Classic Cinnamon Rolls

 

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetLately I’ve found it hard to wrap my head around the concept of balance and moderation, realising that I’m pretty wired to think about everything in black and white. I either have a totally intellectually fulfilling day or I don’t. I either eat extremely healthy one day or I don’t. Clearly balance is something I’m still trying to conquer as a habit, as elementary as that may sound. Translating this lack of moderation to my creative endeavours, sometimes I’m so focussed on creating something new and exciting that I forget the roots of my baking pleasure– classic favourites. I get a high from riding on this streak of new things that I forget the magic of a simple classic. I’ve been putting this particular recipe off for a while. Cinnamon rolls are a tried and true classic and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a bite of these gooey, cinnamony treats. I made these the first time almost 5 years ago using a random online recipe and loved them best with a cream cheese frosting. Aside from cinnamon rolls, I’ve enjoyed and made a few things that I’ve really enjoyed the past few weeks:

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Rye strawberry balsamic brownies from Woodlands Sourdough
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Smoky cruffin from Maxi bakery by Bearded Bella
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A naked salted caramel cake for my mum’s 50th! 

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Back to rolls. I know the classic version doesn’t have the (Americanised) cream cheese frosting, but I must say that this is the version I prefer. The tangy cream cheese pairs perfectly with the sweet bun, which can get too cloying if not cut through with something a little sharper. I recently tried making them again. Although the buns themselves were heavenly- all airy and light, it was missing the element of moist tenderness which I believe a good cinnamon bun should have. So I modified it to have a shorter baking time and, as most good baking recipes have it, more butter. Quite a bit more. It’s also a good idea to cover the rolls before baking with a layer of aluminium foil so that the tops of the rolls do not burn from the direct oven heat. You get these golden-brown, soft, delicious cinnamon rolls with very little effort. You don’t need a standing mixer to make them but it made my life a hell of a lot easier (and cleaner)! You can also just use some elbow grease and knead these for a little longer, just 10 minutes. It’s a good workout, at least.

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Classic Cinnamon Rolls (makes 8-9 rolls)

Ingredients

For the dough:

240ml (1 cup) milk

2 tsp active dry yeast

4 tbsp white sugar

1 egg

60g (0.25 cup) salted butter, melted

0.5 tsp salt

250g (2 cups) cake flour

200g (1.5 cups + 3 tbsp) all-purpose flour

 

For the filling:

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

150g (0.75 cup) dark brown sugar

60g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

For the cream cheese frosting:

150g cream cheese

0.5 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste for a richer vanilla flavour)

150g white sugar

 

Directions

Pour the milk into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 mins. It should feel warm but not scalding to the touch. If it’s very hot then wait a minute for it to cool down a little. Add the yeast and wait for it to activate, or around 3 minutes. It should have a light brown froth on top. It is ready when there’s a light brown froth on top. Pour this yeast-milk mixture into the bowl of your standing mixer (or just a large bowl if you’re doing this by hand) and add the sugar, egg, salt and melted butter. Whisk together. Then add the two flours and on medium speed, let the standing mixer knead the mixture well for 6-7 minutes. If doing this by hand, knead the mixture a little bit in the bowl first to let all the ingredients come together, before tipping it onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. If the dough is too sticky or is sticking to the bottom of the mixing bowl, add more flour. Add enough flour so that you have a pliable and slightly sticky but not too sticky consistency. Shape the dough into a rough ball, place it back into the bowl and let it rise for at least an hour with a damp cloth, to keep the dough moist while the yeast does its work to expand it.

Right before this hour is up, mix together the room temperature butter, brown sugar and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Once the dough has risen (an hour later), tip the dough out onto a floured surface and use a rolling pin to gently roll it out into a 9×14-inch (22x35cm) rectangular piece of dough. Use a spatula to smear the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture onto the flattened dough, leaving a half inch border around the edges. It may initially seem like a lot but it really is just enough!

Tightly roll the rectangle lengthwise and place the log so that the edge is at the bottom. Use a serrated knife or piece of floss to cut the rolls into 1-inch pieces. You may have to cut off the two edges first as they don’t have much filling. Place the rolls in a greased 9-inch round or square baking pan, cover these and leave them to rise for half an hour. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) in the meantime. Once the half hour is up, cover the rolls with a piece of aluminium foil and place them in the oven to bake for 16 minutes. While they are baking, make the frosting by mixing the cream cheese with sugar.

