When I was at the grocery store with my dad on our recent Palm Springs trip, he picked up a pan of bakery cinnamon rolls. They looked so sad and pathetic that I just couldn't let him take them home, and offered to make him some myself instead!
After poking around online, I chose a recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart that I found at Annie's Eats. The recipe also happened to be an old Daring Bakers challenge and had also been made by a blogging group that's currently working through the entire Reinhart tome (Nicole at Pinch My Salt's BBA group), so there was a wealth of information and advice online about this specific recipe. It was quite a happy coincidence, and so helpful for my first time making cinnamon rolls.
These could quite possibly be the most high-maintenance thing I've ever baked, timing-wise. I chose poorly in terms of when I started. I wound up having to wait the 2 hours for the dough to ferment after everyone had gone to bed at night, then woke up at 5 am to take them out of the fridge in order to have them baked by our 9:30 am breakfast. Word to the wise: if you make these, pay attention to timing! Otherwise, everything went perfectly with the recipe itself (and each blog I looked at mentioned something similar). I highly recommend this as an excellent challenge for practiced beginning bakers like me, or as an easy treat for someone with more experience.
One last note: I used lemon extract rather than zest in the dough, and the flavor came across strongly. I happen to love lemon flavor, but if you're not a huge fan, I'd either reduce the amount or omit it entirely.
Just for fun: my dad's 2 yellow labs, Dylan and Gus, who quite enjoyed the cinnamon roll-making.
And sending the biggest hugs to my favorite (and only) baby sister/sous chef... love you Al and miss you already!
From The Bread Baker's Apprentice via Annie's Eats
Yield: 8-12 large or 12-16 smaller cinnamon rolls
For the dough:
6 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. lemon extract or 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
3 ½ cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 1/8 to 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
For the filling:
6 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
other spices to taste (ginger, cardamom, allspice, etc.)
For the white fondant glaze:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
6 tbsp. to ½ cup warm milk
1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and lemon zest/extract until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. (You may have to add a little flour or water while kneading to achieve this texture.) Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces about 1 ¾ inches thick for larger rolls or 12 to 16 pieces about 1 ¼ inches thick for smaller rolls.
4. Line one or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately ½ inch apart so they aren’t touching but are close to one another.
5. Proof at room temperature for 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pan out of the refrigerator 3-4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.
6. Preheat the oven to 350° with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
7. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the rolls in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the rolls are warm but not too hot (see instructions below). Remove the buns from the pan and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
White fondant glaze for cinnamon rolls:
1. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Add lemon or orange extract and 6 tbsp. to ½ cup warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
2. When the rolls have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops.