Friday, June 13, 2014

before I was mom I was baker (recipe: cream cheese cinnamon rolls)

Before I became a mom I was a baker.  My alarm was set for 3:17 am every morning.  I'd roll out of bed, brush my teeth, slip on my chef pants and throw on a thread bare tee-shirt.  The thinner the shirt the better-if you can't stand the heat, wear breathable cotton.

I'd drive a few exits north, snow usually dancing on my windshield-it was Idaho after all and during long winters it wasn't abnormal to see snow during six of the twelve months.  During fire season the Bannock Range would glow from the small fires set by lightning strikes.  Those summer mornings were always different, lonelier and a little sinister with fire breathing down the hills.

Our crew would fall in one by one and begin making dough-a delicious homey white, a molasses spiked wheat, a dense french.  We'd mix, scale, cut, shape, proof and bake.  We'd make cookies, brownies and slab apple pie.  When you had proved yourself responsible, worthy and skilled you were given the opportunity to make the infamous cinnamon rolls our bakery was known for.

I began making cinnamon rolls only a few months after I began working at the bakery.  The first day I rolled out the dough, spread the cinnamon "schmear" onto the surface, rolled it up into a tight jellie roll and sliced them into perfect, uniform, spiraled buns just as I had learned years before in culinary school.  They were so beautiful.

As I laid them out onto the baking sheet the lead from the front of the house passed by, gazed at my cinnamon rolls and gasped.  I panicked a bit and asked what was wrong.  "Do we not make cinnamon rolls anymore?" she asked.  I pointed out my trays and explained that I had just shaped them.  "But they look like a machine made them, I was afraid for a moment that we were selling boxed cinnamon rolls from the freezer!"  I assured her that it was the exact recipe that had been used for over a decade, they just had a new baker in the kitchen.

When I make cinnamon rolls at home I still practice the techniques I learned from my chef instructor years ago, taking care of their uniformity, delicately forming that perfect cinnamon spiced spiral that twirls about the bread.  They are such beauties.

This recipe from Saveur incorporates cream cheese into the dough which adds a delicate tang, a certain richness, enhances moistness and mellows the filling.  The recipe is a labor of love and would be a perfect addition for a family breakfast, special occasion or holiday gift.  You can also make the rolls in advance and refrigerate them overnight-which is a great time saver when entertaining.  Tender.  Delectable.  Scrumptious.  You've got to give them a whirl.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

source:  Saveur, Issue 114

1 (¼-oz.) package active dry yeast
½ tsp. plus ¼ cup sugar
½ cup milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2¾ cups flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
¾ tsp. fine salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

½ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. fine salt
⅛ tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. maple syrup
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioners' sugar
¼ cup buttermilk

1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook, combine yeast, ½ tsp. of the sugar, and ¼ cup water heated to 110°. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.

2. Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute.

3. Turn mixer off and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until the dough just comes together. Turn mixer speed to high and knead dough for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1 ½–2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
4.  Make the filling: Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl; stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set filling aside.

5. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a heavily floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary, about 1 minute. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10" x 10" square. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until it's smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square; then fold square into thirds as you would fold a letter to fit it into an envelope. Take the open ends of the resulting rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll into a 10" x 20" rectangle.

6. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. Drizzle the reserved filling over the dough, leaving a 1" border at the edge farthest away from you. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder, seam side down, on a cutting board and, using a thin, sharp knife, trim off the ends; cut cylinder crosswise into 8 equal-size slices. Nestle the slices, cut sides up and evenly spaced from one another, into a buttered 9" x 13" light-colored metal baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. (Alternatively, the rolls may be refrigerated overnight.)

7. Heat oven to 375°. Uncover the rolls. (If refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the rolls comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

8. Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth.

9. Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack; brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle all over the rolls. Serve immediately.

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