Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cinnamon Rolls

It had been a while since I baked with yeast - years, in fact. And I grew helping my mom mill her own wheat flour, and bake whole wheat loaves. Every Sunday, we had homemade pizza with tomato sauce canned from our own tomatoes. So, how can someone with that background develop a Fear of Yeast?

Stop baking with it for a while.

Needless to say, I was determined to get back on that horse. Inspired by Ivonne's recent creation, I girded my loins and hit the kitchen this past weekend. Armed with Margaux Sky's Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: The Best Sandwiches in America, I decided to bake some cinnamon rolls, which I'd never made before.

Both Ari, of Baking and Books, and Ivonne have used some of the book's recipes, and warned that the amount of flour the recipes called for could be off. They were right. Another reason to love the culinary blogosphere - you get reports back from the trenches.

So, I started baking. I cleared off the kitchen counter. I set out my ingredients, and got to work. And then . . . I ran out of flour. No problem, I thought, I'll just go down to the freezer and check my back stock. Among the rice flour, garbanzo flour, spelt flour, etc., I found . . . pastry flour. Which you don't use to make bread.

What the heck, I thought, there are times to live dangerously, and this is one of those times. Never mind that my freshly bought yeast wasn't bubbling, either. I ended up using 7 cups of all-purpose flour, and 4 cups of pastry flour.

I thoroughly enjoyed kneading the dough. Working dough by hand gives me a feeling of being connected to the earth. I think of women doing exactly the same thing, for thousands of years. It's a zen experience. I kneaded for about 10 minutes instead of the 4 stated in the recipe, partly because I enjoyed it, but mostly because I was trying to develop as much gluten as possible in the pastry flour.

After I rolled up the dough (the wrong way, but it didn't really matter in the end), I had an oddly shaped log, which I then cut up. I filled the muffin cups and put them in the refrigerator to rise overnight. The next morning, while they baked, I made the glaze, which I adjusted in terms of liquid and flavorings, otherwise I would have ended up with a thin, watery, and tasteless glaze.

Our thoughts? These were easy to make, and pretty tasty. Some of them were huge - 3 inches across! The insides were moist and fully cooked. On the downside, Master Chow and I both thought that the dough lacked depth of flavor. I don't know if this was due to my pastry flour incident or not, but I'd like to make them again using the correct flour. And even though I used this cinnamon, they didn't have a strong enough cinnamon flavor. My favorite part was the orange glaze I made for them, which had a nice, intense taste.

Would I make them again? Yes, but I'm going to continue my quest for the ultimate cinnamon roll. So many recipes, so little time! I'd better get cracking.

Oh, and yesterday, while I was digging through the freezer, guess what I found? A new, unopened bag of all-purpose King Arthur Flour. ARGH!
Sweet Dough
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 cups all-purpose flour (Note - this is an approximation - stop at around 9 cups and feel the dough. Keep adding flour until the dough loses most of its stickiness but not all of it. Remember, you're going to be adding more flour when you knead the dough. I used 11 cups of flour, total.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Put the water and milk in large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the mixture. Add the cream. Let stand until foamy. The recipe says about five minutes, but mine took almost 20. If you are using yeast well within the expiration date, don't worry and be patient.

Generously grease a large bowl, and a muffin tin. Set the tin aside. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the yeast mixture.

Slowly add the flour and salt to the wet ingredients (see Note above). Place the dough on a floured counter top and knead for 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough in the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, dry place to rise for about 1 hour. Rose Levy Berenbaum suggest letting dough rise in a cold oven (make sure the oven is off!) with only the interior light turned on, and this has worked well for me.

Punch dough down and separate into two portions. You will be using one portion to make the cinnamon rolls, and you can reserve the other in the refrigerator for later use.

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 portion Sweet Dough
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, melted
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon


  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half or cream, or any combination thereof
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • zest of one orange
  • 4 drops of orange oil

Make sure your oven is empty (heh, heh, that's another story). Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat oven to 375 F.

You will need a lot of room to roll out the dough. Sprinkle a counter top with flour, and roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. The dough should be slightly thicker than a sheet of paper, and the long side of the rectangle should be perpendicular to your body.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mix well.

Spread the cinnamon mixture over the rolled out dough, and spread it to the edges.

The short side of the dough should be parallel to you. Tightly roll the dough away from you, forming a loaf. Fold the outer edges in as you roll, to hold the filling in.

Cut into 9-12 cinnamon rolls. Place them in the greased muffin cups. I had a couple midget rolls, so I put them in the middle cups so they would not burn before the larger ones finished cooking. Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet with an edge, like a jelly roll pan. This is essential, or you will have a big mess in your oven. The muffins rise a lot, and ooze everywhere.

Bake for 15-20 minutes - keep an eye on the rolls. Remove rolls immediately from tins and place on a plate.

While they are baking, you can make the glaze, which involves mixes together all the glaze ingredients. Add the half-and-half/cream and juice slowly to the powdered sugar, until the glaze reaches a consistency that you like. You may use less liquid than I did.

If you glaze the rolls immediately, they will absorb the mixture and just look shiny, so wait for them to cool a bit if you want a white, icing-like look. Enjoy!


Blogger Gattina said...

first time to your blog, wonderful!
Cinnamon rolls? I'm sold!!!

April 05, 2007 6:55 AM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

Thank you for visiting! I love your blog, too!

April 05, 2007 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well they look pretty darn delicious whatever you say. :)If you want to kick up the cinnamon flavor without adding a ton of the spice to your recipe, try adding a dash of ground ginger. It enhances the cinnamon flavor in any recipe (you'll have to experiment with how much, start at about 1/8 a teaspoon, depending on how much cinnamon you use.)

Glad the info I posted about the book was helpful! I swear, I love that book but sometimes the flour amounts drove me to distraction. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

April 05, 2007 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

Great post!

I can't believe you used to mill your own flour. That is so cool!

I'm glad that you decided to try baking with yeast again as it is so much fun. I've found some of the recipes in the book you used iffy, but I think your rolls look great. Hope you do try them again!

April 05, 2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

Ari and Ivonne, thanks for the tips. I will try some ginger next time. And I agree that the ingredient proportions are iffy- I usually have to cut back on either flour or a liquid ingredient, somewhere!

April 06, 2007 7:51 AM  

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