Friday, September 25, 2009

"Better than Cinnabon."

A week has gone by. It was Gleesday last week when I said I was going to make cinnamon rolls. Those rolls only got made yesterday, Gleesday a week later than promised.

As I assembled my mise en place, I realized that the recipe for the sweet dough called for instant/rapid rise yeast. I only had packets of active dry. I knew we were out of or very low on a few other things I like to have on hand, so off to the store.

I don't get how spices are priced. I'm sure the prices have something to do with profit margins, but to me, it just seems ridiculous. Who decides that two tablespoons of ground cloves cost $8.99? I don't get how that price can be fair or validated when there is also a gigantic bottle of ground cloves - enough to probably last me 20 years; not that it would have any flavor in 20 years - by a no-name supplier that only costs $3.99? I would gladly buy the giganto bottle of whatever spice I need if it's one that I know I'll use on a regular basis and maybe actually get through the whole bottle but cloves? Cloves are not something I use enough to justify me buying the huge container and therefor taking up valuable cabinet space for the next two decades. It's a crime to pay that much for a much smaller amount, but that's what it comes down to in New York City - do I want to give up cabinet space to save my wallet?

As I stood in the the baking aisle and contemplated the small, but pretty well selected spice section, I wondered if I even needed to include the cloves. Cloves are a strong flavor, would certainly add to the rolls, and those America's Test Kitchen people usually know what they are doing so it is in the recipe for a reason. On the other hand, if I left them out, would I or Steve even notice? Probably not.

I now have ground cloves. Sigh.

This process started around noon or so. The recipe was easy enough to follow for the sweet dough. I used my mixer rather than the food processor to make the dough but I could have used either. The cookbook included instructions for both appliances. This was the first time in the seven or so years I've owned my Kitchen Aid mixer that I have used the dough hook. Lemme tell you, it worked like a charm. The cookbook said to keep kneading it in the mixer for five minutes until it sticks to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides. My dough didn't need anywhere near five minutes. Thirty seconds after determining that my dough needed just a little bit more buttermilk, it instantly mixed and unstuck itself. It started to form a roll all on its own and the top reached the lip of the bowl threatening to fling itself off the dough hook at any time. I guess it was done.

I turned it out on the counter and kneaded it about for about five minutes then I set it aside to rise. That was easy.

Two and half hours later, the dough has risen and it's time to sculpt it into the classic cinnamon roll. Let me say one thing about America's Test Kitchen recipes: they are very precise for a reason. This precision can come off as prissy, too exact, or anal, but really it's best to just follow their directions because you will get a perfect result every time. Like I said, they know what they are doing.

Their instructions said to form the dough into a 12-inch by 16-inch rectangle. They were very exact on these dimensions and recommended using a ruler to measure it. Um, okay. I dutifully pulled, rolled, coaxed, and massaged that dough into a 12x16 rectangle. Now what?

The cloves. Did you forget about the cloves?

By now, the cloves have been mixed with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. After brushing a little melted butter on the dough, I covered all but the edges with the sugar-cinnamon mix and lightly pressed on it so it would stick. Then, I carefully rolled the dough length-wise making sure to roll evenly. Pinched it closed at the seam and flipped it over. Now, ATK says to gently stretch the roll out so it is 18 inches long and of "even diameter." Again with the measurements! For this measurement they even went out of their way to say "exactly the right length." Why are they being so picky? Because they want you to cut the roll into twelve 1.5-inch thick slices. Duh. Didn't you see that coming?

Okay, all that is done. My 18-inch roll has become twelve somewhat evenly sized buns. I lined them up in a baking dish, covered, and let them rise again for another two hours. Here they are doing their thing:

Pay no attention to that deformed, very puffy one in the bottom left. He was an end piece and I'm not too sure what happened to him.

After they baked for 20 minutes, and got even puffier and golden, I let them cool just a little bit before drizzling on the topping. Mmmmm, the dough was baked perfectly, tasted great, and the cinnamon-sugar filling had melted into that familiar cinnamon bun sticky ooze. I asked Steve how he liked it, and he said, "are there cloves in here?" HA! No, he didn't ask that. He said, "better than Cinnabon." I should think so.

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