Remember my "pet" Lucky that I started about a month ago? For those who missed my post on the origins of my sourdough starter, you'll have to go back and read it to understand why I named it Lucky. In any event, Lucky is smelling pretty "ripe" these days so I decided it was time to put him to work.
I make bread the way my grandfather taught me...by sight and feel. I know, I know...they always tell you baking is an exact science (unlike cooking which is much more forgiving) and most of the time that is true. I think bread is the exception to that rule to an extent. You can't just go hog wild though...a basic understanding of bread making and PATIENCE are key.
For the purpose of sharing the recipe, I will give measurements (as best I can) but my best indicator that the dough is right is how it feels and how it behaves and unfortunately that's something that just comes with practice and experience.
I was reading Chef Dennis's post on making his mashed potatoes the other day and he mentioned butter and Paula Deen in the same sentence. Everyone does! I suppose Paula has become the quintessential icon of southern cooking. She is certainly the poster child for butter consumption. I had to laugh as I was thinking about this because my previous post was a butter love-fest and this one is as well...and I don't eat butter...LOL. I can't say I NEVER eat butter but I try very hard not too because dairy of any sort gets my system all discombobulated which is very, VERY bad JuJu!
That being said, we can now move on to the pound of butter thats in these cinnamon rolls! I think I mentioned before that some people are purists where sourdoughs are concerned...no little boot from some yeast. I don't use yeast in my starter but I do use it when making a batch of bread or rolls because I don't have the patience to wait all day for sourdough to rise without it. When it comes to my bread...I want instant (ok maybe not instant but REASONABLE) gratification!
For that same reason, I rarely ever knead bread by hand unless I am just angry at someone and need to take it out on a poor unsuspecting hunk of dough. I prefer to let my bread machine do the work...set to the "dough" setting. It will mix, knead and provide a nice cozy environment for the first rising. Ok...Ma Ingalls I am NOT. I say if you have modern conveniences...USE THOSE PUPPIES! Just a note about bread machine mixing and kneading though. I DO open the lid and feel the dough during the process. I don't know how to tell you what to feel for so I'll just do the best I can.
The biggest mistake most people make when making bread dough is getting it too dry right from the git-go. It's a big glob of flour and water (granted with other ingredients)...basically a glutinous ball of GOO...and it SHOULD BE. If you add so much flour that the dough isn't sticky at all you have nowhere to go from there. Less is better...you can always ADD but you can't take away. If you're kneading by hand, purposely leave out at least 1 cup of the suggested amount of flour. This way you can use it to sprinkle the countertop and your hands as needed while working the dough.
The dough should look homogeneous once kneading is complete. In other words, smooth...not lumpy or "thread-like". I don't know what else to call that texture except it looks like a ball of rubber bands. If you've ever made bread...you know what I mean. It's the look of a dough that isn't kneaded enough. The surface should be moist but not to the point that it adheres to your finger if you poke it. You'll probably laugh when I say this...but think of MEMORY FOAM.
The other secret is rising. Don't rush it. Double in volume means presisely what it says. Don't be so hung up on the amount of time suggested. If a recipe says the dough should double in volume in an hour it could be because in the enviroment in which it was made, it DID so. In your kitchen it may be different. Watch for the volume. If you use a deep glass bowl, it's a little easier to judge than a wide, spread out bowl. If your ball fills the bottom half of the deep bowl, when double it will be bulging to the top. Poke it gently...if it deflates it is ready. If your fingers make an indenture that fills back in...raise it some more.
The second rise will depend on what you are making. Obviously pizza crust takes less time to rise than a loaf of bread. Fancy braided breads take more time to rise than a baguette. The second rise is generally about half the amount of time as the first. The volume of the loaf or roll or whatever will be not quite double.
A preheated oven is important. That initial exposure to heat will puff that dough right up and kind of "set" the crust so it doesn't fall flat. Then just let it bake until golden brown. Another big bread failure, and arguably one that is near impossible to resist, is cutting hot bread. LEAVE IT ALONE! Laissez le petit pain sans encombre jusqu'à ce qu'il refroidisse! There is steam in there and if you break the crust and allow it escape...it sucks all the moisture right out with it. Of course if you are planning to stand at the counter and consume the entire loaf hot out of the oven with a whole stick of butter...c'est une autre affaire!
Thats enough chatter...time to get Lucky.........
This recipe makes enough dough to make approximately 24 large (palm sized) cinnamon rolls.
Begin with 2 cups of sourdough starter brought to room temperature in a very large bowl.
