For the past months or perhaps almost a year now, I have taken to baking. Getting an oven has been one of my requests when the hubby and I were buying appliances for our new home more than a year ago. I find that I bake more when I am stressed or when I need to let some thoughts brew for a while.
I hope to post more about this relationship I am developing with baking in the future. For now, I guess I am inclined to stocking up on all purpose flour, all sorts of cocoa powder, yeast, baking soda, baking powder and so on and so forth for one simple reason: it gives me the satisfaction of creating something beautiful (and tasty!) from scratch in just a few hours. This is such a huge difference from my work and and my advocacy where I’m not even sure I’ll see the end of it in my lifetime.
Anyway, today our niece turns eight months and we’re doing a potluck to celebrate the occasion. We volunteered to bring pasta sauce as they still have some leftover pasta from Christmas. I haven’t divulged yet but I planned to bring dessert as well. I already brought chocolate cake two months ago and this time, I wanted to try something different.
I basically cook much like the way Lola Ma cooks. A pinch, a sniff, a little more of this and that, less of this. Intuition and gut-led. I find that this may not work well with baking. As I have often read, baking is an exact science and it’s very important to follow recipes to the letter. This, unfortunately, really clashes with the way I’ve been raised to cook.
I’ve followed recipes, alright. My go to websites are sallysbakingaddiction.com and bakerbettie.com. I envy them for being able to leave everything and commit to baking as a passion. I try other recipes once in a while as well. But, and this I have to admit, I never really stuck to the recipe exactly as it was written. I keep the improvisation to a minimum as much as I can though.
So, to celebrate today’s occasion, I decided to bake a giant cinnamon roll cake. Well, the goal is also two-fold. The hubby likes cinnamon rolls. He rarely orders anything else from Starbucks and I hope to make him one that he will really love. To keep the birthday feel, I went for Sally’s giant cinnamon roll cake. However, I combined her recipe with a few add-ons from Averie’s and Joy the Baker’s. The resulting recipe is written below. For the instructions, I more or less stuck to Sally’s. The dough is comfortably rising as I type and I will update this post once the verdict is out.
For the Dough:
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (I used Red Star Yeast
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (set aside about 1/2 cup for later)
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt (I used Kosher as it keeps its shape and form better when baked)
1 tsp cinnamon
lemon zest (what I got from the lone lemon I had)3/4 cup buttermilk (because I can’t find one here in the Philippines, I improvised: 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice + enough milk to reach the 3/4 cup mark)
3 tbsp unsalted butter (be sure to use butter, which is different from the usual margarine we see in supermarkets)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (I learned from Baker Bettie that egg whites sap moisture from baked goods, so I opted to leave out the egg whites of the second egg)
For the Filling:
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar (I always use muscovado)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 tsp nutmeg
Throwing it together was quite simple.
1. In a bowl, put together the flour, granulated sugar, yeast, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. I usually use a whisk to make sure all ingredients are properly distributed.
2. Add butter to buttermilk. I put this in the microwave for 45 seconds to melt the butter. Mix together.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the buttermilk + butter mixture. Gently mix.
4. Add the eggs. Make sure the ingredients are properly combined but do this lightly. I read that overmixing the batter makes for tough baked goods.
5. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding the flour you set aside as you go along. I actually added about a tbsp more of flour. (I guess because we’re from a tropical country, recipes call for more flour due to the humidity.) I resisted the urge to add more flour as I’ve read that the wetter the dough, the moister the end result. Form the dough to a ball.
6. Lightly spray a bowl (I used the same bowl) with non-stick spray. Let the dough rest for a bit, covered in plastic wrap.
7. After about an hour (I had to take a break to cook the pasta and spaghetti sauce with the hubby), the dough has more than doubled in size. Take it out and give it a few folds.
8. Meanwhile, get the filling ready. Mix together the cinnamon, brown sugar, cocoa powder and nutmeg.
9. On a lightly floured smooth surface, roll out the dough. (I laid a Silpat mat on a cookie sheet because I do not have a smooth surface to work on.) I rolled it out to the size of my Silpat, which is about 16×9 inches.
10. Brush with the butter. Sprinkle on the dry ingredient mixture.
11. Using a bench scraper, or a very sharp knife or pizza cutter, divide the dough to one inch strips.
12. In a 9″ round pan, roll the first strip to make a cinnamon roll. Now, instead of rolling each strip to create individual rolls, simply take the next strip, connect it to the end of the first one and wind it around the first roll. Work until the last strip, creating a giant cinnamon roll. I divided the recipe to two and actually had two giant rolls. I did not fill the pans to allow room for the dough to rise.
13. Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they almost fill the pans. Preheat oven halfway through to 350F.
14. Bake the rolls for about 30-35 minutes until lightly browned. You may cover the roll/cake with foil after about 15 minutes to let the inside cook without getting the tops too browned.
All cinnamon roll recipes call for frost/glaze/icing. I chose not to add more sugar to the mix and just enjoy the roll as it is. I do remember growing up enjoying cinnamon rolls from the bakery with some Nestle All Purpose Cream. Maybe we’ll try that later. Meantime, I’ll go check on my rolls/cakes if they’re ready for some heat.