9/22/20 See my NEW easy Quick Bulkas/Cinnamon Rolls Recipe and 2-minute YouTube Video
5/30/20 See my NEW and improved Bulkas Recipe and YouTube video with my simplified method for half the amount.
These soft, buttery buns, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, are just sweet enough, but not too rich—so you can enjoy them anytime!
I like that these don’t look like the Cinnabon type cinnamon bun—the more common way to make them—and I love the satisfaction of peeling each layer apart. (Mmm… makes me salivate just thinking about it!)
They’re heavenly warmed up for breakfast!
Growing up in South Africa, it was our family tradition to break the fast on Yom Kippur with a warm Cinnamon Bulka (a/k/a Boolke). Waiting in anticipation to bite into Auntie Phyllie’s delicious, fresh-baked Bulkas made the fast all-the-more torturous!
When I moved to Los Angeles, my friend’s mom, Rita—who took in all the stragglers for the holidays—gave me a taste of home with her mouth-watering Cinnamon Bulkas, passed down from Bobba Skuy, who grew up in little shtetl called Varklan, near Riga, Latvia.
Nothing gives you more satisfaction than sitting down with a warm Bulka that you made from scratch!
That’s why I went the extra mile to make these easy enough for anyone to enjoy making them.
Watch the YouTube clip and see how simple it is.
The highlight was making “bilkas” with Aja!
It seems that no matter what you do to this dough they are still edible! (Well, to an almost-four-year-old, anyway!)
I baked hers off in the toaster oven and she was in heaven!
What you will need.
Melted butter mixture.
Yeast before proofing.
Beautiful bubbled up yeast!
Kneading the dough (Love this pic!).
Smooth ball of dough.
Set aside in a warm place to rise.
Dough doubled in size.
Dough has doubled in size when indentation remains after tips of fingers are pressed lightly and quickly into dough.
Work with half the dough; refrigerate the rest.
Divide each half into sixteen pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball.
With the craggy side up, flatten into a round.
Keep rounds covered.
Butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and slit from the centre to the edge.
Form a triangle.
Combine on one baking sheet, about an inch apart.
Cover loosely and allow to rise for 20 – 30 minutes.
Brush with butter and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.
Bake until golden brown.
Transfer immediately to cooling rack.
Sit down and enjoy a warm bulka and cup of tea/coffee/milk!
- Parchment Sheets
- Bench Scraper
- Silicon Pastry Brush
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Cuisinart 5 1/2 Quart Stand Mixer
- The New Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz
- The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Cinnamon Bulkas (Traditional Yeast Buns)
- 1 cup butter salted (plus more for brushing and greasing bowl)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar + ½ teaspoon for proofing yeast
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- Cinnamon Sugar: ¾ cup sugar 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter softened (for greasing the bowl)
- Melted butter for brushing about ½ cup
- 4 large eggs room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
- 8 - 9 cups all-purpose flour plus more for board
- 2 x 1/4 oz envelopes active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup warm water
- Set oven rack to the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Dissolve top 3 ingredients (butter, sugar, milk) in a small saucepan over low heat; set aside to cool to lukewarm. (Do not boil—just warm milk till butter melts.)
- While it cools, stir 1/2 teaspoon sugar and yeast into 1/4 cup warm water—like very warm bath water. (100 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.) Let stand 10 minutes till foamy. If yeast doesn't get bubbly toss and start again!
- Kneading the dough: Put 5 cups of flour in mixing bowl of your mixer, fitted with the paddle beater. Make a well in the flour and add yeast, beaten eggs and warm milk mixture. Mix on lowest speed just until combined and smooth, 1 - 2 minutes. Scrape bowl and paddle.
- Change to dough hook. Add salt, and two more cups of flour, one at a time (with mixer off) and mix on low (Cuisinart #2) until each is incorporated. If dough is too sticky or doesn't form a loose ball that cleans the sides of the bowl, tap more flour on the side of the bowl - ½ cup at a time, with mixer running, until fully incorporated. The dough should be slightly sticky and soft, or the bulkas will be heavy. Knead each addition until completely worked in to the dough.
- When dough clings to hook, knead for about ten minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. (Cuisinart #3) Stop motor occasionally and poke dough to check for firmness and stickiness. Scrape bowl and turn dough over to incorporate all the flour. Knead just until it feels smooth and elastic and is no longer sticky.
- Remove dough from bowl and form into a ball. Place in large bowl greased with butter. Turn over once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and rise until double in size in a warm place, free from draughts, about 1 - 2 ½ hours.
