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Cinnamon Buns with Maple Cream Cheese Icing and Flaked Salt

Posted Sep 25 2012 8:17pm
This past month has brought a handful of late night dinners, good old fashioned catching up, laughter, and a familiar presence that I long for. Little pitter patters down the hall, laughing from the next room, family in every nook and cranny. My sister, baby nephew, and 2 dear friends, left just a few weeks backs, and I have had a bit of an empty feeling since. Baby Jaxon can light up a room with his infectious laughter. His growth and development amazes me, his new found experimentation with language. Birds, bikes, boats, and pizza being a few of his favorite words. He is remarkable with animal identification, and can mimic sounds from a few of the popular ones. Monkey, puppy, and cow, melting me to pieces. 

My in laws are now here visiting, and I am feeling the presence of family once again. I am anticipating a visit from my mother in a few weeks from now, and then home for the holidays. Only a few weeks in between visits, I am so blessed this time of year for the love and warmth I feel. I do enjoy a hungry audience, excited about cookies and cake. A true expression of love - baking. Mr. H, and his father, have been known to enjoy a cinnamon bun or two, even mentioning that it may be the most adored in the world of baked goods. With this valuable information, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Having a few sticks of butter on hand, room temperature, melted, and cold, each worked into the recipe in different stages, cinnamon buns are not for the light hearted. I love the feeling of risen dough in my hands, light and fluffy, like a giant marshmallow. The smell if cinnamon and sugar, combined with yeast, baking in the oven is intoxicatingly delicious. Whipped cheese frosting, with a hint of maple syrup, dolloped on top and finished with a sprinkle of flaked salt. I am sure these buns will get eaten in the next few days, with not one to be spared. I do adore this recipe, one that I have tweaked and tweaked until just right. With a dessert important as cinnamon buns, it only be appropriate that I get it right. 

makes 24 small buns
notes: cinnamon buns can be baked in a baking pan, cake pan, or cast iron skillet. As long as it has edges, so that the buns can rise into each other, giving that soft cake texture. After they have been baked, they can be left in the fridge without icing, and reheated just before eating. 
1 package of active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water 110 - 115ºF
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup water

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
flaked salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, 1/2 tsp of sugar, and water (between 110 - 115ºF). Give it a swirl. Set to the side and let it proof until foamy. 
While the yeast is proofing, combine the all purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, with a wire whisk.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla and melted butter. Add the butter and 3/4 cup water to the yeast mixture.  With the paddle attachment, mix the yeast, butter, and water on slow speed. 
Slowly begin adding the flour mixture. Continue until all of the ingredients are combined. Turn the mixer to medium and knead the dough until it sticks to the side of the bowl, and stretches like an elastic band, approximately 2 - 3 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and set it onto a well floured surface. Cover your hands in flour and gently knead the dough into a ball. Oil a large bowl with butter or olive oil. Place the dough into the bowl and set in a warm draft free area for 2 hours. (You will need to wash the stand mixer bowl, to later make the icing).
Preheat the oven to 375º F. Place a baking dish full of water on the bottom shelf of the oven, and move the other rack to the middle.
Punch down the dough and then let it rise for 20 more minutes.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a large bowl, place the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Stir. Cut the cold butter into cubes. Add it to the sugar mixture and start to cut it in with a pastry cutter. Continue cutting until the mixture is crumbly. This effect can also be achieved with a food processor. 
Once the dough has risen, place it onto a floured surface. With a generous amount of flour to prevent sticking, roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture onto the dough, leaving a half inch gap along the top horizontal side of the dough.  Roll the dough from the bottom up. Brush some water along the 1/2 inch gap, allowing it to stick and prevent leaking of the cinnamon sugar.  
With a very sharp knife, cut the dough into one inch slices. Place the cinnamon buns, flat side down, into a rectangular baking dish, with a quarter inch gap in between. Five minutes before baking the cinnamon buns, spray the sides of the oven with water. This will create a moist environment, and will prevent the buns from drying out. 
Bake the cinnamon buns on the middle shelf for 35 minutes. Start to check the buns at around 25 minutes. You do not want them to become too dark and hard. They should develop a nice light brown color, and the cinnamon sugar should start to bubble out of the tops. They should be soft to touch, but not under cooked. Remove from the oven and let cool. 
While the buns are cooling, place the cream cheese, butter confectioners sugar and maple syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whisk until light and fluffy, adjusting sugar to your own preferences. Ice the cinnamon buns and sprinkle with a few specks of flaked salt. Store in the fridge covered for a couple of days. The buns are at their best, the day of.

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