squish a bit to make them stick together.

Arrange in the pan by placing the first one in the middle, then the other seven surrounding it. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until they are getting golden brown. It will take around 22 minutes, give or take. Use a spatula to loosen the buns from the edge of the pan. Using oven mitts, place a plate over the pan, then turn them over so the buns land on the plate. Then place your cooling rack over the buns on the plate and turn again so the buns are on the rack, face up. Be careful, the pan is hot!

While they cool for about five minutes, combine the cream cheese and buttermilk (if you used powdered, stir it well into the water before adding cream cheese) until smooth. Sift the powdered sugar into this and mix well. Make sure the you put some wax paper or something under the rack of buns to catch drips then pour that lovely icing on top and spread out. Now rip those buns apart and chow down.