Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cinnamon Bun Transformation

For the December Cake Slice Bakers, we had the choice of Walnut Raisin Rum Cake which looked wonderful but sounded too much like what I baked last month, Ginger Ginger Cake which was too much like the Gingerbread Cake I had recently made, and Zugar Kirchtorte, a cake I would have loved to make when I was still enjoying butter, but, sadly, butter is no longer my friend.

The fourth choice is the one I chose, Cinnamon Buns, a fine yeast recipe made with fresh mashed potatoes and potato water. I suppose it can be considered, if you stretch the term a bit, as a cake, but I think of it as a sweet bread. I had to make this one as a tip of the hat to my friend Tanna of My Kitchen In Half Cups. She had me make my first potato bread ever, back when we were both Daring Bakers, and I have loved potato breads ever since. Yeast seems to just love potatoes and the dough, once you get past the initial stickiness (which has been known to cause me to swear), potato dough is supple and feels wonderful to work with. It takes a few more minutes to make these with freshly cooked and mashed potatoes, but it is worth the trouble because the yeast bread is superior to that make with reconstituted mashed potatoes. Just be sure to let the water and potatoes cool enough so that your yeast are happy and not cooked.

Because it's the holiday season I decided to transform the standard pan of buns into a wreath shape. I made two of them and gave one as a gift to a friend. Sweetie and some neighbors enjoyed the other. To make this bread properly, you do need to use milk and butter. It's also a good idea to use fresh cinnamon since that is a key ingredient. I used Penzy's Vietnamese Cinnamon. It is full flavored and so fragrant that it was perfect for this bread. I also decided to add some chopped walnuts, which I sprinkled on top of the butter and cinnamon before I rolled up the dough.

Once the dough is rolled up, which you do for both the buns and the wreath, to make the wreath, form the dough log into a circle and connect the ends together by pinching them. You then take a pair of clean kitchen scissors/shears and cut almost all the way through about every two inches around the circle. You leave the dough connected (uncut) at the inner side of the circle. Once that is done, you turn each of those pieces a bit so that you can see the spiral of bread dough and spice/sugar

After that you let the dough rise again and bake it at the same temperature as the buns. I like a bit of decoration, so I mixed together some hot milk and confectioners sugar and drizzled it over the wreath in a decorative pattern. Pretty as a picture and a nice gift, too.

These buns (for those pieces you turned on the wreath become buns when the wreath is cut) are soft and tender with a wonderful taste of cinnamon and sugar. It smells like the best kitchen in the world while they are baking!

Cinnamon Bun Wreaths
and adaption of a recipe from Maida Heatter's Cakes

1 cup mashed potatoes (see Notes)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
1/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 4 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour or bread flour,
plus additional flour, mostly for kneading
(bread flour is excellent in bread where there is a lot of butter and sugar)

Notes: The mashed potatoes can be made with instant dry mashed potatoes or fresh potatoes.
It takes about 3/4 pound fresh potatoes to make 1 cup mashed. Peel, cut into chunks, place in a small saucepan with water, boil, partially covered, until tender, drain, and then mash the potatoes. Be sure to save the water the potatoes were boiled in and use some of it for dissolving the yeast. Since yeast loves potatoes so much, this will make it extra happy.

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 oz (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Generously butter a 4-6 quart bowl or other container for the dough to rise in. Set it aside.

Place the mashed potatoes (which may be warm or cool, as long as below 111 degrees F) in a saucepan and, stirring constantly, add the milk very gradually. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt and butter. Place over low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture is warm (105-110 degrees F).It is not necessary for the butter to have melted completely, but OK if it does.

Meanwhile, in a 1-cup glass measuring cup, stir the warm water (can be potato water) with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, sprinkle on the yeast, stir briefly with a knife, and set aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture rises to about the 3/4 cup line.

In a small bowl, beat the egg to mix and add the vanilla.

When the potato-and-milk mixture is warm enough, transfer it to the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the yeast mixture and the egg. On low speed, gradually add about 3 cups of the flour. Beat on low speed for a minute or two. Remove the bowl from the mixer. The dough will be wet and sticky now. With a heavy wooden spoon, gradually stir in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of flour. Dough will still be sticky.

Flour a large work surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface. The dough will still be too sticky to knead. Add a bit of additional flour and, with a dough scraper or a wide metal spatula, turn the dough over and over with the additional flour - adding still a bit ore if necessary - until you can handle the dough. (a glass of wine to the side and/or some swearing help when getting through this part - Elle's notes.) You might have to add 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional flour. Remember, though, that potato based dough has a tendency to remain a bit sticky even when enough flour has been added, so do not use more than you must...err on the side of sticky dough.
After about five minutes active kneading, the dough should be smooth and feel alive. If you can be really careful to not add too much flour, you can also do the kneading with your stand mixer.