- Once doubled in size, push your fist into the center of the dough; fold the outside edges into the center to fully deflate it. Flour board just enough that dough doesn't stick. Divide dough in half with a bench scraper. Return one half to bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
- Working with half the dough: Divide in half again, and work with one piece at a time, keeping the other one covered. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Slice in half, lengthwise. Divide each piece into 4 pieces; cutting off one piece at a time, 2 - 2 1/2 oz each, keeping the rest covered. Don’t make them too big or once they rise and bake they'll be huge.
- Roll each piece into a ball, and with the craggy side up, push down into your palm to form a round, about 4 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Place smooth bottom side on prepared baking sheets, covered loosely with plastic.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (1/2 - 1 teaspoon each.) With a sharp knife, slit each round from the center to the edge. Fold one third of the circle on top of another third, and then fold the remaining third on top of that, to form a 3-layered triangle.
- Combine all 16 on one baking sheet, about an inch apart because they'll spread and rise more in the oven. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise again (not quite double), 20 - 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). When risen, brush the tops generously with melted butter (2 tablespoons) and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake 16 to 22 minutes until brown and not doughy in the middle. Rotate pans halfway. If the tops get too brown cover loosely with foil. If the bottoms get too brown place another baking sheet underneath. Transfer parchment to wire racks immediately to cool.
- Serve warm. Reheat at 350 degree F for about 5 minutes, loosely covered with foil.
Once you've shaped the bulkas, you can refrigerate them overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature one hour before baking. Orna's Notes:
If the dough climbs over the hook, this usually indicates that it's sticky, and more flour should be added. The sooner all the flour is added, the less likely the dough is to climb the hook.
You can knead the dough by hand for 10 - 15 minutes.
Rising at room temperature for 1 - 1 1/2 hours is ideal, but you can rise dough in the oven for an hour. Before making your dough, put a tray with hot water on the bottom shelf and set the oven to 175 degrees F for 1 minute—then shut off.
Or cover with a dishcloth and something thick (folded blanket or duvet) and rise overnight.
Or rise in the fridge overnight—then let dough come back to room temperature.
Dough has doubled in size when indentation remains after tips of fingers are pressed lightly and quickly into dough. Adapted from Es Mein Kind Recipes from The Liebenthal and Silber Families
Good article! We are linking to this great content on our site. Keep up the great writing.
Thank you Jae – appreciate the positive feedback and support!
Let me know what you all make!
Can’t wait to start baking. All looks delicious
Thanks Dianne – looking forward to seeing your pics!
I just want to say I am all new to blogging and site-building and seriously loved this blog site. Almost certainly I’m going to bookmark your blog . You actually come with remarkable well written articles. With thanks for sharing your webpage.
Thank you so much for your positive feedback Fabian – it’s so nice to know that someone out there is actually reading what I write!
Boy did you make homesick this morning! We now live in Australia and Eric, my husband, does the baking, having being taught by my father who had his own bakery in SA. Just recently he has been teaching our grand- children to plait challah. This morning we decided the next step would be Bulkas, and found ourselves looking at the very same ones my dad used to make on you blog. Thank you! Will keep you posted re success.
Having made aliyah from South Africa, I love finding your traditional recipes, a few months ago, on a cold winter day, my daughters (14 year old twins) and I made your crunchies, bulkas and ginger biscuits. Since then one of my daughters, who is also a wonderful baker, often makes your crunchies for Shabbat. Last night she baked your bulkas, they are delicious, and I thought you might want to see a picture of what she accomplished.
You just made my day! I am SO happy to hear that you made them—with your daughters, especially.
And thank you for emailing me a pic – tell her they look gorgeous!
If your daughters are on Facebook please ask them to “like” OrnaBakes – and then she can post this pic on my FB page – I’d love that!
It makes all the work worthwhile when I get wonderful letters like this.
I just made a batch of your Bulkus and they are delicious. Your video is extremely informative and very easy to follow. I made a batch last week, very new to working with yeast, and they didn’t turn out nearly as well as yours. Next is the challah.
