Ann Sather: Welcome to the Cinnamon Kingdom

28 May

If you’re from Chicago, you probably already know all about Ann Sather and her amazing cinnamon rolls.  That wonderful red-and-yellow roll with the steam rising from it beckons Pastry Lovers and Breakfast Eaters alike to come in, sit down, and take a trip to Tastyville.

We didn’t set out this morning with plans to go to Ann Sather, but after striking out at Artemio’s Bakery (long story short: only two kinds of donuts and far too many bread-like items), we quickly regrouped and headed to a much safer bet.  We’ve been to Ann Sather before, but for the benefit of our Breakfast Adventures, we decided to return and sample its famous cinnamon rolls.

Here’s what we found:

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Pastry #1: Ann Sather’s Famous Cinnamon Roll

Coffee Girl: You know how, when you’ve been working really hard and you’re really tired, and then you start thinking about how wonderful a hot shower and clean sheets are going to feel?  That sensual “ahhhh” that your soul whispers?  That is how Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls taste.  And they just keep tasting that way, bite after bite, like snuggling ever deeper into the down comforter on a frigid day.  But enough of metaphor, let’s get down to details.  The dough – soft and bready so it almost melts in your mouth.  The delectable cinnamon swirls are not shy.  The gloppy white icing is just the right combination of sweet and cinnamony.  Overall, a sweet, gooey, aphrodisiacal mess.

Donut Boy: To have a pair of these fine pastries set in front of you is truly a wonderful experience.  For only $3, you get a plate full of textbook deliciousness.  Every component of an awesome cinnamon roll is present and accounted for: gooey, creamy frosting, moist buttery interior, cinnamon running rampant.  They arrive warm and ready and are gone before you know it.  Chances are anyone who’s been to Ann Sather will tell you the same: These cinnamon rolls live up to the hype.

Baked Good #2: Pecan Roll

Coffee Girl: Hmmmm.  Interesting.  At first glance, this pastry seemed like it was way too heavy on the bread side and sadly lacking in the gooey pecan department.  As is so often the case in Donut Land, I was fooled.  Yes, much of the land mass of this hefty-sized roll is non-gooey, but before I knew it, I’d fallen in love.  Again, as in the cinnamon roll, the basic bready dough is light and buttery — though here a nice crust forms on the outside from the residue of the cinnamon swirls inside.  The lack of frosting is easily remedied by the liberal application of butter, and the gooey, cinnamon-swirly, pecan center, when you get to it, is the genuine article.

Donut Boy: This is much closer to actual bread than we normally venture.  I would actually characterize this pecan roll as having two distinct parts.  There is a moister, gooier middle part with a really nice sticky-sweet pecan topping, and then there’s an outer shell that’s breadier and crustier.  I think this pecan roll would be great if it had more of the nut topping on it — that’s the best part, in my opinion — but the outer parts end up forming a nice, rich sort of roll that tastes great with a little fresh butter.

Baked Good #3: Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffin

Coffee Girl: Well, we were grasping at straws here — stretching the definition of donut until it almost snapped, but we wanted Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls so badly, and we needed something else to talk about.  Usually we ostracize muffins as too much dough and not enough, well, frosting.  This was a darn good muffin, if you go to Oberlin College and wear Birkenstocks, like my daughter.  For us old, hardened Donuteers, we’d rather have a Snickers.

Donut Boy: This muffin caught our eye as we walked in.  Normally, we scoff at such simple baked goods when donuts are available.  But this morning we found ourselves a little off the beaten path.  This muffin had a nice moistness to it without being too soggy, and its interior was laced with walnuts.  This provided a great crunch and a nice savory counterpoint to the sweet one-two punch of the chocolate and banana.  Not bad for something that’s not a donut.

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This morning was different.  Instead of sampling donuts in the confines of our trusty Donut Mobile, we ate a different sort of baked goods at a real table with real chairs.  Instead of the early dawn light shining into our car window, cheerful lighting surrounded us.  Normally, we chew and think to ourselves.  This morning, we chatted happily as we tried a Chicago legend.

Yes, we didn’t actually have any donuts this morning.  We never thought we’d be okay with that but here we are, full of cinnamon rolls and smiling.  Everything good you might have heard about Ann Sather is true.  If you’ve been, you know.  If you haven’t, we urge you to check it out.

Until next week!

-CG&DB

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