It’s not hard to deduce from my few posts that much of my initial cooking experience is owed to the blog smittenkitchen. Deb Perelman’s anyone-can-do-this adaptations of recipes from well-known sources eased me into the idea of producing real, edible meals in my very own home. Successes from those recipes gave me enough of an ego boost to host my own seder (gasp!). The only real victim here is my boyfriend (you may know him as my handy kitchen assistant) who was perfectly happy ordering in 6 nights a week, reserving the 7th night for Trader Joe’s amazing 99-cent macaroni and cheese. You know, the one from the box with the little packet of orange powder. Okay also maybe my wallet.
To get to the point – I serendipitously happened upon the BAKED shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn around the same time this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe popped up on smittenkitchen. It felt a little bit (a lot a bit) like fate, and it was probably less than 24 hours later that I ordered the BAKED: Elements cookbook from that site I sometimes refer to. Of course, having the recipe (and two versions at that) is only the beginning. Months went by without any legitimate reason to actually make these buns. I hardly ever kept my pantry full of specialty goods like pumpkin, bread flour, or whole milk (I suppose nobody keeps milk in the pantry, unless it’s that new-fangled ultra pasteurized stuff, which I am skeptical of). I can’t even believe I used to consider those “specialty.” I mean, really, I get anxious now when there isn’t pumpkin in my pantry, right alongside shelf-stable cartons of cream. Regardless, it wasn’t until life got a bit more interesting (if you want to put it that way) that I decided to finally spend a good few hours learning some new techniques and making something I’d be able to indulge in as days upon days continue to unfold. A true comfort food emerges. As a side note, I also made ice cream (technically malted frozen custard with chopped hazelnuts. Yes, you want some.). Next week calls for chocolate cake (so stay tuned).
Deb Perelman adapted the BAKED recipe extensively, but I can only speculate about why she decided on some of the changes (perhaps to make the ingredients less “specialty”). For example, she used all purpose instead of bread flour, which is fine, but I stuck with the BAKED boys on that one in the hopes of getting an extra chewy, glutinous bun. She also removed some spices from the filling, leaving only cinnamon. I kept the nutmeg and cloves in there, and don’t regret it for a second. I did take her advice of lowering the moisture, but my final product ended up somewhere in-between the two recipes, since my dough was not wet enough with just an SK dose of milk. What I loved were the extra tidbits of instruction on the SK blog; I think the BAKED authors assumed too much of our skill levels, and there were definitely some gaps in my knowledge that needed to be filled in with tender love and care.
My final compromise was to have the cookbook open on one counter and the blog open on another. I am seriously blessed to have two actual counters in my kitchen. I danced in circles as I made the buns, picking and choosing whichever of the two instructions/ingredients seemed most exciting at the moment. This is a practice I highly recommend. You never know what you’re going to get! The best thing about this cinnamon bun – it’s filling! I had one for lunch and it really lasted me (then I had another for dinner’s dessert many hours later, and I’m stuffed). Alright I guess the best part of the cinnamon bun is the ooey gooey stretchy dough so wildly tangled up with the butter/cinnamon/brown sugar/spice filling. Even a few days later out of the microwave, it does not disappoint.
This bun is not hard to make, but your goal should be patience and precision. Read the directions a few times and make sure you have all the right materials set up, and at the right temperature. I had a lot of fun slicing and dicing these guys, and it felt pretty awesome to know that I was doing it “right”. I used to think having all the right tools was for sissies who can’t be creative in the kitchen. On some level, I guess I still believe that. In reality, though, having the bench scraper and the silicone pastry brush and the stand mixer really take the cake. I am pretty confident my future children’s college funds are going to end up in a stack of Bundt pans, or those ridiculous pans used for financiers, whatever those are. And they’re going to have to share a bedroom, because I’m going to need the spare for my Costco-size sacks of flour.
Here’s a link to SK’s recipe. Just keep in mind that you can add cloves and nutmeg to the filling if you want something a bit more interesting, but otherwise the adaptation is pretty great (especially the suggestion to brown the butter).