So sings Neil Young. Listen to Neil. He knows best.
When you turn 21, most kids get things like savings bonds. Or liquor. Or their first suit. Me? I got expensive cinnamon and a professional 9x13 pan for cinnamon rolls. And a shot of Luksusowa vodka, of course. In our Polish farm family, that meant "I confer upon you the responsibilities of a head-of-household woman. Go forth, have many babies, fatten them on cinnamon rolls". Well 8 years later, still no babies. But someday when they arrive, I'll be ready for them.
I hadn't made cinnamon buns in awhile, but two things prompted me to hop to it. First, Eric begged. Second, Aunt Linda gifted me with some King Arthur SAF Red Instant yeast and I wanted to take it for a spin. I wish I'd taken a photo of the sponge because HOLY MAN the yeast was a MONSTER. I was afraid that if I stuck my hand in the bowl, it would eat off my fingertips. After a lifetime of Fleishmanns in the packet, this changed my world.
Look at that happy dough! It was smooth as a baby's bottom and very elastic. I used King Arthur Flour too. I think we can safely say that I'm a snooty King Arthur convert now.
Fun fact: did you know that the majority of the cinnamon available in the US is not actually real cinnamon? If you go to the supermarket and purchase a bottle of "cinnamon", its most likely cassia, a cousin of cinnamon with a stronger flavor and much broader geographic region of cultivation. Basically, its more plentiful and therefore cheaper. True Cinnamon is generally marked as Ceylon Cinnamon, (name for the place of its origin in Sri Lanka). It's sweeter and milder. Read more about the history of cinnamon/cassia here. You can find Ceylon Cinnamon in the US through Penzey's but honestly, you might find it boring and mild since our American taste-buds are used to the strong flavor of cassia. I use Penzey's Vietnamese "cinnamon", a kick-butt potent and fragrant spice.
I'll get to the recipe below, but check out the method for cutting the log of dough. Yes, that's dental floss. Be sure to get plain dental floss. Unless you like to freshen your breath while eating cinnamon buns.
This dough log is just ooooozing butter, sugar and cinnamon. Sometimes its hard to restrain your boyfriend from licking the end of the log.
And here is where we reveal the secret waistline killer: pecan rolls. So the cinnamon roll dough makes either plain buns or pecan buns. The whole recipe generally fits into a 9x13 pan, so I separated it into two 8x8 pans for some variety.
These guys rise twice. Remember this when 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night rolls around and you get the brilliant idea to make cinnamon buns, like I did. Don't plan on getting to bed until 2 am. The good news is that when they are through with their second rise, you can cover with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge. If you stir from your slumber early the next morning, go take them out of the fridge and set them on the counter to come to room temperature and set the oven to pre-heat. Go back to bed for an hour (or more).
Parysek Family Cinnamon Rolls:
Recipe by my Grams
2 packages dry yeast (if you use a big canister of yeast, each packet holds 2 and 1/4 teaspoons) dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup Sugar plus 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup butter plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup "lard" (because my grandma often renders her own. You can use Crisco's with non-hydrogenated oil shortening if you don't have any pigs nearby. Some grocery stores will indeed carry lard, though).
About 7 cups white flour (it was a humid day, I needed an extra 3/4 cup)
Raisins or nuts (optional)
Cinnamon, as much as you like
Confectioner's sugar and milk if you want a glaze
Dissolve your yeast in water. If you want to make it grow, add 1/2 tsp of sugar to get a nice sponge. Set aside. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer (or just a large bowl) combine butter (does not have to be softened) sugar and lard. In a saucepan heat the milk and water until very warm but not boiling. Add nutmeg and salt to milk mixture. Stir and allow salt to dissolve, then pour the milk mixture into the butter/sugar/lard bowl mixing bowl. Stir and then let cool to at least 115 degrees. When cooled, add the yeast sponge and hook it up to your dough hook on your mixer. Add the eggs and flour alternatively, ending with flour when you have a cohesive, sticky mass.
Dump it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (8-10 minutes). It should still be a little tacky and could absorb more flour, but you don't want to dry out the dough. Put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with a towel to let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until doubled. Check it often if you try the Super-Monster Yeast. Mine spilled over the top of the bowl within 40 mintues.
Roll it out flat on a floured work surface. Melt your extra 2-3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and spread it over the dough. Sprinkle with 2-3 tablspoons sugar and as much cinnamon as you wish. This is a good time to add raisins or chopped nuts. Roll it up like a jelly roll. Use dental floss to cut it into about 2.5 inch slices and place them in a well-greased pan. Smoosh them in good and let rise a second time for at least an hour. Bake immedietly or refrigerate overnight.
My Grams says to bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. That's too hot for my oven and they brown too quickly, so I stick with 350 for 35 to 40 min.
If you want to make the pecan rolls (and I'm pretty sure you do), melt 1/4 cup butter with 1/4 cup milk in a saucepan. Add 1 cup packed brown sugar and cook slowly for five minutes until simmering and thickened. Pour into the bottom of an already greased pan and sprinkle with whole or chopped pecans. Place the rolls on top of that and follow the rest of the steps by letting it rise a second time.
Those with wild sweet tooths can make a glaze out of confectioner's sugar and milk or soymilk to drizzle over the top of the sweet rolls. OMG YUM!