Chocolate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Buns or “The Recipe That Was Nearly My Undoing”

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So, you might say that I’ve been putting off this post for a while. I might even admit it. The thing is, when a baking experiment hits as many snags and pitfalls along the way as this one did, some recovery time becomes necessary. During that time, I kept asking myself, how can I give this over in a way that doesn’t make me sound angry or ungrateful? Turns out, there really isn’t one, so I’m going to apologize to you in advance for the hysterics. The only saving grace of the experience was that one at a time, straight from the freezer into the toaster oven, they were… dare I say it, delicious. But none of that takes away from the absolutely overwhelming frustration, the hot tears that threatened, or the feelings of powerlessness that flared up at each and every step of this seemingly straightforward recipe for chocolate cinnamon rolls. By the way, it’s totally doable if you follow the directions at the bottom of this post. I just didn’t have those at the time.

Why was it so difficult, you ask?

WELL. I’ll tell you.

1) The Yeast: I don’t bake often. Really very rarely. (See my thoughts in “about me” on baking without a KitchenAid) So when someone says in a dough recipe (before last week) add the yeast to the other ingredients and stir before adding the flour, I don’t intuitively know that I’m supposed to combine yeast with sugar and warm water and ACTIVATE IT FIRST. Yes I almost gave up when this happened. No, I am not ashamed. Bloggers should know better.

2) The Mashed Potato: The recipe says you need to add mashed potatoes to the mixture to make the dough light and airy. However what it fails to mention, is that without a heavy duty mixer, You will NEVER get all the potato lumps mixed properly into the dough, and you will see them, staring up at you, mocking you, from your otherwise perfect mixing job, making you want to toss the whole thing and go to Cinnabon. Yes, I picked out every single lump I could find. No, it wasn’t any fun at all, but I was not to be defeated by this recipe, no matter what.

3) The Rising: The recipe calls for one rising of the dough to double the size, then to knead it, and set aside in fridge either until ready to use, or overnight. Well by the next day, it had risen double again. OK, no foul there, except it had risen so much that it pulled off the plastic covering it and had dried out all around the edges. ACK!
So I punched it down, kneaded it a bit more, and got ready for the real fun, rolling out the dough and filling with delicious goodies. Except that even after adding all 6 cups of flour, (she calls for 4-6MAX) it was still wetly sticky, so much so that it was nearly impossible to handle. Sorry there are no pics of the rolling out or adding filling, but I think you can understand why. I was just trying to get through it. The filling did smell amazing, and I used chopped chocolate pieces instead of cinnamon chips, since no such thing exists here.

4) The Rolling Out: Her recipe then says to roll out the dough, sprinkle filling on top, roll up, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces, then lay out in a buttered dish. But the roll was far too big. More on this in a moment.

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before 2nd rising

5) The “second” Official Rising (3rd for me): So now I have 10 rolls, in one big Pyrex pan, and the recipe calls to let them rise double AGAIN. Fine I say, even though they are pretty huge already, “it’s good for the airy texture you want” I told myself. Yeah. So they rise double, and now they are popping up out of the top of the dish and I am starting to literally see red because I know whats coming once they start to bake. Breathe Leah, just breath.

Poofed up and ready to bake

We should have halved the dough, and baked in 2 separate dishes. If we had, I think they would have really been OK after the first 25-30 minutes of baking. Unfortunately, all there was in the recipe to that effect was, “Then roll out dough on lightly floured counter to roughly 12 x 18 inches for large sized rolls. If dough has been divided for smaller sized rolls; roll out dough to approximately 1/2 inch thick”. Forgive me for saying so, but there should have been a neon sign screaming that if you end up having to use all 6 cups of flour, you had better damn well halve the dough before making your rolls, and bake in 2 batches. Not to mention that based on her photos, which I only realized later, she had baked each and every one of these in their own INDIVIDUAL little pans, so they ended up evenly baked through. No mention of this in the method though. Not a peep.

6) The Baking: They are in there for about 8-10 minutes when I see that they are spilling over the edges and poofing up all over the place. Normally, the sight of oven action fills me with glee, but this time I felt nothing but the hot pricks of impending tears behind my eyes and a vague and unpleasant tightness in my chest. The tops quickly got brown and hard, (so much for light and airy dough and all that potato drama) but I could see the sides and bottom were still raw. So, I covered the dish with foil, turned down the temperature, and prayed for the best. When the timer went off, they were of course still raw inside, but we only learned this after the middle roll deflated 2 minutes out of the oven. So, we put them back in, for ANOTHER 25 minutes before taking them out for good, afraid they would burn or be hard as rocks if we baked them any longer. Sadly, the bottoms and sides of all the middle ones were still raw even thought the tops were a gorgeous golden brown.

