Sunday, 30 September 2007

Cinnamon Buns

If you see a post around the 29th or 30th of every month, it can only mean one thing - it's Daring Bakers Challenge Time again!

This month's challenge was provided by the lovely and talented
and is nothing less than Cinnamon Buns and Sticky Buns (from Peter Reinhart´s The Bread Baker´s Apprentice).

Now I dont have a lot of experience baking bread or for that matter anything that uses yeast. Sure, I've taken the plunge and actually tried a Foccacia recipe that used yeast but the first time it turned out rock hard. Fortunately the second time produced a nice enough (read edible but not quite making the mark) Foccacia bread. So that's the extent of my bread baking endeavours and that was all I had to go on as far as experience is concerned.

One thing I hate about bread recipes is that they are never precise. I like precise - I'm an Engineer for goodness sakes. I'm used to getting down to decimal points and two decimal places just doesn't quite cut it. Pi may be 3.14 or 22/7 to the rest of you but to me its 3.141592 (and I even have a rhyme that can enumerate pi to 20 decimal places - so there!).

Why do I say brad recipes are not precise? Because EVERY and I mean EVERY bread recipe I have looked at says something to the effect of "More flour or water may be needed to get it to the right consistency". How is someone to know what the right consistency is? How would you like it if your car door was manufactured to "just about the right hardness - you may need to add some titanium to make it harder." Not so good now huh?

Yeah, so that's what I hate about bread recipes......

So anyway, the morning of the 15th, I decided to roll up my sleeves and try the Cinnamon Buns. We were given the choice of making Cinnamon Buns or Sticky Buns or even both if you wanted to. I decided to just stick to the Cinnamon Buns as I figured I would have enough trouble with the dough and wouldn't need to complicate things further. I also wasn't too keen on having to eat through a pile of sticky buns as my wife isn't really a fan of sweat breads. Give her savoury bread and she will wolf down the whole loaf - but not sweat breads. No.

So this is how it went...

Cinnamon and Sticky Buns
(from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

Days to Make: One (1)
Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 1/2 hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20 - 40 minutes to bake
Recipe Quantity: Eight(1) - twelve (12) large rolls or twelve (12) - sixteen (16) small rolls

Making the Dough


6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)

1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand);

I don't have a paddle attachment so I proceeded to mix the whole thing by hand. It may have been easier to just use my mixer with the beaters but hey, lets try and follow the rules! Too my surprise, everything mixed together really well and quick too.

Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball.

Since it said whip in the egg and lemon extract, I decided to use my electric mixer. I whipped in the egg and extract and then added in the flour, yeast and milk. It all mixed up rather well but the dough didnt really form a ball. It was sort of cookie
dough like and rather soft. I was expecting it to be firm like a bread dough...

Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.

I switched to the dough hook and let it mix. I still wasn't happy with the texture and wondered what SILKY and SUPPLE, TACKY but not STICKY is supposed to mean??!!! WHAT?? HOW?? And that's when the next line just send me spiralling into the stratosphere.

You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture.

Aaarrrgghh! What cant the recipe just say EXACTLY how much flour and or water is needed?? Why the subjectivity?? Anyway, I proceeded to add in some flour, and then some more and I think I added maybe a quarter to half a cup extra flour....

The dough was still softish and not at all what I expected - but as I said before, the only yardstick I had to measure it on was my prior Foccacia making experience.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

So I did just that. Rolled it around in an oiled bowl. I may have put in a little too much oil but I'm glad I used my common sense and used vegetable oil instead of Olive Oil. I'll admit that my hands sort of automatically reached for the Olive Oil but I quickly realised I didn't want olive tasting cinammon rolls! Covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit as the next step instructed.

2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

After the first hour, the dough had increased in size

After two hours it had more than doubled!

3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. (B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and (C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns

I used baking spray to mist the countier and then rolled out the dough. The cinammon sugar was liberally sprinkled on and then I proceeded to roll up the dough. It didn't quite roll up as well as I wanted it to and the ends sort of bunched up. Nonetheless it rolled up fairly easily.

I then proceeded to cut the roll and this is where I wished I had one of those pastry cutters. The knife I use kind of flattened the slices in the sense that they became a little rectangular. But a quick squeeze and tuck put them back in shape.

4. For cinnamon buns, line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.

I liked how the cinnamon sugar showed up nicely on the cut rolls. It was starting to look like a plan coming together!

5. Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

The pieces doubled in size again and they were really starting to look like cinammon buns - or Cinammon Rolls as we are more used to calling them.

6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.

7. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

8. For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving. For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

The verdict?

I thought the buns were really soft and tasty although I think I'd have liked more cinnamon sugar in them. The icing was waaay too much and the recipe could be halved. However, the icing was Really tasty!! It had a nice lemon tang to it too that went so well with the buns.

