Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

There's really nothing like fresh cinnamon rolls and a yuletide log with dozens of family members gathered round the pine tree sipping hot tea and exchanging memories peacefully.

Wait, that's not how Christmas works at everyone's house? Sorry, I must have gotten mixed up.

We had a nice small Christmas, just my immediate family. It didn't really start until 11 or so, when my sleepyhead brother woke up, but luckily that gave time for the cinnamon rolls to proof (that's when they do their last rise before being baked, and I used a pan of boiling water in the oven to make a nice sauna for the rolls).

People always say that working with yeast is not as hard as you think it is. 

They're right. They told me so. You could let them tell you so, too, because it's worth the results.

It's just a lot of waiting. I guess when people wait, they worry, so it gives yeast a bad reputation.

Make some cream cheese frosting while you wait/worry. This stuff is seriously good.

Cinnamon Rolls
From Baking Illustrated (THE authority on's awesome)

1/2 cup milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup warm water (~110 degrees)
1 envelope (2 1/4 tablespoons) instant/rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4-4 1/4 cups (20-21 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  1. Heat butter and milk in a saucepan or the microwave until butter melts. Remove and set aside to cool to lukewarm (~100 degrees).
  2. In a standing mixer, use the paddle to mix together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed. I would suggest pre-"scrambling" the eggs in a bowl before adding them because low speed can't really do that for you.
  3. Add the salt, warm milk mixture and 2 cups of the flour and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.
  4. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of flour, and knead at medium speed (adding up to 1/4 cup more flour if necessary, a tablespoon at a time) until the dough is smooth and freely clears the sides of the bowl, ~10 minutes. Hang on to your mixer...mine nearly ran itself off the counter!
  5. Scrape the dough onto a well floured surface, form into a round, place in a lightly oiled large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise until doubled in bulk for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Frosting (make while you wait for the dough to rise for the first time if you're making everything in one day)
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons cream (I used milk because we didn't have cream and it still worked just fine)
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
  1. Mix it all together in the mixer on low (so you don't inhale too much powdered sugar), gradually increasing to high so it becomes creamy and smooth.
  2. It's okay to have a spoonful. There will be plenty for the rolls :)
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Once dough has doubled, punch it down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll to a 16 by 12 inch rectangle (approximately).
  2. Mix together the filling ingredients and sprinkle all over the rectangle, leaving a half inch margin at the far end to seal the log.
  3. Roll the dough, starting near you, tightly and gently. When you get to the top, moisten the margin with water and pinch it to seal the roll. Fiddle with the ends to try to straighten them out if you like.
  4. Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking dish (I like butter best). Using unflavored dental floss or other plasticky thin string (or a sharp knife), cut the roll into 12 equal pieces: first in half, then each half in half again, then each piece in thirds. 
  5. Arrange in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until doubled in size.

     5.  Arrange in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (these will rise in the 


     5.  Arrange in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze. When you want to bake them, let them thaw 
          and then do rise.

To speed the rise, you can put the pan in the oven with a pan of boiling water and close the door, creating a proofing box. Keep an eye on the rolls, they'll be done in ~45 minutes (this is what I did after freezing for a day).

     6.  To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they register 
          185 to 188 degrees. Remove to a cooling rack, let cool for 10 minutes, frost and serve!


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