Entries in Delicious Dish (67)

Tuesday
Mar272012

GCRP: The Picky Cook's Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

On we go with the fourth round of The Great Cinnamon Roll Project. I had high hopes for this recipe. It had two intriguing features: a butter-brown sugar base and a frosting containing vanilla bean. Alas, it fell short of my expectations.

I had a clue as I rolled out the dough. The OBB girls had said that cinnamon roll dough needs to be pretty soft and somewhat difficult to handle in order to produce a tender roll. So once I took the Picky Cook dough out of the mixing bowl in which it had risen, I suspected trouble. It was extremely easy to roll out, making a smooth, thin rectangle. This made the rolls very pretty--elegant spirals with several layers to them once they were rolled--but when baked, they were quite tough. The recipe said to bake the rolls for 30 minutes, but mine were quite done at 25 minutes.

They also tasted undersalted and not very cinnamon-y. I have decided that I definitely prefer a filling with brown sugar to one with white sugar. 

Now, about that base--the recipe asks you to melt brown sugar and butter together, add vanilla and pour the mixture into the baking pan, then place the rolls on top to rise. This sounded exciting! I imagined the rolls would develop a sticky, chewy bottom as they baked; what could be better? But it ended up not doing much for them at all. 

So--tough rolls, not much flavor. The frosting was admittedly delicous. The scraped out goodness from the inside of a vanilla bean did make a wonderfully fragrant and tasty icing. But it wasn't enough to save these rolls. Anne had to be coaxed to finish hers--that's how unexciting they were.

I've looked ahead at the next recipes on my list, and after examining them, I've decided that neither Martha Stewart's nor Paula Deen's rolls are worth my time. The recipes look quite similar to those I've tried that have failed. I'm therefore moving ahead to the Tyler Perry/Oprah rolls, the first recipe to call for vanilla pudding as an ingredient. Stay tuned!

Tuesday
Mar202012

GCRP: Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls 101

As I forged ahead with the Great Cinnamon Roll Project, I picked Tuesday for this recipe on purpose. Patrick was driving Hope on a church youth trip tonight, and I knew I could send 90% of the batch with them to give to the youth group to devour--because this recipe makes about a billion cinnamon rolls.

Okay, it really makes about 60. But that is a LOT of cinnamon rolls, even for this family. I needed a way to share the love, if you will. The timing worked out perfectly in that regard.

The Pioneer Woman has a massive internet following. Her writing style is exuberant, which I like. She rhapsodizes about her own cooking; she and I have that in common.

But when reading over the instructions, I was highly skeptical. Three kinds of leavening--yeast, baking soda, and baking powder--really? Could that actually be necessary? Also: no kneading. No eggs. And white sugar instead of brown for the filling. Hmmm. But I moved ahead as directed.

Sort of. There was no way I will ever bake with vegetable oil, as you know. I used melted butter instead. And I didn't put any coffee in the icing--which PW herself said was optional. 

Once the dough was ready to roll out, I was very glad I had my pastry scraper handy. This dough was very difficult to handle. The OBB girls have you mix together the filling ingredients, then spread them over the dough like icing. PW instead has you pour the butter, then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon. This was way more messy. I did not like. PW said to cut the rolls with a sharp knife, but I got out the dental floss instead. 

Putting the rolls in the buttered pans, I noticed the dough seemed flabby and slack, not smooth and elastic like the OBB's kneaded doughs. I started worrying that even the church teenagers would turn up their noses. But I went ahead and baked them. Even with the three types of leavening, these rolls didn't rise very high, not even once they went in the oven. 

I didn't love the icing; it seemed pretty one-dimensional. Maybe it really did need that coffee, but I'll never know. In fact, I ran out of icing before frosting the last panful, so I mixed up a batch of vanilla-cream cheese icing for those--which automatically made those rolls more delicious. 

