Irreverent Cinnamon Rolls

The cinnamon rolls I knew were either make-your-teeth hurt sweet or too hard and dry (or sometimes, both!). I also used to think they were too difficult and cumbersome to make until I inherited my mother-in-law's autographed copy of Damn Good Food, recipes from Hell's Kitchen. Here's the introduction to the recipe:

"My dad hated small, hard caramel rolls, and he worked on this recipe for years until it was perfect. It's kind of an inovlved recipe, but he put a lot of time into it, so try not to fuck it up."

You have to love a recipe that's irreverent! I  found the odd cooking times quirky (i.e. 11 minutes rising time, 9 minutes simmering time, etc.). It turns out that making these rolls was not as difficult it looked and no, you don't have to follow the odd cooking times to the dot.  I have yet to try store-bought cinnamon rolls that are as good as these.

The original recipe pecan pieces cooked in butter and salt. As pecans are quite expensive, I usually make the rolls without them but for a real treat, sprinkle your rolls with pecan pieces before serving.

1¾ cups whole milk

⅓ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 package active dry yeast
1 extra-large egg
2 t salt
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 T cinnamon
4 cups caramel sauce (see recipe below)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Heat milk, honey, and shortening in a saucepan until lukewarm. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast over milk mixture. After yeast blooms, pour mixture into a big bowl. Add egg, salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix with a whisk. Add remaining flour as needed until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Take dough into a floured table and knead until smooth and elastic. Cut dough in half. Roll each portion into a ball and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise until double in size about 35 minutes. When risen, punch down and let rest again for 11 minutes more. 

Mix granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Roll out each portion into a rectangle ½ inch thick. Using half the melted butter, brush the top of each portion and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly. Roll into logs lengthwise, like a jelly rol. From logs, cut individual cinnamon rolls, 1½  to 1¾ inch thick.

Pour half the caramel sauce into a 2 x 10 x 14 inch pan. Arrange rolls in the pan, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to double in size. Remove towel and place the pan in the middle of the oven rack and backe 25-31 minutes in 350°F  or until golden brown. 

Remove the pan from the oven and brush the rolls with the remaining butter. Invert the pan, separate the rolls and serve by laddling the remaining caramel sauce over each roll.

Caramel Sauce
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
Place cream and sugar in a saucepan and slowly heat to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer and stir until thick about 9 minutes.

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