Sourdough Cinnamon Buns

So you’re cooped up at home and going crazy baking all your favourite things? Just like you, I have been baking rather more than usual – therapy? boredom? Or am I merely living my best life now that I actually get to spend time at home?

Perhaps just like you, I have also discovered sourdough bread is a little beyond me at this point. And, I can’t eat that much bread. So I’m making sourdough cinnamon buns instead.

Sourdough cinnamon bun with maple glaze

Get the dough started:

  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup plain/strong flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Take your starter out of the fridge. It should be active and raring to go. Using a spatula, scrape the starter into a bowl leaving 1 Tbsp of starter behind. Transfer this into a clean new jar, feed it, and return to the fridge. (And if your starter is not particularly active, I haven’t done this but you could consider adding 1/4 tsp yeast for some extra oomph.)

Now, I recommend you use at least 1/2 cup of starter and if you have more, why not use it all? The trick is to get the consistency right – if it’s wet, start by stirring 1 cup of flour. If it’s stiff, start to trickle in your warm water and incorporate it fully into an even mixture. Either way, you want to end up with a total mass that consists of about 2 cups dough (mine was approximately 1/2c starter and 1 1/2c flour) and however much warm water you need to give you the consistency of a stiff pancake batter. Gloopy gloop, not dribble drip.

At this point, stop worrying about it and just leave it to rise, covered, in a warm place for 2 hours. When it has doubled in size and is lovely and bubbly you are ready for the next step.

Making the dough:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add the melted butter, sugar, salt and half the flour to the dough. If you had eggs or buttermilk or cream, these would be great to add but I am out of ingredients at the best of times, nevermind Covid-19. So I am pleased to report that this made for a tasty dough even without all the calories.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the dough together until it forms a ball. At this point you will probably want to use your hands to knead the dough together. When the dough feels soft and sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on top and keep kneading to form a nice round. Add as much flour as you “knead” – this might be more than a cup! There are other explanations of kneading out there, and hopefully my light description here will reassure you that one doesn’t have to be a perfectionist to make tasty bakes. I find that the amount of flour needed varies hugely from place to place and month to month given the changing humidity levels anyway. After a few minutes of this, stop when you think the dough has a good, firm and stretchy consistency. Cover and leave to rise again for 2 hours in a warm place. When it has doubled in size again and feels soft to the touch, the dough should be ready to form into rolls.

Here are the rolls fresh out of the oven!

Forming the rolls:

Now your dough should be ready to form into actual cinnamon rolls. Flour your counter or biggest cutting board and turn the dough out onto this work surface. Flour your rolling pin (or a smooth big glass jar also works well) and roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 12″x18″. You should see air bubbles beneath the surface of the dough, and use long, gentle strokes to avoid bursting these air pockets. Leave this to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Cinnamon filling:

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • A dash of fresh grated nutmeg and cloves
  • 1/3 cup Walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped. (optional)

Stir all the filling ingredients together and spread in a thin layer on the dough. Again, be careful to avoid any bubbles and try to get an even distribution of filling, especially at the short edges so those rolls get the cinnamon-y goodness too. Just leave an area 1.5″ wide along the top free of filling, you will use this to pinch the edge of the rolls so they hold their shape. At this point, prep a square 8×8 baking tin (or whatever you have) with some olive oil on the bottom. Moving back to the dough, starting at the bottom long edge closest to you, roll up your dough loosely lengthwise into a big 18″ log. Pinch the seam at the end of the roll, this will help them keep their shape. Now you want to cut the log at ~2″ intervals using a sharp knife, I got 8 rolls out of this batch. Position these in the baking tin, evenly spaced apart. Cover, and leave again to rise for approximately 2 hours or as long as you can stand.

Now if the buns are really growing and touching in places, you are ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Top with a drizzle of maple or agave syrup and more chopped nuts. Bake!

After ten minutes, turn the temperature down to 350° and let yourself have a peak at the buns. All going well, they should be nestled in together and touching on all sides. They will have risen over the edge of the pan. If not, well, they will still taste delicious.

Remove and give the bottom of the pan a knock. The buns should sound hollow, this means they’re done. Serve right away with a knob of butter and a splash of maple syrup.

If you leave the buns to cool before serving, you may want to serve with a simple glaze. This glaze makes enough for two buns, so I recommend you just make another batch as needed.

Here’s a simple glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple or agave syrup

Melt the butter in a small cup in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in the sugar and return to microwave for another 30 seconds. You might need to stop it early before it overflows. It will be very hot. Stir vigorously as you pour in the maple/agave syrup. It should foam at first and then settle down into a lovely caramel consistency. Drizzle over top of your bun to serve.

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