Cinnamon Buns

The recipe

¼ Pound sugar
¼ Pound butter
3 Eggs
¼ Ounce salt
½ Ounce yeast
Flour, determined by baker
1 Pint water

Rub sugar and butter to a cream, add egg and salt, water and yeast. 
Make a dough like for bread and let dough rise over night.  
In the morning roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick;
Spread with melted butter, currants and plenty of sugar, roll up like jelly roll and cut them with a knife about 1 ½ inch thick;
Set in pan that has been greased with butter and sprinkled with sugar;
Let rise again for about one hour and bake in a moderate oven for about one hour and a quarter.

The 1900 recipe suggests that when they’re a good brown, you should remove and glaze with sugar and water.

Serve with:
Coffee or tea.  One of the girl's poems suggested keeping a glass of buttermilk nigh.

Notes for a modern kitchen

Dough

  • 1/2 cup/115g sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons/110g butter
  • 6-8 cups/720-960g flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups water

Filling

  • 6 tablespoons/85g butter, soft
  • 1 cup/190g sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup/135g raisins

Topping

  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

Cream together butter and sugar. Add yeast, salt, and flour. Stir in the water and eggs to make a dough. The dough will be too sticky to knead.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside for an hour and a half.*

After the first rise, roll out (stretch, press) the dough into an 18in x 18in square (45cm x 45cm), 1/4 in (6mm) thick on a well-floured surface. Leaving a 1 inch (2.5cm) margin around the edges, spread the soft butter over the dough. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly on top of the butter. Follow with the raisins. Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 1 1/2 inch (3.8cm) slices and place in a greased 12 in x 8in baking pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take the shaped cinnamon buns out of the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature and undergo their second rise. I left them for two and a half hours and they were distinctly larger.

Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325°F/163°C. Sprinkle the cinnamon buns with sugar before putting them in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. The buns should be golden brown and a cake tester should come out clean.

Serve warm.

* There are many options for proving the dough depending on the temperature of your kitchen, and, most importantly, when you want to eat Cinnamon Buns. Since I wanted to eat mine in the morning, I proceeded as above: I let the dough rise for an hour and a half in my hot kitchen and then shaped the buns. I slowed the second rise by putting the shaped buns in my refrigerator overnight. You can also let the dough rise in the refrigerator (or a cold kitchen) overnight. Allow the dough to return to room temperature before shaping. Finally, there is no need to delay the rise of the dough in the refrigerator if you are eager to eat Cinnamon Buns as soon as possible. Simply adhere to the times outlined here and watch your dough to make sure it has risen nicely before you bake it.

The significance

Like many Penn State Campuses, the Abington campus, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, was originally an estate that was donated to Penn State in 1950. The Ogontz School, an elite and prestigious all girls school that originated in Philadelphia 100 years earlier and counted Amelia Earhart among its most famous alumna, had moved to Abington Township in 1917 when principal Abby Sutherland purchased the property to add modern amenities like a gymnasium, pool, and heating to the school.  The school was known for developing well-rounded girls who excelled in the arts, literature, sports, and quite unusual at the time, its military drills.

To read the Ogontz Mosaic, the bimonthly publication which gives a glimpse into the life of the Ogontz girl, is to realize that it was clearly the beloved cinnamon bun that really captured the girls hearts and stomachs. The recipe, which appeared in both a 1923 edition,  calling for butter in place of the 1900 version which used lard was known to inspire poems and odes to this beloved treat.

Traditionally a northern European pastry, cinnamon buns which might go by cinnamon rolls in Australia or Chelsea buns in the UK, are traditionally served for either breakfast or dessert in the U.S. and are often smothered with a cream cheese based frosting.  For this overnight rising recipe, though, the glaze is an optional one made simply with sugar and water .  Cinnamon buns were served every Saturday at noon at the Ogontz School and were made by “Charley,” baker and pastry chef there for thirty-four years.