Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Imagine a soft and fluffy milk bread smothered with a sweet cream cheese on top and then, imagine that you can make them at home! Now, you can! If you have been looking for the softest Cinnamon Buns or Cinnabuns recipe, you are at the right place.
This cinnamon roll utilises the Tang Zhong Method that I often use for making bread to maintain the softness for a longer period of time. If you are interested to learn more about this method, you can visit my page on "Shokupan | Soft and Fluffy Milk Bread Loaf"
If this is your first time embarking on yeast raised breads, below are some of the bread making terms explained that can be useful later on when you proceed to preparing this recipe.
When making bread, you will come across the word "Gluten" quite a lot, unless if you are making it gluten free. Gluten is something that are found in most wheat flours that are used for making bread, cakes and noodles, and can only exist in the existence of water and the motion of mixing. For example, if you were to (which you are not) eat raw flour on its own, there is technically no gluten in the flour as gluten has not been formed yet, but however, if you pour water over the flour and start mixing it with your hands or with a machine, they will start to come together to a gooey substance. Keep mixing the dough and you have yourself some gluten. The science of how gluten are formed is vast and in this post, the main focus is not on the science but the purpose of what they are for.
Gluten is what the bakers or pastry chefs would call it a "structure builder", because it is essentially what it is as it helps hold on the air pockets in your baked goods during baking without it collapsing. Not only does gluten gives you that chewiness to your bread, it also enables you to extend the dough and make it more pliable.
When you are mixing your bread dough, the best indication of gluten development is when you start to notice that they are no longer slack in consistency and starts to become shiny and smooth and has some elasticity to it when you try to stretch them between your hands. The best way to test if you have fully developed enough gluten is by pinching a small piece of the dough and gently stretching the dough between your two hands while rotating it. If you are able to stretch the small piece of dough thin enough to see through like a "Window", you have developed enough gluten. This test is also called the Window Test. The fact that you are able to stretch the dough thin indicates that your loaf will rise high in volume during baking without it breaking easily which can often cause the dough to collapse half way through baking, become dense and is flat.
There are a variations of yeast in the market you can use for making bread and some of the common ones are such as Fresh / Compact Yeast, Instant Yeast and Active Dry Yeast. All of these yeasts are suitable to use in this recipe although I will be using Instant Yeast for these Cinnabons. If you are feeling a little adventurous, you can also try using cultivated yeast to make these Cinnabons which will give the most flavour to the bread but before you embark on this, you must have some knowledge on how to work with natural leaven. If you want to learn more about making sourdough bread with natural leaven, you can visit my Sourdough forum for more information.
In the recipe below, I will be using instant yeast. If you are unable to find instant yeast, or have another type of yeast in your pantry, you can substitute them in the following:
7 g Fresh Yeast = 100 g Naturally leaven
1 g Fresh Yeast = 0.34 g Instant Dry Yeast
1 g Fresh Yeast = 0.4 g Active Dry Yeast
100 g Naturally Leavened = 2.4 g Instant Dry Yeast
100 g Naturally Leavened = 2.8 g Active Dry Yeast
Different types of Wheat Flour
Majority of the wheat flours contain gluten and the types of flours used can have an impact on how your bread is going to turn out. This is because different types of flour contain different strength of gluten forming proteins. When making bread, Bread or Strong Flour is the most common types of flour used. In a lot of soft rolls or buns, a combination of Bread and Plain flour is not unheard of either. In this recipe, the combination of flour is used.
Hi -Gluten flour, as the name suggests, has the highest gluten out of all flours followed by Bread Flour, Plain Flour and Cake Flour. Although it is not unusual that Plain flour are used for making bread, it is unlikely that cake flour will ever be used for the same purpose as it lacks the gluten forming protein to yield a good structured load of bread. Bread made with Cake flour are usually sloppy in texture and flat as it does not have enough strength to hold on to itself as it rises in the hot oven during baking.
