Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

It seems like Mormon culture dictates that a lavish breakfast be eaten during the Sunday morning session of General Conference. Some people make egg casseroles, others prepare German pancakes or french toast, but cinnamon rolls seem to be the most popular option when the time for “church in your pajamas” rolls around. Growing up I never had the standard Utah conference viewing experience because my parents interpreted the talks into Russian, so us kids were hauled downtown along with them when we were younger and left home to fend for ourselves as soon as we were old enough. This year's conference actually marked the first time that neither one of my parents had to interpret the Sunday morning session, so we celebrated this newfound normalcy by gathering the family together for some conference viewing and a breakfast of—you guessed it—cinnamon rolls.

Making homemade cinnamon rolls might sound like an unnecessary pain in the butt to some, my dear husband being among them (“why don’t you just buy the Pillsbury ones?”) but the finished product is well worth the extra effort. This is mostly because the homemade rolls taste a lot better, but also because you don’t have to worry about strange chemicals and preservatives creeping in. Plus I find the whole roll-making process, as long as you don’t feel the need to rush through it, to be very zen. There’s something soothing about rolling the dough out and feeling it under your hands as you shape it. Kind of like play-doh for adults. I’m already looking forward to making a batch on a snowy afternoon while listening to Christmas carols.

There seem to be many methods of making cinnamon rolls. Some produce a flaky, buttery roll topped with thick cream cheese frosting, while the opposite end of the spectrum yields hearty whole wheat specimens filled with raisins and nuts. The recipe listed below is my favorite take on the cinnamon roll: a soft, white yeast dough filled with plenty of cinnamon sugar and topped with a thin frosting that seeps into the warm rolls and acts like more of a glaze. Delicious.

Cinnamon Rolls (Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
Do you read the pioneer woman’s blog? If not, you should. She is delightful. And her recipes, although not really my style of everyday food, are terrific. Besides her cinnamon rolls I’ve also made her pot roast, brisket, and chocolate sheet cake. All of which are fabulous.

I’ve scaled down the quantities of PW’s recipe and changed the ingredients around a bit for the filling and frosting, but you can find her original post here. It includes beautiful step-by-step photographs of the entire process (which you should know you won’t find around these parts) so use it as a guide when making these for the first time.

The Pioneer Woman also created a “Notes on Cinnamon Rolls” post to address some questions about this popular recipe. I would recommend checking that one out as well. And now, without further ado, a yellowish, low-quality photo of one these cinnamon rolls taken with my cell phone. Enjoy:
Oh, and the recipe (yields about 2 dozen rolls):

2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Sugar
1 package Active Dry Yeast (2 ¼ tsp.)
4 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
1/2 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt

1 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
Generous Sprinkling of Cinnamon

1) Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2) When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
3) After rising for at least an hour, add 1/2 cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).
4) When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin (mine was probably about a ½ inch, maybe a little thinner), maintaining a general rectangular shape.
5) Spread about ½ cup (1 stick) softened butter over the dough. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over the butter, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. (These quantities are all approximate- just add them to your liking).
6) Roll the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
7) Cut the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and lay them in buttered pans (I’ve found a dozen rolls fit perfectly in a rectangular 9x13 pan).
8) Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
9) Bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

1 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted butter
Enough milk to achieve desired consistency (about 1/3 cup)

Mix together all ingredients and whisk until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls.

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