Tuesday, March 02, 2010
How to Cook Everything Project: Cinnamon Rolls
I cannot bake.
I take that back. I can bake cookies and cakes just fine. However, I can't bake anything that uses yeast. Yeast baffles me. This creature of sorts in a freeze dried state always finds a way to not cooperate, leaving me with tough, hardly risen dough and cursing anything (and anyone) in my sight.
This never used to be the case. Back in the day, I used a bread machine. This machine knew how to tackle the yeast beast and always produced loaf after loaf of wonderful baked bread. But as all non-essential kitchen appliances go, it became forgotten and shoved in the back of a cabinet in the kitchen. Four years ago I got myself reacquainted with the bread machine and once again I was in bread delights.
Until it broke.
Machineless, I have since tried my hand at baking bread the old-fashioned way... by hand. And each and every time has been a failure. Even no-knead bread, the supposed easiest of the bread making techniques lost out to my bread baking curse.
Bittman could save me, right? Well so far, HTCE has not. Twice now. The last two weeks (since I seem to be behind by that much) I have tried to make Cinnamon rolls using the Basic Sweet Rolls recipe.
On the first attempt, things were going well. I tested the yeast before hand to make sure it was still working and yes... with some warm water and sugar, it did its bubbly magic. So I followed the recipe to a t (tee? T?)- adding all the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulsing a few times to get it all incorporated. I added the butter and egg and hit the button again to get it all mixed together. And then came the milk. Now the recipe did not say warm the milk up, so I added the straight from the fridge milk through the feeding tube and allowed it to mix until it formed a ball. I dumped it onto a waiting cutting board and kneaded the dough until it was "silky and elastic." It looked silky enough to me... as for elastic, I pulled and it sorta sprung back. Sounds elastic to me. I dropped the dough ball into a greased bowl and wrapped it with cling. I let it rest in the warmest room in the house and waited two hours for it to double in size. I even took a picture so I could compare and see if it indeed doubled.
Two hours later, I took a peek. It did rise, but it didn't really look like it doubled. Maybe it was 1.5 bigger. But if you round up... that's 2. So I rolled out the dough into a large rectangle, slathered on quite a bit of butter and a generous portion of cinnamon and sugar. I rolled it up and sliced it up into one-inch cuts. I arranged the rolls on the baking sheet and allowed it to rise a second time. An hour later the dough had puffed out a bit, but perhaps not as much as it should have. I threw it in the oven and waited. Perhaps I wasn't attentive enough, because I sortamaybekinda overcooked it. Instead of a nice golden brown, it was more chocolate brown. Notice how I am refraining from using the "B" word? Because it didn't. Not really. Anyways, it did not match the image I had in my head, but it tasted pretty good, albeit kinda hard.
The second attempt I was determined to make this work. I bought new yeast and warmed the milk. Once again following directions as written (except for the milk bit) and after mixing all the ingredients, I dumped the dough onto the board. Knead, knead, knead... where's my silkiness and elasticity? I added a little more milk and kept at the dough once again. With every press of the dough, the skin would turn white. I didn't notice it earlier, but all the skin was pretty dry looking. But I followed the directions!!! Lost at what to do next, I threw it in the bowl and hoped for the best.
I checked the bowl two hours later and was somewhat relieved to see that the dough had indeed risen. But once again it did not double like the recipe said to look for. It was just slightly larger. When I took it out of the bowl, it wasn't light and springy, like you would expect from risen dough. This fell out with a thud and was impossible to work with. It wouldn't obey the rolling pin, and still had that distinct whitening of the dough skin. I could pull off a piece without it having the dough string, or at least fight against losing some of itself.
Not knowing what to do, I filled up a bowl with some warm water and threw the dough in there for a few minutes. If I didn't put enough liquid (even though I followed the directions) hopefully the soak will hydrate it enough to be workable. I worked with the now sticky dough until I had a ball and threw it back into the rising bowl. Two hours later, it was a little better... but still refused to roll out.
It was at this point where I gave up. Instead of making Cinnamon Rolls, I decided to just make monkey bread. After the dough was rolled out, I quickly cut it into long strips, which I cut again into one inch nuggets. Tossed with cinnamon and sugar, drowned it in melted butter, and threw it in the oven. And guess what? It wasn't bad at all. Tasted sort of like the monkey bread I make with the refrigerator biscuit dough. Just a little tougher.
I think I'll steer clear of the yeast bread for now in the book.