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 package (about 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast in 1 cup warm (not warmer than 110 degrees) water. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. If the yeast does not foam up (from feeding on the sugar), it's no good. Toss it and use fresher yeast.
Once the yeast has activated, pour this mixture into the sourdough starter. Whisk in 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Don't have a heart attack about the amount of salt. This is a LOT of dough. You will also need to add 1/2 cup dry milk powder and 1 cup bread flour; mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic film topped with a damp cloth and allow your SPONGE to develop for 1 hour. It should have a strong, unmistakably yeasty smell and it will be a very loose bubbly batter at this point.
If you have a 2 lb. loaf sized bread machine, the rest of the mixing and kneading work may be done in that. Pour the sponge into bread machine or alternately leave it in the large bowl. Add 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter to the sponge. If using bread machine, add 1 cup of bread flour and turn the machine to the DOUGH setting. Plug it in and let the machine begin mixing. You will be adding approximately 4 or 5 more cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. TIP: I usually run the mixing/kneading part of the dough cycle TWICE with this much dough and THEN I let it rest.
Remember, add your flour 1 cup at a time and stop when the dough becomes cohesive and starts to leave the sides of the mixing chamber and form a ball. If you are adding by hand or with a stand mixer, still work in flour 1 cup at a time. Your dough may hold all this flour or not...much of that will depend on how wet (thin) your sourdough starter was to begin with. Mine is usually the consistency of thick pancake batter so I generally need all the flour. Keep the last cup out to use in the kneading process if kneading by hand. If using the machine, just keep an eye on the ball of dough and how well it comes together before the next addition of flour. Touch the dough...it should have a moist exterior that's ever so slightly sticky.
Once kneading is complete, place dough in a buttered bowl and brush the top of the ball with melted butter as well. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until DOUBLE in bulk. With this amount of dough, it could take as long as two hours depending on how strong your sourdough starter is. A well fermented starter will go a lot faster especially with the yeast boost.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn out onto a floured work surface. Take care not to add too much flour at this stage. You only want enough to keep it from sticking. Too much will change texture of the finished bread. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Knead each for 2-3 minutes, place in two buttered bowls. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Make the filling:
2 sticks...HALF A POUND room temperature butter
1/2 cup pure cane sugar ( I use Florida Crystals)
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups chopped pecans (plus more for the tops of the baked rolls)
In a large bowl; blend butter, sugar and cinnamon until well mixed. Divide into two equal portions. This will be used to spread on the dough.
MAKING THE ROLLS:
Line two baking sheets with parchement paper. Butter the paper and set sheets aside.
Working with one ball of dough at a time, flour the work surface lightly and roll dough out to approximately a 14 x 18 inch rectangle. You'll want to have the short end closest to your body so you can roll forward.
Using a spatula, spread half the butter cinnamon filling on the dough to withing 3 inches of the top edge. Sprinkle with half of the chopped pecans. Lightly brush the top unfilled portion of the dough with water or egg white. Gently begin rolling the dough from the end closest to your body. Use even pressure and don't try to squeeze it down. Just lightly roll until you reach the end. The 3 inch headspace that you brushed with water will work as the seal. Leave the roll sitting seam side down as you cut.
I like to divide my roll into 4 equal segments and then cut each of those into 3 equal portions. A dough cutter or pastry scraper works great for doing this. Serrated edge implements tear the dough. The best technique is to use a wide flat blade like a pastry scraper and cut straight down through the roll in one swift motion....no sawing back and forth. Turn the rolls onto their sides (so you can see the cinnamon swirl) and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. As they rise, they will fill the sheet and be touching. Repeat this process with the second piece of dough.
5. Cover the rolls with clean damp cotton towels and allow to rise in a warm place until they have nearly doubled and are touching on all sides. This usually takes about an hour.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When rolls have risen sufficiently, bake on the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes or until HUGE and golden brown. Make Caramel Frosting while rolls bake.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup (approximately) powdered sugar
Melt butter and brown sugar in a small sauce pan. Cook once minute. Stir in half and half. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt. Beat in powdered sugar by hand until desired consistency is achieved. Use to frost warm cinnamon rolls.
Spinkle the tops with more chopped nuts
I realize a recipe like this is not for everyone. It is a lot of work and time and does require a bit of bread making skill. But if you are bored or just have a craving for a kick butt cinnamon roll...give it a try! GO BACK AND COUNT UP ALL THE BUTTER.... PAULA WOULD BE SO PROUD OF ME!!
(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet