Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mom's Cinnamon Rolls Made Easier

This recipe is based mainly off of my mom's old Betty Crocker recipe (from the old book published in the late 50's early 60's) with some help from more current recipes. I am no pro at using yeast and this recipe takes any fear of messing up the yeast completely away.

My first run through of the recipe I over-baked them and they were definitely too dry. My go to fix whenever I dry out a recipe is to use buttermilk in place of milk. I've found with time that the swapping out buttermilk doesn't necessarily overpower the original recipe – when used correctly.

These were a big hit at the diner we frequent, so much so even another customer was given one and couldn't get enough.

I am not a great photographer, but this is what they look like before they are iced. If I grab more pictures of the next batch, I'll put them up.

It's not as time-consuming as you might think to make these up. A big chunk of time is waiting for the dough to rise. The first rise takes about 1½ hours, the second rise takes 30 minutes, add in the time for kneading the dough, rolling and cutting the dough and you've got about 20-30 minutes of prep time.

Groceries Needed

For dough:
  • 3-4 cups of all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp. (2 packages) regular active or fast acting dry yeast
  • 1 cup very warm milk or buttermilk (120°F to 130°F) – see note below about milk
  • ¼ cup butter softened
  • 1 egg
  • Unwaxed and unflavored dental floss (for cutting, waxed and unflavored will do in a pinch)
For filling
  • 1/4-1/2 sugar or packed brown sugar – dark or light brown sugar works
  • 1 tblsp. cinnamon (I use about 3 tblsp.)
  • 2 tblsp. softened butter
For glaze
  • 4 tblsp. softened butter or cream cheese (or 2 of each)
  • 1 ½ cups powered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 tblsps. milk (use regular milk for this)
Tips & Tricks
  1. Put 4 cups of flour in a bowl and “fluff” it using a fork or whisk, making sure there's no lumps. Homemade bread using yeast is the only time I bother to “fluff” flour. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off.
  2. If using regular milk instead of buttermilk, use 2% or whole milk. Don't go any lower than 2% fat, the dough needs the milk fat to work properly.
  3. Solid coconut oil can be swapped out for the butter, the fats are a good match for a substitution.
  4. Wash your hands and thoroughly dry them before starting on the dough, any additional moisture can throw the yeast out of whack.
  5. You'll need a warm spot for the dough to rise in. Winters in Michigan can make everything cold, so I usually set my oven to the Warm setting and let it go while I make the dough. Turn it off once it's done with preheating. If you don't have a “pre-heat” setting, let it go for about 5 minutes and then turn it off.

