I”VE been watching a lot of Chopped on the Asian Food Channel. It’s a weekly cooking challenge between established cooks and chefs in America. Each episode features four chefs who are given a basket of “mystery” ingredients to cook up a three-course meal. After each course, the contestants are judged and the one that was least impressive gets “chopped”. The last chef standing is awarded US$10,000. The “mystery ingredients” (they get a surprise basket before starting each course) are truly a hodgepodge of everyday ingredients that probably traditionally don’t go together. Thus, the chefs need to be creative … and they only ehave 20 mins to whip up one dish.
I love the show. Most often, the chefs impress me with their resourcefulness and their creativity. But sometimes, it’s quite amusing to see these professional chefs stumbling in the kitchen, making common mistakes with in prep and while cooking … makes your realise: whoa! chefs are human too?
So ok, this ain’t a TV review. What I am getting to, albeit it a long winded manner, is that I’ve been watching Chopped so much, I’ve been issuing people challenges right, left and centre. Before my brain registers what I’m doing, I would have engaged someone in a challenge. Usually, the “someone”s I challenge are more competent cooks that me. Take this cinnamon roll challenge for example. Marty was talking about making these rolls months ago … long before I got hooked on bread making myself. So last week I stated my intent to make them and we kinda got into a friendly challenge. Make it this weekend and post our recipes up at the same time today. I was pumped.
And then I got home and realised just what I’d gotten myself into. I felt like the hog that challenged the roadrunner to a race. (don’t go scouring the Internet for this fable, it’s made up!)
BREATHE, I ordered myself. I have never made cinnamon rolls in my life — ate em loads of times before but have never tried making them. But I’ve been having a lot of fun making bread and I thought it would be fun to make something other than plain bread (as delicious as they are).
My favouritest in the bread family are Cinnamon Rolls… the stickier the better, the gooey-er the better. Buttery and sweet (not too sweet). What can be better for Sunday breakfast?
So I read through Mark Bittman’s recipe
at least a dozen times and it seemed straighforward, though not as simple as I would like. I decided, it being the weekend and all, I could afford the time to let my dough rise plenty.
Flavours improve the more you let the dough rest and rise, says Bittman. So, instead of the minimum two hour rising time stipulated, I let the dough sit uninterrupted for about three hours. The dough for the cinnamon rolls is deliciously rich: 3.5 cups high protein bread flour, 2 tsp yeast, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp cold butter, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk (more or less). You will need some softened butter to grease the pan and glaze the dough before it goes in the oven.
Combine the flour, yeast (if using active yeast as I did, activate it in tepid water first), salt, sugar and butter in a mixer until the butter is cut up evenly throughout the flour mixture.
Add the two eggs and mix till combined. Add the milk while the mixer is running. Mix till the dough forms a sticky ball. You have to access the texture of the dough and add more milk/flour as needed. I found mine a little too sticky and had to add about a quarter cup more flour.
Move the dough onto a floured flat surface and knead a little. Place it in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth, letting it rise at its own pace for at least two hours. As I said, I left mine for three.
Once the dough had risen, transfer to your floured work surface again, lightly de gas it, form into a ball and cover with the damp cloth till it puffs up a little (about 20 mins).
Meanwhile, butter a 9×3 inch baking pan.
Combine 2 tbsp ground cinnamon and 3/4 cup sugar in a bowl.
Once dough is puffed up, press and roll into an oblong shape (about the size of a baking pan). If the dough is too elastic, you have to roll it and let it rest another 10 mins).
Sprinkle the dough generously with the cinnamon and sugar mix. Sprinkle or spray some water along the cinnamon-sugar spread and using a fork, rub the mix into the dough lightly. It should be a thick paste.
Roll the dough lengthwise till it looks like a swiss roll. Press the seam close. Slice the roll into about 15 pieces and place them cut side up on the baking pan. Lighly top the dough with some melted butter ( a little only) and bake for 30 mins.
Top the hot rolls (fresh outta the oven) with icing sugar or glaze (icing sugar mixed with melted butter/water) or cream cheese topping (creamed cream cheese with icing sugar and butter/water) and eat it warm.
I was quite pleased with the result. the buns were soft and gooey. And they didn’t look too bad either. Even my brother, my harshest critic, said they were delicious. Challenge aside, making these buns were deeply satisfying. Eating them too.