I love the soft, pillowy texture of low sodium pull-apart milk rolls so I made cinnamon rolls with them. Shape them as buns, pull-apart rolls, or even hearts. These are much lighter in texture than your standard cinnamon buns (e.g. Cinnabon) so I keep the filling light also. For a sweeter flavor, add a light glaze or frosting.
Servings: 9 pull-apart rolls (or 10 buns or hearts)
Sodium: 13 - 19 mg sodium per bun
Time: 30 minutes active, 3 hours rising/baking time
Starter (Tangzhong) ingredients:
2 tablespoons (28 g) water
3 tablespoons (43 g) whole or 2% milk
2 tablespoons (14g) bread flour
298 g (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
113 g (1/2 cup) whole or 2% milk (sodium will vary based on the type of milk you use)
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar mixture:
4 tablespoons tightly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
optional: zest of one medium sized orange
Optional egg wash:
1 tablespoon water or milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 tablespoon whole milk or cream
1) Make the tangzhong - combine all the tangzhong ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until no lumps remain. Then transfer the saucepan to the stove and cook the mixture over low heat until thick, whisking frequently, about 2-5 minutes. Immediately pour the tangzhong out of the saucepan and into a small bowl and let cool to room temperature. See TIPS below for making this in the microwave.
2) Make the dough - once the tangzhong has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the dough ingredients in a large bowl and let rest, covered, for 20-25 minutes at room temperature. Here's the dough right after it's been mixed.
3) Knead the dough until a smooth, elastic dough forms. I knead by hand on a lightly oiled surface for about 10-15 minutes. At first the dough may stick to your hands but resist the urge to add more flour, just scrape the dough off your hands with a plastic dough scraper and keep going. It should get easier to knead as you go.
Here's the dough after 10 minutes of kneading.
4) Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for about 50-90 minutes, until about doubled in volume. See TIPS below for refrigerating the dough after this first rise to bake at a later time.
5) To make pull-apart rolls: Line a 9x9 inch square pan with parchment paper. For stand alone buns or hearts, go to steps 8 or 9.
6) Deflate the dough and press it into about a 10x10 inch square. Combine 1 cinnamon, brown sugar, and orange zest (if using) in a small bowl, and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough and roll it into a long log. Cut the log into 9 equal-ish sized pieces.
7) Arrange the buns in the pan and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest about 40-50 minutes. They'll get quite puffy and fill out the pan. Here's a picture before the final rise, and after. If you want to use an egg wash, beat one egg and 1 tablespoon of milk or water and brush the tops of the buns just before putting them in the oven. The egg wash gives the rolls a more golden color and makes them a little shinier. I usually skip the egg wash when I'm doing pull-apart rolls, but I generally add an egg wash for the stand alone buns. Then go to step 10.
8) To make stand alone buns: by stand alone buns I mean that these buns will not be touching when they bake so they'll bake as individual buns and you don't pull them apart. If you're doing this, make sure you seal the end of the roll well so it doesn't come apart while baking. Then just space the buns out on a parchment lined sheet pan, let rest for about 15-20 minutes, brush lightly with an egg wash, and go to step 10 to bake.
9) For an extra special treat, shape the buns into hearts! I learned how to do this from this plushki (Russian sugar bun) recipe. First, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Flatten the dough to rough rentable about the size of your hand, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the dough, then roll it up like a little cigar. Pinch the ends together, turn the ring on its side, cut 3/4 of the way down and open up the ends like a book. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, brush with an egg wash and bake. Note that with the heart buns, I don't let them rest after shaping because they'll lose their shape. Just make them and put them right into the oven. The pictures and video below should help:
10) Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 18-22 minutes until golden brown on top.
11) Optional glaze: Make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, creme fraiche, and milk in a small bowl. We often have creme fraiche on hand so that’s what I use but cream cheese or even sour cream would work. Or even just powdered sugar with some cream or milk. Start with powdered sugar and add enough liquid to get it to desired consistency.
12) When the buns are done, remove from the oven. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes (either in the pan, on a rack, or plate) and drizzle with glaze.
-Use a scale to measure the ingredients whenever possible, especially flour. If you don't have a scale, King Arthur Baking has this great video on how to measure flour accurately.
-A note on kneading. Dough is tricky and there are so many variables that affect how your dough turns out. If you find the dough is too sticky to knead, flour your hands and work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour to knead it. The dough will get dryer and easier to handle as you continue kneading, so resist the urge to keep adding more flour or you'll end up with a very dry, dense bun. The dough is properly kneaded if it springs back after you poke it, and it doesn't tear when you pull on it. Here's another helpful video from King Arthur Baking.
-You can also make the tangzhong in the microwave. Combine all the tangzhong ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Microwave for 10 seconds, then whisk, and repeat 3-4 more times until the tangzhong is thick.
-When I'm planning to make these for breakfast/brunch, I like to make the dough at night and then bake them in the morning. After the dough has completed its first rise, gently deflate it and put it back in the bowl, covered, and refrigerate overnight. It will continue to rise a bit in the refrigerator, but at a much slower rate. In the morning, let the dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes and then proceed with step 6, above.