Sticky Cinnamon Buns

by Meeta Wolff

This chapter is a free excerpt from What's For Lunch, Honey?.

I love buns...sticky cinnamon rolls drizzled with caramel and topped with nuts and fruit. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the delicious rolls from Cinnabon; they taste incredible and I cannot even begin to put their exquisiteness into words. I just can say one thing: I am so glad that there is not a Cinnabon outlet here in Germany, otherwise I know it would be my downfall!

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I love buns...sticky cinnamon rolls drizzled with caramel and topped with nuts and fruit. I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the delicious rolls from Cinnabon; they taste incredible and I cannot even begin to put their exquisiteness into words. I just can say one thing: I am so glad that there is not a Cinnabon outlet here in Germany, otherwise I know it would be my downfall!

As part of a Daring Bakers challenge I had the opportunity of making my own sticky buns for the first time. As with each challenge, we were allowed a few modifications:
  • We did not have to use cinnamon, but could use any other spices or a mix.
  • We could do both cinnamon and sticky buns or simply choose one.
  • We did not have to use any nuts for the sticky buns if we did not want to.
  • We could substitute the raisins for any other dried fruit.
  • Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergic, or an ingredient unavailable/cost-prohibitive in our region.
I decided to go for sticky cinnamon buns topped with walnuts and cranberries. It’s a classic combination and I love the tart flavor of the cranberries. Making these buns was a real breeze and rather comforting. These steps were easy, and the ingredients were not exotic or difficult to handle. The results were extraordinary: soft, moist and sticky. For all those who enjoy a good sticky roll for breakfast, I urge you to give these a try. You won’t regret it!

Making the Dough


  • 95g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 80g unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon (I used the zest of 1 lime)
  • 500g unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast*
  • 300ml whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
  • Cinnamon sugar—made of approximately 80g granulated sugar + 12g ground cinnamon (or any other spices you want to use: cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
  • Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
  • Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)
For cinnamon buns you will additionally need: White fondant glaze—Recipe below

For Sticky buns you will additionally need: Caramel glaze—Recipe below

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.


Days to Make: 1

Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 ½ hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20-40 minutes to bake

Recipe Quantity: 8-12 large rolls or 12-16 small rolls

1. Making the Dough:
  • Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).
  • Whip in the egg and lemon/lime extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball.
  • Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12-15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
2. Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

3. Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Proceed as shown in the photo for shaping the buns.

(A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about ⅔ inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. (B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and (C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1¾ inches thick for larger buns, or 12-16 pieces each 1¼ inch thick for smaller buns.

4. Prepare the Buns for Proofing:
  • For cinnamon buns: Line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately ½ inch apart so that they are not touching but are close to one another.
  • For sticky buns: Coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1½ inches high with a ¼ inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about ½ inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.
5. Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3-4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

6. Bake the Buns:
  • Preheat the oven to 175ºC (350ºF) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
  • Bake the cinnamon buns for 20-30 minutes or the sticky buns 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right-side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.
7. Cool the buns:
  • For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  • For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.
  • Sift 520g of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 118ml of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly—and only as much as is needed—to make a thick, smooth paste.
  • When the buns have cooled, but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)
Caramel glaze for sticky buns

Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 95g granulated sugar, 100g firmly packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and 230g unsalted butter, at room temperature.
  • Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add ½ cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  • Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a ¼-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.
Helpful Note: You can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.
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