Mmmm…. the delicious scent of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.
Winter is a great time to make these (you can heat your house at the same time you create these delectable rolls) –and it’s easier than you might think!
I have a basic yeast dough that I make pretty often, and I usually keep some in the fridge so I can bake when the urge strikes.
- Put about 1/4 cup of lukewarm water in a glass, add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar, and let rise for about 10 or 15 minutes to be sure the yeast is active.
- Put the yeast mixture in a bowl, with another cup of lukewarm water, a teaspoon of salt and enough flour (bread flour and whole wheat flour, up to half the total) to make a moist, but not sticky dough (it’ll be about 3 cups or more).
- If you want a richer dough, add eggs, oil or melted butter, and/or sugar or honey to the liquid before stirring in the flour. You can also use milk instead of water, or add powdered milk.
- Knead on a floured board, then place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for a couple of hours. Or put in the refrigerator, covered (make sure you have room for the dough to expand) overnight or longer. The dough will slowly rise and just needs to be brought to room temperature before you shape it. This method doesn’t require you to knead for very long.
- To make cinnamon rolls, roll the dough out into a big rectangle, brush the top lightly with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins or currants if you wish. (Or try a variation, like cardamom-sugar with toasted almonds) Roll the dough up, starting from the shorter end, and cut into segments.
- Place the rolls in a lightly oiled pie pan, leaving a little space between them, and cover with a cloth. Let the rolls rise for 30 to 45 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake about 30 to 45 minutes, till golden brown.
You can bake them just like this for plain cinnamon rolls, but if you want the deluxe version, here’s a little trick I learned many years ago: put a good amount of cinnamon sugar on a large plate; then brush the outside of the rolls (sides, top and bottom) with water and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.
If you want to turn your cinnamon rolls into sticky buns, stuff walnuts between the rolls and put some more cinnamon-sugar into the spaces.
You can also make your cinnamon rolls the night before and bake them in the morning. Just cover the pan with the rolls with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight. They will rise and look like the photo above. In the morning, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes.
Let cool for just a few minutes, then turn the whole pan upside down on a plate, scooping any cinnamon sugar on top. Sunday brunch, anyone?
Fennel-golden raisin twists
In my quest for a treat that has no-or-little fat and is not very sweet, I’ve been using the same dough to make fennel-golden raisin twists. A local bakery used to make something like this, and they were my pastry of choice with a cup of coffee. But since they stopped making them years ago, I decided it was time for me to figure out the recipe.
I added golden raisins to my basic yeast dough and let it rise once. Then I took a little ball of dough for each twist, and formed it into two ropes. I dipped each little rope of dough briefly into water and then rolled the in a mixture of cornmeal, sugar and fennel seeds (you can experiment with proportions) before I twisted them together and pinched the edges.
I let them rise for about half an hour, then baked in a preheated 350 degree oven. They take between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the size, and they’re ready when they’re golden brown.
The cornmeal gives a nice crunch and there’s just the right touch of sweetness from the sugar in the rolled mixture along with the raisins.
If your bread dough has no fat or eggs, these treats will be best the day you bake them, but you can just make a few at a time and keep the rest of the dough refrigerated. Otherwise, they’re good warmed up the next day. In any case, you’re not likely to have too many leftovers…..