January 19, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

It took me a long time to figure out how food advertising works. I always thought that commercials for McDonald's or Wendy's were so pointless because there was no way I was going to run out and buy a cheeseburger after watching one. Even on the day in college when my roommate and I saw ad announcing the return of the McRib and she exclaimed, "Oh my god! The McRib is back!" I chalked it up to her being an employee of the corporation rather than food advertising actually working. After spending hours upon hours (not) considering the effectiveness of food advertising I've come to the conclusion that although McDonald's advertising doesn't work on me because I don't like their food and no advertisement would get me to eat there (Sorry, Amy.), it probably works on a certain audience. If Ruth's Chris starting flashing pictures of medium-rare filet mignons on my television screen, I might be persuaded to run out the door and eat one for dinner. I would at least put that on the top of my list of places to go the next time my parents are in town. And no, Mom and Dad, let's not tell the waiter that Sean Hannity sent us.

So maybe McDonald's commercials don't do anything for me, but I've discovered something else that has the same desired effect: food blogs. Whether I'm scouring food blogs for something to make for dinner or just perusing them because I am putting off reading about tax law I can always find numerous things that I want to eat. The main thing preventing me from weighing 500 lbs. is the fact that I have to go out, buy the ingredients, and cook in order to eat what I see on a blog. I'm slightly more in control of the situation.

And then our friend Kate had to go and make big, beautiful cinnamon rolls and post them on her blog. I saw the pictures, and I wanted one so very badly that I started contemplating making a batch. I quickly talked myself out of it, though, because cinnamon rolls are the last thing I need sitting around my kitchen. I had completely pushed them out of my mind when Matt walked in a few hours later and said, "Did you see the cinnamon rolls that Kate made?" We were helpless to the power of the cinnamon rolls, and the last day of our long weekend was spent mixing, rolling, sprinkling, slicing, and, eventually, indulging. Kate (and Zach), if I put on some 300 lbs. in the near future I am going to blame it on you and your blog for planting the idea and making it look like such a wonderful thing to do.

Like Kate, we used Martha Stewart's Truck Stop Cinnamon Roll recipe. I cut the recipe in half hoping to end up with just six rolls, but I somehow ended up with eight. [Shrug.] I had originally wanted to make the recipe from Pioneer Woman, but it yields seven pie plates full of cinnamon rolls. Seven. I know a little math could have made the PW rolls a viable option, but who needs math when the alternative is Martha Stewart?

Here are the ingredients I used:

For the dough:
1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
Between 5 and 6-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
2-3 tbsp melted butter
1/2-3/4 cup brown or white sugar
1/3-1/4 cup ground cinnamon

For the frosting I combined about 3 oz. of softened cream cheese and 2-3 tbsp. of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. I used the whisk attachment to beat them together for a few minutes, poured in a little vanilla, and then added powdered sugar (maybe a few cups) until it was thick and frosting-like.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a big bowl) dissolve the yeast in the water. Add 2-1/2 cups flour, and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar and salt, and stir to combine.

Keep adding flour, 1/2 cup or 1 cup at a time, until the dough is sticky and starts pulling away from the edges of the bowl.

Look, Mom, I got a haircut.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it until it comes together and is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if needed.

This was the easiest dough I've ever worked with. It was light, fluffy and very pliable, making the kneading a piece of cake.

Lightly oil a big bowl with a little vegetable oil and add the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour or two.

This is a good point to take a walk around town for a couple hours like Matt and I did. Once you get back you'll feel like you've earned your right to eat a sweet, doughy coil of goodness. While we were out walking around I came up with about 15 ways I want to tweak this recipe and add in other ingredients, so once I run about 50 miles to work off this batch I'll try out some of the ideas and let you know how they go.

Here's the dough about 2 hours later. Super gigante.

Roll/press it out on a lightly floured surface into a big rectangle or square. If you get to a point where it's not stretching out as much as you'd like it's helpful to let it rest for a few minutes and then try to work with it again. I wasn't really trying to make this any particular size, and it ended up being about 17" long and 12 or 13" wide.

Martha tells you to drizzle the dough with oil or melted butter. The idea of using oil for it kind of skeeves me out, so I chose butter. I used 2-3 tablespoons and it was plenty.

Sprinkle the dough generously with sugar - white or brown. I stopped with the measurements at this point. Just add a bunch and when you think you have enough, add a little more.

Do the same with cinnamon, except add a lot more than this. I thought I was being pretty generous, but once the rolls had baked I wished I would have added about twice as much. This looks a lot like my dad's favorite way to eat toast - piled high with butter, cinnamon and sugar.

Roll the dough up length-wise as tightly as you can.

Mr. Squirrel is checking it out from afar.

Slice the log into uniform pieces, somewhere between two and three inches long.

Add them to a lightly oiled/buttered pan, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them rise for 30 minutes or so.

Preheat your oven to 400 at some point in here.

Make sure you use a pan with room for the rolls to grow, because after 30 minutes they will be fighting each other for space.

I had to use an overflow pan for some stragglers. I didn't plan well and slightly underestimated the size of pan I would need.

After growth spurt number one.

Bake the rolls on the top 1/3 of your oven for somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes, depending on their size. You want the tops to be golden, or slightly paler if you're going for a doughier version. These took 30-35 minutes to brown and bake through.

After growth spurt number two. I don't know how much you can tell from this picture, but if the rolls have room to expand they certainly will. This dish is 8"x11" at its widest points, so these guys got huge. The others were in a 9" cake pan, and they grew quite a bit but maybe not as much as the ones in the oval pan.

You may think these are pretty now, but just wait until we get to the frosting.

YUM! The cardinal rule of frosting (cream cheese or otherwise): Don't skimp.

Matt just told me that I look like a cinnamon roll, so I guess I'd better lay off these puppies. I don't know that I have it in me, though.

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Blogger KJames said...

uh...trying to lose baby weight here. not helping.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Kate said...

Love it! I like that you halved them----I'm always too chicken to mess with the ingredients when baking. Luckily, I distributed the vast majority of mine to other people! Otherwise I would definitely be on the fast track to 300 lbs!

January 20, 2010  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Kristi - I think Liv and cinnamon rolls are both worth a couple extra pounds.

Kate - You're very smart to give them away. I still have five cinnamon rolls hanging around and lingering guilt from the ones I've already eaten. I was thinking about using the leftovers for bread pudding, but do I really need to make bread pudding when I've been eating cinnamon rolls for a few days?

January 21, 2010  
Blogger Kyle said...

I wish Sean Hannity would send me to Ruth's Chris. And would a lobstergram be too much to ask?

January 24, 2010  

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