Once the rolls are finished, leave them to cool for 10 minutes before smearing a generous amount of cream cheese frosting onto each roll. These are best served the same day they are made, warm and fresh. They can also be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but microwave before serving to make sure they are warm and the insides stay gooey.

Classic Pancakes

Currently (sadly) alternating between periods of intense revision and:

  • wondering what Leonardo da Vinci’s Snapchats would be like
  • researching the nutrition of scallops and uni, in other words my two current favourite types of seafood
  • embarking on The Kitchn’s baking school program, which is definitely one of the most interesting and exciting things I’ve started in a long time.

Busyness aside, there will always be time for a good settle-down in the kitchen. Like a good breakfast. Something like this:

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thin, tender, lacey (English) pancakes (here topped with fresh ripe banana, drizzled with almond butter and salted caramel walnuts+melted matcha chocolate I saved all the way from Japan)

For creativity and mood’s sake, I gave in to the whole almond-matcha theme the first time round. It’s one of those things I’ve done before, loved, and you can check it out right here. Admittedly, the day after, I reheated a couple of extra pancakes and went for the classic, ever-loved combo of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and sugar. Deliciousness= lemon and sugar soaking into thin pancake flesh, into every crevice of the crumpled carpet. That being said, there’s also something magical about the combination of a fresh, warm pancake with a creamy slather of almond butter. The melted matcha chocolate hits everything with a sweet and slightly bitter kick.

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Sorry– trypophobics beware.

Having made plenty of American pancakes, the sort which fluff up and bounce and you top with butter and maple syrup, I thought it fitting to try something else. That’s when I came across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for classic crepes. And so another question popped up:

  • what’s the difference between a crepe and a pancake?

After trying out the recipe and doing the research, I had a hard time deliberating whether the final result was more akin to one or the other. The nuances of the recipe made this more a pancake than crepe, so pancakes it was. The main difference lies in waiting time, so calling it a crepe wouldn’t be sacrilege.

These pancakes are a real treat any morning. Very thin, lacey, and have a light brown, crispy underside. The great bit? You can put them together in a pinch and any leftovers can be chucked in the fridge and reheated the next morning/ whenever you want.

Took a while for me to get these pancakes as thin and lacey as possible, but a few good tricks to have up your sleeve are:

  • when putting melted butter into the pan before ladling of the pancake batter, do not use a paper towel to remove excess butter– add a generous amount of butter, let melt and swirl around. This will promote excellent browning and crispiness at the edges.
  • I repeat– generous amount of butter.
  • use medium-high heat– should hear a mild sizzle when batter hits the pan and a heavier-bodies sizzle when batter is ladled into pan.
  • After ladling, lift the pan off the heat to swirl it around evenly. This prevents any batter that’s already been ladled from cooking too fast and lets you swirl everything nicely and thinly.

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Classic pancakes (makes 8–10 medium pancakes; adapted from Nigella’s crepes recipe)

Ingredients

150g plain, all-purpose flour

2 tbsp white sugar

pinch salt

28g (2 tbsp) melted, unsalted butter, plus more for the pan during cooking

1 large egg

340ml milk of choice (I used both whole and almond milk on 2 occasions and both worked perfectly)

Directions

Preheat your pan or crepe pan on medium-high heat and ready some butter for cooking. In a large bowl, tip in the flour, salt, sugar, milk, egg and butter, in that order, and whisk everything together. Continue whisking until no lumps remain, and the batter is pale and silky. Use a small ladle to ladle in a little batter and immediately swirl in a circle formation to spread the batter evenly in the pan. As mentioned earlier in the post, you should hear a heavy-bodied sizzle upon the application of melted butter to the pan, and a mild batter when the batter actually hits the pan and starts cooking.

Your first and second pancakes might be a little dodgy, but it gets better as you go along (promise). Once the edges of the pancakes crisp up and brown, slide your spatula underneath and flip. Cook for up to 45 seconds on this side, then remove from the pan and place on a paper towel. When cooking the pancakes/crepes, layer paper towels between each to absorb the condensation.

Serve warm with more butter and honey/maple syrup, or lemon juice and sugar. Try out the combination in the picture above too– does wonders for your tastebuds, friends.