How I make the dough:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, put in 2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Lightly mix these together, no need for the mixer yet, a fork will do, just try to even the mix up a bit.
  3. Before turning the mixer on, add the warm milk, butter and egg.
  4. Now it's time for the mixer, mix everything on low speed for 1 minute, scraping the bowl frequently. It should be fairly well mixed.
  5. Bump the speed up to medium and beat for 1 minute, scraping the bowl frequently.
  6. Turn off the mixer.
  7. Add in ½ cup of flour at a time and stir in by hand using a sturdy spoon or silicone spatula. You want to add just enough to make the dough easy to handle, it will be sticky. I typically end up with 3 cups of flour total in the bowl. The rest will be kneaded into the dough.
  8. Grab a good sized board or clean counter surface and lightly sprinkle flour across it. I have a very large cookie sheet (16”x18”) that I use for this. It has a lip that I can drop down the edge of my counter to make it stay in place.
  9. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.
  10. Gather the dough together in a rough ball, it may be sticky, you can lightly dust the top of the dough if it's really sticky.
  11. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, add more flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and springy. If you're not sure, you can put a bit of flour on a finger and lightly push into the dough, if the dough bounces back quickly you're done. If you're unfamiliar with kneading there are lots of videos on line with much better lighting and camera work than I can provide. Keep track of how much flour you've used, too much will make the dough tougher and dryer.
  12. Take another bowl (I use large Pyrex bowls for this part). Grease the sides of the bowl with softened butter. Put the dough in the greased bowl, turning it to grease all sides of the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean cotton towel. Let it rise in a warm spot (for me this is the pre-warmed oven).
  13. Let the dough rise for about 1½ hours.
  14. While the dough is rising, make the filling, mixing your pick of sugar (or you can use ½ regular sugar and ½ brown sugar for a sweeter kick) and cinnamon in small bowl with a fork or whisk. Begin softening 2 tablespoons of butter as well.
  15. The first time through you might want to check the dough at 80 minutes in. The dough should double in size. It's ready when you poke the dough (clean fingers please!) and the indentation stays.
  16. When the dough is done rising, deflate it by gently pushing down on the center of the dough with your fist.
  17. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (again I use my cookie sheet). Gently shape with your hands or a rolling pin into a 15”x10” rectangle. I usually start with the rolling pin and finish with my hands since my rolling pin is too narrow. If you like a thinner dough (more like Cinnabon rolls), roll the dough into a larger rectangle.
  18. Spread the softened butter across the entire rectangle, as close to the edges as possible.
  19. Sprinkle the filling across the rectangle, using your hands so spread it to cover all of the butter.
  20. Starting with the long end, roll the dough up tightly, tucking the ends of the dough into the roll. Pinching the dough works too, but I tend to tuck mine and pat the ends of the roll until they're flatted up. Think of a paper towel roll and you'll get the general idea of what it ends up looking like.
  21. The last edge should be under the roll for ease of cutting. Use your hands or fingers to continue shaping the roll until it's fairly even. Again, this doesn't have to be perfect and there are pletny of examples on line.
  22. Using about 12” of dental/ floss or a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 1” or larger slices. I like to cut mine about 1½” to 2” thick.
  23. Grease (with butter) and flour or use baking spray a 13”x10” pan. Other sized pans will work as well, so don't worry if you don't have an “exact” fit. Even an edged cookie sheet will fit the bill if that's all you have.
  24. Place the slices in the pan, leaving space in between, cover with plastic or a towl and place in a warm place to rise a second time. I typically turn my oven to warm while I roll and cut the dough, turning it off again before placing the rolls in the pan and use that as my warm place.
  25. The second rising takes about 30 minutes with the dough roughly doubling in size.
  26. After the second rising, pre-heat the over to 350° for metal pans, 325° for glass or aluminum foil pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. This will vary greatly depending on your oven and your pans. Mine take 32 minutes at 325° in the Pyrex pan.
  27. Remove the rolls to a cooling rack and cool for about 10 minutes. Drizzle glaze across the top if desired.

To make Glaze
  1. Throw the powered sugar, vanilla, butter and/or cream cheese in a bowl. 
  2. Mix together on medium speed, adding milk until it reaches the right consistency. 
  3. It should be significantly thinner than cake frosting. Mine tends to be a bit thicker than most glazes, but can still be drizzled using a spoon.
  4. Once it's at the right consistency, kick the mixer speed up to high or whip and mix for about 1 minute.

To reheat: microwave for about 15 seconds, or pop back in the oven for a few minutes on the warm setting.

How Mary Kneads

My great-grandmother taught me to knead bread and our mom let us help knead when we were little too. So here's how I do it.

Starting with the palms of my hands, I rock forward on the dough. If it's too sticky, I sprinkle more dough on top before picking up the dough and turning it. If the dough is sticking to the surface, I sprinkle more flour on the surface. I'm not super gentle with the dough, and I form it into a ball often. When I think I'm close, I'll pick the dough ball up and drop it on the floured surface. It should retain it's shape, if it doesn't I keep going.

Oftentimes I get my fingers more involved than other baker's suggest, but it all seems to work for me. I remember Dearie picking up her dough from time to time and simply working the ball in her hands, this was usually when the dough was still sticky. Dearie never measured, she just tossed stuff in and added more as needed. A true artist with bread!

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