Worth the Work

I have no idea what came over me.  I was aimlessly browsing foodgawker one dreary day. I often search the site, not out of hunger but for inspiration.

There are a few things in life I want to master.  Quiche.  Ceviche.  Beef Stock. Picatta. Risotto.  Scallops.  Alfredo. Alfredo has defeated me a handful of times. It is a good thing I’m not a huge fan or I would have lost it already. Notice that none of these are baked goods. This is because usually baking and I are not friends.  Even my chocolate chip cookies need help. I just keep adding butter. That solves anything right?

Well, a couple of weeks ago, while aimlessly browsing, I saw a beautiful picture of unbaked cinnamon rolls. What is it about them that look so beautiful while waiting to be baked? And what smells better than freshly baked cinnamon rolls? Cinnabon has proved the scent alone to be worth millions.

I went to work searching for a recipe. I foodgawk. I taste-spot. I google. I look for a recipe, or even a piece of one I like and make notes.   I have no idea what people did before the internet.  I’m thankful daily to have hundreds of recipes for miso salmon at my fingertips. (That recipe to come.)

With that being said, typically I don’t fudge  much with baking recipes. (Baking has so much chemistry to it and unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention to that in high school or college, which I now regret greatly.) I found a recipe that involved one of my very favorite ingredients, cream cheese (insert choir angels singing).  And while it involved an insane amount of work, it’ my go-to cinnamon roll recipe from here on out.

Worth It

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Joy the Baker, who found it in the October 2008 version of Saveur Magazine

I left out the cloves and raisins, simply because I didn’t have any.  I am going to try the next batch without nuts, to accommodate those I love who cannot have them. Plus, I’ll be honest, the cream cheese is the star of these pastries. I should probably leave out the fact that I used a champagne bottle in lieu of a rolling-pin.

Also, I will try to find a different recipe for the frosting. In my opinion, they don’t need it, but I’d prefer a small amount of cream cheese frosting over this. I will update when I find its perfect replacement.

*** Update 12/2013 – I almost always make these without nuts and have found a stellar cream cheese frosting recipe that, in my opinion… isn’t too sugary. That is updated and added below.

Dough Ingredients:

1 1/4 oz package of active dry yeast

1/2 tsp, plus 1/4 cup sugar separated

1/2 cup milk at room temperature

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and separated in to two equal portions

Filling Ingredients:

adapted from Food Network’s Cream Cheese Frosting recipe

½ cup sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp maple syrup

(updated) Frosting Ingredients:

4 oz butter, softened

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Lengthy, but totally worth it, directions…

  1. Combine the yeast, ½ tsp sugar and ¼ cup of water (heated to 115 degrees Fahrenheit) in the bowl of your stand mixer and let sit about 10 minutes, until foamy.  It is important to accurately heat the water to 115.  Anything too hot will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise.
  2. Once frothy, add the ¼ cup sugar, milk, 2 tbsp brown sugar, vanilla, egg and egg yolk to the bowl. Beat with whisk until well combined.
  3. Using the hook attachment, fit the bowl on the mixer and add the flour and salt while on medium speed until the dough comes together. Then, turn the mixer on medium-high and let knead for 4 minutes.
  4. Add the 1 stick of room temperature butter and continue to knead for 6 minutes.
  5. Flour the surface of your countertop. Knead approximately 1/3 cup into the dough. Set the dough in a large greased bowl and cover.  Let it rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.  (This is a good time to take your cream cheese out of the fridge if haven’t already to bring to room temperature.)
  6. Make the filling by mixing the filling ingredients.  Mix all the dry ingredients first then add the maple syrup and set aside.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, remove and move to a heavily floured surface. Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Once it is no longer sticky, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 5 minutes before rolling it out.
  8. During this time, mix the cream cheese with a knife until smooth and spreadable.
  9. Using a rolling-pin (or in my case at the time, a champagne bottle. NOT recommended), roll the dough into a 10 x 10 inch square.
  10. Spread the cream cheese over the square. Fold into thirds, as you would a letter. Then fold the rectangle into thirds again, making a small square.
  11. Flip the dough so the seam is facing down and gently roll the dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle. The cream cheese will ooze out. Be as gentle as possible and get to the size you need.
  12. Once you have the  10 x 20 inch rectangle, brush the dough with 1/2 the melted butter.  Also spread the filling mixture evenly, leaving a 1 inch boarder at a short edge of the dough so the roll can be sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough.
  13. Roll the dough so you have a 20 inch cylinder and cut into equal slices. (Ideally 8, but make them smaller if you choose.)
  14. Butter a baking dish of choice (metal or glass) and place rolls inside. Cover and let set for at least 2 hours. (Or overnight.)
  15. When ready, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Allow the rolls set at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before cooking. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  16. While baking, mix icing ingredients together until smooth.
  17. When done baking, brush rolls with remaining butter and let cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle with icing and serve to your very thankful guests.
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