Place the dough in the buttered bowl, turn it around in the bowl to butter all sides, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a clean shower cap) and place it in a clean, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough is at least double in volume.

Once dough had doubled in volume, make a fist and punch it down in the middle, then fold in and press down the sides of the dough to deflate all of it. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough in half.  Return half the dough to the rising bowl and re-cover.

Take the half dough still on the lightly floured surface and roll it out in a rectangle about 16-18 inches by 10 inches.
The dough may fight you...if so, let it sit for a few minutes while you make the filling components, then return to it and continue shaping.

For the filling, in a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Make sure the walnuts are finely chopped. Brush half the melted butter over the rolled out dough, leaving about 1/2-inch clear around all edges. Sprinkle on half the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the butter, then sprinkle half the walnuts over that evenly. Roll up on the long side like a jelly-roll, pinching the edges together once it is all rolled.

Carefully lift the rolled dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a silicon mat lined baking sheet) and form into a wreath shape. Pinch the ends together. Use a pair of clean scissors or kitchen shears to cut the dough about every two inches, leaving the dough attached at the inner edge of the roll. Carefully take each cut section and turn it so that you can see the filling. Do that with each cut section around the wreath. See the photo above in the beginning of the post to see how it looks at the end, before rising.

Repeat the rolling, filling, rolling up, cutting and turning with the other half of the dough and filling. I used two baking sheets so that they wouldn't stick together.

Set the wreaths in a warm, draft free place and let rise until puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of that time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Before preheating, adjust the rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.

Bake the risen wreaths for about 10 minutes, then reverse the pan from front to back and continue to bake until the wreaths are light golden brown. I baked one pan at a time, but you could probably bake both pans at once if you switched them around half way through baking. Ovens vary, but it will probably take about 25-30 minutes total. Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack five minutes while you prepare the icing.

Optional Icing
In a small bowl mix together 1 tablespoon warm milk and enough confectioners sugar (about 3/4 cup) to make an icing that is the thickness you like. Drizzle the icing over the cooled wreaths.

A cooled, iced wreath makes a nice gift and is also a lovely addition to your holiday table, especially at breakfast or brunch!
Check out the other Cake Slice Baker creations too.


  1. What a fabulous idea to do it as a wreath! I love it!

  2. Wow!! I love this wreath shaping for cinnamon buns. It's beautiful!

    Ooooh, potatoes in the dough... I would never have thought of that. Great idea!

    Please excuse me for starting to foam at the mouth (again): Just for literal people like me, how much yeast is in an envelope? I know it's probably the North American standard of 7gm/2.25tsp, but I've heard that if the envelope is from some places in Europe, it might be as much as 11gm. Or is it 15gm??

  3. I have heard of baking with mashed potatoes before -- obviously, we use potato flour, so this should be a no-brainer -- but I've never done it. I'm deeply intrigued! Anything on which we can put frosting and cinnamon plus mashed potatoes seems a worthy project!!!

  4. Bravo Elle, that's brilliant! I'm nowhere near as talented as you are when it comes to doughy things. Lucky friend that received one :) Laura@ Baking in Pyjamas

  5. Elizabeth, the packet I used was indeed 7 gm. I suspect you could still get lovely results with a bit less since the yeasties do love potatoes, but I like the smell of yeast, so I use the whole amount.

    Tanita, I'm sure that you could substitute almond meal mixed with egg white, mixed with the cinnamon and nutmeg and nuts, for the filling instead of the butter, spices, etc. The small amount of butter in the dough could be margarine or coconut oil(cold). It smelled wonderful and Sweetie said it was delicious. I might make it without that I have figured out how...for my own Christmas delight.

    Laura, I do love baking with yeast and am ever so happy that it was one of the choices this month. :)

  6. What a great idea! It never even crossed my mind to make a wreath instead of slicing the rolls! It does make a pretty presentation!

  7. Beautiful presentation of the cinnamon buns! Clever girl!

  8. Marian4:10 PM

    Thanks for the inspiration! I made this and we enjoyed it for breakfast on Christmas. I haven't worked with yeast for awhile but your instructions made it easy and fun!

  9. Marian, I saw the photo of the pair you made...very pretty and I'll bet they were a hit. Would love to know what changes you made to make them vegan. Hugs dear sister!