Friday, October 7, 2011

cinnamon rolls


I had an odd learning slope into the realm of baking. The first thing I ever baked alone and from scratch was blueberry coffeecake. The second was a batch of yeast-risen sweet rolls, one half done up with cinnamon, the other sticky-sweet orange rolls, that took about five hours from bowl to plate.


I escaped the whole "scary scary yeast" issue by being a teenager ignorant of the complications and stress yeast can bring to a baking party-- rapid rise? Active dry? Those big yeast-cake things? Proofing? Kneading? Rising? Punching?

But I didn't know any of that. I just followed the direction in my big orange Betty Crocker, mixed some dough, kneaded it with tentative glee, and curiously watched it puff to twice its size as it sat on my kitchen counter for a few hours and did its work.


Long story short, I love yeast. We're buddies. I've learned a lot more since then, and my baking's improved because of it, but I still get a quiet joy in pushing and stretching my knuckles into dough as I knead, and coming back a few hours later to a transformed, risen bowl of yeasty-aroma-ed dough.


The first Betty Crocker recipe was a good jumping-off point for me, and her sweet rolls are admittedly tasty, but I've continued to search since then for better and better ones. Right now I'm stuck on AB's recipe, which enriches the dough with a hefty dose of egg yolks and buttermilk. I'd advise making your rolls bigger than these, and perhaps less thinly-rolled, because one of the selling points of this recipe is the puffy, delicious soft dough. However, I've a housemate who's a cinnamon fiend (and I'm not much better myself, though she puts all cinnamon fiends to shame with her love and devotion) so I figured that thinner dough meant more cinnamon per roll and in our apartment that can only be a good thing.

Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Alton Brown's Cinnamon Rolls

4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1/4 C sugar
6 Tb salted butter, mostly melted
3/4 C buttermilk
4 C all-purpose flour
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, melted butter, buttermilk together. With the mixer on the lowest speed, dump in the yeast and salt, and then slowly knock in about 2 C of the flour. Let that mix in until incorporated; then keep knocking in more and more flour, until the dough is not wet.


Switch out the stand mixer's paddle for the dough hook. Continue beating it and adding little bits of flour at a time. Let the dough hook run for about ten minutes. Then, remove the dough from the bowl (which should have been wiped clean rather well by the circling dough), toss a little flour into the bottom and along the sides, then put the dough back in. Dust it's top with a little flour and let it sit for about an hour or until doubled in size (how warm your kitchen is will affect how fast it rises).

An hour or two later...


Set up your rolling station: the biggest cutting board you've got (as you can see, mine is quite small at the moment), a rolling pin (or a glass), a bowl of melted butter (I used about six tablespoons), a bowl of brown sugar and cinnamon in about a 2:1 ratio (less, if you're not a crazy cinnamon kid), something to brush the butter with, some flour to sprinkle the board with between batches of dough.

Now, take a big handful of dough (for this size cutting board, I rolled the dough out in five batches; with a more properly sized board I would have rolled it out in two).


Put it on the floured cutting board and roll it out to the thinness of an eighth of an inch or so.


Brush the dough with butter and sprinkle brown sugar/cinnamon over it in a thick layer.


Roll it up and pinch the end of the dough into the roll to seal it shut.


Carefully slice the log into disks about an inch in height.


Place them into a buttered circular pan (mine filled up about three). The edges can be just barely touching or a little apart.


Let rise another hour or two;

(Another good thing to do here is the stick them in the fridge. The next morning, put the chilled pans in a cold oven next to a dish of boiling water. Let them sit and steam for a half hour (to wake the yeast), then remove them from the oven and preheat it to 350. Bake for a half hour, frost, and devour).

But if you plan to bake them that night: then about an hour later, preheat your oven to 350, bake the rolls for a half hour, frost (see below) and devour.


2 C powdered sugar
3 Tb butter
2 Tb milk
2 Tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
Beat until smooth. If too thick, add milk. If too thin, add butter and more sugar. Spoon over hot cinnamon buns.


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