Scratch-Made Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon-Roll-with-IcingScratch Made Cinnamon Rolls… Look right up close at those tender flakes, the cinnamony swirl, ooey vanilla icing. To get to this point was a sticky, messy Sunday baking project; didn’t shower until 3 PM. But I arm-wrestled my way to success making scratch cinnamon rolls just to prove I wasn’t a loser. “Loser?” you might ask. This was my second attempt, the first was a total FAIL.

Friend and experienced home baker, Robin, sent me a recipe saying “This is the absolute BEST cinnamon roll recipe on the planet.” Well, I figured that meant I’d whip those puppies out easily myself. I did not. My dough, an unrisen pile of plop, was finally baked into a foccacia just to not waste ingredients. I abandoned her recipe, shaken to the core. But then I saw the advertisement…

A teeny ad in the LA Times for a baking demo by King Arthur Flour. The distance was a schlep, but the word FREE got me to go for it! There, close to 150 eager home bakers (and at least one pro, by his questions) watched corporate Vermonters walk us through the steps to picture perfect dough. “I can DO this!” Larry was glad to get that news – he wanted those rolls.

It is a labor of love, making cinnamon rolls. Lots of steps. Lots of flying flour, goopy hands and rising, kneading, rising, resting, rolling. I felt so… home ec-y. A few false starts (dang dough wasn’t doubling. I goosed the oven with a little heat, then it poofed). Cue music from “Jaws,” that was Larry, like the shark, circling. Da duh, da duh, da duh duh duh DUH DUH DUH.  Once cool enough to touch, my husband pounced (on the rolls, not me) for two. I ate one (it was 3 PM – we could have easily both eaten four but “ruining your dinner” is drilled into us). He dibbed the entire remainder.

–> You might find this interesting… making these rolls used half the dough. I forgot what the demo lady said about freezing the other half, so I went to the King Arthur Flour website, and there was a LIVE CHAT option. Here, 1 PM Sunday California time, “Mary Jane” answered me in nano-seconds – “put the dough in a freezer ziplock, squeeze out the air, label the bag and freeze up to 3 months, but the yeast may not rise as much when I use it.” Man, I love the internet!

BASIC SWEET BREAD DOUGH for Cinnamon Rolls, recipe from King Arthur Flour

Step 1 – Making the “Sponge”

  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 2 teaspoons sugar. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly and active, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 2 – Dough

  • all of the sponge
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and/or other flavoring, plus 2 teaspoons citrus zest
  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups (19 to 23 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (mix in small bowl for egg wash)

In a large bowl, combine the sponge, yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla.  Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing until the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, dust your hands with flour and, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, knead about 5 minutes, until soft and pliable but not sticky. Let the dough rest while you clean and grease the bowl. Finish kneading the dough until it’s smooth, supple and springy.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat all surfaces, cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let sit in a warm place (70 to 75 degrees) for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Step 3 – Forming

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on a lightly floured surface for 15 minutes. Roll half the dough into a 10” by 14” rectangle, and water the surface slightly with your fingers. Spread “choice of filling” (I made about 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 Tbsp. cinnamon, thus “cinnamon rolls”) over the dough, leaving 1-inch clear along the edges. (I then sprinkled 1/2 cup pecans down the center of the dough). Roll the dough into a log the long way and pinch the edge tight. Using a serrated knife, cut the log in half, then each half into half, and once again until you have eight pieces. Loosely place pieces in a round or square pan, brush with egg wash and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or to an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.

Step 4 – Icing

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons half and half

In a medium bowl, cream the butter with vanilla extract and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Add half and half to desired thickness. If you get too thin, add more powdered sugar.  Allow cinnamon rolls to cool slightly before icing.

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