Monday, March 16, 2020

Double-Glazed Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

When you need to celebrate but don't like cake, why not make these indulgent, brioche like cinnamon rolls the star? They stay soft for days thanks to a hefty dose of cream, butter and a hint of caramel in the dough, while a double glaze - first honey butter right out of the oven, then cream cheese frosting after they cool for an hour - adds even more decadence.

With all the insanity going on in the world today, it's hard to remember that there are still celebrations to be had! We are in the thick of birthday season (as I call it) here - between the beginning of March and the end of April there are no fewer than 6 birthdays in the family, mine included! In addition to the birthdays, lots of other little "yay days" are still going on, and now that I'm stuck at home for at least three weeks while the schools are closed I have become the de facto baker for them. 

One of my proudest achievements - besides my mom's requisite birthday cake - was this ginormous batch of fluffy, rich cinnamon rolls for my sister's work. One of the vet techs at her clinic, Kelly, was celebrating 20 years of service - a huge accomplishment for a field where burnout and turnover are sky high. However, Kelly is not a fan of cake in any form. I can't fault her for that, to each their own, and when they asked what she did like she said the one thing that spoke to my soul: cinnamon rolls.


Now, I have made cinnamon rolls several times before - from coffee laced to minis to my piece de resistance of laminated cream cheese and granola - but these I kept more or less basic in flavour with enough twists to the formula to keep them soft, moist and sweet for days. My first trick was using cream - not milk - to make the dough, which began the enrichment process, followed by a hefty dose of butter, eggs and the second secret - caramel sundae topping. The thick inverted sugars in the caramel prevented the dough drying out like it would with regular sugar and added a complex hint of flavour and colour that you won't get anywhere else. A splash of vanilla and pinch of nutmeg rounded out the sweet dough, making it perfect on its own. But since they are cinnamon rolls, they demanded a filling, and I kept that simple with butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Onto baking, which was no different than a smaller batch of rolls with the exception of a little more monitoring. The batch made 24, which could be done in two 9x13 pans, but I found a lovely foil roasting pan at the dollar store which fit them perfectly and kept transport easy! To compensate for the middle rolls getting less heat and possibly being underdone, I heated my smaller pizza stone on the rack before putting the raised rolls in, which blasted the middle of the foil pan with heat and ensured even baking. It would probably work without it, but better safe than sorry!

Finally, while the rolls were baking and smelling heavenly, I prepared the pre-glaze that would go on the hot buns right out of the oven. This was a little trick I picked up from either Serious Eats or The Kitchn (can't remember which, sorry) where they double frosted the buns. Not wanting the "gooiness" to be too hard to manage (these people work with furry creatures after all) I stuck to a simple vanilla, honey, butter and cream mixture which soaked into the bread and sealed in the rich, soft and fluffy nature of the rolls. After they cooled completely (on the counter overnight, which was torture but please don't refrigerate yet!) I heated up about 1 ½ cups of my cream cheese buttercream until just runny and spread it roughly over the rolls just to cover each. The leftover frosting was tinted and used for piping - purely optional, but if you're going to celebrate go whole hog!

Now, I know this recipe makes a lot of buns, but you can halve it to a more manageable 12 or even make the whole recipe, place in two pans and freeze after the first rise and shaping for up to 3 months. When you have a craving for sticky bun goodness, thaw the frozen pan overnight in the fridge, let rise on the counter for 45 minutes - 1 hour then bake and double glaze as usual. Problem solved!