I have a confession. I have a big problem. A compulsion.
When people come to visit us, I cook a lot of food. I mean, I really tend to go overboard. Yes, it's an act of love, and pure, tail-wagging excitement that they're visiting. But the problem is that I get a titch obsessed. There is always extensive planning that happens. For DAYS. And really, life needn't be that complex. I should really learn to simplify.
A simple joy in my life are cinnamon rolls. I think that's the case for most people. They're something that can really wow guests for any sort of breakfast or brunch. But these 'simple joys' become complicated if you try to make them the day of--they take at least 4 hours. And I dunno about you, but I sure as hell don't get up at 4am for any guests, no matter how much I love them.
The good news is that you can make these sweet beauties the night before (without baking) and then bake them up fresh in the morning. If you have even less time, you can bake them, glaze them, wrap with saran wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze them. This is what I'm doing for my guests who will be coming down on Friday night. My hope is to pull them out on Saturday morning, put them in a pan covered with foil, pop them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes and have ooey gooey buns in no time flat. Simple!
Cinnamon Buns (slightly modified from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart)
-6 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
-3 tablespoons powdered milk
-1 cup warm water (approximately 115 degrees)
-2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
-1/2 cup brown sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
-2 cups powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-Approximately 3 tablespoons warm milk
-Chopped pecans to top
1. Cream together sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or by hand).
2. Dissolve dry milk and yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes until bubbly. Add to the creamed mixture, along with the flour. Mix to combine. Whip in the egg and lemon zest. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. You may need to add more flour to make the dough form a ball--add a little (~1 tablespoon) at a time until this happens.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 12 minutes. The dough should be silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. Oil a mixing bowl and place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with saran wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
4. Mist the counter with spray oil, transfer dough to counter. Flour your rolling pin to prevent sticking. Roll the dough out into a rectangle that is 12" tall by 14" long. Pour the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture onto the dough, pressing in lightly. Roll the dough away from you, like you're rolling a cigarette. You may want to press the seam together. Place the log seam-side down on the counter and cut into pieces. For large rolls, you can cut into 8-10 pieces.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Put the pieces on the baking sheet, placing them 1/2" away from eachother (close, but not touching). Spray with spray oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces are or are nearly touching eachother. At this point, you can put them in the fridge for up to 2 days, pulling the pan out to proof 3-4 hours before baking.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 with rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until buns are golden-brown. Cool the buns on the pan for about 10 minutes. While they're cooling, mix up your fondant glaze icing by placing the powdered sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add the warm milk 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until it reaches the right consistency--thick and smooth, but able to be dripped without too much effort. When the buns are warm, but not hot, sprinkle chopped pecans in the crevices of the rolls, then use a fork to drizzle the glaze across the tops.
-Makes 8-10 cinnamon buns
Verdict: Ridiculously amazing. Ridiculously easy to make. The buns are soft and tender all the way through, with just a hint of a crusty outside. The lemon zest adds a uniquely delightful twist to an otherwise ordinarily flavored dough. The sugary-cinnamony innards are not unlike what you find at Cinnabon. In short: Awesome. SO much better than my last attempt at cinnamon rolls.