Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

King Arthur Flour (KAF) has done it again. This recipe produces a very soft and pillowy roll that tastes fresh even the next day. They prove again, that technique is important. The vanilla icing is rich and wonderful. As they state, “the result is truly the ultimate cinnamon roll.”

Whenever you bake, it’s important to use fresh and quality ingredients. Make sure your yeast is still fresh, the flour is the correct flour for the recipe and not expired. I sometimes only use a flour once because of a recipe, and it just sits on the shelf until the fateful expiration-date-trash-toss. You can freeze flour if you don’t think you will be using it soon. It’s important to have the right space. If you have to roll a dough, you should have the space to roll it and for excess flour to splash about. I cover counter items with dish towels so I don’t have flour between olive oil bottles and such. Most importantly, you need to make time. Look at the recipe and see if it accounts for the prep, bake, or total time. Add on to whatever time is stated. Professional bakers are more skilled. The equipment they use is not the same as ours. I have started using a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. It does make a difference.

I’m not a librarian but I play one in real life. I love to research. So, I approached this recipe with caution. I was glad there wasn’t a “best” snuck into the title. There is no “best.” I follow KAF on Instagram (@kingarthurbaking). They made a video on how make this recipe. Several tips, not included in the recipe, were shown in the video. I was unfamiliar with the Japanese technique, tangzhong. After watching the video, I knew how to do it and what it should look like. Confidence booster. This technique pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which helps them retain liquid, thus enhancing softness and shelf life. Food science! I also followed the suggestion of adding the rest of the milk to the tangzhong, when it was done, to take the chill off the milk. One more trick I learned was to brush the rolled out dough with some milk, to make the cinnamon filling stick. Also, somewhere between the video and printed tips, I learned that rolling it too tightly, makes the center “pop” when it’s cooked. Yes. More information that I needed to stop the cursed mountain-looking roll.

Ingredients

Tangzhong:

1/2 cup (113 grams) whole milk

3 tablespoons (23 grams) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

Dough:

2/3 cup (151) whole milk, cold

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour

1 tsp. (6 grams) salt

2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Filling

1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter, melted

1/2 cup (107 grams) light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons (15 grams) King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour

3 to 4 teaspoons (8 grams to 10 grams) cinnamon

1/16 teaspoon (pinch) salt

Icing:

3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter, melted and divided

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/16 tsp. (pinch) salt

1 1/2 cups (170 grams) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 to 2 tablespoons (14 grams to 28 grams) milk or cream enough to thin to desired consistency ( I like it thick)

Instructions:

To make the tangzhong, combine both ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until there are no lumps. Place the saucepan over a medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened. It should be thick as paste. If you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pan, the mixture does not cover the drag line. It should take about 1-3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Add the 2/3 cup of milk to the pan, to take the chill off. Warm milk helps the yeast rise quicker. Hot milk, over 110 degrees, will kill the yeast.

To make the dough, transfer the tangzhong and milk from the pan into a the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed. If you didn’t add the milk to the tangzhong, add the 2/3 cup of milk to mixer, to warm the cold milk.

Mix on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Once it’s mixed, knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and tacky. This will take about 10-12 minutes on medium-low speed of a mixer. I periodically stopped the mixer and scraped the dough off the hook, and then turned it back on. I wanted to make sure it was getting kneaded.

Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover (shower cap!) Let the dough rise until puffy, but not necessarily doubled in bulk. This should take from 60-90 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen. I like to turn my over on to 200 degrees, and place the dough near the back of the stove, so the heat from the oven helps it rise. Keep an eye on it. I turn the pan so both sides get some warmth. If the pan seems hot, pull it toward the front of the stove. You don’t want them to cook, just warm enough to help the rise.

To make the filling, while the dough is rising, put the melted butter into a medium bowl and add the rest of the remaining ingredients, stirring until the mixture is the texture of damp sand. I used Vietnamese cinnamon. It’s very strong. I used 3 tablespoons and it was still strong. Next time I will use only 2 tablespoons. If you are using regular grocery store cinnamon, use the recipe recommended amount. You can add less and then add more once you have tasted it. Always taste. Set the bowl aside.

Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. I prefer parchment paper.

