Cinnamon Rolls

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream with some cinnamon rolls. In the dream, I baked a batch of rolls that iced themselves. Like, they came out of the oven with a layer of creamy, and melty cream cheese icing. I woke up determined to make something like that, and finally got to it yesterday. These aren’t self icing cinnamon rolls but they are extremely delicious!

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This was my second attempt at making cinnamon rolls and the process went so smoothly. My first attempt, with a different recipe, was a sticky mess. The filling was supposed to be mixed with margarine; which made the filling/rolling very messy, the dough was ridiculously sticky, and the rolls unrolled before they even made it to the pan. Since this experience, and my dream, I set out to try again.

The recipe, from the lovely Lynna at Hearts in My Oven, is a simple but lengthy project. These rolls require two rises, one after making the dough, and the other after the rolls have been formed. Each rise is for two hours. I know, such a long wait! Trust me, it is definitely worth it.

The dough is simple and comes together quickly, even faster if you’re armed with a stand mixer. I am not, so I kneaded this dough by hand. I have to say, this is one of the parts I am most proud of. When I usually make any yeasted dough, I give in and add more flour while kneading to get to the desired result faster. This always ends up backfiring on me because there’s a reason why yeasted dough recipes call for a certain amount and only that amount of flour. Kneading helps develop the gluten that make bread deliciously airy and fluffy. Adding more flour while kneading can lead to a tough end result. Believe me, I know. While I was tempted to add more flour, I restrained and kept kneading. I kept going and going, until the dough became a smooth, lump free, unsticky mass. It happened right before my eyes!

After resting for two hours, it was time to roll out. At this point, I was kind of nervous. I kept remembering the sticky mess I had the last time I attempted something like this, but I knew this time was different. I laid out my dough and begin to roll. For the first time ever, the dough rolled out with zero stickiness and cooperated with me! So much so, I rolled it out a lot bigger than what the recipe called for!

After laying out the cinnamon sugar filling, it was time for the next nerve wracking part: rolling. This was where things usually got messy but it came together pretty cleanly! Now, I was just internally screaming with excitement. To cut the rolls, you need unflavored floss. I was a little skeptical at first but this is key to this recipe. Sliding the floss under the roll, you cross and yank the floss at the top to cut out a roll. This method results in a clean cut that does not smush your rolls into oblivion, and keeps the sugar filling in place.

Now, the original recipe yielded a dozen. I got 20. I rolled out the dough into a bigger rectangle, which resulted in more rolls. No matter how big you roll this dough, the result is a very fluffy, lightly sweetened roll with a huge punch of cinnamon flavor. I used Martha Stewart’s classic cream cheese frosting to ice a few of these, which really set it over the top. The tangy sweetness of the frosting hits the airy cinnamon roll just right. Make these rolls for this long weekend, I swear you won’t regret it!

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Cinnamon Rolls – Adapted from Hearts in My Oven

Makes about 12 rolls (more if you roll you dough into a larger rectangle)

Dough:

  • ½ cup of milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup of warm water (110°F)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons (one packet) Active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 ¼ cup of all purpose flour , divided

Filling:

  • ¾ cup of brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoonof  ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast: sprinkle the packet of yeast over the half cup of warm water and set aside for 10 minutes, or until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until the butter is completed melted. Remove from heat and let the it cool down until about 100°F.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, egg yolk until combined. Alternatively, you can use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. Next, add the salt, milk mixture, and 2 cups of flour into the mixture until blended.
  5. Switch to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and add 2 cups of flour. Knead by hand until its smooth and not sticking to the sides of the bowl anymore, for about 15-20 minutes. Switch to your dough hook at this step, if using a stand mixer.
  6. In a large metal bowl, lightly oil bottom and sides of the bowl. Make the dough into a ball and transfer to bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a draft-free spot (such as your unheated oven), until dough doubles (90-120 minutes).
  7. While the dough rests, make the filling. In a medium sized bowl, mix the lightly packed brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  8. When the dough is doubled, lightly flour a clean work surface.  Transfer dough and press it down. Roll the dough into a 16x12inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin, with the long side of the rectangle facing you.
  9. Lightly brush the dough with melted butter. Evenly sprinkle the filling on top and pat down gently into the dough with the palm of your hand.
  10. Starting from the long side closest to you, roll towards the opposite end as tightly as you can. Use either a little bit of water or melted butter to seal the ends. Pinch edges to seal.
  11. Line the bottom of a 13x9inch baking pan with parchment paper. Using a unflavored string of floss, cut the rolls into 12 equal pieces. (Slide the floss under the roll and wrap it around the roll to cut/slice.)
  12. Place rolls, cut side up in baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set it in a draft-free spot, until dough doubles in size (90-120 minutes).
  13. Once rolls are doubled in size, preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden brown.
  14. Let rolls sit in pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool down. Spread cream cheese icing on top after cinnamon rolls have cooled for at least 15 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 2 cups