A typical percentage of gluten protein % for each flour are as follow:
Hi Gluten Flour - 12.5 - 14%
Bread flour - 10- 12.5%
Plain Flour - 8 - 10%
Cake Flour - 6 - 7%
It is one thing with adding water to your flour and kneading your dough to form gluten, yet quite another thing to determine how much gluten is enough since the more you mix the dough, the more gluten are developed. This is when the "Window Test" comes in. Developing enough gluten is important to ensure that your bread has a good "rise" or "Oven Spring" during baking, having too much on the other hand, can yield an undesirable outcome, some of which are such as a bread that is too tough because it is unable to rise due to too much resistance from overmixing the dough; the inability to stretch and roll the dough out, and the low quality of texture and taste to your loaf of bread.
To sum it all up, it is important to develop enough gluten and know when to stop. One of the tricks is by pinching a small piece off from the mixed dough and gently stretch it out out between both of your hands. If you are able to stretch it thin enough to see through like a "window", it is an indication that you have developed enough gluten and you can stop the mixing process as any further mixing at this stage will give an opposite result.
Fermentation / Proofing
Proofing, also often referred to as fermentation, is a process where you allow bread dough to rest at an ambient environment for a period of time. It is also where all the magic really happens in bread making. During fermentation, a few things happen. Yeast is a single celled microorganism that are commonly used to make bread and works to produce Carbon Dioxide gas (CO2) as it feeds on the food source that can be found in the wheat flour and sugar. These Carbon dioxide gas is t what that gives your bread loaf that bubbly holes on the inside. During the fermentation process, it also allows the gluten strand in the dough to strengthen and relax at the same time whilst allowing the dough to develop flavour.
There are two proofing process in making bread. The first proofing process also called Bulk Proofing is when you place the kneaded dough as a whole to rise to double its size. The first step of proofing (Bulk Proofing) is crucial in all bread making as bread that skips the bulk proofing process tends to lack flavour and has a shorter shelf life.
Final proofing is the last stage of fermentation and is always done after the proofed bulk dough has been divided into its individual portions and final shaped. The final proofing is a process that allows the dough to relax again and also enables it to produce more gas to compensate from them being knocked out from all the rolling and shaping before it hits the oven.
The final proofing process usually takes a shorter time compared to the Initial Bulk Proofing and is important if you want your bread to be light and airy after being baked.
Can I skip the bulk proofing and go straight to final proofing?
Although not recommended, but it is completely okay to skip the bulk proofing process and go straight to shaping and final proofing your bread before you bake them. Bread that has skipped the bulk proofing process may find that their bread can lack flavour, is not "strong"- lacks the ability stretch and shape well- , and does not have a good "oven spring" from baking.
My thought to making bread is that if you have gone through all the effort to making the dough, an extra one to two hours will not hurt to get the best result for your bread. It is definitely worth giving your bread the time and love for a successful bake.
YIELD: 9 x Cinnabuns
Preparation time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Baking time: 20 -30 minutes
Bulk Proofing: 1 -2 hours
Final Proofing - 30 minutes -1 hour
100 g whole milk
25 g Bread Flour
280g Bread Flour
80 Plain flour
7 g Fine Salt
25g Castor Sugar/ Granulated Sugar
8g Instant Yeast
60 g Unsalted butter, softened
50 g Whole Egg - 1 medium egg
160 g Full Cream Milk - cold
50 g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Light brown sugar, firmly packed
20g Plain Flour
7 g Cinnamon Powder
pinch Fine Salt
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
125 g Philadelphia Cream Cheese - softened
60 g Unsalted butter - softened
190 g Sifted icing sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
1 tbsp. Full Cream Milk
1. Start by preparing the Tang Zhong (TZ). Place the flour and milk for the TZ into a saucepan and cook while whisking continuously over medium heat until it thickens to an opaque paste. This paste is called the Tang Zhong. Transfer the TZ into a clean bowl and wrap with a cling film touching the surface and leave to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.