Oh--and my biggest gripe--the PW is inexact when it comes to certain quantities. The icing calls for "a bag" of powdered sugar, but I buy my powdered sugar at the local warehouse store, and I was pretty sure PW didn't mean one of THOSE bad boys. I had to guess, which I don't mind when cooking, but really DON'T like doing when baking. (You know there's a difference, right?)

One the rolls cooled, I sampled one. The dough was much more like cake than bread, which makes sense, given the minimal mixing and chemical leavenings. They weren't very cinnamon-y, which I guess was my own fault. It certainly seemed like I sprinkled an awful lot of cinnamon on the dough, but that didn't seem to come through. And I really missed the complex, rich flavor of the OBB's Overnight brioche-y dough

Patrick and the kids liked them fine, though, and our piano teacher preferred them to the OBB Everyday recipe. I decided they were good enough to send to the church, so I loaded all the pans in Patrick's trunk with a bunch of napkins and said goodbye. Patrick sent me a text a little while ago saying that the rolls were a big hit. But all in all, I don't think I'd make this recipe again.

Sunday
Mar182012

GCRP: Our Best Bites Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

I baked this batch for the impetus behind the entire Project: a treat for Patrick's last early morning meetings as bishop of our congregation. The minute I scanned the recipe, I knew I would probably like this batch better than the last. For one thing, it calls for four eggs, which meant (I hoped) that the dough would be delightfully brioche-like. I was not wrong. 

I know I promised to make the recipes as written, but already I have fudged a bit. I saw no need to proof my yeast, for example. Also, Patrick had requested a cream cheese frosting. But otherwise, I proceeded as directed. 

Last night, I mixed the dough and filled, rolled, and cut the rolls. I put them in a buttered pan, drizzled more butter over the top, and put the pan in the fridge. Then I went ahead and mixed up the frosting, too. I wanted to do as little work as possible when I got up this morning.

But there was no escaping the fact that I'd have to set two alarms: one at 4:30, so that I could take the rolls out to rise at room temperature and preheat the oven; and one at 5:30, so that I could put the rolls in to bake. Patrick had to leave for his meetings at 6:30, so the rolls had to be frosted and ready to go by then.

I actually ended up awakening on my own at 4:26. (Whatever.) I took the rolls out and turned on the oven, but by the time I got back in bed, I was hungry. I tossed and turned for about a half hour, but finally got up at 5:00 and read scriptures. 

The rolls didn't rise much during their hour out, which worried me a bit. Not a problem; they rose beautifully in the oven and became alluringly plump. I baked them for only 25 minutes, not 30, which turned out to be perfect. The rolls were golden brown on top and cooked through the middle. And they smelled amazing.

Once Patrick left with his precious burden, I had my own roll. The bread part was much richer and more complex in flavor than the Everyday recipe. The texture was perfect--buttery layers of toothsome pastry. The cinnamon filling did not overwhelm, but complemented the cream cheese frosting beautifully. Eating it was a pretty great way to start the day. (Well, and so was studying the scriptures.)

The kids loved them--except for Hope, who doesn't like cream cheese frosting. Once we settle on a definitive recipe, I may well have to make two kinds of frosting in order to make everyone in the house happy. 

The men in Patrick's meeting also loved them. One actually hugged me when I got to church, and another wrote me a thank-you email. Success! 

I would make these again--but probably only on Saturday mornings, when the schedule could be more sane. I could see getting up at 7:00 a.m. to take them out to rise so that we'd have baked and cooled rolls by 9:00. That feels civilized to me. But maybe if a child were very, very good, I'd make them for a birthday breakfast. We'll see.

Wednesday
Mar142012

GCRP: Our Best Bites Everyday Cinnamon Rolls

To kick off The Great Cinnamon Roll Project (GCRP), I decided to make the first recipe on my list, and I may as well proceed in order. 

