Cinnamon Rolls, ready-to-eat

Cinnamon Rolls!

One of the things that happens around the holidays is that you have a lot of things to do and places to go, and not much time to get ready or do prep work.  One thing that I’ve found makes a great hostess gift for brunch, or to have on hand for guests, are these lovely and easy-to-make cinnamon rolls.

The thing that makes these easier than usual is the use of the dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day – if you already have a batch in your fridge, throwing together these rolls is easy-peasy.  If you don’t, why not?  You can make these, and then make a batch of dinner rolls, then have a loaf of bread, or make some pizza… it’s really flexible.

I used the basic boule recipe for this – it’s not a sweet dough, but it works just fine once you’ve added a bunch of brown sugar and pecans and butter 🙂

Cinnamon Rolls

1 lb prepared dough from Artisan Bread Dough (a yeasted, proofed dough)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 TB cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans

As part of the preparation of the bread dough, it will have had the first rise.  Take a one-pound chunk of dough, either just after the first rise or from the fridge, and punch down the dough and roll out into a rectangle approx 15″ x 10″.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Spread approx half of this mixture onto the rectangle of dough, leaving a half-inch margin clear. Starting at the long edge, roll the dough (jelly roll style) into a cylinder, sealing the edge.

Meanwhile, put the other half of the butter mixture into a 9″ cake pan, and sprinkle the cup of pecans over it.

Slice the dough log into 2-inch rolls, placing them into the cake pan on top of the butter/pecan layer.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, moist place until puffy and near-doubled, about 20 minutes if the dough is fresh, and 45 minutes if from the refrigerator.

Bake in a 350F oven uncovered until tops are brown, approximately 35 minutes.  Immediately turn over onto a serving plate while the caramel is still hot, serve when you can stand the temperature.

You can also put together the rolls the day before, and stick into the fridge overnight – pull them out first thing in the morning and an hour later, they’ll be ready to bake.

The one thing every good baker needs to have in his/her repertoire is a no-fail recipe for cinnamon rolls, right? But I’ve never really had one – I love them, but a little too much, if you know what I mean. Best to avoid the temptation of an entire pan of cinnamon rolls altogether by just not making them at home. Also, I lived in Chicago for a number of years, and with Ann Sather right around the corner, with its World-Famous Cinnamon Rolls, there was really just no point to making them.

I’ve accumulated various recipes, over the years – I have a recipe that I was assured (by the pastry chef at one of the major downtown hotels in Chicago) was identical to the one Sathers uses (there’s also one here that claims to be official). I probably should have started with that one, but What Geeks Eat’s Brioche Cinnamon Rolls came up onto the screen, and I couldn’t help myself.

I don’t often make yeasted doughs, for a few reasons. One, I only (currently) have a smaller Kitchenaid mixer (the 4.5Qt), and it really doesn’t like doing bread dough. It complains. It hops. It heats up. It packs its bags and starts to head for the door when it sees one coming. I love my Kitchenaid (don’t tell it that I’m planning to acquire a second, larger one, shhh), it’s been a faithful companion to me for over 15 years now and I plan to have it for another 15, so I try to avoid making things that tax it too much. The RSIs mean that I can’t knead dough by hand, so that’s also an automatic limiter on any type of yeasted dough.

Second, the only time I’ve ever had good success making yeast doughs that raised well was when I was taking the breads class at the community college. I don’t know if it was the incredibly fresh yeast, or the proper temperature space in which it could rise… I just know that it’s never that easy at home. Even with fresh yeast bought from the grocery store (as opposed to dried), I have trouble. This time it was finding a warm place for the dough to rise. All summer, it’s been nicely hot and humid, perfect dough weather. But do I make these in the summer? No! I crave warm, yeasty breads in the fall and winter, when my house rarely rises above 65F and the humidity isn’t much to speak of.

This time was no exception. We’ve had a nice cool snap, and the house was around 68F or so. I made the dough and put it in the fridge to rest overnight; took it out in the morning and let it warm up for an hour, then rolled it out and formed the rolls. So far, so good:

Raw Cinnamon Rolls

Raw Cinnamon Rolls

Then, waiting for them to rise. “Wait until doubled in bulk”. Right. Half an hour later – no action. I have an electric oven (I know, I know, I hate it too), so that’s not really useful. Maybe if I put the oven on 200F and crack the door, and put the rolls on the stove above it… An hour later, still little action. Completely opened the door of the oven and sat the sheets of rolls onto it, turning them regularly so that the butter wouldn’t melt, and eventually they started to puff a bit, which would have to do, as I have other things to do than to babysit stupid cinnamon rolls.

Baked them up (oops, overbaked the first batch), slathered them in glaze, and…

Finished Cinnamon Rolls

Finished Cinnamon Rolls

Well, I can say that I’d do some things differently next time. First of all, smush them all in a pan together rather than separating them out. I like soft edges on my rolls, and these all had pretty firm walls. The dough was light enough inside, but the texture was still just not what I am going for in a cinnamon roll. It was more bread-y than anything else, and I like them softer and richer than that. I’d use nuts (probably pecans) inside. I’d wait to glaze them until they’d completely cooled.

So, not there yet. But at least I didn’t eat the entire pan…