But Husband had to leave town on the night of the 4th for a business trip -- and holiday weekends can't last forever. So I found myself alone yesterday in a holiday-less house (thank goodness for the dog!) with just the laundry and sundry chores to occupy my time. I tend to feel a little let down when holidays and special occasions are over as it is, but yesterday hit me particularly hard. I thought about taking a nap, but that seemed too depressing. I puttered around the garden for a bit, but then ran out of cut-up pantyhose (which I use to stake my tomatoes). I contemplated the rust that is overtaking my hollyhocks, and then decided that I must be getting really old. I meandered back into the kitchen and remembered that I hadn't yet baked this week's Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge recipe: cinnamon buns. Then it dawned on me. Cinnamon buns make everything better!
I thought I knew about good cinnamon buns. But as I'm realizing with each passing week of The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge, I knew nothing about bread-baking before. I can confidently divide my baker's existence into two eras: Before Reinhart (BR) and After Reinhart (AR). I thought my BR cinnamon buns were the bomb. But now that I have entered the great period AR, I know now what a truly great bun is. The BR cinnamon buns are arresting in their size and sweetness, but their crumb is not as tender as it should be and you don't get a taste of cinnamon sugar with every bite. Perhaps if I went back and baked those BR buns again -- with the knowledge that I have gained AR regarding gluten development and the windowpane -- those BR buns would be better. But as it is, Reinhart's cinnamon buns are so amazing I don't know if I'll ever have a need to go back. You live, you learn. You bake a better cinnamon bun.
Reinhart's buns have a perfect soft and tender crumb. Even without the addition of copious amounts of cinnamon sugar and a deluge of perfect sweet glaze, these buns could win an award on the merit of their crumb alone. If they gave out such awards. They should give out such awards! Anyway. I imagine using this dough for any number of applications: perhaps rolled with homemade strawberry jam and coarsely chopped walnuts? Or maybe just rolled with dried strawberries and topped with a lemon glaze. You could bake them plain, with no filling whatsoever, and they would still make you happy.
All that said, the buns are perfect as written in Reinhart's recipe, rolled with cinnamon-sugar and iced with a simple homemade glaze (I punched mine up with a teaspoon of almond extract). There is enough glaze to cover each bun in a thin cloak of sugar. Each bite therefore contains wonderful crumb, cinnamon-sugar and a taste of glaze.
I ate one (OK, maybe two), took a few over to the neighbors' house and sent a few over to Mom and Dad's house. As I enjoyed the buns, still warm from the oven, I felt a smile creep across my face. For as much as I was trying to be depressed about the waning weekend, Reinhart's bun wouldn't let me. You will be happy, said the cinnamon bun. You may have an empty house, but you have me.
The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share the recipes from Reinhart's book. Do you have your copy already? I am certain that you do. So. Wipe that mopey post-long-weekend frown off your face and turn to page 143. The cinnamon buns are waiting.
Also check out these excellent buns from my fellow Bread Bakers:
- Kelly at Something Shiny makes awesome cinnamon twists, and notes quite correctly that this is the first cinnamon bun that she's ever had that still tasted great the second day.
- No Fear Entertaining gets up at 4:00 a.m. to have her cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven for breakfast.
- The Other Side of Fifty stashes her fat pants in the freezer and digs into some gorgeous cinnamon buns.