by Stephanie Zonis
Who doesn't love cinnamon rolls? Unfortunately, in these times most people know them only from supermarkets, prepackaged in plastic or from a cardboard cylinder in the dairy case. Spare me! These are light, tender buttermilk rolls, flavored with orange, swirled with vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar, and nestled in a thick chocolate sauce. That's more like it!
The rolls are based on an easy buttermilk dough, but it's best to have a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the water you use for proofing the yeast. These take time, but the sauce can be made up to a few days ahead, and the dough can be made the night before you bake. Cinnamon rolls must be served warm. They freeze well, however (without the chocolate sauce, of course), and they reheat nicely. If you like nuts in your cinnamon rolls, top the cinnamon-sugar with 3/4 cup medium-fine chopped pecans or walnuts; roll lightly over the nuts with a rolling pin, then proceed as directed below. Great for tea-time, a special brunch, company, or no occasion at all.
Generous 2 cups sauce
4 squares (4 ozs.) semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 squares (3 ozs.) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
Grated rind of 1-2 large, deep-colored oranges (zest only--no white pith)
3-1/4 to 3-3/4 cups flour, divided
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Scant 1 Tbsp. vanilla
For the Sauce:
In medium heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolates, butter, and salt. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); whisk often until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water.
In small, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan, combine brown sugar and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high; stir occasionally until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat; allow bubbling to subside. Very gradually, add a small amount at a time to chocolate mixture, whisking in each addition thoroughly before adding the next. When all syrup is in, whisk briskly for a minute or two to incorporate and smooth out sauce. Cool briefly, then chill until needed. Cover tightly when cold.
In small, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan, combine buttermilk, butter, and orange rind. Place over low heat; stir often just until butter melts and mixture is warm. Remove from heat; set aside to cool until barely warm.
Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour (reserve remainder), 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar (reserve remainder), salt, and baking soda. With large spoon, mix well. When buttermilk mixture is almost cool enough to use, proof yeast: in liquid measuring cup of at least 1-cup capacity, combine warm water, reserved 2 tsp. sugar, and yeast. with stainless steel or other nonreactive fork, beat well to mix. Set aside in warm place for about 5-10 minutes; at the end of that time, you should see a foamy "head" on the mixture. If not, discard it and try again with another packet of yeast, and the same amounts of warm water and sugar.
When yeast is proofed, add it and the buttermilk mixture to the flour. Stir to incorporate dry ingredients, then beat for 150 strokes (about 2 minutes), stopping once halfway to scrape bowl and spoon with rubber spatula. Gradually add enough remaining flour to achieve a dough that is no longer sticky.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead for 6-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Lightly re-flour work surface as necessary to keep dough from sticking.
With vegetable shortening or softened unsalted butter, lightly grease a 2 to 3 quart nonreactive bowl. Place dough inside, then turn dough over (this greases the top and bottom lightly to keep the dough from drying out). Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then place in warm, draft-free spot for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. (Alternatively, you can place the dough in a 1 gallon zip-top bag. Close the bag, expelling any air as you do so. Chill the dough overnight. If you do this, it's best to remove the dough from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you use it the next morning.)
While dough rises, prepare Filling. In small cup, combine sugar and cinnamon; mix thoroughly. Cover and set aside. Measure vanilla into small cup; cover and set aside. If nuts are being used, chop and measure them. with vegetable shortening, grease a 15-1/2" by 10-1/2" by 1" baking sheet. Line the bottom and the sides with one sheet of wax paper, then grease the wax paper (the rolls will bake on this sheet). Set aside.
When dough has risen, punch down. Knead for a few seconds to distribute air bubbles. Turn dough out onto lightly floured board; with lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to an 18" by 12" rectangle. Turn dough frequently during this process, and keep board and rolling pin lightly floured as necessary. If dough resists rolling (mine always does), allow to stand on board, covered completely with a tea towel, for 3-5 minutes. Don't worry if the dough isn't a perfect rectangle; just get it as close as you reasonably can.
Now, with a pastry brush, brush the vanilla all over the dough, stopping about 1/2" from each edge. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the vanilla as evenly as possible. If using nuts, sprinkle them on now. Starting with an 18" edge, roll up the dough as tightly and evenly as possible. Pinch seams well to seal. with large, sharp, serrated knife, trim about 1/2" to 1" from each edge of the roll. Cover roll completely with tea towel; allow to stand 3-5 minutes.
If necessary, gently stretch roll to measure 18" in length. with large, sharp, serrated knife, slice dough at 1-1/2" intervals, producing 12 rolls. Place rolls on large sheet of wax paper with some room between them. Cover with another sheet of wax paper; with palms or fingers, flatten rolls to 1/2" to 3/4" thickness. Peel back top sheet of wax paper; place rolls on prepared baking sheet, allowing some space between each roll. Cover completely with tea towel; set aside in warm, draft-free spot until rolls are puffy and risen, 45 minutes to 1 hour. During last part of rising time, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake rolls 14-16 minutes, until well-risen and a light golden brown on top. While rolls bake, heat sauce: place in small heatproof bowl over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl), stirring often until smooth, melted, and warm. (Alternatively, heat in small microwaveable container at 50% (medium) power for short intervals, stirring well after each, just until melted and warm.) Also, while rolls bake, spray a broad-bladed metal spatula lightly with nonstick cooking spray, or grease lightly with tasteless vegetable oil (if you're planning to freeze any of the rolls, they must cool first on cooling racks--spray these, too). These rolls are extremely sticky when baked, and will stick even to nonstick utensils.
When rolls are baked, remove from oven. Allow to stand on baking sheet about 1 minute; during this time, use a small, sharp, serrated knife to gently saw through any rolls that have baked together. To serve rolls, place a small pool of the warm chocolate sauce in the indentation of each dessert plate, and place a hot roll on top of the sauce. Serve with forks. Pass any remaining sauce.
Notes: To freeze rolls, make sure they are cooled first. Place on wax paper lined baking sheet; freeze. When frozen, peel from wax paper, and store airtight in freezer bag. To reheat, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and grease the foil. Place an empty baking sheet (of the same size or larger) under the prepared sheet (reheating the rolls on a doubled baking sheet prevents the bottoms from overbrowning). Place frozen rolls on doubled baking sheet; cover lightly with aluminum foil. Bake 10-14 minutes, or until hot.
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This page created November 1998
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