How to Make Cinnamon Sugar Sweet Rolls

I have been in the US for more than thirty years now, arriving when I was six years old. I am what most in my family would call an American. And to some extent, I do feel that I have assimilated into the American culture- I can speak American English well, I understand our jokes, our idioms and our slang. I only think in English now. I am married to an American and have adopted a very American way of living. Yet on any given Saturday or Sunday, at about 3 or 4:00, I experience a very Filipino craving for a milky cup of coffee and a lightly sweetened yeast roll- the classic merienda.  This innate craving came from a childhood of weekend naps followed by a soothing cup of weak Nescafe and a buttered pan de sal to wake us from the afternoon slumber.

It wasn’t until I visited Madrid several years ago that my keen appetite for merienda reawakened. We were in the final few days of our two-week vacation in Spain which we would conclude in Madrid. It was mid-morning and we had been walking around with no apparent itinerary in mind. Days before, we had visited all the requisite tourist places- the Prado Museum, Parque Retiro, Velazquez Palace and so on, so today was our ‘nothing’ day. Being away from home always makes me keenly hungry and lucky for us we had come upon a bakery called Antigua Pasteleria del Pozo and the sign mentioned that it had been around since 1810 as a bakery and in 1830 it became a pastry shop as well. We picked out some goodies for our second breakfast- husband-geek chose an orange-soaked cake with custard cream and sugared orange zest while I chose a humble anise sweet bread shaped into a coiled round and topped with a thin sugary crust. We plopped down on a bench close by and devoured our treats. It was then that I realized how much I still had ‘merienda’ on my mind and how much Spain influenced the Philippines in its cuisine. I tucked that experience away as a lovely memory from a wonderful vacation.

Fast forward to last spring when I opened up my Bon Appetit magazine and came upon this article that touted one sweet dough that can morph into six different kinds of desserts or sweet breads. Just as I appreciate tools that are multi-purpose, I also love recipes that allow for variation. I promptly made a batch, first as a braided bread with hardboiled eggs tucked inside in time for Easter, then I made it again, this time as the coiled bread roll that I had in Madrid. I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top and baked it off. It was not exactly like the specimen from Antigua Pasteleria del Pozo but it was pretty close. I made myself a milky cup of coffee and bit into a roll. For a moment, it felt like our merienda time from childhood AND our trip to Madrid all at once. Isn’t food supposed to be trancendent?

Master Sweet Dough (adapted from Bon Appetit April 2012)

(this master recipe can be shaped into rolls, buns, a long braided loaf or even a flat sweet focaccia topped with fresh or dried fruits)

2/3 cup whole mik

8 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast

2 Large eggs, room temperature

2 3/4- 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 txp. kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, room temperature, plus 1/2 Tbsp. melted

1/8 cup ground cinnamon


  1.  Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave until an instant-read thermometer registers 110-115 degrees F. Transfer milk to a 2-cup measuring cup; stir in 1 Tbsp. sugar. Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend. Let  sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs; whisk until smooth.
  2.  Combine remaining 4 Tbsp. sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add milk mixture and process into a sticky dough.
  3.  With mixer running, add the stick of butter, 1 piece at a time, blending well between additions. Mix on medium speed for 1 minutes. Knead on medium-high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.
  4. Brush a medium bowl with some melted butter; place dough in bowl and flip it over to coat both sides with butter. Cover and let rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Arrange rack in the middle of oven; preheat to 375 degrees.
  6. Mix cinnamon with remaining granulated sugar in a pie tin or shallow dish. Punch down dough; divide dough in half then divide each half into 6 pieces for a total of 12 pieces. Cover dough balls with a towel while you work on each piece. Take each dough ball and roll to a 6-7″ rope. Take each rope and flatten with your hands and dip it in the cinnamon sugar mixture, turning to coat both sides. Roll the dough into into a spiral and tuck the end underneath the dough and press spiral flat with the palm of your hands to secure the end. Place flattened spiral on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Shape remaining dough and place on sheet pan, spaced about 2″ apart. (You will need 2 sheet pans) Let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 30-45 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and brush risen dough all over. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake buns for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let buns cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.




Arthur in the Garden!

Posted August 21, 2013

Oh, I love these!


    Posted August 21, 2013

    Yay! I’m glad. I hope you can make them soon!

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