Thank you so much for letting me know that you liked them, and for watching my video! I painstakingly edited the whole thing myself and was wondering if it was just a big waste of time! Glad it helped. 🙂
Hi Orna, Congrats on your website and blog. It’s lovely. I wanted to tell you that the Bobba in your “Bobba Skuy’s bulkas” was my Bobba. She was my moms mom. We are so happy that her memory is living on in your blog! Love Bev
Hi Bev, Thank you so much for letting me know – your note totally warmed my heart!! Please give my love to the family. Shana Tova! Love, Orna
I made the cinnamon buns. They came out beautifully. Thank you so much. However, if i wanted to make into bigbabkes. would you bake them for longer? I would think I would cut each half into two, roll out, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and roll up and put in a long tin to bake?? Your comments would be appreciated. Wishing you a meaningful Fast
I’m sure that would be delicious Maxine! And yes, definitely bake for longer. You could even roll out the whole dough, spread with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and raisins if you like. Roll up like a jelly roll, from the long end. Twist a few times like you’re wringing out a towel, and coil up like a snake and place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Try baking at 325 for 45 minutes to an hour, leave on pan 5 minutes to cool then transfer to wire rack. Here’s a reference for you: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/cinnamon-bun-babka-recipe/index.html
I too am an ex-South African now living in Toronto. I found your Bulka recipe on my Facebook page and decided to make them for breaking of the Fast. My recipe is okey but I was never excited with the texture of my Bulkas.
I have to compliment you, the Bulkas were delicious, and the texture and lightness is exactly what I want for my Bulkas, thanks so much for sharing your
Many thanks,wishing you a wonderful New Year.
My goal was to elevate the recipe so that they were lighter, and to add step-by-step details making them accessible to everyone, so it’s wonderful to hear that it worked! I’m so happy that you shared them with your family – thank you for letting me know.
My friend brought us some boolkes tonight. Even if I were not a South African ( living in USA) and even if my mom’s you kippur bulkes had not wafted back in memory, I would tell you they were outstanding! I have tons of recipes and I am on the dark side of 65 but I was so excited that you are the next generation resurrecting such enticing morsels. Perhaps not morsels, we pigged out. Thank you.
Frankie, thank you for the chuckle! It’s incredible how something so simple can take us back and bring us such joy. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Beautiful photos and post! This recipe is my grandmother’s specialty – she wrote down the recipe for me but the step-by-step was not so clear, so I came here to see how it is done. I have read elsewhere that bulkas/boolkes is very popular among South African Jews of Lithuanian descent (which she is, though I was born in the USA!) Love seeing this recipe.
Thank you Allison – I hope by now you have made them and they reminded you of your grandmother.
So excited I stumbled across your site. I haven’t had a good crunchie or Bulka in yonks! I keep asking my mom for my gran’s recipe and she can’t find them. Excited to try these out!! Cheers!
Hi Danielle, I too am happy you stumbled across my site! Let me know what you make! Enjoy. (You have now sparked a craving for crunchies and bulkas!)
I remember Baudie Skuy from Vryheid they lived next door to us.
I’ll tell the family – thanks for writing Solly!
Made your bulka’s – decided to refrigerated dough overnight
Do I puch it down again in morning before making rounds?
Hi Nicola, instead of “punching” down, just gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and push down lightly on it with your palms to push the air out. Let me know how they turn out! 🙂
This is EXACTLY what my mother made. She left Riga, Latvia to join her husbandin Buffalo NY. She was a great Jewish style baker. And all I wanted was an Oreo or something like that! I did not appreciate her Friday baking followed by washing the floor and laying down newspapers cause ‘it shouldn’t get dirty.’
I hope you will make them – they’re delicious and will certainly bring back memories. Thanks for writing.
After living for over 40 years in Israel.I was just chaleshing for some home backed bulkes. My wife has tasted my mothers bulkes, but finally agrees that,thanks to your guidance, my bulkes came very close. Thanks for help and Shana Tova
What a lovely message – thank you for taking the time to write me. Wishing you and your wife Shana Tova. Send me pics of your bulkas! (And yourselves ? )
Thank you for the recipe. My Grandmother from Minsk made these when I was a child and thanks to you I have been able to recreate them. I gave them to her son who died at 88 as a gift when he was se3verely ill and you could see his eyes light up brighter and brighter with each bite. It was a mitzvah. I made a slight chaage in the recipe by using butter milk, a dash of baking soda and raisins. Thanks again.
Hi Bob, thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I’m so sorry for your loss but very happy that you brought him joy with a taste of home. Warmest regards to you and your family, Orna
Hi, I want to try these with chocolate, can I put chocolate in when I fold it over the second time?
Hi! I’ve never done it but I don’t see why not! The same way you could add raisins, just sprinkle some chocolate chips on top of the cinnamon sugar before folding it. I wouldn’t add too many or they could fall out and make the bottoms all goopy. Let me know how they turn out ?