Saturday, 10 December 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

It was my girlfriend Charlie's birthday last week, and I foolishly committed myself to making a birthday cake of some sort. I say foolish, not only because her special day fell on a Thursday and I normally work quite late, but also because she is a brilliant baker herself and if I were to impress I was going to have to pull out all of the stops. Luckily for me, she's just started teaching and parent's evening meant that she wasn't going to be home until late so I had a few extra hours to try my hand at creating the perfect birthday treat.
I, like most men, am normally immune to subtle hints or suggestions - most of the time, if you want something doing your best bet is to tell me, tell me again, and then finally write it on a post-it-note and staple it to my forehead. In recent years, however, I have conditioned myself to be slightly more perceptive during Birthday & Christmas season and it's because of this that I remembered Charlie recently mentioning how much she liked cinnamon rolls and decided to give it a go.

My intention initially was to recreate the giant cinnamon roll that I saw on The Food Network's Outrageous Food, (I'll save writing about this show for another post...I'm completely addicted to watching it) check them out - Giant Cinnamon Rolls at Stuffy's II

Unfortunately, this proved to be more difficult than I thought, and I settled for several normal sized cinnamon rolls (they still turned out to be the size of my fist).

I've found myself kneading and rolling out a lot of pastry lately (not a euphemism), and the best tip I can offer is find yourself a very solid, sturdy flat surface with plenty of room to work with. Try to avoid wobbly, glass tables with a base that isn't entirely connected to the surface itself - it's only going to end in tears, or with chunks of dough being flung across the room in frustration. Apart from that it's really quite therapeutic....
For the pastry                        
-500g plain flour                   
-1 packet dry yeast                 
-300ml milk                              
-35g sugar                                 
-35g butter
-large pinch of salt
-1 egg
Cinnamon Filling
-dark brown sugar
-cinnamon powder
-melted butter
-125g icing sugar
-100ml whole milk
-100ml double cream
-vanilla extract
In a large bowl, mix the yeast with about 1/3 of the flour and set aside. In a saucepan, gently heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt until everything has melted down, and add to the flour mixture along with the egg. Using an electric mixer, beat ingredients together slowly at first, increasing the speed until it's all combined. If you haven't got an electric mixer, go out and buy an electric mixer, and then do as above. By hand, stir in the rest of the flour until soft, and then knead for a good ten minutes on a floured surface. Roll into a ball, stick in a greased bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour and a half.
This is the fun bit, where you can freestyle a little. I've always struggled with the precision of baking, where a tablespoon too much or too little of something can throw off the entire balance of the recipe. I'll happily follow instructions the first time I cook something, but much prefer to work ad lib when recreating a recipe on the second time around. The dough should be twice it's original size - punch it down (fun), leave for a few more minutes and then roll it flat onto a floured table.

Brush very liberally with melted butter, then scatter with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Roll up into a log and, using a thin piece of thread or, if it's the only thing available at the time, a length of dental floss (unused - this is important), cut the individual rolls by sliding the thread underneath the log, crossing on top and pulling. Obviously you can use a knife, but this method prevents the rolls from squashing. Tuck the loose end underneath, stick on an oven tray covered in greaseproof paper, brush with more melted butter and you're done. Leave to rise for another 10 minutes or so, then bake at 190C for about 25-30 minutes.
don't worry about the one top-right...he's just fine
For the glaze, just combine the wet ingredients and slowly mix into the sugar until you've got a nice syrupy consistency. Drizzle over the warm rolls and you're laughing. 
these guys tasted amazing
Cinnabon ain't got nothing on these bad boys...they tasted amazing (if slightly coronary-inducing), and were actually a lot easier to make than I had anticipated. They also keep well in the fridge, ready to be microwaved whenever you're in need of a bit of a sugar buzz.