Sunday, December 23, 2018

Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns

 OK, so here's a pretty amazing story....
 Once upon a time, my sister Reen discovered a recipe for sticky buns in a newspaper. So she decided to clip the article, and give it a try. Long story short, it was a huge hit, and she even won a baking contest with it! (The running joke was that everyone said she had the best buns. But I digress..) Cut to literally 42 years later, my sisters and I were talking on Thanksgiving night, and somehow the topic of the recipe popped up. Even though we had just finished our fabulous family feast, Cathy and I were probably discussing what we would have for Christmas Breakfast, and this recipe became my focus.
 But how on earth would I be able to find it??? It was printed in some newspaper in 1976 and there was no way I was gonna be able to google it or find it anywhere. But wait! Patty said she thinks she has it scribbled down somewhere! Great! But wait, even better, Reen still has the actual newspaper clipping!! WHAT??? Can you stand it??? She had saved it in a binder and kept it all these years. We are ABSOLUTELY having cinnamon buns for Christmas Breakfast!!
 And then I read the recipe. WHOA. OK this is gonna take a minute. Admittedly, I'm not the most experienced when it comes to making breads and doughs and such, and actually, it has always seemed a little daunting to me. But I figured, well, how hard can it be?? I'll just follow the recipe! Also, I had just binged several episodes of The Great British Baking Show, and I was inspired by Paul Hollywood, one of the show's judges, who just happens to be an expert in bread baking.
  My only concern was that this NEEDED to come out perfectly because it had to be special enough for CHRISTMAS. No pressure. No pressure. I'll just to do a test run. Great. I also needed to see how long it would take for all the rising, etc. So I gave it a go, and guess what?!?! It turned out perfectly!! Honestly, I really wasn't sure what I was doing through half of it, but I just followed the recipe, and just look at my buns! Wait, that came out wrong. LOL I was shocked and amazed and delighted because this was authentic good old fashioned BAKING. No can of store bought dough here. This is the real deal! And if I'm being completely honest, I think I conquered a little bit of that fear of baking breads. Suddenly it's not so difficult! It's just a recipe like any other. It just needs a little extra time, that's all. And they are absolutely 100% delicious enough for Christmas Breakfast. Yes there are several steps, yes this takes a lot of time, yes this is a splurge, and yes this is not something you'd make every day, but for a special occasion or holiday, this is definitely worth the time and effort!
Btw, one last note, I don't even know whose recipe this is. I believe the paper was called The Evening Bulletin, and the recipe is called Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns because that's how it was titled in print. That's as much as I know about it. Thanx again to Reen for clipping and saving it all these years!
Clearly this recipe is still a keeper!

1/4 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
5 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

brown sugar
Karo or pancake syrup
raisin and/or pecans

  Measure warm water into a cup and stir in yeast and 1 tbs sugar. Set aside until the yeast blooms and it becomes bubbly. Meanwhile, prepare the pans. Use 3 9" round or square pans, or you can also use a sheet pan. Butter them generously and pour in your syrup. Make the syrup about 1/8-1/4 inch deep over the bottom of the pans. Sprinkle in raisins and/or chopped pecans, if desired. Set pans aside.
 Now make the dough. Add salt to milk, and gently warm (either on the stove or in the microwave) just until it feels neither hot nor cold to a testing finger. Stir the yeast mixture, add it to the lukewarm milk, and gradually add 2 cups of the flour. Beat well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until it gets bubbly. (The inside of an unheated oven is a good place for this.) Meanwhile, beat shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, and eggs, until very creamy, light, and smooth. When the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the sugar-egg mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition. When it is thoroughly blended, add the remaining 3 cups of flour. Don't beat hard, just begin adding a little at a time and mix well before adding the next. The dough will be quite sticky. Cover dough and let rise in a cozy place until double in size. Punch it down, and then turn it out onto a floured work surface, knead a time or two with floured hands then roll out to make a rectangle. Spread with softened butter, leaving a 1/2" edge around all sides. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and/or pecans, then drizzle a track of syrup along the whole thing.
 Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, roll up the dough jelly roll style, and press the outer edge firmly to keep in place. With a very sharp knife, cut off short lengths (1-2 inches) and place in prepared pans, barely touching each other. Cover and let rise until doubled again. Place pans in preheated 350ºF oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until beautifully browned. Turn out of pans immediately.

This dough is VERY sticky. RESIST the urge to keep adding more flour! If you happen to have a bench scraper, use it! It definitely turned out to be the most valued tool here.
If you need to, you can do the first half of this recipe the day before. I went as far as mixing up the dough and letting it double in size. Then I punched it down, placed it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and left it in the fridge until the next morning. Then all I needed to do was to roll them out, let them rise again, and bake them. Every time you punch it down and let it rise again, the rise happens more quickly, so I think the last rise only took about 1/2 hour, as opposed to the first rise, which took about 2 hours.
Definitely do NOT wait to turn the buns out after they bake. The syrup will begin to set up like caramel and you'll never get the buns out of the pan. There's a reason they are also called STICKY buns!
Be VERY careful when turning out the buns after baking. That syrup is LAVA HOT. Be sure to use a plate or platter with extra room around the edges for the extra syrup. Then you can scoop up some of the extra syrup and drizzle it back over the top of the buns.
For more generous sized buns, cut them thicker, at least two inches wide.
I've made this with Karo syrup and pancake syrup. The pancake syrup wins. It just tastes better!

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