As you may have noticed, I fell off the blogging bandwagon in November and December, and as such, I missed What’s Baking? challenges 2 & 3. But I’m back, baby, and I embraced this month’s challenge – “try something new for the New Year“, hosted by Beantown Baker.
I consider myself fairly skilled in the kitchen. I cook relatively often, I’ve baked quite a few tasty desserts, I have a pretty good handle on techniques and ingredients. But I have a long-standing fear of anything involving yeast. I know it’s silly, bordering on ridiculous, but having to use warm water and let the yeast bubble and letting things proof and rise and kneading them and oh, it just seemed like so much work that I was bound to screw up. So I’ve steered clear.
But today, the deadline for this month’s What’s Baking? posts, was a snow day. I was home, and in between taking care of work emails, wrangling Mia into a much-needed mid-day bath, and cuddling with kitties, I decided to finally try my hand at a recipe involving yeast, and what better to start with than Pioneer Woman’s famous Cinnamon Rolls?
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I had to do the scalding of the milk part twice, because the first time I believe I over-heated it and it ended up looking curdled. I couldn’t be certain that it was wrong but I knew it didn’t look right, so down the drain it went.
I also had to tweak things as I went. Don’t misunderstand – it’s not difficult, but it took a little kitchen intuition to know when things needed adjusting. I’ve tried to include very clear notes below in the hopes of helping anyone else still struggling with a fear of yeast. I promise you, the fear isn’t worth it – but the minimal effort of this recipe? Oh, it so, so is!
These cinnamon rolls were so delicious that my husband ate two of them. That doesn’t sound impressive, but my husband isn’t a cinnamon roll fan (He doesn’t like mac & cheese either. I KNOW! I’m shocked I’m married to him, too.), but after his first bite he said “mmm, these ARE good!” and urged me to sell the recipe to Cinnabon.
Don’t let the multitude of notes scare you. These were wicked easy and I’m kicking myself for putting them off for so long. Though, for the sake of my rear-end, it’s probably a good thing I’ve waited this long. I urge you to make them, and make them ASAP. They’re amazing.
Note: The link above is to PW’s original recipe, which makes a ginormous batch of cinnamon rolls. I’ve quartered her recipe for 12 rolls and my measurements and notes are reflected below. I changed up the sugar used in the filling and the kind of frosting used as well.
1 cup Milk (Whole Milk recommended but I used 2% with no ill-effects)
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
¼ cup Granulated Sugar
½ package Active Dry Yeast (1 ¼ teaspoons)
2 Cups (plus approximately ½-1 Cup extra, separated) All-purpose Flour
¼ teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
¾ teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Melted Butter
1 Cup Brown Sugar
Generous Sprinkling of Cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons Butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract, to taste
¼ Cup Confectioners’ Sugar
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 30-45 minutes (use your best judgment – my house was chilly, so I used a smaller time frame window than PW recommended).
Note: This is where I hit my first bump. The first time I did this, I believe I over-heated the mixture, as the milk looked curdled. I went to PW’s original post and skimmed through her photos, and though there wasn’t a clear photo of the scalded milk, what I could make out didn’t look like mine, so I tried again.
When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in the Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute so that the yeast can get happy. Then add 2 cups of all-purpose flour and stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
Note: I did not see any rising in my first hour. Much love to my “Yeast Experts” on Facebook who urged me to move my dough to a warmer location. Again, it was chilly in my house this afternoon (did I mention that it was a snow day?) and the environment wasn’t warm enough for my dough to do its rising. We had frozen pizzas for dinner (no judging – I HAD CINNAMON ROLLS WORKING!) and the oven was on, so I moved my pot of dough over to the stovetop and then I started to see some action. I gave it another hour and my dough doubled in size as anticipated. So, the moral – if it doesn’t double, don’t give up! Try a warmer location, even an oven that’s been heated up to a low 150* and then turned off.
After rising, add ½ cup more of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together.
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape.
Note: This is where I had to use some intuition. The dough was very, very sticky and turning it out onto my counter top was almost disastrous. I used all of the flour I’d sprinkled on the counter as well as another ¼ cup or so. I wish I could give an exact amount, but it was just a matter of going with my gut until the dough seemed to be smooth rather than sticky and was feasible to work with. When it’s too sticky to roll into a rectangle, even with a dusting of flour, it needs to be adjusted. Don’t get frustrated and don’t give up – just keep sprinkling a little more flour and kneading it in until it’s pliable-but-silky.
Drizzle 6 Tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and top with 1 cup of brown sugar (not packed) and a healthy dose of cinnamon.
Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you, keeping the roll tight as you go. I kept a knife on hand for when I hit sticky spots and needed to separate the dough from the counter top. Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
Spread 2 Tablespoons of melted butter in a 9×13-inch pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans. Mine were very loosey-goosey and looked pitiful. If yours resemble blobs, just keep truckin’ – they’ll taste good, I promise!
Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.
For the frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla, incorporate, then add powdered sugar. Spread on rolls when still hot and allow them to sit so that the frosting can get soft and gooey. I stuck my pan back into the turned-off oven to encourage the melty-goodness.