This challenge had several factors that had me smiling all the way to the end of this month: bread, cinnamon, more bread, nuts, and stickiness. Definitely something to look forward to. No special equipment to purchase, no new cooking utensil I could rationalize buying when I shouldn’t spend the money, and no strange ingredients I’d have to trek to Whole Foods for (bummer). In fact, I had every single ingredient in the house. Now that is certainly my kind of recipe.
I am a lover of cinnamon rolls. Well, that’s not quite honest. I’m a lover of Cinnabons. They’ve ruined me forever and I haven’t found a cinnamon roll I’ve enjoyed since. Sticky buns? I discovered those years ago when I saw a woman at work slathering butter over one before she popped it into the microwave. The whole nutty, shiny, buttery look of it had me drooling and I’ve been in love with them since that day. But I’ve never made either, so that made the Daring Baker’s September Challenge all the more fun.
The recipe, from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, seemed fairly straight forward, so I immediately began thinking about what might do to shake things up a bit. I asked my huzbink what he thought. Big mistake.
"So honey, what do you think should go on the cinnamon rolls? I could add raisins, or dried cherries, apples…" I start, already knowing what his response will be. "Well…" he says, "I prefer them with just cinnamon. And frosting. You know. Like the kind that’s on Cinnabons," he finishes, never taking his eyes off the baseball game. "I’m not allowed to put that frosting on these," I remind him even though he knows that, and I think he’s trying to coerce me to cheat, but I don’t say this out loud or he’ll scowl at me. "What about the sticky buns," I persist, trying to get his undivided attention." "What sticky buns?" he says, turning to look at me. " I’m making those, too. I can put pecans, or walnuts," I start and he immediately cuts me off. "I don’t like walnuts," he says like this is new information and I haven’t heard it umpteengazillion times.
Fine. You certainly can’t say I haven’t been persistent over the years trying to get my beloved walnuts into a recipe instead of having to constantly substitute pecans. You get the idea, though, right? Not a whole lotta wiggle room on this challenge. So I’ll be lookin’ forward to what the rest of the Daring Bakers might create. Many heartfelt thanks to Marce at Pip in the City for her great choice and for being a great hostess! For the recipes, please look here.
I had to have some kind of a challenge, so what would that be? To finally use the Proof setting on the range I’ve had for nearly three years. The weather was more cool than usual, and the sun wasn’t out, so I decided to use the oven to make sure my dough rose properly. With that in mind, I set about my work while watching recorded shows of "What Not to Wear" which I’d seriously need the advice of after eating all the buns I was getting ready to make.
Peter Reinhart’s Cinnamon and Sticky Buns
First Off: I actually got the milk out to set at room temperature just like the recipe said. Was I off to a great start, or what? But then I got to the yeast and the whole 2 tsp. thing. This always seems to be a bit of an issue to me. I purchase it in packages of three because that’s what’s available. I even took the time to make sure I had "Rapid-Rise" yeast, although I had a bit of a start because I didn’t think it was true that "Instant" was the same as rapid-rise. But I proceeded boldly ahead, cut all three tops off the packages and poured into a little ramekin just waiting to be measured.
And Then: I creamed when I was supposed to cream. That means I used the paddle attachment for my Kitchen Aid, Big Bertha. But then it said "whip" so I switched to the whip attachment before adding the eggs and the lemon zest. I ignored the kitchen gods in my head telling me to not do this. Of course, the whip didn’t quite get to the edge of the bowl, so I had to scrape the contents from the side to incorporate it before sheepishly looking out my kitchen window to see if the neighbors were laughing at me. Not really. So, ah, the paddle attachment went back on.
But Next: It was time to add the yeast. And I have to say that I came to a screeching halt here. I can count on one finger a bread recipe I’ve made that has me adding yeast to cold ingredients. Uh. No. So I took a look at the yeast package. Even more interestingly (you’re totally enthralled, aren’t you?) the package says with this particular type of yeast, it should be mixed with the dry ingredients and liquid heated to about 130 degrees for it to work properly.
SO I FOLLOWED THE DIRECTIONS ON THE PACKAGE. I put the milk in the micro-slave to warm it up. I did. I couldn’t help it. Sorry. It just seemed wrong not to. And then I dumped it into the bowl of the mixer and continued on my merry way. Lightning did not strike me, so it must have been fine.
