Despite high hopes for beating this cold bug back by now and attending to orders and mailing out items, it has still got me down. Just not enough energy, or the gumption to do much other than some puttering around in the office for a bit this morning trying to work on tasks that need doing before the year’s end. Still have some more book work and office supply orders that must be done tomorrow, along with all the orders which I must mail. Realizing that without taking it easy and getting some rest I could be prolonging the cold so have firmly shut the office door for the rest of the day. Aurora has planned a birthday party with good friends Saturday morning and in the afternoon I planned to make rolls for the New Year’s Day brunch/service at church. Sometime early next week a customer from Alaska wants to deliver some wood she brought with her on her trip to the lower 48 to visit relatives who near not all that far from us.
Ed is feeling better. He’s put in a few hours in the shop the past couple of days. So I continue to hope that today will be the last of feeling miserable.
My mother made almost all of our bread when we were growing up. She had a stand-by whole wheat bread that always garnered rave reviews from all who were lucky enough to eat it. She used fresh ground wheat that my dad picked up at a local mill and granary, real brown sugar brought home in a 50 pound bags, also from the same granary, and home-churned butter made from the cream produced by our prolific Jersey cow.
She also had a stand-by soft dough recipe that she always turned to for special occasion dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls. The dough divided in half after the first rising is enough for one batch of rolls and one batch of cinnamon rolls.
Here’s the recipe as from my mom
1 Cup Warm Water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Butter
1 Teaspoon Salt
7 Cups Flour, more or less by feel – not a stiff dough
Let raise for 1.5 – 2 hours until doubled in size. Roll and cut into rolls. Let rise again. Bake at 400°F – 20 minutes, until brown.
(The cinnamon/sugar part is towards the bottom of the post.)
Mom didn’t write out the instructions knowing that I understood the process. Bread baking is really very simple, it takes quite a bit to mess up a loaf of bread! Delicate rolls need a more gentle hand and less flour. Most important: For the best flavor, do not rush the process, yeast loves a good long lay in warm gooey goodness. It may look like a very long process but all together, start to finish, I can have a batch of rolls ready to eat within four hours – and a good deal of that time the dough is rising while I’m free to do something else.
Here’s the full method.
Set egg on counter to warm up a bit while making the sponge
1 Cup Warm Water (between 105 – 115°F / 40 – 45°C)
1 Tablespoon yeast (Active Dry Yeast found in most grocery stores, not rapid/instant rise)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
Mix the water, yeast, sugar and flour until well blended in large mixer/Kitchen Aid type of bowl. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm, draft free spot for 20 – 30 minutes.
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Butter (1 Stick)
Gently warm together, either in pan on stove or in microwave, until the butter softens and the milk feels quite warm, but not hot.
Stir down the sponge mixture, add egg and mix thoroughly
Stir in a Cup of Flour and combine well.
Slowly add the milk/butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 3 more cups of flour and let the mixer run for 3 – 5 minutes.
Turn off mixer and left the dough rest a few minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon Salt, Mix well
Stir in a cup of flour at a time, completely incorporating the flour into the mixture before adding the next cup of flour until the dough is still soft but starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add the last cup or so slowly as you may need only 6.5 cups of flour. There are many factors that go into how much flour each batch of dough will need. You don’t want a stiff dough as when making a loaf of bread, it should still be slightly sticky when you begin the kneading process.
Flour a pastry cloth, turn the dough out onto the floured cloth and invert the bowl over the dough and let rest about 5 minutes. This will allow the dough to relax. Dust your hands with flour, sprinkle a bit more over the dough and begin to knead. Treat bread gently and it will reward you with tenderness, especially rolls! In kneading, think of how kittens knead when they’re happy and transfer that motion to your hands. With spread fingers take hold of the far side, pull it up and towards you, folding it over the middle of the dough. Bunching your hands into relaxed fists (hands are side by side – hmm, I should make a video!) and with the fleshy bottom part of your palms push down and away. When you’ve pushed the dough away, turn the dough one-quarter turn (I turn it clockwise, it doesn’t matter but be consistent) and repeat the entire motion. The whole process is a very rhythmic, rocking motion that is very soothing. If needed add a bit of flour occasionally but no more than absolutely necessary. The dough should remain slightly sticky. As you knead it will change under your hands becoming smooth, elastic and satiny feeling. I like to knead dough about 8 – 10 minutes in a very relaxed manner. Butter a large bowl, gently scoop up the ball of dough and place in the bowl turning once so the topside gets buttered. Cover with a clean kitchen towel (smooth flour sack type works best) and let rise for 1.5 – 2 hours in a draft free spot. If your house is cool you can turn the oven on briefly and let it warm to 100°F, turn it off then set the bowl of bread dough inside.
When it’s doubled in size punch it down and divide into two equal portions. At this point you can either make one batch of rolls (pinch off 12 equal portions of dough, place in buttered pan and let rise about 45 minutes then bake in 400°F/ 204°C oven about 20 minutes) and a batch of cinnamon rolls of a dozen each or make 2 batches of cinnamon rolls – approximately 24 rolls.
For 24 Cinnamon Rolls:
1 C soft butter (about 1/2 cup for each ball of dough)
1 C Brown Sugar, approximately
Cinnamon (More if you prefer – I prefer cinnamon to be on the lighter side so all the flavors come through)
Using the floured pastry cloth, Roll one half of the dough (invert the bowl over the waiting ball of dough) into a long rectangle maybe about 8″ wide x 18″L (app 1/4″ thick / 3mm). Periodically while rolling the dough stop for a minute or two to let the gluten rest which will allow it to roll out more easily. Spread softened butter over surface, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon covering the entire surface. Starting at the long edge closest to you, using the palms of your hands roll along the entire length tightly. (Similar to making clay snakes when you were a child) Pinch along the length of the seam to close it then turn it seam-side-down on the cloth. With a thin, sharp knife (some people use dental floss) cut across the rolled log into pieces about 1.5″ wide.
Melt about 1/4 C butter in pans (can be round cake pans, or 9×13 type pans) and place the rolls into the pans leaving about an inch between each roll to give them space to expand and rise. Cover with towel. Repeat process with second half of dough. This last rising won’t take as long, usually about 45 minutes. If you’d like to serve these rolls for breakfast you can thoroughly cover the pans with plastic wrap, let them rise only about 5 minutes then place in the refrigerator for overnight. In the morning take them out of the fridge and place in a nice warm spot, or warmed oven and let them rise. It may take a good hour or more, coming from the cold fridge but it’s well worth the wait for fresh from the oven cinnamon rolls.
Preheat oven to 400°F/ 204°C, take off towels and place pans in middle of oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until nicely brown. Place a parchment papered (or buttered) cookie sheet over the pan and immediately invert rolls onto the sheet leaving the sugar/butter in the baking pan to drip down over the tops of the rolls for a couple of minutes. If you like to add cream cheese frosting, go for it! I don’t recall ever eating a frosted cinnamon roll while growing up and still prefer just the plainer brown sugar & butter drippings.
I’m always shocked when writing out a bread recipe at how such a simple process looks so complex in the writing. Really, it’s easy! Just takes time and patience but there’s really not much to it! Give it a try and let me know how yours taste!