Thursday, December 12, 2013

cinnamon rolls

It's extremely cold out here in St. Louis.  Yesterday, the overnight low was 7 degrees F.  Mercifully, my last final of the semester was last night, so I didn't venture outside (except to walk Scout).  There is something about the combination of cold weather and a lack of sunshine that causes a depression that must be tempered with sweet baked goods. 

I have been on a baking-kick lately -- mostly breads, but somehow those fail to hit-the-spot on a cold day the way something with a delicious icing on-top does (speaking of which, Gina made some delicious banana scones with a browned butter glaze the other day that were fantastic).  I wanted to make something that was both easy and delicious, and this cinnamon roll recipe that I found from KAF satisfied both criteria.  Don't be scared away by the fact that it includes instant mashed potato flakes; the starch from the potatoes holds water that keeps the rolls from going stale after a day, which is perfect because it allows you to heat up a couple of these each morning from breakfast for a few days in a row.  I hope that you'll try them.  Enjoy!

Notes About Baking:

  • Below is a shot of the rolls prior to baking.  Although they smoosh together during the second rise as well as during baking, they come apart cleanly and easily.  We used double the filling before rolling them up, which I think gives a better dough:filling ratio than the amount the original recipe calls for.  If you use the indicated amount, it won't even cover the entire rolled-out dough when rolled to the appropriate size.  Gina is famous for doubling the sauce, or, in this case, the filling.

  • Don't be afraid to let the rolls bake long enough to get a gold color on the top.  I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to make the Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls and would take them out of the oven when they were still a bit doughy so that they practically melted in your mouth.  However, you really want to bake them long enough so that they develop a light flakiness throughout and keep their shape.

  • If you frost them while still hot, you don't need to worry too much about the frosting being even. It will just spread out in a very even glaze on its own.

Stay warm and enjoy some cinnamon rolls with a hot coffee!

Adapted from King Arthur Four's classic cinnamon rolls recipe.  We include both mass and volume measurements.  I prefer to bake using mass (I am a chemistry nerd), partly because it's hard to measure out a "cup" of flour the same way every time, but also because you don't generate any extra dishes when you use one big bowl on the scale!


1 packet active-dry or instant yeast (2.5 teaspoons)
198-255g (7/8 - 1 1/8 cup) lukewarm water (if you make this in cold/dry months, you'll need to use the larger amount)
361g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
85g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter (softened)
35g (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
18g (1/4 cup) nonfat dry milk
43g (1/2 cup) instant mashed potato flakes

(Note: I doubled the amount of filling when I made this)
50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons milk (for brushing on dough before adding filling)

(You can use whatever type of glaze you want; we've also used a cream-cheese icing glaze and it's delicious)
142g (1 1/4 cup) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (you made your own, right?)
57-71g (4-5 tablespoons) heavy cream (use just enough to get a smooth consistency to the glaze; you don't need it to be too runny, it'll melt when you put it on the rolls)

  1. If using active-dry, proof the yeast first (although I have found even when using active-dry, as long as the yeast isn't expired, proofing it first isn't strictly necessary) by dissolving the yeast in the lukewarm water along with a teaspoon or two of sugar.  Allow to sit for 5 mins or so until bubbly.  If using instant, you can skip this step.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients together with the water and proofed yeast (if using instant yeast, mix all of the dry ingredients together first and then add the water).  Mix together by hand or in a mixer until the dough is a smooth consistency and then knead until the dough is springy to the touch with a lightly floured finger. 
  3. Once kneaded, make a smooth ball with the dough and place in a greased bowl.  Cover to rise until it has doubled in size (should take 1-2 hours, depending on how warm the room is, but the doubling in size is the important part). 
  4. During the rise, grease two 9" cake pans.  Once the dough has doubled, roll out to a 16" x 12" rectangle (precision isn't super important; you will cut off the ends to make it prettier, anyway)
  5. Make the filling by whisking together the dry ingredients.  Brush the milk onto the dough before spreading out the filling onto the dough. (note: why not use melted butter for this step?  If you use butter, the rolls won't hold together after baking and will tend to unfurl on their own.  Milk works better).  Rub the filling around the dough a bit to get a nice, even covering.
  6. Roll the dough/filling into a reasonably tight roll the long ways (the way that will give you the longest log of rolls at the end).  Cut off a sliver at the end of each side of the roll to give you an even edge.  Cut into equally-sized 16 slices.  (I suggest dividing in half and then each half in half again, etc. to make them all the same size rather than eyeballing it starting from one end of the roll).
  7. Place 8 rolls in each cake pan as pictured above.  Cover the rolls and let them rise again until they are big and puffy (about another 1-2 hours). 
  8. Towards the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 375*F.
  9. Bake those bad boys in the oven for about 20 mins, or until they start to get golden brown at the center of the swirls.
  10. While they are baking, make the glaze.  (Normally, it says not to make the glaze at this point unless you plan to serve them immediately, but I think it's best to glaze them right away even if you aren't eating them immediately).
  11. Once finished baking, take rolls out and glaze.  I kept them in the pan for this part to minimize mess, but you can take them out and let them cool on a baking rack, if you'd like.
  12. Wait until cool enough to not burn your mouth, then enjoy!

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