Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

I am spending my days cooking for young people who want to change the world! Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Summer Camp is for kids who care about making our earth a better place. As part of the mission of the camp, vegan food is served to campers and staff. We explain that for people who want to eliminate injustices in our wold, the SAD Standard American Diet makes no sense. So not only do we want to educate them about helping others, but show them how delicious it can be!

The "kid-friendly" food philosophy is a lot of fun for me, because most of the foods that kids love, we all love! Point in case: cinnamon rolls. I have been a little scared of working with yeasted dough for a long time. The idea of kneading and rising and waiting intimidated me and I have never been disappointed by just buying bread like everyone else. But... now that I have stuck my hands into some dough, I am hooked. It is a lot of fun to work with dough, and it's also not that big of a deal. Most of the ingredients cost cents and even dense and unappetizing "failures" can find their way into bread crumbs or croutons or any of the hundreds of other uses cultures have found for leftover bread.
These cinnamon rolls are much easier than you're thinking. Yes, you do have to knead a little bit. And, yes, there is a little bit of waiting while the dough rises. But few things in life are as worth it as a warm, gooey, doughy cinnamon roll fresh from the oven.

Hot out of the oven, pre-icing
Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe makes about 20 medium-sized cinnamon rolls, but I would suggest eating 3 yourself. The cream cheese frosting with that slight lemony tang is key.

1 cup vegan milk (I used flax milk... by the way, try it!)
1 tablespoon compressed yeast (or substitute 1 packet instant yeast)
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
about 1/3 cup egg replacer:
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon cornstarch (or other starch)
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan margarine

1/4 cup vegan margarine
3 tablespoons vegan cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegan milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
powdered sugar as needed (at least 1 1/2 cup)

Start the dough: Warm milk so it is hot but not scalding to the touch. Add margarine and stir to melt. Add yeast and dissolve. Set aside while the rest of the dough is prepared. Mix ingredients for egg replacer: flax, starch, water and oil. Whisk vigorously to combine and then set aside, allowing mixture to thicken. Meanwhile, mix all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Once yeast mixture has bubbled up and begins to smell like bread, whisk in the flax mixture. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Mix with a spoon until no more dry flour remains. Dough will be softer than bread dough, but shouldn't be too sticky. Add more flour as needed. Once all incorporated, knead for about 15 minutes until smooth and soft to the touch. Shape into a ball and put a splash of oil in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Place dough ball in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and leave in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Once the dough is about doubled in size, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and margarine for the filling. This is a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Punch down the dough and knead a few times to form a ball again. Press down on a floured surface to form a flat rectangular shape. Gently roll out with a rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thick. The ideal shape is a wide rectangle with even edges, but it really doesn't matter that much. Once it is rolled up, it will look like a cinnamon roll. And a sloppy uneven cinnamon roll is not a bad thing at all. Sprinkle the filling all over the top of the rectangle, making sure it is about even over the surface.
Begin to roll it up, as tightly as you can at first, rolling away from yourself so that you end up with a long horizontal tube of deliciousness. With a knife, cut the tube into rounds about 1 inch thick (as you wish) and place them in a baking dish, right up against each other. It is fine if it's crowded, they can all make friends. I was serving this for dessert when I made it, and they really are best right out of the oven, so I placed the whole pan in the fridge for about an hour before I baked it. They puffed up a little more this way, but it's fine if you bake it immediately too. Bake until puffed up and golden brown on the top, about 25 minutes, but check on them after 20 to see how they look. While they're baking, make the frosting. Start by whipping the margarine, vegan cream cheese, vanilla and milk. Once smooth and a little fluffy, add in the salt and powdered sugar, whisking constantly to combine. The ideal texture is somewhere between a buttercream and a drizzly icing. Finish with lemon juice and set in the fridge until rolls come out of the oven. Usually recipes tell you to wait until things cool down a bit. Don't worry about it for these: Slather icing all over them while they're hot and it will melt into the cracks. Don't burn yourself or anything, but eat them while they're warm and gooey. And try not to eat the whole pan because I almost did.

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