During the pandemic, homebound bakers have been creating breads from their own starters and whipping up quick breads like crazy. Now King Arthur Baking has offered its 2021 Recipe of the Year for bakers to try: Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls.
After the rough year we’ve had, who doesn’t want something soft and sweet? You may already have a favorite cinnamon roll recipe, but this one promises tender rolls that stay soft longer. I gave the recipe a shot, and it has forever changed the way I will make cinnamon rolls and other yeast breads.
King Arthur’s test kitchen staff had brainstormed hundreds of recipe ideas since January last year, and after narrowing the field, pondered: “How can we go above and beyond with a particular recipe?”
They achieved this with the cinnamon rolls by using a Japanese baking technique called tangzhong. The result is over-the-top pillowy, tender cinnamon rolls that stay fresh at room temperature for two to three days when wrapped tightly in plastic.
Never heard of tangzhong? Neither had I. According to the King Arthur newsletter, “Tangzhong is a Japanese technique that involves cooking a mixture of flour and water to create a slurry that is added to the bread dough.”
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I knew about using a slurry or roux to thicken soups, gravies and stews — but not for bread baking. In bread, I learned, it increases the amount of water the dough is able to absorb, making it harder for the dough to dry out during the baking process and yielding a softer bread texture.
Further, the addition of the slurry allows the dough to trap more water, which increases the ability of the yeast to become more activated, resulting in a puffier dough.
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I was in. I pulled out my KitchenAid and got to work. The slurry consists of ½ cup whole milk and 3 tablespoons bread flour. I used half-and-half since it was my best option, and figured the extra richness would work fine. The slurry is stirred constantly over medium heat in a small pan, thickening into a stiff paste in about three minutes.
That mixture is scooped directly into a cold mixing bowl, and cold milk is added. The cold milk on the hot slurry cools the flour mixture to a warm temperature, which does not kill the yeast when it hits the mixture in the bowl.
The rest of the ingredients are added and a dough comes together nicely using the bread hook attachment on low speed. Once the dough forms, the speed is increased to medium, and the mixer does the kneading for the next eight minutes.
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The result is a super-silky soft dough, the nicest-feeling dough I’ve worked with. It’s placed in a lightly oiled bowl, covered and put in a warm oven until doubled in bulk, which takes about an hour. The dough is then patted into a flat rectangle, topped with a sugar-cinnamon mixture, rolled up and cut into cinnamon rings. After another 30-minute rise, the pan of rolls is baked.
After they’re taken out of the oven, they are brushed with melted butter and allowed to cool. The rolls are wrapped individually in plastic wrap and put in a gallon-size Ziplock bag to be stored in the cabinet or freezer. They can be rewarmed in a low-heat oven and topped with powdered sugar frosting.
The rolls are delicious and amazingly tender and moist. King Arthur’s test kitchen has adapted several other bread recipes using the tangzhong technique, even one for sourdough. I’m planning to bake my way through all of them. Also at the website is a formula for adapting your own favorite recipes using tangzhong, if soft, puffy bread is your goal.
Visit kingarthurbaking.com. Here’s the 2021 Recipe of the Year.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.
contact the writer: 636-0271.