Sunday, September 30, 2007

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!


Unknown said...

Great shots and great looking buns! Welcome to the DBs!

Anonymous said...

Yummy and the photos are great :)

slush said...

Love your photos, and your rolls look delish! Great job!

Peabody said...

I love the step by step pictures...very helpful for those who didn't do the challenge.

Anh said...


Unknown said...

Welcome! I have found the blog during the month until the challenge is revealed to be so helpful. Nice job!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

nice photoessay! my kitchen is always to much of a disaster zone to ever get decent photos of "the process." your buns look fabtabulous!

Anonymous said...

Well done, Laura! Well done! Congratulations on completing your very first Daring Bakers challenge! Your buns look just gorgeous (I never get tired of saying that!)

Nazca said...

I liked the step by step pictures too. That's one thing I must start doing, rather than just eating fondant from the bowl... ;-)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Right on Laura Rebecca. I thought the sticky buns were the winner too but I still like the cinnamon rolls!
Great step by step!

Dolores said...

Beautiful buns Laura Rebecca! I love your minute-by-minute blogging approach; isn't it great how conducive this one is to multi-tasking? I'm also glad I'm not the only one tempted to taste the raw dough... ;)

Anne said...

Beautiful post! I'm glad you enjoyed the challenge, well done!

Deborah said...

Your photos are wonderful! Great job on your first DB challenge!

Lis said...

The color of your buns has me swooning!


No really.. they are the perfect goldeny brown and the drizzled glaze just enhances the perfection!

I think Kelly and I are going to try a Cinnabon recipe together.. wanna join? ;)

Way to go.. so happy you are a DB!


Helene said...

We like the sticky buns the best especially with cardamom. Great job on your first challenge completed with success!

marias23 said...

Congrats on your maiden challenge. They turned out be-yoooo-tiful!

Aoife said...

I felt like I had traveled back in time . . . all the way back to one month ago! Love the liveblogging, and the pictures look great! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Julie said...

Congratulations on your first challenge! I love your photos, especially the second one where the bun looks like it just wants to pop off the plate.

Thanks for your play-by-play--I enjoy posts like this!

Katie said...

Well done with your first challenge. They look great, I love how you experiemtned with different fillings.

Anonymous said...

Your buns came out great! I have to experiement with other spices like you did next time :)

Karen Baking Soda said...

I had the same experience, a shorter oventime did the trick for me! Love the way theyl look though

Unknown said...

Looks delicious!

monica said...

those buns look fantastic! and i love how you did step by step photos. great job on the challenge!