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place your softened cream cheese and butter into a medium mixing bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add in your sifted confectioners’ sugar in stages, to avoid lumps, until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, and stir to combine.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I made about half of the frosting recipe, as I did not frost all of the rolls.
  • The ends of the rolls may not have any sugar filling. You can discard these or bake them anyway.  Make sure the filling is spread out completely before rolling to avoid empty end rolls. 
  • Store your cooled rolls in an airtight container. For the frosted rolls, I recommend you stick them in the fridge because of the cream cheese in the frosting (it can possibly go bad if left outside). They taste awesome microwaved for about 30s on high the next day!
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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.

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I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.

One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.

My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.

Bread's ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Bread’s ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.

The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
  • Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
  • Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast. 
  • If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

August is coming to an end, and it’s already feeling like fall. Besides associating the fall with anything and everything pumpkin, fall to me means quality carbs. I’m talking bread, cookies, pies, muffins, scones and anything in between. I mean, how can you not associate fall with carbs? It is the beginning of the baking season; starting with Halloween. Besides it marking the beginning of the holidays, the fall also brings a welcome chill into the air that can be easily remedied with a warm, baked treat. Naturally, humans tend to bulk up a bit for the coming cold season and anything carby and baked is obviously the right answer.

Bread!

I started baking bread two years ago. At the request of my mom, I baked dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I looked for recipes that seemed easy enough for me to do in an afternoon and that did not require a mixer. I did find recipe gems that required a mixer but I attempted them anyway, even without the luxury and ease of one. While I am still pining for a 5-quart tilt head KitchenAid (in either Cobalt Blue or  Silver Metallic) with all the accoutrements, I brave these recipes and complete them by hand.

Bread dough is a finicky thing; more so if you’re a beginner, are sans mixer, and still don’t know what you’re doing. The most difficult step for me is the kneading. Besides not having any counter space (at all) to actually roll out and knead dough, my dough always comes out stickier than required. I know that with a little more kneading, the dough will stop feeling tacky but I find it hard to do so with a hand covered in dough whilst kneading in the bowl. I have to say, despite the challenge, I have learned how to knead dough in a bowl and figure out when it’s ready to rest and rise.

Even though dealing with dough can be problematic, I love making bread. My favorite part is blooming (proofing?) the yeast. It’s amazing to see this little envelope of powder come to life in a dramatically foamy and aromatic way. I love how these little foamy bubbles become bread. This is one of the things that keeps me going back to making bread every time, despite many failed attempts (most recently, two). The other is obviously the delicious results 😉

Risen and buttered rolls ready for the oven

Risen and buttered rolls ready for the oven

This recipe is usually my go to. It’s easy for beginners with or without a mixer and is easily adaptable. I have tweaked it many times, each with deliciously fluffy and sweet results. It’s great with a little softened butter, or by itself, straight out of the oven. There’s nothing like the warmth of freshly baked bread to welcome the incoming fall (and baking!) season.

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Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls – adapted from Allrecipes.com

Makes 16 dinner rolls

  • 1/2 cup warm water (110F/45C)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  1. Dissolve yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water with 1 tbsp of the measured sugar. Proof for 10 minutes
  2. Place milk, 1/3 cup of butter, the rest of the sugar and the salt in a medium saucepan. Cook on low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Set aside
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Then, add the warm milk mixture and the proofed yeast
  5. Add in the flour mixture to the wet mix a little bit at a time, until fully incorporated.
  6. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is no longer sticky.
  7. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.
  8. Punch dough down and portion into 16 rolls. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Cover and let rise for 1 more hour.
  9. Preheat your oven to 375F. Brush dough balls with melted butter and bake your rolls for 10-12 minutes.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • The original recipe calls for only all-purpose flour and only 1/4 cup of sugar. Feel free to use either amounts of sugar, or types of flour. 
  • I weighed my dough prior to portioning, to ensure even rolls. You don’t have to but if you’re a stickler for accuracy like I am, you totally can. 
  • Make sure your water is not too hot! Water above 110F/45C can kill the yeast. Test the water by touching it, making sure it’s only a little warmer than body temperature. Or use your thermometer, if you have one. 
  • These rolls can easily be frozen. Flash freeze your rolls on the baking sheet after forming them. Thaw and let rise an hour before baking. 
  • The original recipe also calls for heating up your oven to 400F. I advise against this because it has led me to burnt bottoms and pale tops. Check the temperature of your oven to make sure it doesn’t run as hot, and keep an eye on your rolls!
  • If they still have pale tops, put them under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.