My First Daring Bakers Challenge:Cinnamon Rolls & Sticky Buns

Cinnamon rolls.

Sticky buns.

I was so excited (and, um, nervous) about participating in my first Daring Bakers Challenge, I decided to cover it “live blogger” style.
Of course, that doesn’t really work when you publish the coverage almost a month later … so, suspend disbelief people! Put yourself into the exciting times of September 5th, where flour flew and yeast grew and the result was sweetness and light drizzled with tasty goodness.
Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
10 am: Set up mise en place (I’m actually doing a mise en place!), pull out butter and egg. Throw in a load of laundry; finish prepping for tomorrow’s classes.

11am: Pull out buttermilk. Grab lunch; throw laundry in dryer.

12:15: Begin working on dough.

12:44: Dough begins its first proof. So far, so good. The dough is just as the recipe says; “silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.” I didn’t have to add any milk (or flour for that matter) but maybe that’s because I added 1 ¼ cups of buttermilk off the bat. I like the light lemony smell (and, um, taste) the raw dough offers.

Also, God bless Kitchen Aid stand mixers! The dough is beautiful, but if I’d had to knead it for 15 minutes, the dough that wasn’t stuck to my fingers (and hair, and shirt, and countertop…) would be a hideous, lumpy mess.

Next up: rolling out the dough. This is what has me the most concerned. I want to make the smaller rolls but Reinhart’s admonition that the dough shouldn’t be rolled out too thin or “the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump” has me worried. The last time I made cinnamon rolls (and granted, this was 10+ years ago), I wound up with rolls that were pretty decent out of the oven but were very chewy and unappealing after they cooled off. (Come to think of it, I had to knead those little bastards by hand, too. Maybe this is why I’ve shied away from yeast breads—those rolls were pretty difficult. Huh –Who knew the DBers would provide a therapy session for cooking-related trauma? Thanks DBers!) I hope these guys turn out as nicely as everyone elses’!

After proofing, just before the dough is rolled out.

I’m planning on dividing the dough in half and using cinnamon/nutmeg sugar for one side and cardamom/cinnamon sugar for the other. My concern is that the cardamom won’t be punchy enough on its own. (Maybe I have a weak batch of ground cardamom?)

I’m also thinking about trying each version with the icing and caramel (separately, of course!) but I’m going to wait until later to make a final decision on that one. OK, time to walk to dog while the yeast blooms and the dough rises.

3:56pm: Wow! I just finished rolling out the dough – it’s amazing. It’s looking great! It has that faint tangy smell of a sweet yeast bread (is that from the yeast, the lemon extract or a combo of both?) and its texture is smooth and pillowy soft. It’s thrilling! I actually made this — and it looks good!

I divided the dough in half to accommodate two different fillings: cinnamon/nutmeg (3/4 tsp. cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and 3 Tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp.sugar) and cardamom (just shy of a full1 tsp of cardamom plus 3 Tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp.sugar). The smells that filled my kitchen! Spicy, warm, exotic – delicious!

After sprinkling each side with spiced sugar and rolling up the dough, I had a little bit of trouble getting the rolls to cut evenly. But I found a light coat of spray oil on the blade of a bread knife made quick work of things; I reapplied the oil after every two or three cuts.

Right now, two rolls (one cardamom, one cinnamon/nutmeg) are proofing while all the others are on parchment-lined baking sheets in the freezer. (That way, we won’t be “forced” to gobble them all up in one sitting…) Once the rolls are frozen, I’ll transfer them to Ziplock bags for easier storage.

I can’t wait to see how the rolls bake up!

8:09pm: The rolls have been baked and glazed with the fondant. They look quite pretty, but the texture — . They’re not tender; they’re not the soft gooey mouth feel of traditional cinnamon buns. They’re more like bread. Yummy, tasty, flavorful bread, but not what I was expecting. Maybe I baked them too long? Maybe they’ll soften up under the caramel glaze?

9:28pm: I ask the DBers for input:

OK, I made the rolls (half cinnamon, half cardamom) and it seemed like everything was going really well (gorgeous, pillowy soft dough! ) until I poked my fork into the baked buns. They’re not soft and almost gooey as I’d expected; they’re rather bread-like. Albeit very, very tasty bread. I like the cardamom better than the cinnamon one, but that didn’t stop me from scarfing the cinnamon down lickety-split. (And, mmm mmm for the lightly lemony fondant glaze.)I only baked off two, so I have 11 rolls in the freezer, and am thinking I might get a softer product by using them for sticky rolls instead of glazing them with fondant…

Anyway, what kind of texture should this recipe yield? I don’t have much experience with yeast breads (which is why I was both excited and nervous by this month’s challenge!). I’m open to any and all suggestions; maybe I should give things another go?

It turns out that, yes, this is the texture they’re supposed to yield (phew!). A few days later, I tackled the sticky buns. They baked up beautifully, and the taste & texture were FABULOUS. They’re softer and more gooey, plus the caramel is to die for. I prefer the sticky buns, but that doesn’t mean I’d turn my nose up at a cinnamon roll, either!

I had a wonderful time with this challenge. Big thanks to Marce (this month’s host) and Lis and Ivonne (the DB originators) for bringing it to all of us.
Next up: the October challenge!

Categories: Breads, Breakfasts, Daring Bakers, desserts, Grade Range: A- to A+


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