Can you smell that yeasty, cinnamony, leavened bread from a bakery aroma? Breathe deeply. Ahhh.
8 years ago, my dad took my older brother, younger sister, and me to Europe. One evening in Paris (yes, groan, go for it, I won’t be offended), we went out for sushi, which seems really very odd, but Parisian sushi is something to be experienced––so good! I love going out for sushi with my dad because he speaks a few words of Japanese (a skill I have yet to osmote), which has led to a few sushi freebies on more than one occasion. My brother and I tried sake for the first time, which he took as a “shot” to the amusement of our waitress. We then made the classic Austin Powers joke of “sake it to me, baby.” Alright, maybe that’s just a classic in my family. Funny stuff. Anyways.
After dinner, in the quiet, grey twilight of the Parisian cobbled streets that look like a Hollywood movie version of themselves they’re so authentic, we all decided to go for a stroll. My siblings and I were several paces in front of my dad, laughing with bellies full of sushi and sake (maybe too much sake). Something was off though; what began as four voices and giggles became three voices and giggles. We turned around to find my dad––or rather, not find my dad. He was missing.
He couldn’t be far, we thought. The road we were on was vacant. There were no other pedestrians, cars, nor the classic city noises of sirens and horns. The only sound was the delicate, echoing click, click, click of our feet scurrying over the uneven, ankle-twisting, movie set of a stone road. We looked up and down and all around, and decided to backtrack. We didn’t have our cellphones on the trip. We had no idea where our hotel was. And our French was terrible. After dismissing the idea that our father would abandon us, we finally found him.
He was in the darkened stoop of a closed bakery––smelling. He was just standing there, breathing in the aroma of the freshly baked bread and croissants that was coming out the front vents thanks to the hardworking bakers starting an overnight shift in the back. His eyes were closed and his chest, puffed up, trying to get as much of that freshly baked pain aroma into his lungs and sensory receptors as humanly possible. Then we all joined in. Smelling. I’ll never forget that aroma (or the day my dad “abandoned” us for carbs). There is just something so nursery-comforting about yeast plus water plus flour. Like a warm bottle for a baby.
After this, err, interesting experience, it has only taken me 8 years to try to make bread at home. The aroma isn’t quite as lovely as the one I experienced in Paris, but it still managed to bring me back.
Before this post gets overly sentimental, I’ll lighten things up a bit.
I was betwixt and between, pacing back and forth across the floor (actually, I was spinning in my desk chair––the LazyTown version) when deciding what to call these. They are indeed cinnamon buns, but not cinnamon buns in the same way that a cinnamon bun is a cinnamon bun––do you follow? Cinnamon rolls? Cinnamon raisin bread? Cinnamon “brolls”? Should I stop asking nettlesome questions in my blog posts and just get on with things? Is that a yes? (I can’t hear you.)
Regardless of what you call them, these pillowy buns of delight (which happened to be the working title) are sweet, tender, and fill your home with that heady, Cinnamonbon-at-a-mall aroma. Like the spicy smoke finger that drags you out of a potential bank account-damaging Sephora splurge, these buns have your back.
This is yeast’s first appearance on the blog. (All together now: “Welcome, Yeast.”) I was planning on sharing a lovely gluten-free olive focaccia––actually, I believe I promised I’d share on Instagram nearly two months ago now––but then (SPOILER ALERT) I decided to use a variation of it in the cookbook. Its application is really quite delightful, so it’ll be worth the wait. I hope. So you will get it, but not for another year. Where were we? Buns.
I’ve avoided making bread for a few reasons. Firstly, working with gluten-free flours is tough (no pun intended). Secondly, yeast scares me (it’s aliiiive!). Thirdly, I didn’t actually know how to make bread and I often take a while to warm up to things I “can’t” do––I’m afraid of failure. I must be good at everything. However, as long as your yeast is fresh and active, these buns are foolproof.
I’d advise against trying to coil them like a traditional cinnamon bun as they’re more like a hot cross bun. But I wouldn’t steer you away from a little icing sugar shellac––you know the kind that when it dries all matte, breaks off into those half-set icy shards when you sink your teeth into it? *Drool* Yes, that’d be a great addition to gild these lilies. I’ve used a simple glaze of almond milk and cinnamon sugar in lieu of that.
To help them bake evenly, I gave them a cross, which makes them look like hot cross buns (one a penny, two a penny…). If you’d rather not have your buns look like hot cross buns, a clean slice down the centre will do just fine. I like to think of the single slice down the centre as the “Superman Cut,” as it reminds me of Clark Kent ripping off his normal-person suit to reveal the big “S” on his spandex unitard. This is how my brain works.
Oh, and if you squish them together on the baking sheet, the whole thing turns into pull-apart cinnamon buns. (This recipe has a serious identity crisis.)
Cinnamon buns, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon pull-apart bread––I’m giving you full creative licence to define these as you see fit. You could even call them “love buns” if you want to make them for Valentine’s Day. Even if you, like me, are single, I can’t think of anything more romantic to treat yourself to than a tray of bread. Am I right?
Whatever you call them, however you eat them, whomever you eat them with, they’re really very good. Authentically French they are not, but authentically tasty they are.
- Yeast Mixture
- 2¼ teaspoons (1 package) quick-rising yeast
- ½ teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 cup arrowroot flour
- ⅔ cup + 2 tablespoons buckwheat flour, plus more for rolling
- ¼ cup evaporated cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅔ cup unsweetened plain almond milk
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened plain almond milk
- In a small bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water; allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until foamy.
- In a large bowl, combine, flours, sugar, cinnamon, gum, and salt. To this, add milk, oil, and yeast mixture. Mix well (will be very sticky). Stir in raisins (still very sticky). Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1.5 hours.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour. Flour hands. Grab a ball of dough and roll, arranging buns, touching, in a 3-bun-by-4-bun rectangle. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours longer (whatever you have time for).
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, combine (topping) sugar and cinnamon. Brush buns with milk (you won't use it all) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. With a sharp knife, make a shallow cross in tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
- Store leftovers in a zip-top bag at room temperature. Reheat briefly in oven to revive leftovers. Eat with butter.