Uh…Except: A funny thing happened on the way to "until the dough forms a ball." Uh…it never did. So I added flour in 1/8 c. increments until a ball finally formed and I could switch to the hook attachment. It took nearly a whole cup of flour more! That’s quite a bit.
And So: I merrily continued mixing and looking carefully for the time when "the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky." Uh, I will refrain from telling you what I think that sounds like… =) And wonder of all wonders, I had to add flour in 1/16 c. increments to get it to that perfect state of dough magic. In total, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup more. My mixer Big Bertha must have been in seventh heaven, because she was slap-slapping that dough in quite the rhythmical fashion to such an extent that I couldn’t leave her unattended or she’d shimmy off onto the floor. Whoa, big girl! Who knew buns & rolls could be so sensual?
Finally: I was able to try out the proofer in my oven. I needed a pan of boiling water to maintain the moisture in the oven. I set it to "Proof" and it was to maintain and 85 degree temperature. I was to avoid opening the oven. This is a bit like telling someone not to run with scissors, you know? Especially since the steam had the window fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. But I was committed to not peek.
I thought at least an hour would be needed, so went upstairs to blog a bit at 2:43 precisely.
Uh…I guess my oven proofer setting works swell, doesn’t it?
Laughing Hysterically Horrified: I poked the dough a bit and it collapsed like a dirigible, so I grabbed it and slapped it onto the greased counter pushing it into shape. The rolling pin wasn’t necessary as the dough quickly was shaped into a good sized rectangle and sprinkled with the sugar. Again, I wondered just how things would turn out considering all the work that dough did. Would they have any substance, or just be air filled buns? *inserts fist into mouth and cringes*
Relieved: I cut 8 slices in the "cigar" with a very sharp knife being ever so meticulous to not squash it. Four would be for cinnamon rolls and four would be for sticky buns. I patted them a bit while placing them on their pan, knowing they’d be a tad on the big side. If they couldn’t be gooey, hell, then they’d be humongous.
Drooling: The caramel glaze for the sticky buns went together quickly (I used vanilla to flavor it) and it was quite the challenge to not lick my fingers. I kept looking at it and wondering if I was somehow making the frosting for the cinnamon rolls because it looked more like frosting. I must have looked back at the recipe two or three times worried that I’d committed a FUBAR. Hilarious! I crunched some walnut halves (the-huzbink-loses-too-bad-so-sad) in my fist and sprinkled them over the caramel glaze before setting the fat rolls on top in an 8" x 8" glass baking pan.
Moving Right Along: The second proofing wasn’t timed. I put the rolls back in the oven
without the heat, and left the door open a bit to keep an eye on
them. When they were gargantuan, I took them out to put in the oven to cook.
Anxiously: You really have to keep an eye on those puppies. Using a convection setting at 350 degrees F, the cinnamon rolls baked for only 10 minutes and the sticky buns for 20. This was quite a bit less time that the recipe stated. The sticky buns were so dark on top and I believe were ready to burn. Upon inspection, after turning them out of their pan, the center was of a softer consistency than the edges and I worried that it wasn’t cooked through.
Ah…satisfaction: My goodness, they’re so pretty I almost gave them names. The cinnamon rolls were very soft, bread-like in texture and not too sweet. The fondant was just the right touch with only a drizzle on top. No, it wasn’t Cinnabon frosting, but neither were the rolls gooey. The huzbink oohed over them between bites, looking fondly at them after he took another bite. So I guess they passed inspection. I did add a drizzle of melted dark chocolate to one just to give it a try. (Those of you who are hanging on my every word, please see decadent photo at the end of the post.) It was very pleasant, but the chocolate over-powered the cinnamon, which I truly enjoy. I will try these cinnamon rolls again, but experiment with the cinnamon sugar and the frosting.
And then the angels in heaven sang: The sticky buns are seriously to die for. Oh. My. Goodness. With butter on top and a hot cup of Irish Breakfast Tea with cream. Totally delicious. With walnuts and not pecans. Walnuts. (I scraped those on my huzbink’s sticky bun off onto mine…=)) Just wonderful. Even more so the next morning. The ONLY thing I’d do differently is to put MORE of the caramel glaze and nuts in the pan before baking. I would need a larger pan so the caramel wouldn’t over flow (which it did a bit) and perhaps put some foil over the buns once they’ve been in the oven and are well-browned. A girl just can’t get too much gooey-ness on her buns, can she?
Not exactly diet food, is it?
And just in case you haven’t quite had enough…a few antioxidants never hurt anyone.