These buns are much easier to make than traditional cinnamon rolls — no forming logs. The broken sugar cubes add wonderful crunch to their insides, which are more caky-soft than dinner roll-bready in texture, even though yeast is the only raising agent. The cream cheese filling/icing is optional, but it makes a tangy, creamy counterpart to the fluffy-yet-crunchy buns.
The night before serving, make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, the yeast and ginger. In another bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and beat on low speed until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the dough off the paddle and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let stand until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
While the dough rises, grease a 12-cup muffin pan with butter or nonstick baking spray. Freeze the pan for 10 minutes, then repeat with more butter or spray and refrigerate the pan until ready to use (alternatively, line each cup with a cupcake liner). Using a mortar and pestle or rolling pin, lightly crush the sugar cubes one at a time, and transfer to a small bowl, then stir in the cinnamon and one-quarter teaspoon salt.
Uncover the dough, add the butter and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and beat with the paddle on low speed until incorporated. Sprinkle in the remaining half cup flour and continue mixing until smooth. Using a fine strainer, sift out all the large chunks of sugar from the bowl; you should have about one-third cup sugar chunks and one-quarter cup cinnamon sugar. Stir half the sugar chunks and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar into the dough.
Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop or quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop out 12 balls of dough and drop each in a muffin cup. Sprinkle the remaining sugar chunks and cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of each dough ball. Loosely drape a clean kitchen towel or sheet of plastic wrap over the muffin pan and refrigerate overnight or up to 12 hours.
The morning of, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Uncover the muffin pan and bake until the buns are risen and light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the buns cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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