I've been hearing good things about the food blog Our Best Bites for a long time. Friends whose taste I trust swear by their recipes. It's a great website, and I like the co-writers' personalities very much. The recipe was clearly written and easy to follow--and I loved the tips and tricks they provided. For example, cutting the rolls with dental floss is pure genius. I know the OBB girls didn't invent that technique, but bless them for encouraging me to try it. Slicker than a smelt. I recommend.

The recipe was quick and easy--partly because I have a gigantic Viking stand mixer with a dough hook. I did have to digress from the method slightly, since I don't own a microwave. Heating the milk and butter in a saucepan worked just fine. I was very careful not to add too much flour, as cautioned; my batch of dough was just right at 3 1/4 cups. It didn't take much work to roll out the dough and coat it with the cinnamon-brown sugar-butter filling. The rolls were formed, cut, risen, and in the oven by the time my first batch of kids got off the school bus.

The icing is a simple butter-powdered sugar-vanilla-milk mixture, which I poured over the hot rolls pretty much right after they came out of the oven. They smelled heavenly, and I ate the first one when it was still a little too hot to enjoy. Patrick, our piano teacher Melissa, and the kids snarfed down the rest of the batch pretty quickly. I did eat one that had made it all the way to room temperature, and I liked it better than that first hot one.

Verdict: The bread was nicely tender, and the filling was pleasant. I liked the icing okay, but I think my Grandma Ybright would have said that it was "a little cloy." I anticipate preferring the icings with cream cheese in them. (Though the OBB girls say you can throw some into this icing, they didn't specify a quantity.) These rolls were miles better than the kind that come in the can, with a fresh, pure, homemade taste. I would make these again. I think the recipe will serve as a good baseline for those to come.

Note: I meant to take a photo of the finished product, but I forgot about that until they were all gone. Oops.

Next up: OBB's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. I plan to mix these up on Saturday night and bake them early Sunday so that Patrick can take some of them to his early church meetings. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday
Mar132012

The Great Cinnamon Roll Project

It all started when I offered to make a baked treat to send to Patrick's early Sunday meetings this week. I make a lot of delicious breakfast-type things, but one thing I've never tackled is the cinnamon roll.

What am I looking for in a cinnamon roll? One that is bakery soft, but lacking the chemical taste of many commercial products. One that is gooey, sweet, and spicy, with a thick coating of frosting on top. And ideally, one that wouldn't require me to get up at o'dark-thirty in order to have them fresh and warm on the breakfast table. 

A search of recipe sites I trust yielded the following options:

Our Best Bites Everyday Cinnamon Rolls

Our Best Bites Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls 101

The Picky Cook's Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Martha Stewart's Truck Stop Cinnamon Rolls

Paula Deen's Cinnamon Rolls

Tyler Perry's Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls

Cook's Illustrated Cinnamon Swirl Rolls

King Arthur Flour's Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Bon Appetit's Yukon Gold Cinnamon Rolls

Sweetapolita's Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Rolls

Then I put the word out on Facebook and got suggestions for Fannie Farmer's recipe, Mel's Kitchen Cafe's Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls, and an offer from Patrick's Aunt Karen to dig up Grandma Ida's special recipe. 

Which one to make? Well, in the name of science, over the next several weeks, I plan to try them ALL. I am just that self-sacrificing. And if you have a recipe you feel is superior to any of those listed above, send it along!

I must tell you that I am skeptical of the versions requiring instant pudding. In fact, if it hadn't been Jenna who recommended the Mel's Kitchen Cafe recipe, I might have ignored it. I also must tell you that I will follow the recipes exactly EXCEPT for the fact that I refuse to bake with vegetable oil or shortening. I will substitute butter. 

Which will be the winner? Or, once I've tried them all (almost) as written, will I end up cobbling and monkeying until I come up with my own version? (I've already contemplated substituting The Magnolia Bakery's Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting on some batch at some point in the future.) I'll post about each recipe as I go, so stay tuned to find out!