To assemble the rolls, transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and press it into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle. I treated myself to this rolling mat and don’t regret it. It’s made of silicone, so there’s no sticking, no grease to wipe off. I use it when I roll out my pie dough too. Handy but not necessary. For evenly shaped rolls, try to pat the dough into an actual rectangle (with corners). You don’t need a rolling pin for this. I did use one after I patted it into a rectangle.Try to handle it as little as possible. You don’t want it to snap back on you. If it does, give it a rest before you continue. It’s very pliable, so it should be easy to shape.

To help the cinnamon mixture stick, I brushed the dough with a little milk. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, covering all but the 1/2″ strip along one long side.

Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log. Don’t roll it too tightly. This will cause the center to pop out when it’s baking. Pinch the seam together with your fingers. This recipe makes 8 generous rolls. I would not change the size, but you can. I score the log in the middle. Then I score each half, at the half point. And then again to make 8 scores. Using dental floss is the best way to cut the dough into individual rolls. Slip it under the dough, cross it on the score mark, and pull the ends. Voila! The rolls are not squished. Save the minty floss for your teeth. Only use unflavored floss for your rolls. But you knew that!

Place the rolls on your baking sheet. The directions say to space them 2 inches apart. I like to space them closer. I like when they rise and bake to be touching. Pulling apart warm rolls is one of life’s joys. Keeping them close helps keep the rolls from unraveling too. I put them about an inch apart. You can lay them out in a 3-2-3 pattern. If you do space them further apart, to hold the ends in place, you can tuck the ends of the spirals underneath the rolls.

Cover the rolls with a clean dish towel and let the rise for 30-60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The rolls should be puffy and the dough shouldn’t bounce back immediately when pressed. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the rolls for 14 to 18 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190 degrees. Bake for the lesser amount of time for extra-soft rolls, and the longer amount of time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.

Remove rolls from the oven, place pan on a cooling rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter. Let the rolls cool for 10 to 15 minutes before icing.

To make icing, combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 grams) of melted butter with the remaining icing ingredients in a medium bowl. I sift my sugar through a mesh strainer. Nothing fancy. Mix with a spatula until smooth. I did not divide my butter. I used only one bowl to melt the butter. and brushed enough to coat the rolls. I used the remaining melted butter for the icing. Not quite what the directions said, but it worked out wonderfully. I had to add a little more milk. I like the icing to be thick. When the rolls are warm, thick icing melts a little into crevices, while some stays on top. It’s magical.

If you have any left you can store them at room temperature for a few days, or freeze them up to 1 month.

Next time I may add cooked cinnamon sugar apples to the filling. You can also add raisins.

Enjoy!

Roberta’s Pizza Dough

I have posted this pizza dough recipe before, Where many of us are working from home, or avoiding dining out, it’s a good time to try making your own pizza.

I used to buy grocery store pizza dough for the convenience. I still love a hot Domino’s pizza showing up at my front door. Over the years I have discovered, how easy it is to make pizza dough. Making pizza dough requires few ingredients and, time and planning. I found this recipe in the NYT. There are many many many pizza dough recipes in the universe. They all require, flour, yeast, water, olive oil and salt. What differs is the ratios of these ingredients and the process of making the dough. Roberta’s recipe calls for 00 pizza flour. I have bought the Antimo Caputo Chef’s Flour on Amazon. I made last nights pizza with King Arthur Flour’s 00 pizza flour. Both brands worked well. You can also use only all-purpose flour in this recipe. The dough is a little stiffer, but it still works well. The key to making your own pizza dough is giving the dough time to develop flavor. Make it, at least, the night before you plan on using it. It will last in the refrigerator for several days. You can also freeze the dough after the first rise for future use, or gift it.

The process of making this dough is quick and easy. You either measure the ingredients or weigh them on a kitchen scale. The dough only needs a few turns in the bowl, in two steps. No messy kneading on a flour splattered counter. The first kneading creates a sticky dough. A few minutes later, you knead a relaxed, firmer dough. It’s amazing. Pizza dough is a science experiment that ends up edible. And, you CAN do it!

153 grams 00 flour ( 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)

153 grams all-purpose flour ( 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons )

8 grams fine sea salt (1 tsp.)

2 grams Rapid Rise yeast (3/4 tsp.)

4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 tsp. )

1 cup lukewarm water (approximately)

In a large mixing bowl, combine fours, yeast and salt. Stir to combine dry ingredients.

