Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls--With Improvements

I realize that I make a bold statement by claiming to improve on Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. Pioneer Woman, herself, says, "If I had to pick one recipe of mine that I could incontrovertibly claim is the best there is, it would most definitely be cinnamon rolls. " And she is supported by thousands of readers, many of which publicly back her claim. I agree, this recipe is the best I've ever tried--with a few modifications.

I have been making cinnamon rolls for many years using just two recipes: for many years I used Fanny Farmer's recipe and a few years ago I started using a Betty Crocker recipe which used mashed potatoes in the dough. Most of the time these rolls turned out well, but the dough wasn't consistently great. I finally gave Pioneer Woman's widely acclaimed recipe a whirl a few months ago. The dough is wonderfully soft, yet not sticky, and very easy to work with. It rises perfectly every time, not just most of the time. And, the PW's signature icing includes my favorite cinnamon roll flavors: maple and coffee. I had been making maple icing for some time, but never thought to add the coffee--perfect!

My "improvements":
  • Add two tablespoons of ground cinnamon to the dough. These are, after all, cinnamon rolls. We tried the first batch without this addition and found the dough to be a little bland.
  • Cut the salt to 2 teaspoons.
  • Seriously reduce the amount of butter spread on the rolled dough. PW's recipe calls for 1 1/2-2 cups melted butter. Instead, I used 1/2 cup softened butter, spread on the dough with a butter knife or small spatula.
  • Instead of 1 cup of white sugar I spread 1 1/4 cup brown sugar on the rolled dough.
  • I cut the delicious poured maple/coffee icing recipe in half and instead of pouring, I spread it with a small rubber spatula. Half a recipe added plenty of sweetness to these rolls--even sweet-tooth Tatya agrees.

As I cruise around the recipe blogs I am humbled by the fantastic photography and detailed pictorial tutorials. I just don't have the time or inclination to do all that so here is my Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls--with improvements--Recipe in basic black and white, or you can follow PW's fab tutorial. PW keeps it real, I keep it simple:

Phase 1
-Mix in a heavy bottom pan:
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 quart whole milk
-Heat to scalding and take off the stove.
-Let cool for 45-60 minutes--until it is lukewarm and the right temperature for mixing in the yeast.
-dissolve 5 teaspoons yeast (2 US packets) in the milk mixture and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast begins to react.
-mix 2 Tablespoons cinnamon with 8 cups of flours and then add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and mix thoroughly.
-Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour or a little more.

Phase 2
-The dough should have risen nicely in an hours time. Next, mix together:
1 cup flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
-Add this flour mixture to the risen dough, stirring to mix well.

Phase 3
-On a floured surface, roll out half the dough into a roughly rectangular shape (not too thin).
-Spread with half a stick of softened butter.
-Spread 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar over the butter.
-Sprinkle some more cinnamon over the the brown sugar. Hint: I add just a little white sugar to ground cinnamon which I put in an old spice bottle/shaker. The added sugar makes it easier to distribute the cinnamon evenly.
-At this point you could add some chopped walnuts before you roll up the dough--Dear Husband always appreciates this effort.
-Roll up the dough.
-Slice into rolls. I slice my rolls about 1 1/2 inches each and I usually end up with about 15-16 rolls per half-batch, 30-32 total.
-Place rolls , not quite touching (or just barely touching), in a greased baking pan.

At this point you can let the rolls rise another 30 minutes and then bake, or you can cover and refrigerate them overnight, and bake them in the morning. I've done both and they turn out equally good.
-Bake for about 18 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until golden.

PW's Crowning Touch: The Maple-Coffee Icing:

1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons brewed coffee
2 Tablespoons melted butter
pinch salt

Spread over cinnamon rolls--I use a small rubber spatula--about 3-5 minutes after the rolls come out of the oven. Let cool and enjoy!

Note Bene: You can also refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, if you have or need the time. This makes the dough a bit firmer and just a little easier to work with.

My kitchen has seen the production of nearly 300 cinnamon rolls over the past couple of weeks: Tayta made (with my advisory help) a quadruple batch to raise money for her sister's Kickstarter project and tonight, Tayta and her two friends made another quadruple batch to sell at the ball field tomorrow. This time they are raising money to help rescue young woman from human trafficking bondage. Their youth group, spurred on by the vision of one of these dear young girls, has raised over $400 to help these young women.


jlt said...

I need to try these. I kept reading about them on PW's site but am afraid that if I make them once, I'll be on the hook to continue b/c I know the boys will LOVE them. Your changes sound great. There was just a little too much sweetness for me in the original recipe. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I just had to try these, and they're a hit! Thanks for sharing!
Corinne in NJ

Erin @ Lemon Sugar said...

Great post. I'm melding several cinnamon roll recipes right now to find my perfect cinnamon roll. Love your blog, I'll be back!

Laurie said...

I love your changes I always add cinnamon to my dough. One other thing I do is eliminate the butter in the filling and use applesauce moist. I also add reconstituted raisins that I love but my kids hate!