My son enjoyed the buns tremendously and between the two of us, we polished most of them off! Here's to another succesful Daring Bakers Challenge and please visit the rest of the gang to see their creations


slush said...

I have trouble when it says "you may need to add more" too! I went back and forth trying to decide if it was the right consistency. I was never convinced I had it right. Luckily, they turned out ok despite my indecision.

And yours look scrumptious too. Your adorable son's face says it all, PERFECT DAD!

Anonymous said...

Great job, even if it looked a bit precarious for a bit. I never got the sticky, tacky, supple, descriptions either. I'd say it's more like, "dough bits cling onto your hands for dear life and won't let go" or "stays put in one lump".

I agree with Slush, your son's expression says it all. Lucky him to have a super dad who can make him baked goods!

Anne said...

Haha - yes, it is sometimes a bit unprecise with baking. I guess it's because so many things affect your dough - say, humidity, flour, yeast, temperature, etc. I think I added more flour than you did, mine looked slightly more solid. But the end result looks great - good job!

Jes said...

Your buns turned out great, even though the recipe wasn't so precise. :) Go you!

BC said...

They look fantastic!

If you want a bit of science in your bread baking, check out the book "Cookwise" by Shirley O. Corriher. She'll help satisfy your scientific side and trouble shoot your recipes too.

Anne said...

your buns turned out lovely...well done :)

Unknown said...

Nice job Dharm! That's why I have trouble working with bread too, you have to do it for a while to get the "feel" of what the dough should be like. But I think your rolls turned out great!

Anonymous said...

Nice buns, Dharm! Your cinnamon swirl is particularly pretty.

Anonymous said...

Great job!

breadchick said...

Dharm, I always enjoy reading your posts for our monthly challenges.

I also find it interesting that we are both engineers but what you hate about bread/yeast recipes is exactly the thing I love about bread recipes, the inexactitude. It it that subjectiveness that makes me let loose from my normal precision.

Great job as usual and great pictures of your kids!

Helene said...

You did a great job in spite of your flour issues! Your son is just precious...I say that was a success!

Belinda said...

I enjoyed reading this post, Dharm, and chuckled at your frustration with the varied perceptions in bread making...I feel the same way, and I really get intimidated trying to decipher what is the right texture, or the right suppleness for the dough, etc... You sure ended up with beautiful and perfect looking cinnamon rolls in the end though, so that equals success! Not to mention that your adorable son looks thrilled with Dad's baking! :-)

Dolores said...

I had the same problem you did with the consistency of my dough and ended up adding a half cup more flour. I guess it's more humid around here than I'd have guessed.

Unknown said...

I think it would have helped to have the entire book in front of you - I would guess there is more information about things like what a dough looks like once it has successfully proofed (a finger poked in the side keeps an indentation, etc) - since you are an engineer, I suppose you need to take copious notes and develop your own instructional guide. :)

Personally, I always feel like I add too MUCH flour when I get to such steps and I worry that I've ruined the dough.

They look terrific!

Dagmar said...

You're right that it's quite unprecise with yeast recipes but you did a great job! They buns look great and your son look very happy! :-) I agree that it was too little cinnamon in the buns.

Annemarie said...

Great buns, great reaction from your son. I had no idea baking/bread things could cause so much angst - hope you have recovered and might consider another bread thing in the future.

Peabody said...

I always laugh at that too in recipes. How is someone who has never made them before suppose to know what the right consistancy is?
Great job on your buns...and yes, there was too much icing...that is why I halved mine.

Anh said...

You are a wonderful dad! I would be so happy as a child to have these buns straight from the oven!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

nice work! looks like you are getting the hang of breadbaking, no problem!

Lis said...

YAY! A yeastie convert in the making? =)

I'm so happy for you - I know exactly what you mean and how you feel about the instructions not being precise.

But you came through with flying colors! And that photo of your son is just too cute!

Oh! And happy anniversary to you and your lovely wife!


Brilynn said...

My problem with yeast is the waiting time, I'm so impatient, I hate waiting for the dough to proof.
Your cinnamon buns look great!

Marce said...

I´m glad it all turned out well in the end, Dharm! Yeah, sometimes recipes can be a bit vague, but I think Reinhart´s are as precise as they get because there are flour variations depending on the size of the eggs, humidity, etc. After a few breads under your belt, you sort of realize whether things are going right or not. I hope the recipe has given you the urge to start exploring bread, it really is addicting.

KJ said...

Oh Dharm, LOL, I understand, I understand. When it comes to cooking, I'm not good with spontaneity either. But sometimes you just have to wing it and trust in the baking gods. It usually turns out okay. Like here, your buns look great.

