Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cinnamon rolls!

Few things in life are better than the smell of baking Vietnamese cinnamon rolled inside pillows of rich dough. Well, eating cinnamon rolls would be better than just smelling I guess. Slathered with copious amounts of smooth icing, cinnamon buns are one of my favorite breakfast treats.

I've had a lot of problems with making them over the past two years. I've overbaked them, underbaked them, allowed the yeast to bloom too much and not enough. The results from my first ten batches have been extremely experimental in nature and frankly, less than stellar.

After so many failed trials, I've learned how not to make cinnamon buns. So here are a few tips before we get started.
1. Weigh your ingredients. The volume of flour can vary quite a bit so weighing is the most accurate method of measurement.
2. Proof your yeast. Give the little buggers a head start and make sure your yeast is still viable. I usually add the yeast, ~ 2 oz room temperature water, and teaspoon or so of regular granulated sugar. Once it starts to foam, you're ready.
3.  Use a thermometer to check the buns during baking. Yeast leavened doughs, at least for me, have been a bit finicky with their cooking times and measuring the internal temperature has been the most reliable way for checking doneness.
4. Don't skimp out on the salt. Salt encourages gluten formation and stability and we need that to offset the relative acidity (which does the opposite) of the yogurt.
5. An overnight stay in the fridge will yield superior flavor and texture. This has to do with gluten and yeast. Yeast produce milder and more pleasant flavor compounds at colder temperatures, and relatively harsh flavors at room temperature. The extra time also allows for some gluten development and small yeast produced gas bubbles to infiltrate the entirety of the dough.

Cinnamon Rolls
- 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 large whole egg, room temperature
- 2 ounces (approximately 1/4 cup) + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
- 5 ounces vanilla yogurt, room temperature
- 3 ounces water, room temperature
- 18-20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
- 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 ounces light brown sugar
- 1 ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt

1) Combine the water, yeast, and teaspoon of granulated sugar, and allow to sit until foamy at the surface, ~ 30 minutes.
2) Add the yogurt, melted butter, egg yolks and whole egg to the yeast and mix thoroughly.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour (keeping 2 ounces in reserve) and salt to aerate and then add the wet ingredients. Mix until the dough comes together and then place on a floured surface and knead until the surface is tacky, not sticky. Add more flour if needed.
4) Cover the dough and allow to rise until it doubles in volume, ~ 2 hours.
5) Punch the dough down and roll it out to a 12" x 18" rectangle and brush with 1 ounce melted butter, leaving a 1" border at the top.
6) In a bowl, combine the light brown sugar, pinch of salt and ground cinnamon and apply to the butter dough, and gently pat the sugar down. Begin rolling the dough from bottom to top and crease the unbuttered portion to seal the roll. Cut into 12 cinnamon buns and place them into a buttered baking pan. Cover and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight.
7) Uncover the cinnamon rolls, place the baking tray in an off oven with a pot of boiling water, and allow them to rise for an additional half an hour. Afterwards, remove everything from the oven and preheat to 350 F.
8) Bake the cinnamon buns until they reach an internal temperature of 190 F, ~ 25 minutes.
9) Remove the cinnamon buns from the pan while warm and allow them to cool before glazing.

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