Or as I like to call them, sinnamon rolls. Because despite their innocent pudgy appearance, they will drag you to hell and make you think you’re happy to be there.
To be honest, I’ve never really gotten the knack of making any kind of bread. You could call it a love-hate relationship; I always get so excited baking bread but it never turns out as good as it smells in the oven. Most of the time the product is dry, dense and hard no matter how many times I try. I think it mostly has to do with lack of patience, and time is the most important ingredient in most of bread-making.
Two posts ago I talked about how much I missed having cinnamon rolls – the shopbought tooth-achingly sweet kind, because even those are better than the miserable homemade ones I turn out.
Not this time. I can officially say with confidence that this is my first time making cinnamon rolls or any kind of yeasted bread that I’ve nailed, if I say so myself. We had them for breakfast this morning, and my family, bless them, probably dreaded that they would be tough and hard to chew just like the other times. They were pleasantly surprised at how soft, fluffy and flavourful these were, ‘much better than the Ikea ones’. Excuse me while I have a moment. I finally did it. The precautions I took worked. My sister, who is my best relentless critic, could not stop at one and devoured the second one immediately.
So what made the difference this time? I don’t think I set out to come up with the ultimate method/recipe, I didn’t even have faith that it wasn’t going to fail again. Instead I just tried to do every step 100% and avoid little mistakes that could potentially culminate in a big one.
#1 finding a recipe from a consistently reliable source. I didn’t have to look further than my favourite blog Poires au Chocolat and adapted her dough recipe for Chelsea buns.
#2 the addition of water-roux, or tangzhong to the dough. A 1:5 mixture of flour and water cooked to 65°C, it’s famous for turning dough very soft by forming a spongy network of holes of popped CO2 bubbles.
#3 dough is not too wet nor dry. Often I’ll add too much additional flour to a seemingly overwet dough, resulting in a tough bread. Dough that’s been properly kneaded should be quite soft, a little tacky but won’t stick to your hands.
#4 adequate kneading. It takes about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, longer by hand, to get to the stage where if you stretch a little ball of dough, it forms a thin translucent film and doesn’t rip with jagged edges.
#5 allow enough time to proof. This is my single biggest pitfall, not waiting for the dough to double in size. I read somewhere that if you stick a finger into the dough and it doesn’t spring back, it’s ready.
This obviously holds true for the second proof as well. As I knew I wouldn’t be ready to bake right away after proofing the second time, I put the unrisen dough (bottom left) in the fridge. In 2 hours’ time I came home from a swim to puffy rolls (bottom right) that filled in the gaps in between. I let them sit out in room temperature while the oven was preheating.
#6 baking for the right amount of time. It’s hard to tell, especially with the centre pieces, whether the dough is done or not. Check for golden brown tops, I partially separated two of the centre rolls to see if the dough between them was baked through.
I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. They smelled of christmas: cinnamon punctuated by orange. I think Matt Murdock would be proud.
Really soft sinnamon rolls (makes a baker’s dozen)
For the water-roux/tangzhong:
28g bread flour
For the dough (adapted from Emma’s Chelsea bun dough):
70g unsalted butter, room temp.
80g granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temp.
186g bread flour
186g all-purpose flour
110g milk, lukewarm
1 sachet or 7g instant dry yeast
all of the water-roux/tangzhong
For the filling:
70g unsalted butter
75g brown sugar (or white granulated)
zest of 1 orange
1-2 tsp cinnamon, to taste
Whisk the flour and water in a pan on medium heat to 65°C or just until streaks appear when you move the whisk through the mixture. Take off heat and set aside to cool to room temp.
Sift the two flours together and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar and salt together, then add the egg to emulsify, scrape down the bowl if need be. Add in about 2/3 of the flour mixture to start, followed by the milk, yeast, and water-roux. If using a stand mixer, change to the dough hook and knead on low-medium speed for about 10 minutes.
If by the end of 10 minutes dough is still very sticky and stuck to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour a little at a time just until it forms a ball and comes away clean from the sides of the bowl. Take the dough out, lightly grease the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to proof in a warm, draught-free spot for 1-2hrs. If room temperature is cold, a slightly warmed up oven can substitute for a proofing cabinet.
When the dough has doubled in size and doesn’t bounce back when you poke it, take it out of the bowl and transfer to a floured surface. Gently press down to release the gases (cough). Flour the rolling pin and the top surface of the dough. Roughly stretch the corners into a rectangular shape and start rolling it out to a 22x45cm rectangle.
For the filling, spread the softened butter evenly over the dough, 1cm away from all 4 edges. Mix the sugar, zest and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the butter. To roll, grab a long edge, roll it over and lightly pinch the edges together. Continue rolling tightly, brushing off excess flour on the underside of the dough. When it’s all rolled, pinch together the seam. With a dough divider/sharp knife, cut off the ends where there’s little filling (I baked them with the rest of the dough and ate them… for quality control). Divide the rest of the dough into equally thick rolls, about 3cm each.
Place them on a tray, or any ovenproof dish, spaced a few cm apart. Cover and leave to rise to double their size.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush the tops with some melted butter, or eggwash if you prefer, right before baking. Bake them for about 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and the edges where two rolls meet aren’t raw anymore.
I love them plain (not frosted) right when they’ve cooled enough to handle but still warm. Top yours with frosting or glaze if you like and join me in cinnamony hell.