You will need a little less than 1 cup of warm water. It should be under 110 degrees or it will kill the yeast. If you’re not sure, let the warm water sit for a few minutes. Cool water won’t hurt the yeast, it will just take a little longer to start working. The amount of water can depend on temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Winters are drier and may require a little more water. Summers are more humid and require less water. If after you mix the ingredients you find there is some flour in the bottom of the bowl, add a few sprinkles of water at a time. You want just enough water for the ingredients to hold together.

Add the olive oil and lukewarm water to the flour mixture. Set a kitchen timer for 3 minutes. With your impeccably clean hands, mix the dry and liquid ingredients together. When it comes together, flour the dough over itself, and push down with the heel of you hand. Turn the bowl, and repeat. I don’t even do this for the whole three minutes. The dough will be sticky and your fingers with be doughy. It’s okay. Pull off what you can from your fingers. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. When you wash your hands, use cool water. It seems counterintuitive, but it works better than warm water. You will use cool water in your bowl when you’re done making the dough. Trust me.

After 15 minutes, you are going to set the kitchen timer for 3 minutes, and repeat the quick kneading process. Fold and turn the bowl. Nice and easy. It’s not a race. The dough should not be sticky. The yeast has started to work with the gluten in the flour. It will be easier to knead this time. After the three minutes, coat the same bowl with a little olive oil. I form a dough ball, and either lift it out of the bowl, or push it to the side. Put a little olive oil in the bowl and use the dough to coast the sides and bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. I usually use a glass or ceramic bowl. You can cut it into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. It depends on what pan you will be using and how many people you are feeding . I use a cookie sheet for my and do not divide the dough. You can still use 1/2 the recipe on a cookie sheet, for a smaller pizza. This dough also freezes well. This is the perfect time to put in a ziplock back and pop into the freeze. When you use the frozen dough, let it rise in an oil coated bowl. Don’t defrost it in the ziplock bag. Rookie mistake.

If you are using the dough the same day, let it rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature. If you using it a different day, and/or want the dough to develop more flavor, place the covered dough in the refrigerator. It will continue to rise, slowly in the refrigerator. The day you want to use it, let it sit at room temperature for about 3 hours. It will rise a little more. After reading the comments, I let it sit for a 1/2 hour on the counter just to make sure it the dough will rise. The plastic wrap will get cloudy and the dough will spread out. I won’t lie, it kinda excites me to see that and to know I made dough! Even after years of making yeast breads, the rise is exciting. As the dough rises, it will bubble. Bubbles are good, it means the yeast is working and developing flavor.

I like to use a cookie sheet for my pizza in my oven heated to 425 degrees. I use a little olive oil to coat the pan and sprinkle a little corn meal. The dough usually stretches to almost the edge of the pan. I don’t use corn meal near the edges as it will burn if there is no dough over it.

I put the dough in the center of the pan and gently stretch it out. Here is where you will need some patience. This dough stretches beautifully, you just have to take your time and work with it. I put a little olive oil from the pan on my finger tips. I gently push the dough from the center, towards the pan edge. Don’t get ambitious and use the palm of your hand. It will break the dough and the dough will stick to your hand. Let it rest for a minute and push it outward a little more. You may have some patches that look thin. It’s ok. The dough will rise more when it cooks.

Once you stretch it out, you can add your pizza sauce. I like to make mine. I use a small can of tomato paste, one small grated onion, water and oregano. I heat the grated onion in olive oil until it starts to become translucent on medium heat. I sprinkle a little salt over the onions. Then I add the can of tomato paste and stir it into the onions. I use the tomato paste can to add water. I start with half a can of water, and stir. If you want more sauce, add another 1/2 can. This makes enough for two pizzas. You can even water it down a little more. I add some oregano and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Sauce done! You can make it ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you need it.

Add your toppings and bake. I like my cheese to really melt and the bottom of the crust to start to brown. I slip a spatula under the pizza to peek at the bottom of the crust. Enjoy your hot pizza!

Here is the original recipe. I like to read the comments to get ideas.

