I had this idea to make tiny cinnamon rolls, then I wanted to make something more twisty, closer to the traditional Scandinavian versions, which are freaking cute and need to be available in the US in more areas.
That being said, it is freaking crazy hot by Seattle standards right now, and I am so not in the mood to have the oven on. Then I started thinking about steaming.
I’ve made hua juan before, or steamed scallion rolls – coated with sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onions, they’re a super addictive sweet-savory mashup. The dough base itself is slightly sweet, so I felt it was safe to try adding cinnamon and sugar.
(One day, I’ll have a solar-powered steamer so I can have steam bun nights on the patio, with everything filled to order and soft and warm.)
I also really like that it normally doesn’t make a huge batch of stuff, and steamed buns freeze well and reheat beautifully.
One search later, I found a recipe on Happy Flour for steamed pandan cinnamon rolls for inspiration, and Cherry On A Cake has the cutest technique for spiral bun awesomeness. Put them all together, add vanilla cream cheese frosting, and you’re golden.
Well, mostly. I used hazelnut milk instead of cow’s milk, because it was honestly all I had in the house that was milk-like. I wanted to use almond milk, which I thought would be more mellow, but hazelnut milk probably has more of the fat my yeasty friends crave. I didn’t really taste the hazelnuts in the finished rolls, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. (I might put chopped hazelnuts in the filling next time.) I was actually out of cream cheese, something I thought I had, so I didn’t make an icing but they were pretty tasty even without it.
At the end of the second proofing in the oven, the buns had pools of cinnamon-sugar goo that glazed them during steaming, and they were adorable. A few minutes in the steamer and they puffed up, chewy and warm with a light cinnamon sweetness. The only “problem” is that the buns don’t get crusty, but if that’s not something you need in your desserts, you’re going to be fine.
That being said, this was a fair bit of work. It made about 30 golf ball-sized buns, so at the end I gave up on the cuteness and just rolled them out like traditional cinnamon buns.
In the sense that they’re smaller than traditional cinnamon buns and not loaded with butter, they’re healthier. And the dough takes two hours in total to proof, so it’s not a huge time saver per se. (Many cinnamon roll recipes are overnight or 3+ hours in proofing, yes, but two hours is still a long time to wait for tasty things that are supposed to be ‘faster.’) They aren’t super crazy flavorful, but they’re warm and cinnamon-spiced, and kind of a blank slate for crazy fillings. Still, if you’re anything like me you’ll polish off most of them before you finish steaming everything.
Cinnamon Steamed Buns
Recipe: Check out the details (and awesome video) here
Note: Since nut milks work fine, experiment for your lactose-intolerant friends!
-1 teaspoon cinnamon (next time I’d increase the cinnamon content, but that’s just me)
-1/3 cup brown sugar
Make the buns following the recipe, only sprinkling with cinnamon sugar before twisting or rolling. For my tiny buns, roll out golf-sized balls of dough after the first proofing, then steam for 6-8 minutes instead of 13.