Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sinful Cinnamon Rolls


I hosted a brunch a few weeks ago and used it as an excuse to make these insanely decadent cinnamon rolls.  I don't care much for Bobby Flay, but I happened to be flipping past the Food Network one night as he was talking about the sticky buns from Flour bakery in Boston, and the food porn shots of these rolls hooked me.  When I googled for recipes, I was delighted to discover that they had the actual recipe on Food Network's website since the owner of the bakery had gone up against Flay (and won!) on his "Throwdown" show.  

I made a few slight tweaks to the FN recipe based on my own personal preference and instincts since what they mentioned on the show did not seem to identically match what was in the FN recipe or other versions I'd found online that purported to be from the Flour cookbook.  Also, I went ahead and baked up a double batch since the dough recipe was scaled that way and I had a large number of people coming over. My "doubled" version is what's below.  

Warning: this recipe is not for the feint of heart, both literally and figuratively. Not only does it use about a pound and a half of butter, but it is also pretty labor intensive, requiring at least 1 1/2-2 days of prep and rise time. It will also give your stand mixer a serious workout.

Brioche Dough

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 1/4 c. bread flour
1 1/2 pkgs (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast 
1/3 c. plus 1 tablespoon  sugar 
1 TBSP  salt 
1/2 c. cold water 
5 eggs
1 3/8 c. (2 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and the eggs. Beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are combined. Stop the mixer, as needed, to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Once the dough has come together, switch to the dough hook and beat on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes. The dough will be very stiff and seem quite dry. If your dough does not seem to want to come together, add some more cold water, a teaspoon at a time, until it does.  Don't overdo it though - it is supposed to be dry-looking at this stage.

2. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing after each addition until it disappears into the dough. Continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. It is important for all the butter to be thoroughly mixed into the dough. If necessary, stop the mixer occasionally and break up the dough with your hands to help mix in the butter.  This is greasy messy process, so an apron would be a good call here.

3. Once the butter is completely incorporated, turn up the speed to medium and beat until the dough becomes sticky, soft, and somewhat shiny, another 15 minutes. It will take some time to come together. It will look shaggy and questionable at the start and then eventually it will turn smooth and silky. 

4. Turn the speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute. You should hear the dough make a slap-slap-slap sound as it hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it; it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. It is ready when you can gather it all together and pick it up in 1 piece.

5. Put the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Let the dough proof (that is, grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to overnight At this point you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
    1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter 
    3 c. firmly packed light brown sugar 
    2/3 c. honey 
    2/3 c. heavy cream 
    2/3 c. water 
    1/2 tsp salt

    In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that's ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 6 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.) 

    The rolls
    In a small bowl, combine:
    1/2 c.  light brown sugar 
    1/2 c. granulated sugar 
    2 tsp ground cinnamon 
    1 c. pecan halves, toasted and chopped
    This will be the filling for the cinnamon rolls.

    1. Take your brioche dough and divide it in half.

    2. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you. 

    3. Sprinkle half the cinnamon/sugar mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even. 

    4. Use a bench scraper or a chef's knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. 

    5. Repeat for the other half of the dough. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.) 

    6. Divide the goo between two 9 by 13-inch baking dishes, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle an additional 1/2 c. pecans evenly over the surface of each pan. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours. [Alternately, you can also let them proof overnight in your refrigerator, which is what they supposedly do at Flour.  I have, however, read some people's comments that they can get soggy from being in the Goo too long, so try at your own risk.]

    7. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. 

    8. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top.   Makes 15 large rolls.

    The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving. 

    The Verdict
    As I mentioned before, these are pretty labor intensive.  Being the procrastinator that I am, I waited way too long to start these - like at 11pm on Saturday night with the intention of serving them at 11am on Sunday.  Not the best idea, especially since mixing the dough was a long and somewhat loud process and I had to babysit my mixer to keep it from jumping off the counter.  

    So yes, it was a time crunch, and they were a bit late to the table, but these cinnamon rolls were TO. DIE. FOR. Like, everyone-was-stuffed-full-and-still-had-to-eat-some-scrumptious.  I did realize too late that I had rolled mine along the long side instead of the short, so mine were tall instead of wide and a bit misshapen, but they were still fantastic.  I love nuts, so I think I may double the pecans next time.  

    Other random notes
    I was a bit short, so I subbed agave nectar for about half of the honey.  I found the goo to be surprisingly thin, which was nice in that I didn't have to strain it, but made it less satisfyingly gooey. I may cut back on the water next time, or allow it to cool overnight in the fridge to see if it thickens up more.  Not sure if using the agave nectar factored into the thinness or not.

    I also used two disposable aluminum pans for the final proof and baking.  This was initially out of necessity, since my glass baking dishes were being used for other brunch items, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it meant I avoided having to scrub baked-on goo out of my pans.  

    Here's a pic of the rolls before I turned them out of the pan.


    And after. Yum.

    As I said before, this made 16 giant rolls, and while they were tasty, they are not the type of thing you want to eat a lot of. I packed most of the leftovers up and sent them home with our guests, and T declared that these were so good they should only be made once or twice a year.  I will probably bust them out again at Christmas.