Recipe Idea: Gooey Cinnamon Buns

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you and if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every few weeks, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

Cinnamon buns are a guilty pleasure of mine.  I don’t indulge in sweets very often but I have a soft spot for warm gooey cinnamon buns!  This is a good batch recipe that provides 18 buns for breakfasts, snacks or sharing.  It can be time-consuming, but once you try one, it’s oh-so-good.

For dough:

  • 1 cup of milk ($0.25)
  • 1 large egg ($0.20)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter ($0.30)
  • 3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided ($0.12 a cup based on ~40 cups per 11lb bag at $4.99)
  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.15 – most likely cheaper if you buy large amounts of sugar)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (1 pouch) ($0.60 based on $1.80 for 3 pouches of yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (< $0.05)
  • non-stick vegetable oil spray

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup and microwave on high until the butter melts (about 1 minute). Pour into a large bowl and add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat the mixture at low speed for 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl. Then add 2 and 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until the flour is absorbed and the dough is sticky. If the dough feels very sticky, add more flour by the spoonful until the dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

At this point, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, for about 8 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil another large bowl with non-stick spray. Transfer the dough to the new bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in warm area until it has doubled in volume.  This will take about 2 hours.


For filling:

  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar ($0.40)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon ($0.10)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature ($0.50)

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Let the butter warm up – we’ll use this later.  Set these items aside and, and then…

For glaze:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature ($1.50)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar ($0.40)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature ($0.50)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (< $0.10)

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Set this aside and check to see if your dough has finished rising.  If so, you can move onto the next step.

Making the buns:

Punch down the dough and transfer to a floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread the filling butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Then, sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.    Now you’re done the filling.

Spread the filling out evenly over the dough

Starting at the long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With the seam side down, cut the dough crosswise into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Cut the rolled up dough into evenly divided rolls

Spray 2-3 9-inch square glass baking dishes with non-stick spray. Divide the rolls between the baking dishes. You want the rolls to touch each other.  I managed to fit 8 rolls in a dish and had to do three batches.  Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm area until the buns have almost doubled in volume.  This will take about 40 to 45 minutes.  While you’re waiting, it is a good time to start cleaning up!

Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. If you are concerned about burning, or if your oven is shitty like mine, just lower the temperature slightly and be aware that you’ll probably leave the buns in for a teensy bit longer.  Bake the rolls until the tops are golden.  This takes about 15-18 minutes. Remove them from oven and immediately place them upside-down onto a  rack. Cool for 10 minutes then turn rolls right side up and add icing.  Yum!

Servings: 18

Cost per serving: 30 cents a bun

Frugal hack: Most of my baking ingredients are bought in small amounts because I don’t bake that often.  Buying in bulk will reduce your costs a lot, particularly for items like sugar and flour

Feeling adventurous: Some people like raisins in their cinnamon buns.  I firmly disagree with this practice.  However, should you feel so inclined, simply add the raisins to the filling.

Tips: If you like a fluffier roll, make sure to squeeze as many rolls as you can into your baking dish.  This will encourage the rolls to rise up and become light and fluffy.  If you like a denser cinnamon bun, leave space between the rolls.  Then when they cook, they will tend to spread outwards rather than up.

This post also appeared in Frugal Friday at Life As Mom.

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