Just Roll With It
I love it when people ask me to teach them how to make certain dishes. For one thing, I'm flattered that they find something I've made so appealing that they just have to have it for themselves, and for another, any time someone wants to learn how to become more self-sufficient in the kitchen, I am all for it.
That's why I'm so thrilled that the Renaissance Man has persisted in asking for baking lessons. (Well, it's one reason I'm thrilled.)
We started off simply, making pizza one Sunday evening. That's probably the easiest of my yeast dough recipes to handle, and it's incredibly flexible and forgiving, not to mention quick (I rarely let it rise very much).
From there, we progressed to a variation on a basic bread, incorporating local cider and rosemary as well as walnuts. He enjoyed that thoroughly, from the process itself to the final result of fragrant, steaming, flavorful bread that begged to be eaten immediately.
This weekend, since we had a relatively open social calendar, we planned to make cinnamon rolls. After all our talk of biscuits and scones and muffins (all of which we'll get around to, I'm sure), he decided that cinnamon rolls would be the perfect sweet treat for an unfettered weekend afternoon. (I think he's just sweet on my baking.)
I tend to go back and forth between the cinnamon roll recipe in the Tassajara Bread Book and Uprisings (a whole-grain baking book), but I settled on the Uprisings version this time because of the honey-butter filling. (He keeps honey around, but not sugar. I can work with that.)
Having stocked his kitchen in preparation for our baking lesson, I pulled out the ingredients and showed him how quickly the dough could be made. Admittedly, I didn't give him much of a chance to work with the dough himself, but we had a lot to do before we headed outside to play in the beautiful weather.
Once the dough had risen, we pulled out his "noodle board" -- a large wooden board that had been passed down to him for the purpose of making pasta, something we will definitely try sometime -- and he took photos while I rolled out the dough.
I always forget two things about the filling for this version of cinnamon rolls: there's never enough cinnamon, and though it's wonderful to cream together the butter and the honey for a more even spread, there's never quite enough for a substantially cinnamony filling. (I've tried doubling the filling, and that's just messy... but luscious!)
With great care, I rolled up the dough, scraping the dough from the board in places where it got stuck.
It's always tricky to keep the rolls neat and round when cutting them and transferring them to a greased baking pan, but today they behaved reasonably well. (And oh, yes, they were smelling awfully good by this point.)
After they'd had a chance to rise again, the rolls filled the pan more thoroughly, smoothing out some of the crumpled edges that had occurred in the transfer to the pan. Already they looked good enough to eat! (Almost...)
We slid the rolls into the oven and proceeded to spend a little time doing some research on the computer, but it wasn't long before the fragrance lured me back into the kitchen just before the timer went off. And as I think you can see, it was worth the wait!
I really don't often like to add the typical glaze to cinnamon rolls (though I really should try the honey-butter-cinnamon spread on top sometime) as I don't want the rolls to be too sweet. Happily, the Renaissance Man agreed with my decision and enjoyed the fresh yeasty flavor without an excess of sugar. We split what was on this plate for afternoon tea, but I think he would have been perfectly happy to have another one or two on top of that!
I really have to learn to relinquish a little control in the kitchen -- if the Renaissance Man really wants to learn how to make these breads, I need to let him get his own hands all floured up and sticky more often. But I won't mind repeating the lessons, or even adding on new ones with new recipes (he's asked for sticky buns next).
I'm enjoying the lessons as much as he is, so we'll just keep rolling along...