Thursday, February 6, 2014

There is Nothing Like a Warm Cinnamon Roll...

Cinnamon Roll, ready to eat
Today I was all set to head up to my office and work on my cookbook, when I thought about the cinnamon rolls I saw Mario Batali make on The Chew. He used pizza dough to make them, and while that would probably be good, I decided to try something my own way. Starting with my own pizza dough recipe as a base, I added in some honey for a little sweetness and an egg just to enrich the dough. I also scraped a half vanilla bean into the mixture. 

Once the dough was made, I weighed it. People always seem to give dough by weight; something I had never done till now. The whole batch of dough weighed just about 2.8 pounds.  I allowed the dough only a short rise of 15 minutes, rather than wait for a full "double in bulk." In the 15 minute wait, I made the filling by mixing together 1 melted stick of butter with brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.

15 minute rise
By the time I finished making the filling and washing the utensils, the dough was ready to work with. At that point I took the dough out and divided it into two sections, rolled, filled and cut, and set the pieces into a pan for another 15 minute rest. I turned on the oven, cleaned up the counters and utensils and it was time to bake the cinnamon rolls. Oh, the heavenly smell of cinnamon rolls baking! 

While they baked, I made the icing; a very simple confectioners sugar, melted butter, a pinch of salt, vanilla and water. This icing is rather thick, but as it gets set onto hot rolls right from the oven, the heat of the rolls takes care of melting the icing very enticingly down over and into the rolls.

The whole process took just about 2 hours with the short rising times, and I always use "quick rise" or "instant" yeast, so that makes rising times far shorter than they could be. Quick rise or instant yeast is available in most every grocery these days. I buy it bulk in 1 pound bricks, because I bake all our bread and many other wonderful things, like yeast waffles or pizza. One packet of yeast is equivalent to just about 2 1/2 teaspoons of bulk yeast, in case you might want to invest. There are little jars in the grocery also. I used to buy those, and then graduated to the pound brick. I keep my yeast in the freezer. Just take it out and straight into the bread mixture. No need to wait or thaw. The other benefit with instant yeast is that it does not need to "proof". No need to put the yeast into a little warm water to wait for it to start bubbling and growing. It can be added right to the dry mixture and everything just mixed together. Love it!
Dough, smeared with cinnamon mixture

Cinnamon Rolls

1/4 cup honey
1 3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil, melted
4 cups bread flour
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 packet instant-rise yeast
1 egg

In a large bowl, or bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer, place the first 4 ingredients. Add in the flour, vanilla and yeast and begin mixing. Add the egg and continue mixing. If kneading by hand, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 - 8 minutes. In the mixer, allow to mix with the dough hook for the same amount of time. Place dough into a greased bowl and set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the Cinnamon Filling:

Rolled and cut

1 stick butter, softened
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a small bowl and combine with a spoon or hand mixer and set aside.

Divide the dough into 2 sections, and first roll one section of the dough into a large rectangle about 12 x 20 inches or so. Divide the cinnamon mixture in half and place half on the rolled piece of dough. Using a fork, smear it around. It can be difficult to smear in cold weather, but it doesn't have to be even. Roll the dough from the longer edge. Dot the far edge with a little water, to seal well. I sort of eyeballed the cutting, first dividing in half, and then into sections about 2-ish inches wide. Stand these on end in one half of a greased 13 x 9-inch pan. Repeat these steps with the second section of the dough and the cinnamon mixture, rolling, cutting and placing into the second half of the 13 x 9 pan. The two sections could also be set into two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside to rise for 15 minutes. Set the oven to preheat to 350 degrees (325 on Convection).

Rolls set in pan for 15 minutes
Make the Icing:

4 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 - 4 tablespoons water or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring vigorously to combine. The icing will be stiff, but it will melt nicely onto the hot rolls.

Bake the rolls for about 20 to 25 minutes, or, if you own an instant-read thermometer, until one of the rolls in the middle of the pan reads 180 degrees in its center. They should be golden.

Remove from the oven and have handy a large baking sheet, (if you used a 13 x 9 pan) or a round plate (if you used 9-inch round pans). Place the baking sheet or plate over top of the hot pan, grip both together with hot pads and flip the hot pan upside down onto the baking sheet or plate. Now, repeat this process, so the rolls will end up with the tops upwards onto a serving plate or tray. It seems like a lot of to-do, but it is the easiest way to have the rolls out of the pan. 
Baked with golden tops and melting icing

Set a rounded tablespoon sized blob of icing on top of each roll. The residual heat will cause the icing to melt down into and over the hot cinnamon rolls. Note in this last photo, the almost solid blob of icing on the roll in the forefront, versus the nicely melted one behind.

Now, get ready to savor these wonderful, warm, gooey, cinnamony confections.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.