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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls for Dummies

Cooking catastrophes can be difficult to deal with, especially when you busted your butt making something. And especially when you're making it for other people. And ESPECIALLY when it's been bought and paid for by your best customer. 
Some of my readers know that I sling a little bread on the side, mostly for coworkers. My most famous and frequently bought item is my cinnamon rolls. I've made them a couple dozen times or more, and they are the fluffiest most flavorful cinnamon rolls you can buy for $10 a dozen. I pride myself on making them by hand, from scratch, with real butter icing. 
I had a system. My system was flawless. Why mess with perfection?
Moral of the story:
When you make the following recipe, please use a bowl to combine the dough ingredients. Resist the urge to make a flour mound on the counter, make a well in the center, and pour liquid into it. If you do that with the ratios I give you, you will have a wet sticky ball. You will add more and more and more flour until it stops being sticky, and in your haste, you will forget to add the salt. The dough will look fine, so you'll use it unbeknownst that it tastes terrible. Your husband will tell you that it tastes fine, and you will take the rolls to work. Unconvinced, you will ask your boss to have a bite because you trust her to be honest with you. She will take a bite and make a yuck face while shaking her head and saying "". You'll have to call your best customer, (and by the sound of his voice you woke him up) and offer him either a redo or a refund. You will take your inedible shame back home. Then, you will cry while your husband puts it out as food for the neighborhood fauna. 
Don't cry while your husband puts out food for the neighborhood fauna. 

~*~*~*~ My Famous Cinnamon Rolls: A step-by-step tutorial that anyone can follow ~*~*~*~

This recipe is for 2 dozen. You can halve it for a dozen, quarter it for a half dozen, or multiply it to feed an army if you want to.  The measurements are numbered the way they are so that it's easy to memorize. For example:
This is a "4-loaf" recipe. I am using 4x the ingredients it would take to make 1 loaf of French or Italian bread: 1c flour+, 1/2c water, 1 tsp salt, 1 heaping tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp oil (optional). For cinnamon rolls, I double the sugar and use vegetable oil instead of EVOO or nothing. Otherwise, it's roughly the same recipe I use for all my yeast breads. Once you master yeast breads, your possibilities are endless. 
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour* plus more for kneading
4 tsp salt
2 cups water between 90-105 degrees
8 tsp sugar (~3 Tbsp)
4 heaping tsp active dry yeast
4 Tbsp vegetable oil (1/4 cup)

*It's not the end of the world if you don't sift but it takes like 1 minute and it makes a difference in texture.

Combine the salt with the flour in a large bowl. You want a large bowl, since this dough will grow to be very large. 

Be sure your water is the right temperature. I recommend a thermometer; if you don't have one, the ideal temperature should feel like bathwater. I add the yeast and sugar to 1c water, then add the other cup to the dough after. Stir the sugar into the water, then the yeast. No matter what you've read about 'sprinkling yeast on top of water', don't be afraid to give it a good stir. This helps to activate everything. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes; it should look like this:

Add the vegetable oil and water/yeast/sugar mix to the flour/salt mix. Stir with a rubber spatula until combined and turn out onto a floured surface: 

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 
Now, you have 5 minutes to kill! 
Why not do the dishes? You'll need your big bowl again anyway. 

Poof, I blow suds at you!

This was my mistake. I wanted to save time by not washing the giant bowl. This is why I tried to do it in a flour-well on the counter. 
Don't mess with success! 

Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Here's an old video of me kneading:
Let your dough rise in a well oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth for 1 hour.
You want a warm place; I recommend turning the oven on for 30 seconds then turning it off and letting the dough rise inside.
After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal portions. 

The filling:
The jar on the right is a mix of cinnamon and sugar, roughly 2 parts sugar 1 part cinnamon. With each quarter of dough, spread it out into an 8x12 rectangle. Rub it with a layer of Crisco so the cinnamon-sugar has something to stick to. Sprinkle on about 1/4 cup of mixture and pat it down to cover the dough evenly. 
Now roll the dough into a log and cut it into 6 slices. Repeat with the other dough quarters.
Place those slices into  9x13 baking dishes as shown.
Allow these to rise covered for an hour, or overnight in the fridge. While these rise, you can make the icing!
For the icing:
You will need 1/2 a stick of butter,  about 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, a shake of salt (this is LESS than a pinch, very little!) and  7-8 tablespoons of water, or as much as you need to get the desired consistency. 
Start with a microwave-safe dish that measures cups and holds at least 2 cups. I recommend a Pyrex glass measuring cup; every kitchen needs one! Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in 2 cups of powdered sugar to combine. Add vanilla and salt. Then, alternate adding a little water and a little more sugar, whisking with a fork until smooth, until you have 2 cups of icing. It should be thicker than gravy but thinner than pudding. 
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops start to brown. They will take longer if chilled, and times may vary depending on your oven. 
If you add the icing right away, it will soak in nicely but visually it might not look good. If you want picture pretty rolls, let them cool for 5 or 10 minutes before icing them. If the icing has been in the fridge, microwave it for 30 seconds or so and stir.


Thanks for reading. Remember, our journey is the sum of our experiences.
 :) xo