Well, today was the day I girded my loins, rolled up my sleeves, and had a go at this recipe posted on 1 March by Sarah at Conversations. A note to Katie at Mix it up and make it nice: You will enjoy making these, too!
As you can tell from the exchange of comments on Sarah’s post, there were one or two small matters that required clarification before I could line up my ingredients and start mixing. Somewhere at home in Switzerland I have a set of measuring cups and spoons, which I brought home from the USA and which would have been very useful here in my Mom’s English kitchen. She has teaspoons, dessert spoons and tablespoons, cups of varying size, and a scale with imperial weights but no American or metric measures.
I am not a mathematician, and although I could have googled the equivalents I honestly couldn’t be bothered. I rarely weigh and measure very accurately anyway, knowing that the palm of my hand holds about a teaspoonful and a fistful is a tablespoonful. I also remembered that my American standard cup was not particularly large, so decided to use a teacup (rather than a breakfast cup or mug). It held approximately 4 oz of flour (120 g) so I took that as my basic unit and began with half a pound of plain flour. My packet of powdered yeast weighed 7 g, which was about the same as Sarah’s, so in went two of those.
“Research” among American friends in Europe (and European friends in the USA) suggested that margarine would be a suitable substitute for shortening, but measuring fat in a cup felt rather strange. Here again, it seemed a cup of margarine or butter was 4 oz.
Now for the liquids: I used the same cup, so proportionately the quantities were OK, but I have no candy thermometer and even if I had, it would be in Celsius not Fahrenheit. How warm is 120°F? I vaguely remembered that body temperature is in the nineties, so it shouldn’t be too hot. I heated the milk, water, sugar and margarine to a temperature that felt pleasantly warm and gradually stirred the mixture into the flour, adding the eggs last so they wouldn’t scramble.
The finger-dipping test proved it tasted good but it was a very runny batter. Sarah says add up to 4 more cups of flour until it’s a stiff dough – I added cup after cup and probably ended up adding close to a kilo before the mixture was firm enough to roll into a ball that left the sides of the bowl clean (my bench-mark for yeasty dough). Kneading is a pleasurable activity, and after a few minutes it was smooth and elastic so I set it to rise. An hour later, it looked big enough to make five loaves! I rolled out half, and it was the size of a generous family pizza.
I made the filling while the dough was rising, doubling Sarah’s quantities and substituting Golden Syrup for corn syrup. I know from frustrated American ladies in Switzerland that American brown sugar is different from European brown sugar: I gather it is sticky and a bit gooey, so I had bought the softest I could find, rather than Demerara sugar. There was just enough to cover my “pizza” so I rolled it into a roly-poly, chopped it into 16 slices and left them to rise for another half hour. Then into the oven: how hot is 350°F? I guessed at gas mark 5 which seemed to be right.
As an experiment, for the second batch I added ginger and nutmeg to the cinnamon (it turned out well, too). Even the frosting worked, using Philadelphia light cheese (rather ironic, considering the amount of sugar, fat and carbs that had otherwise gone into these babies!) and icing sugar for confectioner’s sugar. A note of caution: Americans generally like things sweeter than we Europeans do, so it’s better to go easy on this icing, and not smother the buns quite as heavily as this!
I now have 30 very sticky, messy but delicious cinnamon rolls (there were actually 33 but we had to sample them to make sure they really were delicious) and our cholesterol levels will probably go through the ceiling! This really is a very forgiving recipe, and it clearly doesn’t matter if quantities are rather haphazard. In the process I have also discovered that an American measuring cup must be about half the volume of an English teacup.
Thank you, Sarah – I’ll be inviting all the neighbours in to sample these!