You can prepare the Tang Zhong a day ahead and store them in the fridge. Ensure to wrap it well to prevent from drying out.
2. Once the TZ has cooled, Prepare the final dough by placing all the other ingredients, including the TZ, except for the butter into the stand mixer bowl. Mix with a dough hook attached on low speed for 3 minutes until the ingredients come together to a rough dough. At this point, the dough will be very soft and looks shaggy.
Scrape the bowl down then add in the room temperature butter. Increase the speed to medium speed and continue to mix for another 8 - 10, scraping the side and the bottom of the bowl in between kneading of the dough.
Once the dough starts to pull away clean from the side of the bowl, is stretchable and looks shiny, it is ready. To check the readiness of the dough, perform a "window test" by stretching a small piece of the dough between your hands. If you are able to stretch it thin enough to see through like a "window", you have developed enough gluten and it is ready for Bulk Proofing. Do not knead the dough any further after this point.
Note: The kneading time is just an indication, you will need to use your best judgement to decide if the dough needs longer or shorter mixing time. Perform the window test once the dough starts to feel elastic. Refer to above step for reference.
3. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll the dough to a tight ball. Transfer into a lightly greased bowl large enough for the dough to double in size, with the seam side tucked underneath. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to bulk proof at room temperature or until it double in size.
The bulk proofing process takes approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the ambient of your kitchen.
4. While the dough is proofing, prepare the cinnamon filling by rubbing the soft butter in with the rest of the ingredients for form a paste. Soften the butter to a spreadable consistency by mixing the room temperature butter with a spatula/spoon the mix in the the rest of the ingredients.
5. Once the dough have doubled in volume, gently knock the dough back with the palm of your hands to release some of the additional gas in the dough.
Dust the workbench with some flour then transfer the dough over. Roll the dough to a semi tight ball then dust the top with some flour. With the help of a rolling pin, roll the dough to a 250 mm x 400 mm rectangle, with the shorter end closest and furthest from you. Spread the cinnamon filling on to top then from the shorter end closest to you roll the dough to a log, ensuring that it is not too tight. With the seam side underneath, trim one end of the log then divide it to 9 equal portions of approximately 25 mm in thickness. To cut the log, use a string for easy handling. (Refer to video summary for reference)
6. Place the portioned cinnamon buns into its own individual patty pans with the cut side facing outwards. If you do not have a patty pans, you can simply place them into a 200 mm square deep baking a tray lined with non stick parchment paper, placing the cinnamon rolls with a small gap apart from each other. Cover the portioned cinnamon buns with a damp tea towel and leave to final proof or until they increases at least 50% in volume. This process will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile, pre heat the oven to 165C.
7. When the cinnamon buns are ready, bake in the pre heated oven for approximately 20 - 25 minutes until the top starts to turn light golden in colour. You don't want to over bake the cinnamon buns to preserve the softness of the buns.
8. While the cinnamon buns are baking, prepare the Cream Cheese frosting by whisking all the ingredients together until you get a smooth frosting. Set aside until ready to use.
Once the cinnamon buns are baked, remove from the oven and spoon a generous spoon of the cinnamon frosting on top of each buns. Serve while still warm.
For any leftover cinnamon buns, store them in an air tight containers in the fridge. Simply warm for 20 seconds in the microwave before serving. If you want to have better keeping quality. Keep the frosting separate from the baked buns. Cover the buns and store in a non humid environment at room temperature. Top the cinnamon buns with the frosting only when you are ready to serve. Bread stored in fridge tends to deteriorate in eating quality much quicker than when they are stored at room temperature as the ambient of the fridge dries out the bread.
Note: The video on 1:15 time instruct to continue to mix the dough for another 15 -18 minutes. This is a mistake. Once all the butter has been added, keep kneading the dough on medium speed for 10- 12 minutes until it passes the 'Window Test'.