Olivia Potts

Cinnamon buns: a true treat for the breakfast table

  • From Spectator Life

Cinnamon rolls never used to grace my breakfast table. First of all, they struck me as the sweetness equivalent of drinking a triple espresso first thing: it might seem like a good idea at the time, but the crash that accompanies it is surely inevitable. And secondly, I was certain that to be the sort of person who can put cinnamon rolls on the table at breakfast time, you must be immensely practical, organised and competent – and tied to the kitchen. And that’s simply not me.

Happily, neither of these things are true. While cinnamon rolls are sweet – if you don’t have at least a little bit of a sweet tooth, I’d probably stick to marmite on toast – they’re not the one-note sweetness I had assumed they were. A good cinnamon roll should be balanced: the dough itself is sweetened but it’s still recognisably dough rather than cake. Enriched with milk and butter, eggs and sugar, it should have enough body to stand up tall once shaped, but will stay tender and soft within. Spiralled inside this is the cinnamon butter, heavily spiced and with a little salt to cut through the sweetest part of the bun; using light brown sugar brings a caramel note, too. What looks like tooth-jangling American frosting should be cream cheese icing, cool and slightly sour alongside the sweetness, smeared across the top like freshly applied plaster. Cinnamon rolls certainly aren’t a puritanical breakfast choice, but they are a true treat, and one that has become a regular in our household.

While yeasted baking can put off even the most assured of cooks, these buns will work around you: your timings, your tastes, your tins. I love them for that, for their flexibility, and their ability to build confidence through their success. I love that the dough is lovely to handle, that it isn’t impossibly sticky, and that the shaping is simple.

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Olivia Potts
Written by
Olivia Potts
Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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