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  • Gabrielle

Fantastic Cinnamon Rolls and Where to Find Them

When Mansfield Park was founded, the main project was to bring a good cinnamon roll to Berlin. Back then, Zeit für Brot wasn't available everywhere in the center, and few cafes sold them. Now, it seems every other cafe feels compelled to make some form of cinnamon rolls. Coming from my American background, I fondly remember the huge, juicy buns from Cinnabon and wanted to create something similar in a vegan version. They should be those large, squishy rolls that melt in your mouth and are topped with icing, not the Swedish variety that is often baked with much space between each and thus prone to crust formation and dryness. I crave a large roll with lots of fluffy yeast dough.

So, a recipe from the USA that I discovered in Cooking Light and had been carrying around for a long time was veganized and refined over the years. It all started with the dough:

  • Cow's milk was simply replaced with soy milk, not water as often suggested. The dough should be rich, and water just doesn't seem suitable, especially since a lot of liquid is added to this dough and plant milk has more substance in comparison.

  • Instead of butter, high-quality plant-based margarine is used in the cinnamon rolls. Oil doesn't work, as the amount of fat needed should not be replaced with liquid oil. The relatively high amount of fat - compared to, for example, a pizza dough, where a few tablespoons are added to 500 g of flour - is important to give the rolls flavor (fat = flavor carrier), make them less chewy, i.e., juicy and therefore easy to chew (= tender). Like brioche, for instance. Since the usual eggs are omitted and they partly consist of fat, the margarine was additionally increased.

  • For the yeast, a high-quality, finely granulated, and dried product was used, as it is easier to dose, reacts quickly, and is more durable than fresh yeast.

After extensive research, I concluded that it's best to prepare a pre-dough that is kneaded smoothly for a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl. This allows the gluten to develop. The fat is added last when all the flour has already turned into a sticky, unattractive, but not smooth dough. Only when the margarine is added does the mixer really start working and kneads for about five endlessly long minutes until the dough completely detaches from the sides and bottom of the bowl. You really shouldn't stop before that. It takes the gluten to turn all that liquid and margarine into a workable lump that doesn't stick to fingers and surfaces. For the upcoming rest, the dough needs to go into a large and well-oiled bowl. I always cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Loose, because it once happened that when the wrap was tightly fastened, the growing dough eventually ran out of air and alcohol developed - so it had to die. Wrap, because it can gently conform to the dough and I've ruined too many damp kitchen towels. The dried dough remnants can't be scraped off.

The first rise: It used to be done in the refrigerator overnight because - and this is important - many small bubbles form that way. We want these and not the large ones, like in pizza dough, for example. A sweet yeast dough must be fine-pored, and this is only achieved through slow rising. The dough develops much more evenly and is much easier to handle when rolling. Since the rolled rolls are still quite cold, the second rise phase takes correspondingly longer. If you opt for the refrigerator version - and this is probably my best tip - it is fundamentally important that the rolls are warm before they go into the oven. They must have grown together and feel lukewarm. Otherwise, you'll get very brown cinnamon buns, and you don't want that! They would then be dry and have a hard crust. That. Is. Bad. The alternative to cold rising is to give the dough about an hour at a warm temperature, where I personally built a structure over the radiator, where the temperature is always the same - a cozy warm 30°C.

When rolling out, make sure that the dough doesn't become too thin. Finger-thick is the measure. This results in juicy rolls. Because I've also tried the stylish cinnamon roll that rolls up from many thin layers. But they dry out quickly and are really not good. It should be a lot of juicy dough that you can squish and decadently tear apart. It should be able to absorb the cinnamon filling, enrich it, and not overwhelm it. That's why I always pay attention to the length of the dough - each roll is 6 cm - and not to the width. That results by itself. It's also important that it's rolled out evenly and the ends don't become too thin, which is why they should be rolled over as little as possible and just shaped. Nice corners are crucial. Because when the cinnamon filling is added and the dough is rolled up, even the edge pieces should look good.

The filling at Mansfield Park is a homogeneous paste. A spread. Everywhere there should be the same amount of cinnamon, sugar, and margarine. This is easiest done by stirring a creamy paste from soft margarine, white and brown sugar, and good Ceylon cinnamon. It can then be thinly and evenly spread on the rolled-out dough. Just make sure to spread up to the edges, except on one long side where it will be rolled up. If rolled or rather rolled up to there, then the thin strip on the remaining roll must be pinched tight. This way, each roll retains its shape.

Depending on the method chosen for the first rise, the rolls should then rise a second time, covered with plastic wrap, for 30 to 60 minutes. Until they have grown together - that's very important! Assuming, of course, that too large a baking pan wasn't chosen. It should just provide enough space so that there is about half a centimeter between each roll.

As soon as the rolls touch each other and take some time to bounce back when pressed with a thumb, they can bake at 170°C for about 12 minutes. The cinnamon buns should be covered with aluminum foil as soon as you see a light brown color. So, foil on, rotate the pan, and bake for another approx. 18 minutes. The best indicator of finished cinnamon rolls is when the two middle ones no longer give way to thumb pressure and the dough tears. Take them out of the oven and immediately brush with melted margarine. This is an essential step on the way to a juicy cinnamon roll WITHOUT a hard crust. If you want bread-like buns, you can also save all this and use spelt flour instead of wheat flour. But if you're after super good rolls, then brush them with margarine and stick to 405 wheat flour (extensive tasting has shown that 550 makes no difference). At Mansfield Park, the finishing touch is a thick, fatty glaze with caramel and vanilla. This also keeps the buns from drying out additionally. But that doesn't mean they're still delicious the next day. Yeast dough is not for the following day. They must be eaten right away!

Finally, a brief report about cinnamon rolls in Berlin: My partner once tried one from Zeit für Brot. It wasn't as fluffy and great as the long line there might suggest. Brammibal has some, their dough is really okay, but the icing has a strange aftertaste. Beumer and Lutum bake something they call a cinnamon roll, but that's not okay at all. After all this time, I still haven't discovered a bakery that offers a very good cinnamon roll in their program. Leave comments if you're further along in the search.

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