Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Science of Baking

I've never had much success baking and the predominant reason is not being careful enough with measuring ingredients. I have tried to move more in my cooking to using mass as opposed to volume for some of my efforts. For example, when you measure a cup of flour a lot can depend on the weather of the day, how the flour is packed in the cup as you pull from the container, sifted or not sifted. So, instead I use a measure which I have found to be reasonably successful. That is, 1 cup of regular flour has a mass of 125 grams. The same principle applies to butter, another measure somewhat difficult to measure accurately. A cup is 225 grams, so calculate accordingly.

I have never made Cinnamon Buns. I have eaten them many times and always wanted to give them a try. Recently I read an episode of a friend's blog which had a recipe that could be used for either dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls. I felt this would be a great first start since I have tried other recipes from links she has provided. And, though the recipe she had contributed to another blog would be for a rather large number of pieces, she did indicate that it could be halved and so I would do that.

I got started, but, I immediately decided to wander off onto another field.

You see, I've never felt good about kneading. That is the primary reason why I purchased a bread machine. Perhaps the results of a bread machine don't quite measure up to "doing it yourself" but, I do appreciate the results.

So, I got going on the buns.

  • 1 1/2 cups of milk. Since the milk carton had an ounce or so more, I just used all of it, so probably closer to 1 5/8 cup
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter. I did have a bit of salted butter left in the fridge, so I used it and measured up to the amount on my digital scale with the unsalted.
  • 1 packet of instant rise yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten

I put the sugar, salt, and milk onto the stovetop at medium-low to heat and melted the butter in the microwave. I then mixed it all together and left it off the burner to cool.

I stirred 3 cups (375 grams) of flour with the yeast in a bowl and set that aside.

I waited for the butter / milk combo to cool to about 125* using my digital thermometer and then whisked a bit with the egg. Finally I added the egg to complete the liquid portion of this part of the recipe.

I took out my bread maker - as I said, I don't knead too well, and diverted from Karen's direction. In it, I put the liquid and topped with the dry goods. I put the bread maker onto its dough setting, allowing it to the kneading and first rise.

When it was done, I realized how badly I had missed one of the steps of the original recipe! Although it rose a huge amount, it was as wet as can be. So, I dusted a cutting board, emptied the container, and started adding flour, "kneading" as I went to get a more dough like consistency. Believe me, there was no measuring here, but I would "think" it took about another 1/3 cup (no grams) to get it to what I thought might make sense.

I dropped the dough back into the bread maker and put it on the cycle again, but this time stopped after about 5 minutes - i.e. more mixing and a bit of kneading. 

Following this, I continued with the base recipe by rolling it out to an approximate 18X12 rectangle.

On the stove, I put 1/2 cup brown sugar, 56 grams butter, an 1/8 cup corn syrup and about a quarter cup of chopped pecans onto medium heat, melted the butter and made a sugary sauce. If you are looking at Karen's recipe notes, you'll see that I goofed on that. I should have done the butter and sugar first, then put in the syrup and nuts. Oh well. I finished that and put it into a 9 x 13 pan.

Having rolled out the dough, I brushed it with 56 grams butter and sprinkled on about a half cup of brown sugar. Mistake … I halved the amounts in the recipe, forgetting that this part was not to be halved. I also completely forgot the cinnamon t(2 tbs) that was called for. Well, I rolled it up starting from the long edge and cut it into a dozen slices.

Just as I was about to add it to the pan, I realized I had halved the recipe for the caramel topping too, so quickly made another batch, added it to the pan, and dropped on the buns. I then put it into the oven with the light on to do its rising for about an hour.

It was when I took it out of the oven from rising and ready to bake, that I realized I had forgotten the cinnamon, so I made a quick mix of about 2 tbs of cinnamon and some brown sugar, dry, and sprinkled that on top of the buns.

I then baked in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes. 

Without a doubt these were the best cinnamon buns I can recall eating.

And, the recipe will never be done again. At least not that way.

Thanks, Karen, for the kick-start.


BC said...

This had me laughing the whole way through! I've made similar errors of distraction in baking (hmmm, in all things...) but intuition can go a long way, despite what they say. Glad they turned out so well, anyway : )

susanvg said...

Loved the story. Wish I could have tasted them. They look delicious!