I think there is a common misconception that vegans can’t have baked goods. The traditional recipes are FULL of milk, egg, butter — all those animal by-products. Omnivores and vegans alike may simply give up on vegan baked goods based only on assumptions. Fortunately there are MANY vegan alternative recipes to the beloved traditional baked goods. Allow me to share one of my favourites, the Cinnamon Bun.
For this recipe, I’m sharing my fancy chai-infused version, but you can make these plain, too. The chai flavour comes in the icing; so if you’re not a chai fan, simply omit the spices.
I’ve had my share of frustrations with vegan baking. There is something very compelling about the sticking power of egg to hold together a batter. No doubt, any good vegan baked good recipe requires its own share of trial and error before it can be shared. If you have attempted any vegan baking, you are surely familiar with the frustrations of a crumbling vegan cake, desperately held together with flax egg or apple sauce. If you are anticipating that same angst from this recipe, I am happy to inform you that these vegan cinnamon buns are the stickiest.
In fact, I would bet that you won’t be able to tell the difference between these vegan buns and an eggy bun. Try it and let me know!
Cinnamon buns, like most food I consume, have an emotional connection for me. In my teen years and on, my dad began a tradition of making cinnamon buns fresh on Christmas morning. Of course, there’s nothing sweeter. After my dad died, so did the tradition. Then we all went vegan, and we just assumed there would be no resurrecting that tradition. Vegan baking to the rescue!
I have to admit, my favourite part of making these buns is not actually the eating, but the smell of the yeast dough, and watching the ball of dough expand… then the stringy, stretchy bits of dough that try to stay clinging to the bowl. It all reminds me of my dad and watching him make these for his family, with love and patience.
I hope that you will enjoy these well enough to start your own family tradition. Or at the very least, I hope you enjoy reading!
Vegan Chai Iced Cinnamon Buns
These buns take some time to prepare, but most of the time is in the waiting. The actual manual labour required to make these buns is fairly minimal, and makes these well worth the effort (in my mind, anyway). You’ll just need to prepare ahead of time.
Prep time: Allow yourself 2.5 hours from start to gobble time. That means about 1.5 hours of rising time (divided), 30 minutes of baking and cooling, and 30 minutes of active work.
Cook time: 20-25 minutes.
- 3 tbs vegan butter (I use organic Earth Balance)
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used organic almond milk)
- 1 1/2 tbs sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups flour (organic all-purpose)
- 3 tbs vegan butter, melted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbs ground cinnamon (to taste)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Chai Infused Icing
- 1 tbs vegan butter, melted
- 2 tbs non-dairy milk
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- chai tea mix/ 3 chai tea bags
Melt the vegan butter and heat the non-dairy milk together in a saucepan or in the microwave (it should be warm but not hot). Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add yeast. Mix gently and let sit for 10 minutes. The yeast should start to swell and foam a bit. Once it has activated, add sugar and salt, and mix.
Add the flour half a cup at a time and mix until it has formed a soft dough.
Once the dough has formed, transfer to a floured surface and knead for a couples minutes (but don’t overdo it) until it forms a ball. Rinse out your bowl and coat lightly with oil. Return dough to bowl, turn and coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or damp tea towel and leave in a warm spot to rise. (Our laundry room, also our furnace room, is always super warm, so I set everything I want to rise on top of the dryer and bingo.)
Prepare your baking dish by lightly greasing either a round cake pan or a 8×8 square dish.
Once the dough has doubled (around an hour of rising), roll it out on a floured surface into a long rectangle.
Spread the melted vegan butter along the top of the dough. Then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. If you are adding pecans (I prefer them, my husband does not), add those now, too. Make sure the filling is spread evenly.
Now the tricky part… Starting from the shorter end, carefully and tightly roll up the dough to form a log, with the seam facing down. Every time I make these, I get filling squirting out everywhere out the sides. Try and tuck it back inside as you roll, but don’t fuss too much.
Next is to slice up the buns! I usually get between 9 and 12 buns out of this recipe, so cut to your preference. Cut into even sections with a sharp, preferably serrated knife, and gently place the buns into the pan. There will likely be extra space in the pan, but this will disappear.
Cover the buns with a tea towel, and place in a warm spot for another 30 minutes to rise again.
While the buns are rising, start on your icing. In a small saucepan, melt your vegan butter and non-dairy milk and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the chai tea bags, cover, and remove from heat. Allow the tea bags to brew for 5-10 minutes in the liquid. (If you are using chai spices, do not brew, but add the spices in with the icing sugar.)
Remove the tea bags, and add in your icing sugar, salt, and cinnamon. (I find the salt helps to cut the sweetness a bit, and give it a bit more savour.)
Once the buns have expanded and filled almost all the extra space in the pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Gently top the buns with a pad of vegan butter (optional) before setting in the oven and baking for 20-25 minutes.
Top with icing once the buns have cooled for 5 minutes. Allow the icing to glaze over the buns. Serve after 5 more minutes of cooling.