I love a good cinnamon bun—even more with some diced apples wrapped up in the swirls—but I’m rarely organized enough to prep a yeast dough hours in advance of baking. These buns, inspired by the ones I once tasted at the River Run Café in Plainfield, Vermont, are made with a quick biscuit dough. Problem solved!
Apple Notes: This is, indeed, a rich dish. And normally, I like a more acidic apple when cooking with a fair amount of butter. However, these buns just needed something sweet, but still firm. Some favorites for this dish include Jazz, Pink Lady, and Piñata, for their bright, vibrant flavors. See page 30 for a complete list of firm-sweet apples.
Equipment: 8- by 8-inch baking pan; parchment paper
Makes: 9 servings • Active time: 40 minutes • Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
For the filling
1¼ cups (290 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons (70 g) salted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for greasing pan
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large firm-sweet apple (about 8 ounces; see Apple Notes), peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
For the buns
½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1 large egg
3 cups (435 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks, 170 g) cold salted butter, cut into small cubes
1• Grease the baking pan with a little bit of butter; set aside. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, the 5 tablespoons butter, and the cinnamon. Using a pastry cutter (or fork), cut the butter into the sugar, working it in until the mixture looks like wet sand. Put in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the dough.
2• In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture and use your fingers to work it in (rub your thumb against your fingertips, smearing the butter as you do). Stop when mixture looks like sand studded with little chunks. Add the egg mixture and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to hold together. It will look quite ragged and not fully blended, but stop there. You want to prevent the butter from melting into the dough—those little chunks will create a flakier texture once baked.
3• Preheat the oven to 350ºF and set a rack to the middle position. Dump the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead just enough to bring it all together into a ball. Using a rolling pin and bench scraper (or spatula), roll the dough (still on parchment) into a 9- by 15-inch rectangle with straight sides.
4• Sprinkle the dough all over with the brown sugar mixture, leaving a 1-inch border across one of the longer edges. Top with the apples and gently press down. Working from the long edge opposite the border, roll the dough up tightly, jelly-roll-style, using the parchment as an aid. When you reach the border, give the roll a squeeze and turn seam side down.
5• Cut the roll crosswise into 9 equal buns and arrange in the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm, right from the pan.