Best Cinnamon Rolls Ever

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rolls of milk bread filled with cinnamon sugar and butter

I discovered the joys of yeast just four months ago as I suppose did most of the world, with a pandemic on our heads and too much time on our hands, isolating at home with general anxieties for company. The world got baking, and I did too – breads that is, and what a wonderful discovery it was! We can bake! We can bake well! Hail Google and Youtube! We can make stuff sometimes better than the bakeries and patisseries we frequent! Oh Yay!

So after discovering the wonder of leavening agents puffing up dough to produce fluffy, delicious blocks of concentrated carbohydrates that upon indulgence go and plant themselves straight onto your ass, I decided to get on it big time! Nothing like making your own pizza dough, burger buns, brioche bread, cinnamon buns, milk bread, sourdough – uh no; too much effort for a lazy person like me so will give that a royal skip. Just cannot wait 7 days just to get the sourdough starter going. Better to just buy the stuff. 

So last week I promised my kid I would try my hand at cinnamon rolls which she could help me with for a mother-daughter bonding session. She had been complaining about me neglecting her and spending too much time tending to my plants (yes I did become quite the obsessed gardener). The irony is that it happened to be on a Saturday, weekends being the only time in the week the kids are allowed to watch television, so you can guess where madame was – definitely nowhere near me and the workstation for the cinnamon rolls. No contest. I went ahead and made the cinnamon rolls anyway. That would be the first of four attempts to perfect the recipe because I wanted them to be soft and fluffy and bursting with cinnamon flavour and not toooooo sweet. 

Boy did my efforts pay off. I made the dough with the proportions for Japanese milk buns, or pillowy Hokkaido bread using the Tangzhong method – where you take a bit of the flour and water and gently heat it to create a roux that helps your dough absorb more moisture thereby creating more of a lift to your bread, resulting in some serious deliciousness. Of course, me being me, I decided to experiment with using milk powder instead of milk and that paid off too. After testing the proportions I devised three times, I finally got the confidence to share the recipe with you all. 

I could not be bothered with making breads and rolls earlier probably because a) I was just not interested. b) I did not know that there was some really good instant yeast available in the market that didn’t require blooming in water, and c) I may have been a teensy bit intimidated by the whole process. All that has been put to rest now. 

This is a bit of work and takes a bit of time but try it. You’ll get faster with practise and your family and friends will love you more – that is if you’re inclined to share. These would easily be some of the best cinnamon buns you would have had (presuming you follow my instructions to the tee and have yeast that works well). The cinnamon rolls got rave reviews from whomever I shared them with and every batch I made, got polished off within a day. So here goes. 

Ingredients

⅔ cup water (145 -150 ml)
2½ cups flour (340gms) – I used all purpose flour
½ cup milk powder (60 gms)
¼ cup powdered sugar (50 gms)
¼ cup softened butter (50gms) – I used salted butter
1 tsp salt (8 gms)
½ tbsp instant yeast (5gms)
1 large egg

For the cinnamon sugar filling 

3 tbsp powdered sugar + 2 tbsp strong cinnamon powder mixed well
¼ cup softened butter 

For the glaze topping (optional)

2 tbsp butter
¾ cup icing sugar or confectioners sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp cinnamon sugar 

Equipment: Stand Mixer with dough hook. 

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • In a small saucepan, take 6 tablespoons of the water and mix in 2 tablespoons of the flour till all the flour has dissolved and warm on low heat stirring all the while till the mixture thickens slightly. 
  • Then pour in all the remaining water to cool it down and mix well till it becomes a smooth liquid. Add the egg to the liquid once you feel the mixture has cooled and mix till well blended. Set aside. 
  • Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer, place the remaining flour, milk powder, salt, sugar, butter and yeast in the mixing bowl making sure the yeast is not touching the salt or sitting on the butter for long if it is salted. 
  • Pour the flour, water, egg mixture into the dry ingredients and beat at a low speed initially for a minute till the wet and dry ingredients combine, then increase the speed to 4 and continue to let it knead the dough for at least 6 to 8 minutes till the dough becomes smooth. This is a slightly moist dough so you should have a small amount of it not leaving the bottom of the bowl at all times.
  • About 5 minutes into kneading, stop the mixer and touch the dough. It should not leave any dough on your finger when you pull away. If that happens, add a tablespoon of flour to the dough and continue to knead for another 3 to 4 minutes. (Though this should not be necessary with the proportions listed above)
  • Gently shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl brushed with oil and cover with cling film or a towel and keep in a warm place for at least two and a half to three hours (I kept it for three hours) till it more than doubles in size.
  • After three hours turn over the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface and fold it into a rectangle, lightly flattening it. Do not knead it. With a rolling pin, roll it into a 14 x 11 inch rectangle with a thickness of about 1cm. 
  • Spread a layer of softened butter all over the surface and sprinkle with a generous amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture covering every bit of the surface. You won’t need to use up all the cinnamon sugar. Leave some for sprinkling over the top of the rolls and for the glaze topping.
  • Gently roll the dough into a log and cut it into 12 even rolls with a sharp knife. Place the rolls 1 inch apart in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with the bottom lined with parchment/butter paper and cover with a slightly damp (not wet) cloth for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. It should have almost doubled in size. 
  • Pre-heat your oven with the top and bottom heating rods on at 180°C or 350°F.
  • Very gently brush softened or melted butter on the tops of the risen rolls and sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over them. 
  • Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes.

For the topping 

  • Add the butter, icing sugar, milk and cinnamon sugar in a saucepan and heat on low flame stirring well till the butter and sugar have melted and become slightly thicker. Remove from the heat and with a spoon drizzle over the tops of the buns. Serve immediately if you like. These are glorious eaten just out of the oven. 
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and in cool climate can keep it in a cool dry place but in hot humid climate, refrigerate. heat in the microwave for 1 minute immediately after taking it out of the fridge and if the rolls are at room temperature, heat it for 30 seconds in the microwave. Enjoy!

Important notes: It is very important to make sure your yeast is active and fresh. Inactive or dead yeast will ruin all your efforts and the dough will not rise. 

Also, the most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently in its heating capacity. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. Size of ovens make a huge difference. Smaller ovens (19 to 28 ltrs) have higher concentration and intensity of heat so you may want to take that into consideration. You need to tweak the temperature and baking times accordingly if your oven is a bit off. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

Pictorial Steps:

 

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