Being from Africa, read the wrong side of history, we are not used to all the corporate food rave chains you find in America. Krispy Kreme dounughts, Cinnabon, or even Starbucks… Living in Thailand, its not much better… But, recently both Krispy Kreme and Cinnabon opened a branch here in Bangkok.
My American friends rave about Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and I hear stories of people driving a hundred miles to pick up a dozen. Two weeks ago they opened a branch in Bangkok, and the queue, this morning, was still 3 hours long. How anyone could be bothered to be standing in a 3 hour line for a doughnut is way beyond what I consider to be within the margins of sanity.
So, I still have to taste one.
I am very skeptical about people raving about anything from a fast-food chain, cause how good can something made for masses actually be ? I remember, we never had Mc Donald’s in South Africa. Friends who had gone to America and Europe raved about these burgers. So when I visited Europe in the early nineties, I picked up a standard hamburger at an outlet in London and was aghast that something slightly bigger than the rim of a coffee cup, a slice of meat that tasted like someone’s shoe, a paper thin slice of gherkin and a blob of tomato sauce could reach such epic fame.
So I was more than sceptical about trying out the Cinnabon Cinnamon roll. Tipped to be ‘world famous cinnamon rolls‘ which is just one away from, the best cinnamon roll in the world, I wondered how companies manage to make such outrageous claims. But wait, I have no right to judge as I still had to taste one.
So I got in line for mine. The line was not very long, and I waited about 5 minutes to reach the front. I ordered 2 x coffee and cinnamon roll for my nanny and a chocolate milk drink for my son. I calculated in my head that it should be about B280-B290, but once rung up, ended up being B325. I asked the cashier how she arrived at this amount, but instead of giving me an answer, started pointing at random things on the menu. I tried again, but the response was equaly non-sensical. Frustrated that Cinnabon employs a person at a ‘world famous cinnamon roll’ outlet, in the center of a world famous tourist disctrict, who were incapable of speaking the most basic English, I reacted a little rude – I curtly thanked her, and left.
Two days later, I tried again. It was around 2 on a Sunday afternoon. There was feverish activity in the tiny little shop. But there was nobody in line. “Sorry ka… sold ou(t), no have, come in 2 hours….”
The next day I tried again. Having chalked up some experience by now, I knew exactly what I was going to order and how much it will be. : a coffee cinnamon roll combo, B105. I got to the front and slowly gave the cashier my order. She smiled saying, “Sorry ka, only have cinnamon sticks… ” I looked looked at the 4 servings of cinnamon sticks on the tray, and the queue of about 20 people, and wondered where exactly they would be running out of things to sell.
Of course I did not want a cinnamon stick. Hell Im would not be going to to KFC for the first time and order french fries now would I ?
So I left and returned an hour later. This time, the trays were brimming with all kinds of lovely looking baked goods, and YES! they had more than enough classic cinnamon rolls for me to order to my hearts content! And if they ran out of coffee, I would be a little taken aback, but would still go ahead and just have the cinnamon roll… and act asif I was not the least bit surprised.
I ordered a cinnamon roll that had just come out of the oven and a coffee that had just come out of the shiney espresso machine. I sat down with a cuppachino, or something resembling one, and a nice hot world famous cinnamon roll in front of me. I took the first bite. I tried to taste and analyse all the expected goodness.. Mmmmm ! Good…. Excellent? Uhm …not quite… Could it be better? Well, yes… it could be.
But all the criticism aside… I could understand how someone would make a killing franchising a roll like this. Especially to people who really do not understand good food. Not that I claim to, but atmittedly the main component of my diet does not consist of buckets of fried chicken, washed down by a half a litre of Cola in a massive plastic cup.
I ended up feeling a little dissapointed. Dissapointed in myself that I had was stupid enough to trust other people’s taste buds when it comes to rating food. I realised its one thing if your friend recommends a book, its entirely different when they recommend a fast food chain. I was also slightly depressed thinking how things that are just vaguely good, become a golden standard by which everything else is measured. Think about hamburgers – Is the golden standard your mom’s ? Or even a well known mom and pop shop in town? No, sadly it is not. And who has the best hamburgers is no longer my mom or yours… You make a great hamburger, the best ever – and it is obvious how it will be measured and judged.
Its sad that we have sold ourselves out to fast food chains which dictate what is good, famous, or world class.
As I was about to leave, I watched them make the rolls, Huge slabs of dough rolled out in exact rectangles, then spread with butter and sprinkled with a bowl of brown stuff, presumably brown sugar and cinnamon.
As I watched them, and immensely cheerful though occured to me : Im sure I can make these at home, and you know what - Im sure they will be better.
So I went home. I discovered that the original Sticky bun originated centuries ago in Sri Lanka, and that they became popular in the Western world around the turn of the century. Two versions exist in the English Speaking world. Cinnamon Rolls, from America and Chelsea Buns from England. They differ sligtly in the amounts of dough that are present. The english use a white frosting which hardens and sets, the Americans a creamcheese based topping which melts into the baked roll.
So I searched for a recipe, and came up with this one which I tweaked a little :
Outrageously good Cinnabun
- 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons of plain cocoa (optional)
- 125g / 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
- After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Roll dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.
Though it took a time, it required very little effort. Also it made about 2 trays, more than enough for our family, enough, in fact to hand out some to the Thais in my neighbourhood.
When they were done, I spoooned over the frosting, made a cup of earl grey tea, and sat down to try them…
They were absolutely amazing. In fact they were exactly what I would have expected ‘world famous cinnamon rolls’ to taste like. Could they have been better ? Honestly ? No… they could not. They were just out of this world. In fact I guess the original cinnabon must have tasted something like this before it became ‘world famous’.
Whats great about this recipe, apart from it being the best cinnamon roll youll ever have, is that you can make it the night before, store them covered in the fridge, then bake them from a cold oven, and have lovely hot cinnamon rolls ready in under 20 minutes.
Most of all, I am so pleased that I managed to produce something that was just so much better than any franchise were able to claim. Silently, as I was munching on what was in reality nothing different to a good old Chelsea bun, I wondered what my American friends would say if they could taste these?
Perhaps, “Wow Pierre – you should open a bakery!”