Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Best Cinnamon Rolls

Parker, this one's for you.

Something I really like to do is cook for people who really appreciate it.  Especially fun is cooking for volunteers who have been away from home for awhile and get really super excited about a pan of brownies, or chicken enchiladas, or cinnamon rolls.  I love cooking for World Racers (they spend 11 months traveling to 11 countries).  They get seriously excited about things like.... cookies. Or... salad. I mean really, REALLY, excited.  And then there's Parker.

Parker is a high school graduate who has spent his last few summers serving here with us in Ukraine. He stays well beyond the week or two that most teams can invest.  This summer he quit his job and spent his whole summer, and then some, helping us out with the refugee craziness we've been dealing with here.

I think everything I made for Parker he said was the best he'd ever tasted.  Actually, he said "Ze best of ze best" because he'd been hanging out with Ukrainian kids speaking heavily-accented English way too much.  

Parker was very excited about these cinnamon rolls.  "Ze best of ze best".   And he wanted the recipe.

Here ya go Parker. Knock your socks off.  

P.S. You are "ze best of ze best".  See ya next summer.

The Step-by-Step 

*Note:  This recipe is based on one originally posted on the blog "Valley Ridge Recipes" and the frosting is based on the recipe over at "Not So Humble Pie."    The versions here are not exactly the same, as I have tweaked both recipes to my liking.   Thanks to both sites, for great recipes!

Mix the Dough

Ok, Parker, here we go.  First we take a LARGE mixing bowl and pour in the warm water, oil and sugar.  Mix a bit, then add the yeast.  Let it sit for 15 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a smallish bowl and add to the yeast.

And now we add the flour and salt.

Stir it all up really good until it clings together with no floury spots.  You still with me, Parker?

Knead, Rise, Shape, Rise

Plop that dough down on a floured counter-top and start kneading.  Kneading dough is awesome. It's like a cross between playing with play-dough and a therapeutic release of aggression all in one.  Release your aggression on the dough for about 10 minutes.

Turn, fold, push, repeat.

And you end up with a lovely ball of dough.  Like this.  Cover that with a tea towel and let it rise until it's about double in size.

And here it is, doubled in size.  Nice and light and squishy.   Cut it in half and set half of the dough aside.

Now clean up your floury counter-top.  Get it nice and clean and dry.  Then make a mess again by lightly oiling the counter with a small amount of vegetable oil.  

Now roll out that dough into a rectangle.  You want the long side to be about 22 inches and the short side to be about 18 inches. (In cm that's about 55x45).  You don't have to be all perfectly precise here, just giving you a guideline.

Spread a nice generous amount of melted butter on there.

Parker, are you there?  Or has Parker's mom taken over?  Either way, let's keep going....

And now, the cinnamon-sugar.  Also be generous.  This is about halfway through my application of the cinnamon-sugar.  Be even, and get it all the way to the edges.

Now, we are going to test your skills at following directions.  Start at the SHORT side of the rectangle, and roll the dough fairly tightly.  

Pop Quiz: Did you start at the SHORT side?  Good. Nicely done.

Now go get some trusty dental floss.  Slide it under the rolled-up dough.  Cross the floss over the dough and pull tight, slicing the roll in half.  

Now slice each half into half again, making 4 pieces.  Now slice each of those pieces into 3 more, making a total of 12 cinnamon rolls.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and gently (I said, GENTLY, Parker) transfer the cinnamon rolls to the baking sheet.  Cover with a tea towel.

Now go back to your second lump of dough and repeat the process so that you end up with 2 pans of 12 rolls each.

Cover the pans and let rise about 15-20 minutes- until they are puffy.  Turn on the oven to 350F (175C).

Bake and Frost

Put those babies in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  Rotate them around or switch racks halfway through if your oven doesn't bake entirely evenly.

After the rolls have cooled a bit, smear the frosting on.  

No holding back, now.  You've come this far, you might as well throw caution to the wind and go for broke.

Now isn't that a sight to behold?  

Parker, I expect you to practice and be ready to bust these out for everybody next summer.  

And this is the reward for all your labor.  Warm, comforting, mouthwatering delicious cinnamon rolls.  That, and the joy and profound satisfaction on the faces of all of your hungry fans.  Yes, that's definitely Ze Best part.

The Recipe

Makes 24 large rolls

3 1/2 cups warm water
4 Tablespoons active dry yeast (I like Saf Instant)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon salt
10 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup melted butter
3 cups sugar + 3 teaspoons cinnamon

1) Mix warm water, oil and sugar in a very large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle yeast over the top.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then whisk together and let stand another 10-15 minutes.

2) Beat eggs in a small bowl, then whisk into yeast mixture.  Add flour and salt, mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined with no floury spots.

3) Lightly flour a counter-top. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes.  

4) Cover the dough and let rise until double (about 45 minutes)

5) Divide the dough in half.  Set aside half the dough and cover with a tea towel.

6) Clean and dry the floured counter and lightly coat the surface with vegetable oil.  Roll out the other half of the dough to a 22"x18" rectangle.

7) Spread 1/3 cup of melted butter over the surface of the dough. 

8) Mix the cinnamon and the sugar, then sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of it over the butter, distributing evenly and not forgetting the edges.

9) Roll the dough up from the short edge, then cut in 12 pieces.  *Tip: use dental floss to cut the rolls instead of a knife -- it helps the rolls keep their shape.

10) Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Repeat steps 6-10 with the other half of the dough.

11) Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

12) Let rolls rise, covered with a towel, for about 15-20 minutes.

13) Bake for approx. 25 minutes. (Switch racks and/or rotate halfway through).  The rolls will be light brown and not gooey in the center when done.

14) Let the rolls partially cool before frosting.   Frost and serve.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

16 ounces (=500 grams) softened cream cheese
1/2 cup (=100 grams) softened butter
4 cups (=450 grams) powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold heavy whipping cream

1) Beat the whipping cream to stiff peaks.
2) In a separate bowl, beat the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Continue beating for 5 minutes.
3) Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.