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Emily Wyckoff

3 Tips for Kneading Dough – Plus, Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls?

Warm from the oven, topped with creamy icing, there are few breakfast treats that can compare, in my opinion.

I stayed away from making cinnamon rolls at home because I was hesitant to try out a recipe that called for kneading. I had many unsuccessful past attempts where my end-result resembled a door stop.

The kneading process develops the gluten in the dough, which gives it body. Plus, it’s a good workout and very rewarding. If your grandmother or great-grandmother was a baker, I bet she had fantastic arms!

I finally got the hang of it with my Pebble Top Oatmeal Bread and learned a few valuable lessons.

1. The dough is very sticky when you start to knead it, and it will cling to whatever surface you’re kneading on if you don’t liberally dust it. So, flour first and gradually add more as you knead, and be careful to not add too much. As soon as your dough is smooth and it bounces back when you press a finger into it, you’ve added enough.

2. Pay attention to your recipe and follow kneading times carefully. Different doughs require different levels of work – a softer bread needs less time (usually 6-8 minutes), while a chewy bread (like a french baguette) requires more time (usually 10 minutes).

3. To knead, place your dough ball on your floured surface, fold it in half, and push the dough with the heels of your hand. Turn the dough a quarter of a turn, and continue in this rhythm for the prescribed time.

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It should look like this when you’re done:

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Let’s put this kneading knowledge to use with some delicious cinnamon rolls (the complete recipe is below).

After you have kneaded the dough, let it rise in a warm spot (my house is cold, so I place it in the oven, set to 170 F) in a large bowl coated with non-stick cooking spray, tightly covered with plastic wrap. The dough needs to double in size, which takes about two hours. After the dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out to a 15 x 11 inch rectangle.

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Combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and spread the mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

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Roll the dough into a log, lengthwise. When it’s rolled, pinch along the seam to seal.

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Use dental floss (wrap the floss under the dough and pull the ends toward each other, through the dough) for clean cuts, or a sharp knife, and cut the dough into equal slices (1/2 – 3/4 inch pieces). In this batch, this yielded about 20 rolls.

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Place the rolls, lining them up next to each other, in a parchment-lined 13 x 9 glass baking pan, and cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. You can also use two smaller round or square pans.

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At this point you can either let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, or refrigerate them overnight (a great idea if you’d like to have warm cinnamon rolls in the morning but don’t want to wake up early!). If you refrigerate overnight, let the rolls come to room temperature (about an hour), then place in a warm place (30 to 40 minutes) until they are doubled in size.

This is also a good time to make your cream cheese frosting. Simply beat softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until combined.

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Once the rolls are doubled, take off the plastic wrap and bake at 350 F until the tops are golden, about 18 to 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Spread rolls with the cream cheese frosting while still warm, and enjoy!

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Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes approximately 20 rolls

Ingredients

For the rolls:
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 envelope rapid rise yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, softened

For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the milk and butter in a glass measuring cup and heat in the microwave until butter melts and the mixture is 120 to 130 F (it should be warm, not hot, when you stick your finger in), about 30 to 45 seconds.

2. Pour the milk mixture in the bowl of a standing mixer and add 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, egg, yeast and salt. Beat on low for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and beat on low until the dough forms a ball and is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a tablespoon or more of flour if the dough is too sticky.

3. Dump the dough on a floured board or surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to a large bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled – about 2 hours.

4. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small bowl. Punch down dough and roll out into a 15 x 11 rectangle. Spread the brown sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.

5. Roll the dough lengthwise into a log, and pinch along the seam to seal. Use dental floss (wrap the floss under the dough and pull the ends toward and past each other, through the dough) for clean cuts, or a sharp knife, and cut the dough into equal slices (1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces).

6. Place the rolls, lining them up next to each other, in a parchment-lined 13 x 9 glass baking pan and cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap. You can also use two smaller round or square pans. Let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, or refrigerate overnight. If you refrigerate overnight, let the rolls come to room temperature (about an hour), then let them rise in a warm place until they are doubled in size.

7. Remove plastic wrap and bake at 350 F until tops are golden, 18 to 23 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let them cool slightly.

8. Beat softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and salt until smooth and well-combined. Spread rolls with the cream cheese frosting while still warm.


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