08 June 2016

Sourdough Cinnamon Roll Bread

This would be one of those "happy accidents" in the kitchen: a recipe that was apparently a total failure, but instead is getting renamed and added to my recipe file. Love those!

We made sourjacks for breakfast after Mass again this past weekend, so there was about half a cup of leftover starter sitting on the counter. Flipping through the sourdough section of my cookbook, I found something that sounded delicious: sourdough cinnamon rolls. Matt said yes, please make that!, so I fed the starter another cup and a half each of flour and water, and gave it about 24 hours to get good and foamy. Then Little Bear and I started in on the recipe... But by the time it said we were ready to let the dough rise, I was pretty skeptical. It did say that it made a soft dough, but soft enough that I was still stirring it with a spatula instead of kneading it? I conferred with my mom and decided to let it rise as it was; I could always add a little more flour after the first rise.

After the first rise, it was a mess. I'd barely even call it "dough"! It poured out of the bowl onto the countertop, closer to the consistency of a quickbread batter. I kneaded in another cup or so of flour, which made it so that I could sort of maneuver it around, but my hands were thickly coated in the sticky mess, and there was clearly no way that I was getting a dough with enough form to roll out flat and make proper cinnamon rolls without adding a lot more flour. The starter in the dough could probably eventually get the dough to rise if I added the extra flour, but I didn't want to wait another day before baking them! 

So I gave up. Eh, I didn't really want cinnamon rolls anyway... and I'm out of powdered sugar, so I couldn't frost them even if I did make them... Never mind the fact that I made some more powdered sugar for another recipe later that afternoon, anyway; I was looking for excuses. But, I have a huge problem with throwing food away, and I felt badly about disappointing Matt and Little Bear. I looked at the bags of raisins and brown sugar, looked at the little boy who was so excited about cinnamon rolls, and decided to take a chance.

Little Bear eagerly dumped handfuls of brown sugar and raisins on top of the lump of sticky dough, and carefully shook on some cinnamon. I kneaded it all together as best I could, split it in two, and dumped it into two greased bread pans. When it had risen, we threw it in the oven at the temperature the cinnamon rolls would have baked at, and hoped for the best.

And the result? Better than I could have hoped! The loaves slice nicely, and somehow perfectly merge the tenderness you expect in a sweet roll with the sponginess of sourdough bread. The sourdough tang is certainly there, but it doesn't overpower the sweetness or the cinnamon. It's like eating slices of cinnamon roll, minus the mess! You could certainly ice the top of the loaves, too, if you wanted to bring the bread one step closer to cinnamon-roll-hood, but we're enjoying it all by itself.

Here's the recipe, if you don't mind getting sticky and want to give it a shot yourself. And just in case your dough turns out like, well, dough, I'll include the "real" cinnamon roll directions, too.

Sourdough Cinnamon Roll Bread

2 cups sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm milk of choice
3+ cups flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
a couple handfuls of brown sugar and raisins

Mix together starter, milk, and 2 cups of flour, beating until smooth. Add eggs and oil, and beat thoroughly again. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, soda, and 1/2 cup flour, then sprinkle mixture over the dough and stir gently. Gently knead in another 1/2 cup of flour, with a spatula if necessary. If it looks like a soft dough, congratulations! You can make proper cinnamon rolls out of it if you want to. If you're not sure whether it's "soft" or "soup," don't worry; that's how mine looks. Leave the dough in a bowl in a warm place, covered with wax paper, to rise until doubled. (Sourdough takes much longer than yeast bread to rise, and I can't give you an exact number of hours—that will depend of the room temperature, the humidity, your starter's temperament, etc.)

When the dough has doubled, if it looks like a ball of dough, go ahead and divide it in half, roll out each half into a rectangle, top with the cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins, roll it up lengthwise, cut it into 1" wide cinnamon rolls, and put them in a greased pan cut side down. Cover and rise until doubled, which could take hours and hours again. 

If your dough looks like a soupy, sticky mess, don't panic; grease two loaf pans well. Knead in, again with a spatula if necessary, about a cup more of flour or enough to make it slightly handle-able. Knead in the cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar. Divide the dough in half and put/glop/pour into the two prepared pans. Cover and rise until doubled, hours and hours etc.

Whichever form your dough wound up in, when is has doubled again, bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Turn them out of the pan immediately and cool on wire racks.

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