Friday, January 4, 2008

Christmas Part 6: The Cinnamon Rolls

Mmmmm...cinnamon rolls...Who doesn't love cinnamon rolls? Mrs. BigKat likes to have something special to eat on Christmas mornings, and in the past we've had cinnamon rolls. You know, the kind that come in the big tube from the grocery store, which are fine. I mean, they're nice and hot and covered in icing.

Well, this year, Mrs. BigKat decided that she would like to have some homemade cinnamon rolls. She has a bread book that has a cinnamon roll recipe in it that she's been wanting to try out. We also saw Alton Brown do cinnamon rolls on one of his shows. Mrs. BigKat decided that, since I love working with bread dough so much, that I should be the one that got to make them.

Now I have to back up a second. Remember in Christmas Part 3 when I mentioned that I used to be afraid of candy making? Well, the same thing also applied to bread making. Anything you could say about the candy thermometer, you could also say about yeast. There were too many crazy concepts in bread making that I didn't understand: blooming, proofing, kneading. It just made me very uncomfortable. I could try to follow all of the steps, but if it didn't work out, I would have no idea what went wrong. It would be like if the recipe said to put flour in a bowl, jump up and down 3 times, and then moo like a cow. I could do that, but if it didn't work, how would I be able to fix it? I could try jumping 4 times, or maybe jumping faster, or maybe try making duck sounds instead. But it would all be just guessing.

But again, Alton Brown helped me out a lot here. He did a show on bread making as well as a pizza show that helped me understand what happens when you make bread. And now that I have an understanding of the science behind it, I really enjoy the whole process. It took a little practice to get the hang of it. But I really got into making pizzas which provided me with a lot of good dough making experience. Now, I love it. If there is an interesting looking bread recipe lying around, I want to make it. I actually now prefer making bread to cooking barbecue! That doesn't mean that I'd rather eat bread than eat barbecue. But I just find the whole idea of taking flour, water, yeast, and salt and creating a delicious loaf of bread out of them to be amazing. Anyhow, back to my story...

Ok, so it's Christmas Eve and I have to start the cinnamon rolls. I didn't get started until around 10pm because I had some gifts to wrap after the children went to bed. But this was fine. The dough needed a couple of hours to rise after it was made, which meant that I could get everything ready and in the refrigerator by a little after midnight. That wasn't too bad. I could handle that. I decided to use Alton Brown's recipe since we still had the show on Tivo. And everything went very smoothly. When I took the dough out of the mixer, it looked exactly like Alton's dough on TV. Great! I put the dough in a bowl, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit.
Now, here's where one of my favorite parts about bread making happens. The yeast starts to do it's thing and fill the dough with gas. So when you start out, you have this compact little blob. But after a while, it turns into this big, puffy blob. Every time I see my puffy blob that's way bigger than when it started out, it just makes me happy. Kind of like the first time you saw your sea monkeys start swimming around or when the celery you left in a cup of food coloring started turning blue. Just a nice feeling of wonder and accomplishment. Very much different from the feeling of defeat and disappointment that comes when the dough is the same size as when it started.

Guess which one I was feeling when I came back at midnight to check on the dough...

Yes, the dough was still a little compact blog. Didn't rise at all. And I quickly realized that I had used the wrong yeast. I used Active Dry instead of Rapid Rise. I knew something was wrong when I didn't have to bloom the yeast. But I was sure that that's what Alton was using. I mean, he took it from a packet and not a jar. And he actually said something about how he preferred it to Rapid Rise. So I just trusted that it would turn out ok. Well, it didn't. And now I was left with a choice. Do I just call it a day and go to bed? Or do I try and start a new batch of cinnamon rolls at 12:30 AM? Easy choice, right? Of course it was an easy choice! I cleaned up my mess and got started on a new batch of cinnamon rolls...

I finished the dough at around 1pm and went to bed. I set my alarm for 3:30. That would give the dough a couple of hours to rise. Then I could go downstairs, roll out the dough, and get it into the refrigerator to let it sit.
Well, the next thing I knew, LilKat1 was waking me up at 6AM. I don't know what happened to my alarm. I must've just shut it off, but I don't even remember it making any noise or even waking up at all. We went downstairs and I turned a Christmas show on for LilKat1 while I got started on my cinnamon rolls.


It was pretty fun rolling out the dough. Here's what it looked like as a big log:

And here's what it looked like after I cut them up into little rolls:

I know, they're not all the same size. That's ok, the people in our house aren't the same size, so it works out fine.

I put them in the refrigerator to let them sit overnight. The only problem was, overnight had just finished. So I just let them sit until 11AM. It was only about 4 1/2 hours, but it would have to do.
The next step was proofing. I put them in the oven with a big pan of boiling water under them and ended up with this:

Then I cooked them:

And then applied the icing. Which left me with these:

Now here's the big question. Was it worth it? Was it worth all the effort, the frustration, the lack of sleep? I was actually pretty nervous as I took my first bite. If these were bad or just even ok, I was going to be VERY disappointed. I cut off a nice sized bite with a good bit of frosting and gave it a try. And do you know what?

It was DEFINITELY worth it...

Next, Christmas Part 7: The Song

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