Jan 29, 2014

Cranberry Orange Morning Buns


The past 24 hours have been quite unbelievable here in Atlanta. I lived in Chicago for about four years but have never seen anything like I have seen here during a winter “storm”. I say “storm” because 1-2 inches of snow should not constitute a true storm but when you live in a place with little to no preparation, few resources to battle snow and ice, and very little knowledge from the city and state leaders on how to handle and prepare for winter events, everything is exacerbated. It was hard to turn the TV off last night or stop checking Facebook because the stories of people being stranded on the highway for HOURS, abandoning their cars, running out of gas, food and water, and walking countless miles to shelter or home were honestly hard to comprehend. It was the same story over and over yet each one was just as heartbreaking. Children were stuck in school buses on the roads or at school with no way to get home and/or parents just simply couldn’t reach them. The city says they did all they could to prepare, but when children are spending the night in schools, people are camping out on the outdoor patio furniture in Home Depot and individuals are opening their homes to strangers to provide warmth, food and a place to rest, it’s hard to believe that the city honestly did everything they could!

Luckily, Jordan and I work from home so there was no commute for us. However, after what I can only imagine was the longest night of some people’s lives, I thought I’d share something that is sure to make any morning start off in the right way. It’s a variation of a morning cinnamon bun that trades out the cinnamon for orange and cranberry. One of my favorite flavor combinations! I first saw the recipe on Smitten Kitchen around the holiday times and immediately knew I had to make them immediately! I’ve already made them a few times because you finish the pan (after a couple of days of course) and you are left wanting just one more! I used a different dough recipe than Deb’s on Smitten Kitchen but I took inspiration in her flavor combo and it hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Here’s what you need:


(Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Bread dough adapted from Cooking  Light. Makes 16-18 buns.)

Bread Dough 

  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (I used skim)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • zest from 1/2 of a large orange
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour


  • 1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, pulsed in food processor
  • zest from 1/2 of a large orange

You start by making the dough. If you are using rapid rise (instant) yeast you don’t have to proof it and you can go ahead and pour it into a large mixing bowl along with the 1/4 cup of warm water. If you don’t have instant yeast just add the yeast to 1/4 cup warm water (should be warm like bath water) and let it sit for about five minutes until it starts to bubble (meaning it’s activated). Then pour the yeast and water mixture into the large mixing bowl. Add the warm milk, sugar, softened butter (best at room temp), vanilla extract, orange zest and beaten egg to the bowl. I used my electric mixer to make things easier but you can also stir this all together by hand. Without the mixer you might be able to count baking as part of your arm workout for the day! Mix everything until it is smooth. Then add just THREE cups of flour to the mixture and begin to mix. Again, I let the machine do all the kneading but if you are doing it by hand, lightly flour a surface and begin to knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Keep adding a little flour at a time if you find the dough is sticking to your hands/counter or the machine. After a few minutes, the dough should become very smooth and elastic. Lightly spray the bowl and top of the dough with cooking spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Keep it in a warm place for at least an hour to rise.

Dough before rising

My new favorite trick for a “proof box” (where you can put your dough to rise) is the microwave. I never use the microwave, as I didn’t have one growing up, but I’m pretty sure this is the best use of it! Put a glass of water in microwave and let it go until the water begins to boil and you can see some steam. Immediately open the microwave and put your covered dough in. It’s the best trick for baking bread in the winter especially.

Dough after rising

After about 1-1.5 hours the dough should have risen and almost doubled in size. Sometimes my dough needs a little more time. If you check the dough after 1.5 hours and you don’t see much action, don’t immediately give up hope. Just give it some more time and check back in a half hour.

Once the dough has risen, lightly flour a surface and begin to roll the dough out into a large rectangle. This is honestly one of the hardest parts for me and I can never get the exact dimensions or shape. The goal is about 18 inches wide and 12 inches long. I’m usually somewhere in between. As you can see with this one, I got one side looking normal and then I just decided the other side was good enough! Awkward shaped rectangles will not affect the taste (or else I would have issues)!

Dough rolled 3


You can now prepare the filling. Melt the butter and in a food processor, chop up the fresh cranberries so they are course. Don’t pulse too much or you will have a juicy mush, which won’t work so well.

Cranberries pulsed


First brush the melted butter all around the rectangle of dough leaving a half-inch border around the edges.

Spread Butter

Then sprinkle on the brown sugar, the orange zest, and cranberries.

Filling Spread 2

Next step is rolling everything up. Carefully begin to tightly roll the dough length wise so that you have a long log.

Dough Rolled Up


Using a serrated knife, begin to cut the log into buns. I start in the center and cut the log in half and then I half each half to get four quarters. I then try to cut each quarter into four buns. The first time I made these I was really nervous because even though my cranberries were still coarsely chopped, I had lots of juice coming out when I was slicing. After making these a few times, I can tell you that the juice is ok, you aren’t losing flavor, and they won’t be soggy when you bake them.

Prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray. Jordan also suggested this last time that I line the bottom with parchment paper and it helped a lot with the juices that cooked out from the cranberries. If you have parchment paper on hand, just cut a piece that fits your pan and put it in the bottom. It helps more for after the buns are cooked and you are storing them for a few days.

Fit all your buns into the baking dish and it’s ok if they are touching. You can squash them in.

Sliced 2


Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the buns rise one more time. I let mine rise for about 30 minutes while I preheat the oven to 350. Alternatively, you can keep them in the fridge overnight and take them out thirty minutes before you want to bake them (that’s for super fresh morning buns). I prefer to cook them the night before because I’m too inpatient to wait in the morning!

Sliced and Risen2


After the buns rise, pop them in the oven that was preheated to 350. Let the buns cook for about 20 minutes.


It might be dangerous to cook these at night (when I usually do) because they come out of the oven and your first instinct is to cut right in and EAT! You can almost taste the zing from the orange zest and the tartness from the cranberry. But, I muster all the restraint I can and hold off till the morning. We usually forgo the icing or glaze on these but by I totally understand that for some people a morning bun is not legit without the vanilla icing. If you’re in that category, combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoon of orange juice and drizzle away!

Baked 2


Sometimes when I bake my breakfast goodie the night before, I go to sleep dreaming about the morning and getting to take my first bite of whatever I have made. I kind of have a thing for breakfast food, clearly! That happened with these breakfast buns. I love the traditional cinnamon rolls I usually make when I have a craving or even these pumpkin cinnamon rolls. But the flavor combo of orange and cranberry wins me over every time. Case and point: our go to waffle every time happens to be our cranberry orange pecan waffle and one of my favorite muffins is none other than the cranberry orange muffin. I don’t know what it is that has my taste buds so addicted but I think it has something to do with the combination of sweet and tangy. No matter, one thing I’m pretty positive about it is that you’re going to love these morning buns, you might think you’re going to miss the cinnamon until you take your first bite and that they are sure to brighten up any morning regardless of the previous day events! They store great in the pan you baked them in and after about two days I suggest storing them in the fridge and just popping them in the toaster oven (or microwave) for a quick warm up. They’ll taste just as good as the first day! For now, that’s cranberry orange morning buns…in the shell of a nut!

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