Courtesy of Cereal Killer Sweets
When stay-at-home orders came down in March, Americans swarmed supermarkets to stock up on quarantine essentials such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and … yeast?
Nationwide, common baking ingredients such as flour, eggs and milk have become some of the hardest pantry items to find. It’s easy to see why. At press time, more than 180,000 Instagram posts were labeled #quarantinebaking, making it clear that many are seeking solace in the meditative action of kneading dough.
With a lack of commercial yeast and plenty of free time, more home bakers are trying their hand at sourdough, which relies on airborne yeast to start a rise. The method has its challenges, but Megan Morales, chef-owner of San Antonio’s Cereal Killer Sweets, urged hobbyists not to be scared away.
“Yeast was very hard to come by during the beginning stages of quarantine, and lots of bakers wanted to try their hands at a starter,” Morales said. “Now seems to be a great time to do that, because it does need a lot of care in the beginning — that’s when starters usually fail.”
A starter, the leavening agent that enables sourdough rise, consists flour and water, which are allowed to ferment by airborne yeast. Some bakers add commercial yeast to speed the process.
Making a starter can be time consuming, often requiring a few days of babysitting the mixture, “feeding” it with additional flour to reach maximum leavening power. But, it’s a process, many bakers agree, that’s well worth the wait.
Even as businesses reopen, many San Antonians still struggle with anxiety about venturing out. And that makes a perfect time to find stress relief in learning a new baking technique.
“I think it’s great that people are taking their anxiety and doing something positive with it,” said Jenn Riesman, owner and head baker of Rooster Crow Baking in the Alamo City.
While baking has long been Riesman’s bread and butter — ahem — she understands why people are newly drawn to it during a time of crisis. “Baking is all about control,” she said. “Right now, everything seems out of control.”
Morales agrees: “I think baking is totally a stress reliever and makes people feel comforted.”
In the spirit of encouraging home bakers, both new and seasoned, to try sourdough, Morales shared one of her favorite go-to recipes. These cinnamon rolls, adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, use a style of starter prepared in the Asian tangzhong style, which tends to make for a higher rise and moist rolls that retain their freshness.
Megan Morales’ Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls
5 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons whole milk
4 tablespoons All Purpose unbleached flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
All of the tangzhong
579 grams of all-purpose unbleached flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese at room temp
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract, preferably Blue Cattle Truck
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
To make the tangzhong:
Combine all of the starter ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until no lumps remain. Heat at medium until very thick and whisk for no more than a minute. Remove from the heat and set aside for several minutes.
To make the filling:
Mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
To make the dough:
Mix the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients until everything comes together. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes.
After about 20 minutes, knead by hand or in a mixer using a dough hook to form a smooth, elastic, somewhat sticky dough. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 90 minutes in a cool area — 72 to 75 degrees is ideal — area — until puffy but not necessarily doubled in size.
Gently deflate the risen dough, and roll out into a giant rectangle. Sprinkle the filling onto the sheet of dough, roll up like a swirl and cut in to 8 equal pieces. “These will be giant,” Morales cautions.
Lightly grease a 9” by 13” pan. Space the rolls in the pan, two on the short side and four on the long side. Cover the pan and let the rolls rise for 60 minutes, until they touch and are double, almost triple in size.
Forty-five minutes into your rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Uncover the rolls, and bake on the middle rack for 22 to 25 minutes, until they feel set. They should be barely golden and should have an interior temperature of about 188 degrees. If they are browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil.
“It’s better to under-bake these rolls than bake them too long,” Morales says.
Remove the rolls from the oven and let cool on a rack inside the pan. Ice them after about 5 minutes while they still are warm and serve.
To make the icing:
Beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla and powder sugar together until no lumps remain. Mix until you reach desired consistency by adding milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
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