Buns in the Oven (Three Ways)

This month has been cinnamon roll heaven. I already had plans to make sweet potato cinnamon rolls with my leftover sweet potato puree when the Daring Bakers September Challenge was announced: the Cinnamon Rolls and/or Sticky Buns from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, one of our favorite bread books. I decided to go ahead with my sweet potato recipe and call it a warm-up round for the real thing, but it made an enormous panful of rolls that we were eating for nearly a week, and we needed a break before I dove back in for another batch or two.

Cinnamon sugar swirls

The original plan was to do them last weekend, but I had no yeast left, and we ended up going to Ikea and Whole Foods instead. (And why on earth was there only tiny little packets of yeast at Whole Foods? Was I just looking in the wrong place or what?) I decided to bring a batch to my staff meeting on Friday the 28th instead, but we learned on Thursday afternoon that a VIP/force of nature was going to be visiting the library, and the staff meeting was postponed a week. This after I had already signed up to bring treats to the meeting and mentioned to several people that the plan was for cinnamon rolls…so I see another batch of these in my future later this week.

Since I was just making rolls for my husband and myself after all, I didn’t rush and got the dough started on Friday evening after a long walk at the park with our puppy. The dough came together nicely: I used active dry yeast (vs. instant), warmed buttermilk (vs. powdered milk), unbleached bread flour (vs. AP), butter (vs. shortening) and lemon extract (vs. zest). I did have to add quite a bit of extra flour to get the dough to form a ball as described; it had been so wet that the dough hook wouldn’t have had much effect, so I added in half a cup at a time until it looked right, perhaps as much as 1 1/2 C extra.

After switching to the dough hook, I set the timer and went in the other room to gather dishes for loading the dishwasher. Now I should explain that our stand mixer and Cuisinart sit on top of our portable dishwaser, because our kitchen is old, ill-arranged, and seriously lacking outlets and counter space. When I came back to check on the dough, the mixer was on the verge of attempting suicide by leaping onto the floor. It had walked forward at least a foot. I talked it down off the ledge, loaded some dishes (all of which were rattling wildly because of the mixer), and then rescued the suicidal mixer from another leap. By the time 10 minutes were up, I was exhausted, the mixer was thinking about overheating, and the dough was gorgeously pillowy and elastic, with a satin sheen. It was the first dough I’ve ever made that windowpaned perfectly, and if I’d had three arms or a husband who wasn’t playing a video baseball game, I would have captured that proud achievement on the camera.

Cinnamon roll dough, before and after

I have to admit that I diverted from the recipe a bit here. After the dough was safely ensconced in a greased bowl and deposited on the running dishwasher (for some moist heat in my cold, cold house), I gave my husband instructions to pop the bowl in the fridge before he came to bed and retired for the night. I knew it was going to take longer than two hours to double, and I wasn’t about to stay up that late, so the dough was retarded after the first rise rather than the second. It worked out just fine, though, as you can see. When hubby took the dog out for her morning constitutional, I pulled the dough from the fridge again to warm up, and got back in bed.

Cutting cinnamon rolls

From there it was a simple matter of rolling out the dough, sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar, and rolling it back up into a log. I used the old dental floss trick to cut it into 10 rolls, saved three in the fridge for sticky buns tomorrow, and arranged the rest on a baking sheet for their second rise.

Cut cinnamon rolls

Since my house was still cold and my tummy was hungry, I used the warm-oven trick to help facilitate the second rise, turning the oven on just for a minute or so to make it an insulated proofing box. I was satisfied with the rise after 45 minutes, in part because by then it was 10:45am. But they look nice and puffy, don’t they?

Oven-ready cinnamon rolls

The sad thing was that the 7-hour lamb from earlier this week overflowed in the oven, so instead of perfuming the house with the smell of cinnamon rolls, the kitchen smelled like burning lamb jus. But twenty minutes later, we forgot about the acrid scent, because our cinnamon rolls looked like this:

Finished cinnamon rolls

Mmmm, cinnamon rolls! I told Jeremy that the book said they had to rest for at least 20 minutes before we could eat them. He made sad eyes at me and basically told me I was starving him to death, so we started eating about 3 minutes after they came out of the oven. What can I say? I tried!

Glazed cinnamon rolls

I’ll admit to one more slight tweak to the recipe, out of necessity. I made a half recipe of glaze, and because we were out of milk, I used heavy cream (warmed in the microwave) instead. Also, after taking the pretty photo above, I thought to myself, who am I kidding, and loaded that sucker up with frosting.

Glazed cinnamon rolls

Much better! We made short work of these cinnamon rolls. They were soft and fluffy, and the sticky glaze made up for what we perceived as a lack of cinnamon-sugar goo in the interior of the rolls. Jeremy didn’t care for the citrus element of the rolls, so if—correction, make that WHEN—I make these again, I’ll use vanilla instead of lemon in the glaze. Personally, I didn’t mind the hint of lemon after a bite or three to get used to it.

Sticky buns on the rise

Since I’ve made cinnamon rolls several times before but never sticky buns, I knew I needed to give those a try in order to continue calling myself a Daring Baker. I put aside three rolls for that purpose because I still wasn’t convinced that I’d like sticky buns, and they fit nicely into my ceramic loaf pan. This morning, I pulled the plastic-wrapped buns out of the fridge in their pan and made the caramel glaze, which was an entirely different process than I had expected. A scattering of pecans (no dried fruit for me, please), and the rolls were nestled into the pan for their second rise. They baked for about 35 minutes, rested for 5, and we dug in.

Sticky buns

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I liked the sticky bun variation nearly as much as the cinnamon rolls. I’ve never had them before, but the caramel seemed to have just the right amount of flow and tackiness, and the flavor was more to Jeremy’s taste becaue I used vanilla instead of lemon extract this time. I would definitely consider making this variation again, and I’m very glad I tried it.

Please be sure to stop by the Daring Bakers blogroll and check out everyone’s fabulous creations. For this fantastic recipe, visit Pip in the City, the blog of September host Marce in Argentina.

You may be wondering why, since I only made two cinnamon roll variations for this challenge, I titled the post the way I did. Well, the third bun in the oven is the proverbial sort: I am now 16 weeks pregnant. Hopefully that will account for all my recent laziness in both cooking meals and writing up posts about them, not to mention the sudden tendency toward comfort foods and emphasis on calcium and protein and fiber and whatnot. At least I’ve been very lucky, as a foodblogger, in that I haven’t been subjected to any morning sickness or weird food cravings!

I am a member of the Theta Class of the Daring Bakers, induced in July of 2007. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.

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