About a week ago, my husband sent me an email in the form of a blog post:
I like cinnamon rolls probably about as much as the average person. There is something to be said for the classic Pillsbury rolls you pop out of the cardboard tube and whip up just before you go skiing in the morning. And Cinnabon is great, but come on, who really needs to eat more than 1/4 of one of those monsters. So frankly, I’m pretty happy going through life maybe getting the chance to have one every 6 months or so, just to get that insulin rush and move on. After today however that may have changed. I had the chance to try a cinnamon roll from the Macrina Bakery in Seattle. Wow. Wow. Let’s start with the filling – the cinnamon is just right, tangy without being too cinnamony (yes, that’s a word, you know what I mean). And then the pastry – I’m not even sure you can call it pastry, it’s almost bread like, with a crisp outer shell, not unlike a croissant, filling a light airy inside loaf. But it might be the icing that’s the icing on the cake – it’s silky smooth, with just a hint of cream cheese flavour, rather than the hit you over the head icing sugar you get from most rolls. All in all, I might consider adding this to the list of post-8-mile run treats that I crave (which is better than eating it today, after a solid meal of beer/wings last night….)
I was surprised. Perhaps what I should have been surprised with was the format of the email, and it’s uncharacteristically poetic language (he was trying to write like me). But no, that didn’t phase me. What I was surprised by instead was the opening statement. “I like cinnamon rolls probably as much as the average person.”
Now, Cam and I have been together for over 9 years. And I have never, ever known him to like cinnamon rolls. I’ve seen him, on a rare occasion, eat them and I wouldn’t have said he hated them. But, he doesn’t like cinnamon and if anyone had asked me if he liked Cinnabon, I would have, without even blinking an eye, said no. But, that just proves that we have years ahead of us to learn more and more about each other.
What I did next, however, wasn’t at all surprising to either of us. I went out and bought the Macrina Bakery cookbook so that I could make the rolls at home. A wise person might have first gone and tried one of the rolls first. But, I’m not that wise. Besides, if I didn’t know what I was trying to live up to, I couldn’t really fail.
The recipe itself is pretty straight forward. It’s a basic croissant dough (Cam hit it on the head there) filled with a simple concoction of sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and raisins. The recipe also includes coconut, but I know that Cam doesn’t like coconut, so I left that out. (watch now I get a mail from him saying how he missed the coconut in these!). The recipe does, however, take a lot of time. 3 days worth, in fact. The first day is simple. You make the basic dough (sans butter) and then let it sit overnight. The next day is the big work, as you work the butter into the dough with a cool book folding technique. This is a bit hard to describe, but the book has some good photos to illustrate. There’s a lot of waiting on this day too. Work the dough, let it sit for 30 minutes. Work the dough again, let it sit for another 30 minutes. It’s a great thing to do if you are doing something else, like straightening up the house simultaneously. Finally, the dough is ready to roll. And then, it has to sit for an hour and a half at room temperature, and then chill over night. The next morning, it has to sit out an hour again before being cooked. None of this is hard. It’s just really, really time consuming.
But, in the end, I’ll agree with Cam, these cinnamon rolls are Wow! They are really rich, but the pastry is super light and flakey, with just the right amount of crisp to gooey ratio. Definitely worth the extra bit of work involved.
I’m including the recipe here, but you really need to buy the book which does a better job than I will at showing you how to work the croissant dough.
Macrina Cinnamon Rolls
Makes about a dozen
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 T dried yeast
3 T granulated sugar
2 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 t salt
3 cups and 3 T all purpose unbleached flour
12 ounces unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t vanilla
2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
Spray bottle of water
Warm the milk over medium heat until it is warm to the touch. Don’t over heat! Transfer to a large bowl and add the yeast, sugar and vanilla. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the salt and 3 cups of the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the flour mixture to the milk mixture until just combined. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
Remove the dough from the previous day from the refrigerator.
Cut the chilled butter into 12 equal pieces and mix with 3 T of flour until the butter is completely smooth (a mixer will help with this process). Scoop the butter mixture onto a well floured surface and shape into a 6 inch square (about an inch or so thick). This is called a butter block.
Lightly flour the square and wrap in plastic wrap. Put both the dough and the butter into the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. You want them to be the same temperature before proceeding.
Now it’s time to work the butter into the dough. On a well floured surface, gently pat the dough into a square, and then stretch from the corners about 4 inches making sort of an X shape. Place the butter block in the center and fold the stretched corners of the dough over the butter. Pinch the seams together to completely seal the butter inside the dough. Sprinkle the dough with a bit of flour and gently roll out the dough into a 12 x 20 inch rectangle. If the butter starts to poke through, pinch to reseal.
Next, take the left of the rectangle (if the dough is positioned landscape), and fold to the center. Fold the right over to meet it. Then, fold the left side over the right as if you were closing a book. Carefully lift the dough and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator, and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Then roll the dough lengthwise into another 12 x 20 inch rectangle, and repeat the book folds and chilling. Do this process one more times, for a total of 3 different bookfolds, and 3 different chills.
During the last chill, you’ll want to start preparing your filling ingredients.
Soak the raisins in hot water for about 10 minutes, and squeeze out the extra moisture. Toast the walnuts in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown, and coarsely chop. In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon and vanilla.
Oil a muffin tin.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the dough in half. Place one half on a lightly floured work surface and recover and return the other half to the refrigerator.
Roll dough into a 12 x 20 rectangle, and lightly mist with water using the spray bottle. Cover the dough with the half each of the sugar mixture, the walnuts, raisins and coconut. Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough away from you into a log. Don’t seal the end yet.
With a very sharp chef’s knife cut the log into 6 equal rolls. Pick up a slice, and tuck the loose end underneath to create a bottom for the roll. Place the roll in the muffin tin, tuck side down. Repeat with the remaining slices, and then repeat the whole process with the other dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for an hour and a half, and then refrigerate over night.
Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for one hour. Preheat oven to 375F.
Remove the plastic wrap and bake for about 40 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the pan.