I struggled with knowing what to write for this post for weeks. You see, today is my grandmother’s birthday, but what could I bake to honor someone who has cooked thousands upon thousands of meals for a large family?
When I turned to my recipe box for inspiration and found it littered with index cards that include “like Gma M” in the title. I have Potatoes – Like Gma M, Hot Fudge Sauce – Like Gma M, Chocolate Chip Cookies – Like Gma M, and on and on. My uncle and I agree she makes the best pecan pie in the world (or at least in Ohio), and at Christmas the most popular gifts are bags of her caramel popcorn.
After much thought, I decided on a coffee-flavored dessert. I probably had my first cup of coffee with Grandma. When I was quite young, she used to pour me a mug to drink with her . I think she got a kick out of me liking coffee. And I really did like it – it wasn’t something I drank to pretend I was a grown up.
To this day, I take my coffee with a lot of cream, just like Grandma. The coffee in her mug is always a light tan, rather than deep brown, from all the cream. Though I heeded my Grandpa’s warning that eating bread crusts would put hair on my chest, I took a chance that Grandma warning coffee would stunt my growth was false. At 5′ 7″, my growth seems to have been relatively unaffected.
So coffee it was. But the thought of cinnamon buns kept tugging at the back of my mind because my mom loves Grandma’s cinnamon rolls. I didn’t want to make cinnamon rolls because I knew they would pale in comparison to Grandma’s, but then I found a recipe in my inbox for Cinnamon Bun Pie, and that’s all she wrote.
If I had any question that Cinnamon Bun Pie was the right choice, it was obliterated by the date on the email: November 5, 2010. Not only is a recipe I’ve had for over a year long overdue for baking, but November 5 is my mom’s birthday. This was a coincidence (or was it?) that I simply could not ignore.
So I present to you a Cinnamon Bun Pie for Grandma M. The recipe can be easily halved to make one pie rather than two, or a whole recipe can be baked in a 9 x 13 dish for cinnamon bun bars. I used a my stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough, but I did a few kneads by hand to really pull the dough together. A well-floured surface goes a long way to alleviate the stickiness of working with this dough. I also found it easier to work with the dough in two parts – rolling out two rectangles and cutting the rolls accordingly.
Though intrigued by something as enticing as Cinnamon Bun Pie, this dish is really just cinnamon buns baked in a pie dish. Kind of disappointing, but delicious none the less. and if anything, it’s a unique presentation on a standard dish. Please beware that cutting into the center of a roll may result in a piece of pie that falls apart. It is best to cut along the seams of where the rolls come together at the outer edge of the crust.
As for the taste, I really liked how some of the brown sugar and butter that melted to the bottom of the pie pan created a toffee-like layer on the rolls once cooled. And of course the cream cheese frosting is ooey-gooey deliciousness. For an extra kick of flavor, sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar and cinnamon on top of the pie. Though tasty at room temperature, the cinnamon buns are best enjoyed warm – either fresh out of the oven or after a quick reheat in the microwave. On second thought, Cinnamon Bun Pie is better when it is warm, but it is best enjoyed while sipping a mug of coffee with Grandma.
Happy Birthday Grandma!
- For the Dough
- 2½ teaspoons (1 package) dry active yeast
- ¾ cup warm water
- 1½ cup warm milk
- 6 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 cup sugar
- For the Filling
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1½ cups light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons salt
- For the Frosting
- 1½ cups cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and milk.
- Use a stand-mixer fitted with the dough hook or your hands to knead the dry ingredients (for the dough) into the wet ingredients.
- Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a rectangle.
- Spread the butter over the dough's surface, then sprinkle it with the light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, then cut it into 14, 2-inch pieces.
- Place the rolls in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan or two 10-inch pie pans.
- Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.
- After the second 45-minutes, bake at 375° F for18-22 minutes.
- While the cinnamon buns bake, prepare the frosting by mixing the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt until thoroughly combined.
- Spread the frosting over the cinnamon buns while still warm.
- Most delicious when served warmed.