Saturday, April 21, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Did I mention they're made with a bread machine dough? ('Cause, that's an awfully important part too, don't you think?)

How many times have you started your morning off by yearning for a sweet, gooey, ultimately horrible for you Cinnamon Roll? And how many of those misty mornings did you spend kicking yourself because, darn it, you want that Roll Of Goodness now, not 3 hours from now.

I know your pain. I truly do.

Those who know me know that I am a bakery buff. I heart all things baked. And one of my favorite things is to spend time seeking out recipes that can be crafted and tooled around with, and made yummier.

I came across a version of this recipe while on an online hunt for something to make for an upcoming brunch. I read through it and decided that this just happened to be an awesome basic dough recipe that could be used to make a huge assortment of rolls. Easily. (Maybe a little too easily). And the fact that it required almost no work on my part was a huge bonus. I made a few batches of it, playing with the filling as well. Turns out, this dough can play host to any number of delicious variations.

Here's the basic recipe for the dough.

Basic Overnight Sweet Roll Recipe

1 cup warm milk
(the higher the fat content, the tastier these will be, FYI)
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter,melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Add all ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order listed. (Check your user manual to make sure your machine works this way, some have you adding dry ingredients first.)
Select Dough cycle and step back; you've got about an hour and a half to go do as you will. Sit for a moment (you ARE making cinnamon rolls, you know. You deserve a break. Go read a book. Take a walk. Resist the urge to fold that load of clothes. This is Cinnamon Roll making time; it's special).
When cycle completes (don't you feel rested?), leave it in the machine for another 10 minutes. Then punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Roll it out into a large rectangle, getting it as wide as you can. You don't want paper thin here, maybe an 1/8- 1/4 of an inch thick? Once you've done that you are ready for your filling. I've made a few that I will share; what you use is up to you.

Classic Cinnamon Roll
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBS cinnamon
Brush prepared dough with butter. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over dough.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 cup (give or take) cup Nutella softened
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate (I've used semi-sweet & milk chocolate with great results. Chocolate chips are fine for this).
Spread softened Nutella over the dough. In a small bowl, combine chopped chocolate and cinnamon, tossing to coat well. Sprinkle chocolate/cinnamon mixture over the Nutella.

Orange Blossom Rolls
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup white butter
Rind from 2 large oranges (I've not tried it, but you could also try a lemon in this for a more citrus-y joy.)
Brush dough with butter. In a bowl, combine sugar with rind, mixing well.Sprinkle over dough.

(I've also made Potica Rolls with this when I was making Potica and irritated by how much filling didn't make it into the loaves of bread; that extra filling was just enough for one batch of these rolls. And it was yummy, rivaling the Potica itself).

Okay, your dough is rolled out, you've chosen your filling, and hopefully applied it. Now roll the dough, starting from the long side, jelly roll style. You should have a long log of dough sitting in front of you. Before moving on, get a baking sheet and spray it with non stick spray. Have it near your workspace.
Using a sharp knife, begin cutting 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch slices for each roll. Place them on the greased sheet.
(If you have any ends or straggling pieces left, put those in a greased mini loaf pan--they bake up well, right along side the larger pan of rolls).

Here's the great part. (Are you ready for it?) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the pan in the fridge. Let it sit overnight. (Goodnight, little rolls of joy).
In the morning, grab your cup of coffee, (there are priorities here, my friends),  remove plastic wrap from pan, then  put it into a COLD oven. No preheating here, people. Set your oven to 350 degrees, set the timer for 20 minutes.

Check for over browning around 15 minutes, and doneness around the 20 minute mark. I've had batches need foil covering and another 5 minutes of cook time. Crazy art, this Cinnamon Roll making thing.

When done, allow to cool for a moment. You can either glaze or frost them, your choice. If glazing, brusht it on right now, fresh out of the oven. They'll be shiny and look professionally made (impressive, huh?). If you want to frost them, wait till they cool a bit before applying. If you make the Orange Blossom version, try adding some lemon or orange juice to the powdered sugar for an extra punch of flavor. Need a recipe for it? I've included my "formula". I don't measure, I just toss it all in a bowl until I get something I'm happy with. Yeah, I'm a rebel that way.

