Thursday, June 25, 2009

It started with cinnamon rolls

I've always had a fascination with cinnamon rolls. I have fond memories of meeting my grandparents at the local diner on Saturday mornings. They would gossip with friends over a cup of coffee. And they would order cinnamon rolls for my sister and I. The rolls would be so warm that the butter would melt right into the bread. And the huge rolls would be dripping in powdered-sugar frosting.

The local diner is gone now, and I haven't been able to find another cinnamon roll that compares. Certainly not the Pilsbury cinnamon rolls in a tube, with their heavy cream cheese frosting. Probably the only rolls that compare are the giant cinnamon buns at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale.

So when I first started baking, one of my goals was to learn how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. I experimented with many recipes, and I was utterly unsuccessful. Each time, I would encounter a new problem: the rolls wouldn't rise, they would over-rise of they would fall flat in the oven. Once, I forgot to take the plastic wrap off the top of the pan, and the plastic would melt into the rolls.

But I didn't give up. I signed up for a bread-baking class at Living History Farms in Urbandale. I learned that "kneading" the bread isn't the same as "massaging" it.

After three years of practice, I've finally figured out how to make bread from scratch. But now "no-knead" bread seems to be all the rage. The New York Times came out with a story about a restaurant owner who perfected the no-knead process. The story went viral on the Internet, and now there are at least two best-selling books on the topic, including the popular "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day."

The King Arthur Flour blog recently posted an adapted no-knead sticky bun recipe from the "Artisan Bread" book. ( I experimented with it at home and was happy with the results. Not only does it eliminate the kitchen-counter mess of kneading, but I can keep in the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days before I bake.

Enjoy my pictures of the rolls. And yes, they were as yummy as they look:

I had to eat the rolls straight out of the oven, when the caramel was gooey.

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