Today was a wrap-yourself-in-a-blanket day. Not because it was a lazy Sunday. No, if only it were that easy. But rather, taking advantage of the time change, I spent the whole morning making bread–because that’s what I do when the mercury takes a dive: bake bread–only to spend 2 hours this afternoon on a soccer pitch, freezing my butt off in 40 mph wind gusts on top of temperatures hovering in the mid-40s. I turned myself into a brrrr-ito with an old quilt and a child or two placed strategically to retain as much heat as possible. I couldn’t find my own hat and had to pull on one of my 7-year-old’s. Simply put, it wasn’t an ideal situation. But I survived to tell the tale. Winter is coming…
I could tell the change was happening before I stepped foot outside. My body has become a barometer as finely tuned as someone with far more years on this planet than I have accumulated. The muscle spasms in my leg–the remnant of my herniated disc 3-1/2 years ago–have worsened, much as they usually do when it gets colder. Add to that the cranial spasms from my TMJ and I am a very twitchy lady. Twitchy. Maybe the other word, too.
Calgon, take me away. Somewhere warm and stress-free for a little while. So I can feel normal, once again.
And it better be a place with freshly-baked cinnamon buns. With sweet, buttery dough wrapped around strips of smoky bacon, slathered with an obscene amount of cream cheese frosting. Who cares if I feel like Frankenstein’s monster? I’ll just have a sugar rush and pretend it’s not happening. Bacon Cinnamon Buns have that special power to erase what you’d rather not exist.
- 1 cup warm whole milk (approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 Tablespoons maple sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 4½ cups bread flour
- 1 pound dry aged bacon
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 3 ounces full fat cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk, salt, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Mix with the dough hook, then let sit 5 minutes or until frothy. (Not absolutely necessary with active dry yeast, but it'll let you know that your yeast is still good before you proceed too far.)
- Add the rest of the sugar, maple sugar, eggs, butter, and bread flour, then mix on low until combined. Turn up to speed 2 and knead until you get a smooth dough ball that clears the sides and sticks to the bottom of the bowl only (you can add flour or water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, in the first few minutes if it seems that the dough is too sticky or dry--this can happen as seasons change, with different batches of flour, etc.).
- Grease a 2-quart mixing bowl and transfer the dough to it. Cover and put in a warm place to sit until it has doubled in size. How long this takes depends on how warm your house is and how fresh your yeast is, but it'll probably take 1-2 hours.
- While the dough is rising, cook the bacon until it is just barely cooked--it needs to remain pliable in order to be rolled into the buns. My preferred method: line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and lay out the bacon strips, making sure not to overlap. Put in a cold oven and turn the temperature up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It took about 22 minutes to reach the desired consistency. Remove to paper towel-lined plate.
- When the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a large work area. Transfer your dough to it, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 10 minutes to rest.
- Take 2 muffin tins and place extra large muffin cups in them. Spray with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Roll out the dough to a roughly 16"x24" rectangle. Trim the edges so they're straight.
- Spread the softened butter with a silicone spatula, covering the entire dough rectangle.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the top and roll over it with the rolling pin to press into the dough a little.
- Lay out the bacon strips on one half of the dough along a long side, parallel to the short sides.
- Starting at the opposite side from the bacon, start to roll the dough, stretching from the middle to the sides as you go to make sure it doesn't get too bulky.
- Pinch the seam and trim the pieces off each end (they are still good to bake and eat, but aren't as pretty for guests; you can also re-roll the trimmed edges to make regular cinnamon buns).
- Cut the long roll every 1-1/2" or so, trying to keep it to about where each strip of bacon ends.
- Place each bun, cut side down, in a muffin cup.
- Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and set somewhere warm to rise a second time. Again, times will vary, but probably somewhere between 30 minutes and a half hour; you'll know they're ready when they're puffy and have nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake risen rolls for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.
- While the rolls bake, prepare the frosting:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, and sea salt, mixing with a hand mixer until smooth.
- Spread frosting over the cinnamon buns as soon as they're removed from the oven.
- Cinnamon buns are best eaten fresh from the oven, but they can also be kept for up to 2 days in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.
I like to bake them in muffin cups to make it easier to share with friends and family. If you're only baking for yourself, you can take 2 9-inch cake pans, butter them up, and bake the buns in those instead.