Put 1-2 cups powdered sugar in a bowl. I like to add a TBS or so of softened butter & a bit of vanilla for extra flavor. Add milk, 1 TBS at a time, stirring until it's as thick (or thin) as you want it. Too thick? Add more liquid. Too thin? Add more sugar. You can also add some Maple extract for a maple frosting or glaze.

Nutella Rolls
Cinnamon Rolls with vanilla frosting
and maple frosting

The wonder and joy of this roll recipe is that you go to bed with them already made, waking up to the simple need to pop them into the oven. These are fantastic for large groups because you can make several batches--even different batches--and not want to pull your hair out with stress.

My inner baker grins with contentment with these oh-so-easy rolls. I hope yours will too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Adventure Worth The Taking

Spring break has come and gone; we're closing the month of April and getting ready to dust off May for public consumption.

Where have these past 365 days gone?

What a year of wonder this has been for us. This first year of schooling at home has been a uniquely glorious experience for our family, most especially for my girls and I.

Picture this: going into a new situation, unsure of how it would work out. It's not exactly a "tried & true" method, and it has a lot of detractors, after all. People constantly asking, "How well will they do?" I spent hours asking myself if they would do well at all. Would they even like it? What if every day was a struggle? What if I couldn't do it? Or worse, what if I wasn't good enough to be the teacher they needed.

I might have all the right intentions, but it would boil down to nothing at all if I wasn't enough.

To say we were starting a grand adventure would be putting it mildly. I, the consummate classroom teacher, was switching up everything I knew and withdrawing my children from the brick and mortar brand of schooling and keeping them (gulp)- at home. With me. All day. (Gulp).

Believe me, that last thought brought on plenty of panic attacks. I adore my children more than words can proclaim. But even I need a break every now and again. I'm good, but I'm not that good.

After much inner reflection, I came to the simple conclusion that I was just going to have to deal with it. Good days and bad days alike; I'd put a smile on my face, and teach. In my mind's rosy picture, I'd teach and they'd sit and absorb every single word, demanding more. A standing ovation would ensue after particularly good lessons where much knowledge was imparted.
Then probably we'd fall into a heap of hugs in the afternoon, discussing our favorite works of fiction: me, the newest Philipa Gregory, they, the newest Fancy Nancy installment, while expanding our pallette eating rare and new foods we'd previously been afraid to try. Urchin, anyone?

Rose tinted glasses aside, this truly has been an amazing year. Maybe not every single lesson was an opus performance by me, but despite that, the girls have come so incredibly far. I am daily amazed. Things that they struggled with in the Fall are now second nature and not given a moment's hesitation. They're making rapid deductions and reasoning with logic that is based on understanding and comprehension. They're thinking outside the dreaded box, making leaps in the scaffolding of their knowledge, and I find myself envious. I know I sure didn't understand the process of the water cycle to that degree in first grade. And I certainly hadn't the foggiest notion of multiplication.

Perhaps the best gift of all, besides the return of their curiosity and interest, is my rare opportunity to get an educational Do Over. Remember how in Elementary School you were just there to have fun? I showed up, did some worksheets, some group work, played outside, and went home with a folder full of To Do stuff haunting me. I didn't really worry about what I was all seemed a by-product of my time at school. Consequently, I never really internalized a lot of what I was supposedly learning, and thusly, it fell out of my head and was quickly forgotten. But now I'm revisiting it all again, lesson by lesson, concept by concept. Maybe to some it sounds an inane and boring perk, but to an avid acquirer of knowledge like myself, it is a rare gem indeed.

We just re-enrolled for second grade. There is simply too much I still don't, I mean, they, still don't know. Much to be learned and to be explored. More connections to make and more understandings to gained. How could I not want to do this all again? And the best part is that, going into this next year, I'm not afraid. It's not some unseen thing on the horizon, off my road map; it's an experience that I cannot wait to have.

First grade is nearing its end. Second grade and beyond await just up around the bend. Bring it on. We're ready.