Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

These cinnamon rolls turned out to be completely unnecessary but ultimately much-loved.
Why? I had planned to have them for Saturday breakfast, my usual time to crank out sweet breads and muffins. It was going to be a bit tricky because Sami needed to leave for Paris relatively early, we had overnight guests, and we were having a dinner party for said guests the night before. And as we all know, yeast dough needs time to rise. Lots of time.
No problem, I told myself, I'll make the dough Friday afternoon, roll it up and set it to rise before I go to bed Friday night, and then I'll just rise bright and early and put the rolls in the oven so that everyone can have fresh, hot cinnamon rolls in the morning.
Well, I did one of those things: I made the dough in the afternoon.

Note the mashed potatoes. They make all the difference in the dough, I think. Maida's yeast doughs are always a delight to work with--springy and not too sticky. I mixed this with my hands, and it turned out perfectly.

Here's the dough Friday afternoon. I covered it and put it on a cool windowsill so that it wouldn't rise too fast. It filled up the bowl and puffed up a few inches over the top. By the time our dinner party, which didn't get started until 8 and involved several bottles of wine, was over, I was in no condition to roll out dough. So I just punched down the dough and hoped for the best.

Note to self: when hosting French people, have less food than you think you need and more wine than you think you'll want.
Late in the evening, after the vegetable tart and the lamb cooked in milk and the spicy Swiss chard and the delightfully smelly Saint-Nectaire our guests had brought, I put the beautiful banana upside-down cake on the table. Everyone cooed, but for one guest who proclaimed that she could not abide cinnamon. Note to self: This seems true for a majority of French people. Very little of the cake got eaten.
Great, I told myself, those cinnamon buns will be quite the hit tomorrow morning!

So I got up and went to the bakery for something more traditionally French, like a baguette. Note to self: many French people prefer not to eat in the morning. Don't bother.

Nonetheless, they oohed and aahed over the rolls and their progress. But Claire was the only one who actually ate one. Can you tell which one?
Later I had one for lunch. It was sooo good. I wanted to be like Maida's husband Ralph, who apparently ate a whole batch over the course of the day: "It was his dinner. Then he had to go to bed. A few hours later he asked for more." But I had to hold firm, so I packed a basket with some of these and brought them to a French-American family in town. I told the French husband my story of the unnecessary cinnamon rolls, and he told me, "You shouldn't force people to eat food they don't like. You should bring it to people who appreciate it." And I believe they did.
One more note: Claire's friends at school, seeing her pick at her cafeteria lunch, sent her to the nurse to get a lecture on eating disorders. Apparently they've never seen her eat cinnamon rolls.

Here's the recipe. Serve it to appreciative folks.

Cinnamon Buns

210 g. or about 8 oz. potatoes
4-1/2 c. (22.5 oz.) unsifted bread or all-purpose flour (I used about 1-1/2 c. whole wheat)
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 envelope (2-1/4 t., I think) instant yeast
1 c. milk
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 oz. (1/2 stick) melted butter, cooled a bit

Peel the potatoes and boil them (no salt!) in water just to cover. When they are tender, drain off some of the water into a bowl for later. Mash the potatoes by themselves--no butter, no salt. Let the potatoes and water cool to warm room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Make a well in that and add the potatoes along with 1/4 cup of the potato water, the milk, egg, vanilla, and butter. Use the dough hook of your stand mixer or a wooden spoon or your bare hands to work that all into a smooth dough that "feels alive." If you have a mixer, it'll just do its thing; if you're working by hand you'll want to dump out the dough and knead it for a while. When the dough feels smooth and lively, put it back in the bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise 1-1/2 hours in a warm place or 4-5 hours (or overnight) in a cool place.
When you're ready to roll, have ready the following ingredients:
2 T. sugar, mixed with 1-1/2 t. cinnamon and 1/4 t. nutmeg (This may not seem like enough cinnamon sugar. I worried about that, but the rolls were cinnamon-y enough. You could add more if you feel it necessary.)
1 oz. (2 T.) melted butter
5 oz. (1 c.) soft raisins (I probably used half of that)

Punch down the dough and roll it out (on a floured surface) into a large rectangle: Maida says an 18-inch square. I didn't measure, but rolled it as far as my Sil-Pat went.
Now smear/brush the dough with the melted butter, sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar, and then distribute the raisins. Roll it up into a nice log. Since there's not too much sugar, this should roll neatly. Mark the log into 12 even pieces and then slice it. If you've got unminted dental floss, you can use that to cut your pieces. I love doing that. I did not, however, so I used a knife and that was fine. Put the pieces on a greased jelly roll pan (or back on the Sil-Pat), cover them with a towel, and let them rise for an hour in a warm place, or in a cool place overnight.
When you're ready to bake, heat the oven to 375. Take the towel off the rolls and put them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes (mine needed at least 25, and my oven seems to run hot).
While the rolls are baking, make the glaze:

1 T. (0.5 oz.) butter, room temperature
about 1 c. (4 oz.) powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 t. vanilla
a few drops almond extract
2-3 T. light cream (or half and half or milk)

Mix this all together in an electric mixer, or mash it together with a fork. Glaze the rolls while they're still hot, preferably. Enjoy. Try to restrain yourself. But you'll probably ask for more in a few hours.

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