The Daring Bakers got a two-for-one challenge this month, courtesy of our lovely hostess Marce: a recipe for cinnamon rolls that could also be turned into sticky buns! Although yeast is not really my forte, I do have a terrible weakness for morning pastries: the sweeter and gooey-er, the better. Bear claws and almond croissants were made for me. So I rejoiced at the chance to make my own sweet morning treats – surely they would be so much better than those horrid mass-produced things you see in the coffee shops.
The recipe is from Peter Reinhardt’s excellent The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, so I knew the Daring Bakers would be in good hands. The instructions were straightforward and clear, and the accompanying photos cleared up and potential confusion (I wish more cookbooks showed how-to process during the baking process; I myself am not talented to do this, although I’m sure many of my more accomplished fellow bakers will have some in their posts!)
The number one about working with yeast, I’m sure, is the terror that it won’t work. You stare at your little baby blob of dough, nestled under its plastic wrap blanket in the bowl, and you wonder if it really will double in size in the next few hours like the recipe says, or will you find the same little blob, sad and inert, when you check? You sniff the kitchen air in anticipation of that rich yeasty scent to let you know the dough is working, you pat the top of the dough reassuringly while covertly trying to determine if it feels any bigger, you pace the kitchen wondering just how long can a couple of hours take to pass?
As luck would have it, the day I planned on doing the rolls was cold and rainy; absolutely terrible weather to be hoping your yeasted dough would poof up in a jiffy. The dough itself takes almost no time to put together, but waiting for it to proof that day was an entirely different matter. I was quite afraid it would take literally all day for these cinnamon rolls to happen! Fortunately, there are a couple of things the impatient baker can do to speed up the process. Yeast need heat to develop, so anything that raises the ambient temperature will help. If you oven is below your stovetop, you can place the dough on the stove and turn the oven on (low temperature, please – you don’t want to overheat and kill the yeast!). Or you can turn on one of the stovetop burners and place your dough near it to catch the heat. You can also place the dough inside the oven with a bowl of steaming hot water and close the door; it will get nice and humid inside and help the dough proof faster.
Waiting for the dough to rise the first time and again after shaping the rolls was surely the most onerous part of this recipe; the rest of it was, I’m happy to report, trouble-free. I split my batch into half cinnamon rolls and half sticky buns; I would also recommend slicing them into the smaller portions given in the recipe as they grew plenty large for me – slicing them larger would have resulted in buns that were Cinnabon size! (Of course, if that’s your preference, please go ahead!)
The cinnamon rolls were wonderful: be generous with the cinnamon sugar so you get as much melty-sweet goodness as possible. My dough baked plump and puffy, slightly chewy but with a lovely fluffy texture inside. It’s not strongly flavored though, so definitely be sure you spread the cinnamon sugar thoroughly over the dough; the fondant glaze is lovely as well.
The sticky buns have the added benefit of baking in a buttery caramel glaze, almost like a tarte tatin, so they get an extra boost of moistness and flavor. I neglected to add nuts and raisin to mine, but they were still fabulous nuggets of sticky-fingered happiness, dripping with oozy caramel, warm from the pan.
Sometimes I think to myself that I just don’t work with yeast enough; thanks to Marce for giving me this opportunity to play with it again and spice up my breakfast for a few days! Be sure to check the Daring Bakers blogroll to see everyone else’s lovely rolls – there must have surely been many happy mornings out there after this challenge!
CInnamon and Sticky Buns
from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Making the Dough
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.