7) The Icing: So there we were, with our slightly cooled, ghetto-assed, 3/4 baked, 1/4 raw, hard on top, chocolate cinnamon rolls. At least they smelled heavenly. I started making the cream cheese icing while they baked, and melted some good quality dark chocolate, so my spirits had for the most part bounced back. Which brings us to the amount of icing sugar the recipe called for. 3 cups. THREE. It looked and tasted really good after 1 cup of icing sugar. Then I added the other 2 cups, and all I tasted was sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Gone was the delicate cream cheese flavor unless you closed your eyes and tried really hard to find it. I would recommend doubling the other ingredients or halving the powdered sugar in the recipe if you are just making the vanilla glaze, seriously. I split the mixture between 2 bowls and added melted chocolate to one of them, and it just looked too light. Nothing like the pics. OK I said to myself, suck it up. It’s really not a tragedy considering what we have been through already today. Besides, the chocolate one was delicious. I think the bitter chocolate balanced out the sugar, so for that one, the amounts made sense. I started icing them, first with the Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing, then with the Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing, and smiled for the first time in hours.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

🙂 So Pretty! 🙂

Perfect Cinnamon Buns

After 2 days of frustration, we finally got to try one. From the edge. Where it was actually baked through. And it was all almost worth it.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Bun

OK. I’m done with my rant, and really, these were so yummy, they kept well in the freezer, they even came back beautifully in the toaster oven wrapped in foil on a low temp for about 30 minutes, (especially the ones that were half baked) and to be fair, it’s a FANTASTIC idea and the recipe is delicious. It just wasn’t given over well. It was like she wrote it all down as if it was for herself, knowing what she already knew, and didn’t consider new bakers or anyone else who hadn’t done them before into the equation. In the end, I will do these again, but only with all of the modifications and considerations I told you about, and not without a mixer.

Ingredients:

For Rolls:

In a cup to activate: 1  package serving of pre-measured active dry yeast  (2 and 1/4 teaspoons if you have a bigger package) added to 1/2 cup lukewarm water (too hot will kill the yeast) (add pinch of sugar to feed the yeast) Set aside for a few minutes until you see it foaming. (See, I sound like a pro now).
2/3 cup shortening or butter. I used butter.
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed potato, very well cooked and mashed until smooth.
1/2 cup milk (evaporated milk is best, not condensed, that’s something different)
1/2 cup water that the potato cooked in
4 to 6 cups all purpose flour (this varies… the less flour the better but you must be able to handle the dough).

For Filling:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 – 1 cup cinnamon chips or semisweet or dark chocolate chips (chopped) plus more to sprinkle over top

For The Chocolate and Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing:

4 tablespoons butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz.  Ghirardelli  or your choice of 62% bittersweet unsweetened chocolate morsels, melted.
A few shakes of salt (3-4)
3 cups confectioners sugar (seriously think about cutting this down)
1/3 cup whole milk or 3% (approx – use enough to get desired consistency)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: IN A MIXER!

For Rolls:

Mix together shortening, salt & sugar. Add eggs one at a time and beat in. Add mashed potatoes, yeast/water mixture, milk, potato water and mix until all are combined.

Add three to four cups of the flour, mixing well adding enough additional flour until dough can be handled and turned onto a floured board. Knead well using as little flour as possible. Place in large oiled bowl, cover and let rise double in a warm dark place. About 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Knead lightly and cover, place in fridge until ready to use or overnight. If storing overnight in the fridge, make sure the whole bowl is wrapped around very well with plastic wrap.

If refrigerated, let bowl sit at room temperature for 30 – 40 minutes before beginning.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Then,

a) For 10 larger sized rolls, you will need to bake in individual round 7 inch tins (approximately).  roll out dough on lightly floured counter to roughly 12 x 18 inches. I did this over 2 big pieces of saran wrap and saved myself a LOT of sticking to counter mess and hassle later on. It also made it easier to roll up. See photos. Brush on melted butter, then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and chopped cinnamon or chocolate chips. Leave about 1/2″ border.

Starting at the longer edge,  tightly roll up dough into a long log. With a helping hand holding the end up for you, slip the floss under the end, and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces ( I used dental floss to do this and it was really clean and neat) and place in their respective tins. Alternately, you can start in the middle with a knife, and keep halving them until you have about 10 rolls and then place them in their buttered tins. Let rise until double before baking.

or

b) For 20 smaller rolls, If you use all 6 cups flour, and you also want smaller rolls that will bake all the way through, take my advice and halve the dough, and bake in 2 batches, or in 2 pans on 2 racks of oven. You may need a slightly longer baking time if you do both at once. Roll out dough to approximately 1/2 inch thick. Brush on melted butter, then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and chopped cinnamon or chocolate chips. Leave about 1/2″ border. Starting at edge tightly roll up dough. Cut into 1 1/2″ pieces ( I used dental floss to do this and it was really clean and neat) and place in large buttered baking pan. repeat with the rest of the dough. Alternately, you can start in the middle with a knife, and keep halving them until you have about 10 rolls per log and then place in large buttered baking pan or Pyrex and repeat. Let rise until double before baking.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned and enjoy.

Make Icing while they are baking:

Cream together the butter and cream cheese. If making it all chocolate, add melted chocolate (melted in a double boiler), salt, confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and spreadable, otherwise add everything BUT the chocolate, then split into 2 bowls, and then add the chocolate to one of them. The chocolate icing was literally so good that it kept disappearing by the spoonful. I highly recommend making it.

Freeze leftovers (after you cut them apart) for later, if you have any.

I’d love to hear your comments, especially if you have worked with a sweet sticky dough before or made anything like these.

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