It was with great pleasure that, at the end of last month, I became a Daring Baker (note the capital letters). I had been reading about their baking exploits on various blogs for a while, and I finally got my act together and figured out how to join them. The recipe set for my inaugural exploit was buns - your choice as to whether to make them of the cinnamon or the sticky variety, as chosen by Marce at Pip in the City. Cinnamon buns have always been a weakness of mine (I confess, especially the Pilsbury ones), and since I'm not a person to resist my temptations, cinnamon buns it would be.
I followed the instructions very much to their letter; I didn't want my first Daring Baking experience to be a wash-out, and the rising of the dough had me vaguely nervous since yeast doesn't always comply with my wishes. Following the initial mixing of ingredients, the instructions called for either a mixer to knead the dough, or 15 minutes of strenuous hand-kneading. As I sadly don't have a mixer, I had a quarter of an hour of hard graft. And I learned that although 15 minutes of kneading by hand *sounds* like a long time, 15 minutes of kneading by hand is, in fact, a horribly, strenuously, wrist-numbingly long time. I did my best to practice my Alexander Technique breathing and posture along the way, but I was watching those seconds on the timer tick down like a desperate woman waiting to be released from prison.
I took the promising-looking rising of the dough as a sign that a) I was doing well with the recipe and b) I could take a break while the dough did some work. To off-set some of the calories to come, I used the 2 hour rising period as a time for Mr A&N and me to take a Sunday stroll. However, when he began getting ideas about stopping in the local pub and having a nice pint of bitter (and inevitably whiling away the rest of the day there) the cinnamon buns suddenly mysteriously began urgently calling us home to tend to them. Curious.
The rest of the bun making went very well, and the buns did come out looking like proper, store-bought creatures. I do think I erred at one point, however, and I would minorly adjust the recipe in one place if I were to do it again. First for the error: when rolling out the dough, I labored a bit to make the rectangle nice and perfect and evenly rectangular. After creating my rectangle I read on further, and saw a warning not to overwork the dough during rolling otherwise the buns might turn out tough rather than soft. Well, that was my punishment, because the buns were slightly on the tough side. The adjustment I would make to the recipe would be to increase again by half the amount of cinnamon sugar called for. I do have quite a taste for cinnamon so that may be influencing my thoughts, but I also found that the lemon flavoring in the dough battled with the cinnamon for pride-of-place - and these are called 'cinnamon buns', after all.
My first daring baker challenge is done, and I really enjoyed doing it, as well as eating (and sharing...grudgingly) the results. Roll on more daring baking.
Cinnamon Buns, from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
Makes about 1 dozen large buns
- 6 1/2 Tbs / 3.25 oz caster or granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 1/2 Tbs / 2.75 oz shotening, unsalted butter, or margerine
- 1 L egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp lemon extract or 1 tsp grates lemon zest
- 3 1/2 C / 16 oz white flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 1/8 - 1/1/4 C whole milk or buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 C cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 Tbs sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
- White fondant glaze:
- 1 C powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp lemon, orange, or vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 Tbs - 1/8 C warm milk
- Cream together sugar, salt, and shortening/butter, either using a blender with paddle attachment on medium-high, or by hand.
- Whip in egg and lemon until smooth.
- Add flour, yeast, and milk, and mix on low/stir by hand until mixture forms a ball.
- If using a blender, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium for 10 minutes, or knead by hand for 12-15 minutes. Dough should be 'silky and supple, tacky but not sticky'. Even texture out with flour or water, as needed.
- Lightly coat a large bowl with oil, and place dough ball in the bowl, rolling around so it's lightly coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until double in size.
- Clean and prepare a counter top for rolling out the buns. Lightly mist with oil so the dough will not stick.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough so it forms a large rectangle, about 12 in x 14 in, and is about 2/3 inch thick. Don't over-roll or make the dough too thin, or the buns will be slightly tough.
- Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the rectangle.
- Roll up the dough moderately tightly, forming a cinnamon-sugar spiral.
- Cut the dough into about 1 3/4 in thick slices for large buns.
- Turn the buns on their side, so the cinnamon spiral is facing upward, and spread out on a baking tray that is already covered in cooking paper. Buns should have about 1/2 in inbetween each other.
- Allow to proof at roof temperature for about 1 1-1/2 hours, until they have nearly doubled and are almost touching.
- Pre-heat oven to 175 C / 350 F, with the wire rack in the middle of the oven.
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool the buns for about 10 minutes, and then streak with the fondant glaze. (For fondant glaze: mix the sugar, extract, and minimum amount of milk together, adding more milk to make the glaze thick but able to drizzle easily).
- Place buns on a cooling rack, and allow to cool another 20 minutes before serving (if you can resist).