Saturday, March 22, 2008

Go get yourself some yeast to make these rolls. Just don't buy it at Costco.

It took me a long time before I ventured into using yeast in any of my baking. Then I met my friend Nikki. She made wonderful bread and rolls and I couldn't get over how little effort (although not so easy in terms of time involved) it took to make such things. Even after watching her do it, I still dragged my heels and continued to buy my bread, pizza, and rolls, and whatever else made my life easier because damnit, I was a busy lady. Then my in laws bought me a bread machine for Christmas a little over a year ago. I became less fearful of yeast because I could dump it and forget it! Well, now that I am a woman of leisure (cough, cough), I guess I have time to let the dough rise without the help of the machine (and who has space for these things anyway?) and my oh my, does the house smell good when bread is baking.

Today I am making sweet orange cinnamon rolls in preparation for our Easter feast. Of course I was dumb enough to start the recipe at the tail end of an unusual morning nap for The Boss (she's still suffering a bit from CBD) so naturally, she woke up just as I needed to mix the yeast mixture with everything else. I whisked her to the kitchen before she had a chance to let her eyes adjust to the light, put a sauce pot, a few spoons, and spatulas on the floor and instructed her to "cook like Mama". In a flurry of activity, I managed to get the dough in the bowl to rise without a baby on my hip. We then banged up the pot with a few spoons in celebration of this feat.

Then we sat around watching Oprah and eating bon bons for two hours while the dough doubled in size and the house cleaning fairies took over for me. I told you, I am a woman of leisure!

A note about yeast: Just buy those pre-packaged envelopes for ease of use unless you plan on making bread all the time. Soon after I received a bread machine, my dear husband went on a little jaunt to Costco (we are notorious Costco whores if there is such a term). He was enjoying those fresh baked loaves and knew I needed yeast to make them. So he was kind and thoughtful and brought me home a present.Thanks, honey, just what I always wanted! Two pounds of yeast! While this was very cost effective, I now have to store two pounds of yeast in the fridge because once opened, it should be kept refrigerated. Since most recipes I make only call for 2 1/4 tsp of yeast at a time, I'm pretty well set until The Boss goes to college and I make "I survived 18 years of parenthood" rolls. Until then, we'll eat these. By the way, these aren't overly sweet so they are still a good accompaniment to a savory meal, but I suspect also good for breakfast!

Orange Cinnamon Sweet Rolls
recipe source: Gourmet by way of
my additions are in italics
***these are best eaten the day they are made.

3 tablespoons warm water (105-115°F) plus 2 teaspoons water at room temperature
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup warm milk (105-115°F)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bowl
4 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes, or submerged in a bowl of warm water (105°F) 5 minutes
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in bowl of mixer fitted with paddle attachment and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

While yeast is foaming, whisk 4 cups flour with zest, salt, and cinnamon (and the dried fruit if using) in a bowl.

Add milk, vanilla, butter, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar to yeast, then mix at medium speed until combined. Beat in 3 eggs, 1 at a time, then add orange cinnamon flour and mix until combined well.

Replace paddle attachment with dough hook attachment and mix at medium-low speed, adding more flour (1 to 1 1/2 cups), 1/4 cup at a time, until a smooth but slightly sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic (dough will remain slightly sticky), about 3 minutes. Form dough into a ball and transfer to a large buttered bowl, turning dough to coat with butter.

Cover bowl with kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Line a 17- by 14-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn out dough onto work surface and knead several times to remove air. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces (I made smaller rolls and cut 16 pieces). Cup your hand over 1 piece and, using your thumb and pinkie to keep ball inside your cupped hand, push dough with heel of your hand against work surface while rolling in a circular motion (clockwise or counterclockwise) to form a smooth ball. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, arranging balls 1 inch apart on baking sheet.

Cover loosely with kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Whisk together remaining egg with remaining 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl. Cut a 1-inch X (1/4 inch deep) in top of each roll with kitchen shears. Brush rolls lightly with egg wash and bake until golden and rolls sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a rack and cool, at least 15 minutes.

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