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What Are Cinnamon Swirls?

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  • Written By: Robert Ferguson
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2016
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Cinnamon swirls are also known as cinnamon buns, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon twists, and cinnamon bread. This pastry is a sweet bread made from a sheet of buttered dough sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon then rolled and cut into individual swirls. It comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from small biscuit-sized rolls to extra large buns. After baking, cinnamon swirls can be coated with assorted sweet toppings such as sugar-based white icing, caramel sauce, or a clear, sugar-based glaze.

Some recipes for these rolls use other spices in addition to cinnamon. In Finland, cinnamon swirls are called “korvapuusti” and along with cinnamon, typical recipes incorporate the Indian spice cardamom in the mixture, creating a less sweet roll. Finnish korvapuusti are small rolls and traditionally do not have the thick, sweet icing like some variations of the bun in other parts of the world.

Swedish cinnamon swirls are called “kanelbullar” and are very similar to the Finnish sweet rolls. The texture of the bread is light and airy. The dough mixture uses a touch of cardamom, along with cinnamon spice, to make the bun less sweet. In Sweden, October 4 is the official “Cinnamon Bun Day,” which has been celebrated since 1999.

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In Norway, cinnamon buns are called "skillingsbolle." The rolls are made with dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar prior to baking. Additional toppings for Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish cinnamon rolls, other than coating the baked buns with extra sweet icing, include a sprinkling of coarse sugar prior to baking or a smooth cream cheese frosting after the rolls are baked.

Cinnamon swirls are baked in several ways. Buns can be baked side by side on square or rectangle baking pan to create individual rolls. If the pastries are placed inside a round pan with the sides of each roll touching, it will create one large cinnamon roll sweet bread that can be cut into sections or sliced into layers.

Pastries are popular as a breakfast item or anytime of the day or evening accompanied by a cup of coffee or tea, or with a glass of ice-cold milk. Cinnamon rolls can be served as a holiday treat or as a dessert item. The pastries can be filled with raisins and assorted nuts prior to baking, or the items can be sprinkled over the top of cinnamon buns once the icing is applied.

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