And your son is a little cutie pie.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Dharm you make me laugh. But I agree bread recipes are not that easy and so imprecise. Glad I live in Germany where my baker bakes extraordinary breads LOL! You did an exceptional job with your buns and your son looks too adorable!

Pille said...

Great-looking buns! Your wife and kids must be so pleased with you (and the Daring Baker challenges:)

Brittany said...

Look at that happy little guy! Judging by the expression on his face, your buns were awesome!
Bread recipes are kind of weird, huh? It's part of yeast and flour's "allure"...there is so much that can affect how they behave, that it's impossible to have a truly accurate recipe. You have a beautiful final product!

sunita said...

I sympathise with the non accuracy of bread recipes. But your buns have come out really well, and your little guy seems to be enjoying it a lot.

Ilva said...

You NEED to bake more bread Dharm! It's good for your inner balance, the exactness needs to be balanced by intuition and feeling and baking is perfect for this. And you made it didn't you? Bravo!

Thistlemoon said...

They look so very lovely Dharm! You crack me up! It must be terrible being and engineer in the brain and a cook at heart! But you acheived it wonderfully! I too mixed my dough by hand and was pleasantly surprised at how nicely it came together!
This is so fun to see you in this corner of the blogosphere as well! :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow Dharm great buns and very cute son!! Well done.
Funny about the "precise" thing because many don't like baking because they say it is too precise. I guess I like both it's precision and it's magic aspects equally.
I like the precise measure of the metric that I only have recently come to love. I have many of Reinhart's books and love what I've baked from his but he is not the most precise. You would probably find Daniel Leader more precise and to your liking.

BUT if it's bread (not cake or pastry) there is always the magic of living organism and the interaction between that and the baker. Touch really is a precise thing that only develops over time with repetition. You may learn it faster with a good teacher but ultimately it's something you develop with experience.

Yes, I also loved the lemon but really didn't like all the sugar in the icing stuff. Crazy tho because I really liked the stickies, just could only eat one.

Finla said...

Wow it just looks delicious.
No wonder your son is so happy looking with the bun in his hand. I would be also happy if i had one of those in my hand.

Karen Baking Soda said...

Silk and supple: think baby bottoms
Sticky not tacky: think Post-it notes.

Hmm I'm thinking you might like to use baker's percentages, I mean as an engineer?

The photo of your son is so cute, he is clearly enjoying it.

Deborah said...

Yes, it would be so much easier if it could be exact, but unfortunately, there are too many outside circumstances that can affect how much flour or water is needed. Even from day to day, the amount can change. Your buns look wonderful! And it looks like your kids really enjoyed them, too!!

marias23 said...

Your rolling technique is impressive! Wish I could say the same about mine, haha! Wonderful job!

Anonymous said...

dharm, that looks fantastic. I haven't baked much bread either. That's why I really liked this challenge.

Anonymous said...

I think your buns are beautiful and what a darling son as well!
Great job!

Alpineberry Mary said...

I'm glad you and your son enjoyed the fruits of your labor. Nice job!

Amy said...

Lol being in science makes me a stickler for precision too. I think next time I will add more cinnamon sugar too.

Aoife said...

For all the uncertainty, it looks like your cinnamon rolls came out perfectly. I wish mine had rolled up as neatly as yours did!

Anonymous said...

Yours looks very good. Mine always turned out to be a bit dry and hard. My significant other complains that I didn't put enough of sugar cinnamon fillings.

April said...

This was my first time with bread dough too, and I have no idea what the right "consistency" is either..I just guessed. Your son is adorable and the look on his face shows that this challenge was a success for you!

Julie said...

Your buns turned out so well despite your trepidations and frustrations! You did a good job of solidering through it!

As for the precision aspect ... Baking really is a science, but you have to consider variables, especially with recipes that use volume measurements instead of weight. Flour in humid areas can take up more weight that flour in dry. How the flour reacts will vary, with determinants going right back to the wheat it came from, from crop to crop, field to field, etc. Even your local water can make a difference. I think you just have to build that experience so you know what your results are supposed to be. It's like frying an egg--no recipe can give an exact time that will work for every single cook--stoves, eggs, frying fat, etc., will play a role--but after awhile, you just know when your eggs is fried. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am sitting here reading your post and dying. I am intuitive in all I do, married to an engineer minded man. I hate to be told exactly how to do something, I can never achieve it, need to throw my own fingerprints in for good measure!
The cinnamon rolls look great! You did an awesome job on them..they are....they laughter::: PRECISE.

Andrea said...

Dharm, you had me laughing all the way through! I'm married to an aerospace engineer, so I absolutely understand your need for precision! I think your buns turned out quite wonderful, and your son is just adorable. He looks like he really enjoyed the buns!!


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