Cinnamon Rolls

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Kaboom! That’s the magical sound when my favorite things, cinnamon and rolls, collide and become one. Warm, gooey, sweet cinnamon rolls are my favorite things. It’s a treat to have a cinnamon roll and a cup of tea. Enjoying the quiet, thinking deep thoughts, and inhaling the frosted cinnamon rolls starts the day with a bit of magic. Why, yes, I lick the frosting off my fingers. If you are thinking they are complex creatures, you are wrong. Cinnamon rolls are easy. They can be made partially ahead and refrigerated. Start on Saturday night, bake Sunday morning. If you’re thinking, “I don’t need 30 rolls” (You’re wrong, by the way), then you will be happy to know that the recipe can be halved. Unlike my “friend”, make sure to half ALL the ingredients. Ahem. Easter weekend I made these rolls three times. Let’s get baking. As usual, please read the directions through first, so  you have all the ingredients, and understand the steps and time involved.

Cinnamon Rolls

2 packages yeast ( 4 1/2 teaspoons) dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water or instant yeast (read directions!)

6 tablespoons shortening (Crisco)

1 cup granulated sugar

8 cups all-purpose flour ( you may need another cup or so if dough is sticky)

2 cups of hot water (from the tap)

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon salt

softened butter

brown sugar

raisins (optional)

cinnamon

Frosting

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

4 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. If you are using regular yeast, add the yeast to a cup of lukewarm water (less than 110 degrees) and sprinkle in a little sugar. Set aside for about 5 minutes. This is called proofing. If you’re not sure about the temperature, cooler is better. Yeast is a live organism. Hot water will kill it and your rolls won’t rise. If the water is cool, it will still rise, but may take a little longer to do so. See, you learned something.
  2.  In a bowl, of a stand mixer, add shortening, sugar, and salt to the hot water and beat for 30 seconds, using the beater blade. There will be splashing. Let cool to lukewarm temperature. Stir in 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. If you are using instant yeast, add the yeast now, as well as the 1 cup of lukewarm water  that would have been used in the proofing, and mix until well combined. There is no need for proofing instant yeast. Mix in beaten eggs.
  3. Gradually stir in the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook for about 2 minutes. I always need about another cup of flour. You want the dough to start pulling away from the side of the bowl and climb up your dough hook. It’s a sticky dough. Remove dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand, add a little flour if the dough is still sticky. Knead until dough feels satiny and smooth. I always need more flour than I think. It will be elastic but not as sticky as it was. Sprinkle some flour on your hands. You will be a sticky, floury mess.
  4. Cover and let rise in a bowl for 30 minutes to one hour.  I  “help” the dough rise by heating my oven to 200 degrees and placing the covered bowl on the stove top. Heat from the oven, comes up to the stove at the back of the stove. Turn the bowl occasionally. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot by pulling it towards the center of the stove. After the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and divide it in half. With a rolling pin, roll one half of the dough into a rectangle. Spread dough evenly with softened butter (About 2 tablespoons for each half. Be generous) Sprinkle dough with brown sugar, raisins (if you wish), and cinnamon. Make sure you use LOTS of brown sugar (About 1/2 cup for each half. Again be generous.)  Sprinkle on a lot of cinnamon. I like to use a good cinnamon from Penzeys. If you are using raisins, soak them in warm water first, to plump them up. You will not be dissappointed.
  5. Roll up dough into one long roll. Cut into rolls, using a piece of dental floss or thread, about two inches thick. Yes, you can use a knife if you don’t want to go upstairs for the floss. Place rolls in greased 9 X 13 baking pan. Rinse and repeat for the second  half.
  6. If you are making these the night before, cover the pans with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator. The next day, let them rise about an hour or so, until they are doubled. If you making them for the same day consumption, let the rolls rise until doubled. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until brown-only about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the rolls cool to room temperature.
  7. While the rolls are cooling, make the frosting. In a medium bowl, whisk, together butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Frost the cooled cinnamon rolls generously.

See, that wasn’t so bad. Relax. Pat yourself on your back. You made cinnamon rolls! Now go eat ’em. As you can see from the photo, I eyeballed the two inches. Oh well! They were still delicious! I brought a batch to an Easter brunch and there were none left. Just sayin’.

NOTE: I usually make the half the recipe unless I’m giving them as gifts. Make sure you measure out 1/2 of each ingredient and place in bowls. It’s easy to forget to decrease the ingredients by half. If you write down the 1/2 amount on the recipe, and then put it bowls, you’re less likely for forget. To make the half recipe go a little further, make the rolls 1 inch instead of 2 inches.

Here’s the original recipe.

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