Scientifically Sweet: Molasses Cinnamon Rolls

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Molasses Cinnamon Rolls

Warm, cinnamony, yeasty and sweet.

I'm talking about the iconic Cinnamon Roll.

Come. On. !!

How could anyone possibly resist that.

I love making any kind of bread. It just feels so real, so artisanal and soothing. Even when I make it with the machine when minimal hand kneading is required, it still feels so right.

These are unique in that I use molasses in place of some of the sugar to make them really robust and rich. It gives the rolls a nice tan colour that looks like caramel.

This recipe is surprisingly easy. It just requires a bit of time. And by bit of time I mean a few hours, but you really don't need to fuss. This is just waiting time.

In this recipe I use instant dried yeast, which has a very fine granulation so that it dissolves readily in the dough. No need to mix it in warm water first. Instant dried yeast is a step-saver.

Once the dough is soft, supple and slightly tacky, you need to let it double in size. Just roll it around in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and put it to rest in a warm place for about 2 hours.

This is what it looks like when it's doubled! At this point it is so silky and kinda sexy.

Now turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and roll it out into a big rectangle.

Slather it up with some softened butter and then pat brown sugar all over the top in an even layer. A tiny part of me wishes I could be that dough right now.

Slice 'er up so that you get 12 rolls.

Then lay them cut-side-up in your well buttered baking dish. I like to use a glass dish. Don't be stingy with the butter because we want these puffy little babies to come out nicely.

At first there will be some space between the rolls, but then cover them and leave them to puff up in a warm place again until they are chubby and touching each other.

Brush them with melted butter if you prefer and bake until they are wonderfully brown and the brown sugar is bubbling!

I recommend digging right in while they're still very warm! They'll be incredibly soft and fluffy inside, with a deep molasses flavour that you might trade your left arm just for a bite of one.

Now that's a sight for sore eyes!

Molasses Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

500g (about 3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
15g (4 tsp) instant dry yeast
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup 2% milk
¼ cup (60ml) dark cooking molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp (42g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces

For the filling:
3/4 cup (165g) packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp (56g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and salt; set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over low heat just until warm (105-110°F). Do not over-heat.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl and add the warm milk, molasses, whole egg, egg yolk and butter. Stir it together with a wooden spoon until moistened and combined, and then attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn mixer to low (speed 2) and knead for 4 minutes.

Check the consistency of the dough and add up to 35 g (4 tablespoons) more flour as needed to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the bowl. For easy incorporation, it helps to pull the dough off of the hook and add the flour directly on top. The amount of flour you will need to add depends on the size of your eggs, the humidity in the air and the moisture level of your flour. Continue to knead for 6-7 minutes. The dough will be soft, springy and slightly tacky. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead it by hand for a minute until it is smooth and supple and does not stick to your hands. If the dough is too sticky you may need to lightly dust the surface with flour. When you are finished kneading, there should be no dry flour clinging to the dough.

Lightly grease a large bowl with about ½ teaspoon of canola oil. Form the dough into a smooth ball, place it in the bowl and turn to coat evenly with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

While dough is rising, combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and use a fork to mix it together until evenly blended; set aside.

When dough has doubled in bulk, gently push down the dough with your fists to remove the air. Turn it out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat the dough out into a rectangle and then let it sit and relax for 5-10 minutes. This will prevent it from retracting as you roll it out. At this point, the dough is soft, silky, supple and very attractive. Meanwhile, very generously butter a 13x9-inch glass baking dish – be liberal or the rolls will stick.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into roughly a 10x20-inch rectangle. Position dough so that the short sides are vertical (facing north and south). You will be rolling from the long sides. Use your fingers to spread butter all over the dough enough to coat it evenly.

Sprinkle the brown sugar filling over the buttered dough and spread it out evenly using your hands, leaving a ½-inch border at the long edges so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly pat and press the filling into the dough.

Roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch firmly all along the seam to seal. Roll it over so that it is seam side down and slice into 12 equal slices. Each roll will be about 1 ½ inches wide.

Arrange slices, cut side up, in the buttered baking dish. Each roll will have a bit of space on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and a dry kitchen towel and leave to rest in a warm place for until they've puffed up nice and big and are touching, about 1 hour. Preheat your oven to 375°F during last 15 minutes of rise time.

Bake until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Do not over-bake them or they will be dry. Serve warm!

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  1. I love cinnamon buns and these look so delicious!

  2. I've been on the hunt for the perfect cinnamon bun recipe. So far I've found that brioche dough makes for the absolute best cinnamon buns (and sticky buns too!) although a brioche cinnamon bun is practically a meal in itself.

  3. On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday - and I love this post so I'm featuring it as part of the roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and I always love dropping by to see what you've created...

    1. This article has some great and useful information about this subject. Thank you for sharing it in an easy to read and understandable format. Thanks for sharing this great information.

  4. Hello! I would love trying out making these cinnamon rolls as i have some molasses in the pantry that i don't know what to do with ahahah. I was reading the recipe and was wondering what 2% milk was? I live in Asia, maybe there's something I dont understand?):

    1. It means that the milk has 2% fat. You can use regular milk - it's fine.

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