August 1, 2007
Post submitted by Elisa Ludwig
Contrary to popular belief, cinnamon buns did not spring fully formed from the mall or a refrigerated pressurized tube from Acme. In fact, these gooey spirals of yeast pastry – like so many decadent treats – originated in Philly. According to Lynn Olver of The Food Timeline, the original cinnamon bun evolved out of schnecken (German “snail” pastry), which were being rolled up in Pennsylvania Dutch kitchens in Germantown as early as the 17th century.
Today, the ultimate local cinnamon buns belong to Beiler’s Bakery, tucked in the northwest corner of Reading Terminal Market. (Be warned that Beiler’s does not accommodate bun cravings Sunday through Tuesday). While cinnamon and sticky bun toppings have evolved around the world to include ingredients like peanut butter, lemon and cream cheese, Beiler’s (ahem) sticks to a small, traditional list: plain, raisin, pecan, or raisin and pecan. The Beiler’s bun is a squat, dense swirl the size of a salad plate, lacquered with a buttery, mahoghany caramel that threatens to glue your molars together in the best possible way. The best method for attacking this bun? First, peel the outer layer, revealing its golden dough and a speckling of cinnamon and brown sugar. Next, eat clockwise, moving inward to the inevitably syrupy center. Then lick your fingers.