Hello from my cozy apartment, where I have been holed up all weekend because of this blizzard. This huge snow really made me lazy, and there is nothing better than lazing about and eating gooey homemade cinnamon buns, am I right?
These cinnamon buns are special for a couple of reasons. The dough is brioche, for starters. Then there’s the actual filling: dates, sugar, cinnamon and butter! Get prepared to freak out over these buns! In all honesty, if you haven’t recently been graced with 2 feet of snow, you might just want to take a personal day and get these in the oven. I’ll leave that up to you!
The dates are the highlight of these buns, which brings me to two highlights from Francisco Goya’s career, which also focus on specific dates: The Second of May, 1808 and The Third of May, 1808 (both painted in 1814). Francisco Goya y Lucientes is probably the most important Spanish Romantic artist of the late 18th century/early 19th century. Goya got his start as a portrait painter for the Spanish royal family under Charles III, and enjoyed success as an in-demand court artist. By the 1790s, Goya’s work had taken a darker tone to match the political climate brewing around him. In early May of 1808 Napoleon’s army invaded Spain, which caused an intense and vicious uprising in Madrid’s city center.
The Second of May depicts the bloody street fighting between the French guards and Spanish rioters. The central figure is a Muslim French guard on a horse, wielding a knife at attacking rebels. Men are dying and killing all around him, and the ground beneath the horses is scattered with bodies.
The Third of May is just as dramatic – showing the bloody capture of Spanish rebels the next day. A group of crying, emotional rebels have been led through the night to a spot outside of the city center, where they will be executed by a French firing squad. Their humility is dramatic, especially the central figure dressed in white and yellow, who extends his arms, referencing the stigmata.
Michael and I saw these two works (along with tons of others by Goya) when we visited the Prado Museum while in Madrid on our honeymoon. It was amazing – we roamed the museum for hours, and left happy and exhausted.
Cinnamon Date Brioche Buns
¾ cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten
¼ cup honey
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
Mix the water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey and butter in a large glass bowl. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the flours until just combined. Cover and let sit in a warm spot in your kitchen for 2 hours.
On a lightly floured surface, fold the dough over onto itself 3 or 4 times. Let the dough sit in a ball while you mix together the filling.
8 Medjool dates
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Soak the dates in hot water for 10 minutes. Combine the dates, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and mix until the filling is a consistent paste.
Re-flour the surface you are using, and roll the dough out until you have a large, ¼-inch thick rectangle. Spoon the filling out evenly over the dough, and then roll the dough until you have a long tube. Using a piece of dental floss (remember this?), swiftly cut 12 equal pieces.
Spray a 9×13 inch jelly roll pan with cooking spray and gently arrange the 12 buns inside. Let rest for another 2 hours, until the buns have risen and are deliciously squished together in the pan. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and bake for about 22-25 minutes, until they are lightly golden on top. Let them cool for 10 minutes and slather in icing!
½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons milk
Beat the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and milk and mix until combined. Use generously!
Recipe adapted from two red bowls and artisan bread in five, makes 12
Francesco Goya, The Second of May 1808, painted in 1814, oil on canvas
Francesco Goya, The Third of May 1808, painted in 1814, oil on canvas