Weekend Cinnamon Rolls

Thanks God it’s Friday. It’s cliché, but this week I truly mean it. It has been an intense week from an academic point of view, and not in a very nice way. But as Scarlet O’Hara would say, tomorrow is another day. And what’s more important, tomorrow is Saturday, which in my mental association process means “brunch”. Which in turns means “cinnamon rolls”, and particularly these cinnamon rolls that I tried last week and I am definitely going to replicate because they turned out really good!

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I come from a region in northern Italy that is somewhat cinnamon-obsessed. When I arrived in the US I was delighted to see that there is no lack of cinnamon-obsession here either, and I have by now built quite a reputation for being a cinnamon-rolls addict. As is the case for any addiction, I reached a point where I realised I’d better learn how to produce the addictive good myself.

So I tried to bake cinnamon rolls myself a number of times, and to date this is my favourite version, for two reasons. First, thanks to an Asian baking trick that I have used here before, they stay soft for longer (which is good if you don’t plan to eat them all right out of the oven, although this my be a difficult temptation to resist). Second, it is actually a bit of an irregular  cinnamon roll, because there is not just cinnamon in it. But be sure the addition is definitely worth the unorthodoxy!

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Ingredients (makes about 12, to fill a 9-inch pan) – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Dough:

  • 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour (420 g)
  • 1 packet active dried yeast
  • 6 tablespoon butter, melted (85 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk

Filling:

  • 1-2 tablespoon butter (melted)
  • 1/2 dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • a pinch of ground cloves

Icing:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (melted)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk (depending on how thick you want the icing to be)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powder sugar

 

Make the tangzhong: measure 3.5 cups of all purpose flour in a large bowl. Take 2 tablespoons of flour out of the total flour and mix them in a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of milk, whisking until no lumps remain. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat, and set it aside. When it has cooled down a bit, add the sugar, the eggs, butter and 1/2 cup warm milk, mixing well until incorporated.

Make the dough: pour the tangzhong mixture into the flour and knead until you get a smooth, elastic, somewhat sticky dough. Shape the dough into a ball, put into a lightly greased bowl and let it raise for 90 minutes.

Make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and other spices, mixing until the spices are thoroughly distributed.

When the dough is raised, gently deflate it and shape it into a 18 x 13-inches rectangle. Brush with the two tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle the filling all over the rolled-out dough. Starting with a long edge, roll the dough into a log and cut the log into 12 slices, about 1.5 inches each.

Lightly grease a 9-inches round pan (or a 9 x 13 rectangular pan). Place the rolls into the pan, leaving a little space between them. Cover the pan and let the rolls rise for 45 minutes, until they are quite puffy and no empty space remains between them.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180° C). When the rolls are ready, bake them for 22 to 25 minutes. Don’t worry if they are nor browned: it is much better to under-bake these rolls than over-bake them.

While the rolls are baking, stir together the icing ingredients, adding enough of the milk to make a thick spreadable icing (the icing should be quite stiff). Remove the rolls from the oven, and let them cool down a bit, then spread them with the icing and eat warm!

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