Vet­eran food writer’s bak­ery is an ode to the cin­na­mon-filled clas­sic


Rosen’s Cin­na­mon Buns (825 Col­lege, at Oss­ing­ton, 416-534-2856, face­book. com/Rosens­buns). Cin­na­mon buns $4. Open Wed­nes­day through Sun­day. Ac­cess: Three steps at door, no pub­lic wash­room.

“So, wait – they just sell cin­na­mon buns?”

That ap­pears to be a fairly stan­dard re­ac­tion to news of food-writer-turned-en­tre­pre­neur Amy Rosen’s new ven­ture, the aptly named Rosen’s Cin­na­mon Buns, where the doughy, sweet treats do in­deed take top – and only – billing.

Com­pared to the baker’s dozens of suc­cess­ful lo­cal shops that pile dis­play cases with a broad ar­ray of prod­ucts or stick to one prod­uct but mess with in­fi­nite flavour com­bi­na­tions (cup­cakes or donuts, for ex­am­ple), Rosen’s busi­ness plan might seem like stub­born self-pi­geon­hol­ing. Will po­ten­tial re­peat visi­tors get burned out on dense, chewy swirls of sticky dough?

As it turns out, since open­ing last month, Rosen has had pre­cisely the op­po­site prob­lem.

“I’ve had peo­ple com­ing in ev­ery day since we opened – the same peo­ple,” Rosen says, in a brief break be­tween sling­ing buns to a steady stream of mid-af­ter­noon cus­tomers.

“And not just re­peat cus­tomers, but re­peat (visi­tors) that were out of luck be­cause we’d sold out. The first few weeks, some peo­ple had to try three times.

“Other peo­ple were, like, ‘Wow, you’re re­ally rais­ing de­mand!’ But it wasn’t on pur­pose. We had no idea we would sell 500 in a day. I thought it would be 200 at our peak.”

Rosen’s nose for re­search served her well when putting the busi­ness to­gether (though she didn’t ex­actly count on the run­away suc­cess). Af­ter a New Year’s Day brunch in which sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of Rosen rel­a­tives all chowed down on fresh cin­na­mon buns in bliss­ful si­lence, Rosen sprang into ac­tion, check­ing out lo­cal of­fer­ings to see if her new busi­ness idea would fly.

“I started re­search­ing it, and I was like, ‘It’s ei­ther Cinnabon or the two pans at your favourite bak­ery, and once they’re sold out, they’re sold out.’ Same as the farm­ers’ mar­ket. No one was mak­ing home­made, or­ganic dairy, flavour­ful cin­na­mon buns, hot and fresh, all day long.

“So I was like, you know what? Let that per­son be me.”

With a skele­ton crew of two re­cent Ge­orge Brown grads, Rosen turns out pan af­ter pip­ing-hot pan of well­spiced, moist, not-too-sweet buns. Thanks to skills honed over years of recipe test­ing for Chate­laine, House & Home and her own Toronto Cooks cook­book, Rosen was able to tease out the bun’s most crowd-pleas­ing at­tributes and hold them in per­fectly com­ple­men­tary pro­por­tions.

“I was try­ing to make the per­fect, bal­anced cin­na­mon bun, for peo­ple who don’t like things overly sweet or overly but­tery, overly goopy or overly glazed,” she says.

“There are some peo­ple who will come in and say they want it with no glaze. But the dough is so unsweet­ened, almost – there’s just a few ta­ble­spoons of sugar in it – that it needs the glaze to bal­ance it.”

She con­sid­ered us­ing bri­oche dough to up the deca­dence fac­tor but found that ev­ery­one who tried it pre­ferred a springier bread dough – it stands up bet­ter to the cin­na­mon fill­ing, which Rosen refers to as the “goop.” There’s 10 times the amount of cin­na­mon in hers as in a reg­u­lar recipe, she says – though that mag­i­cally doesn’t es­ca­late things to cin­na­mon-chal­lenge-lev­els of overkill. She’s con­sid­er­ing sell­ing the goop separately for peo­ple to put on toast. In my view, that’s a busi­ness move that would be se­cond only to just cor­ing the hot, pli­ant, spice-soaked mid­dles right out of the buns and sell­ing them alone, à la Se­in­feld muffin­top café.

Cur­rently, Rosen’s for­ays into prod­uct di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion are lim­ited to minia­ture pans of cin­na­mon-bun bread pud­ding made with the bak­ery’s sec­onds and hot drip cof­fee from Ezra’s Pound. For the hol­i­days, she’s bringing in hot ap­ple cider and Chris­mukkah buns topped with eggnog glaze and Hanukkah gelt. She and her bak­ers might mess around with brown­ies or squares ev­ery so of­ten.

For the most part, how­ever, she’s happy to fall in line with the “keep it sim­ple” ethos that char­ac­ter­izes some of the city’s hippest new eater­ies.

“I’m very into the suc­cess of the one-off, right? Do­ing one thing re­ally well. Like Bang Bang ice cream. I mean, there’s some­thing new prac­ti­cally ev­ery week. Who knew poké would be the next big thing, right? Or tacos. Or the burger-only places. Or the chickenonly places.”

Spo­ken like a true food writer – but at the same time, she adds, the cin­na­mon bun is more about nos­tal­gia than nov­elty.

“It’s old peo­ple com­ing in and say­ing, ‘Oh, it smells like when I met my wife at Jewish sum­mer camp.’

“Cin­na­mon buns are time­less.”

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