Monday, April 11, 2011

why baking is a science

My world has been a flurry of new activity as of late.  I am now the proud parent of an associate's degree.  It was like two and half years of hard labor, but I finally popped that baby out.  Unlike most parent's, though, this birth has led to an increase in personal freedom.  

Since stepping away from academia, I've started two new jobs and am slowly (painfully) becoming acquainted with the fifty hour work week.  So, yeah, all that new-found personal freedom I was just bragging about?  It doesn't actually exist.  But the hard-core schedule is only temporary, since my status as "garden store girl" with one of Seattle's amazing nurseries is only seasonal.  The discount on plants rocks my world, though.  

This rather abrupt change in focus from brains to brawn may explain my latest (and far from greatest) baking endeavor.  Yes, I'm speaking of the cinnamon rolls you see pictured here.  Don't they look delicious, all spiraled around that shadowy filling of butter and cinnamon goodness; gooey cream cheese frosting dripping over doughy edges?  

Don't let their good looks fool you.

The truth is that these cinnamon rolls sucked.  

Not in the gag-reflex kind of way, the flavor was just fine, but definitely in the there's-still-over-half-a-dozen-left-in-the-fridge-after-a-week-because-they-sit-in-your-gut-like-a-pound-of-clay kind of way.  Dry and heavy are the words that would tempt eaters if these rolls were ever to be packaged for resale.  

It would bring me much solace if I could blame the recipe for this outcome, but it was, in fact, my own damn fault that these cinnamon rolls fell far short of their potential to be completely satisfying and instead became the rock-hard, minimally edible, conceivably threatening garbage that they did.

The irony of this, friends, lies in the fact that I made the conscious decision to follow an established recipe from a trusted source in order to avoid crappy cinnamon rolls.  I set out on this journey to quench a serious thirst for ooey, gooey rolls of cinnamon delight.  I was on a mission.

Everything seemed to be on track at first;  I had all of the ingredients assembled, the yeast was proofing, the photo session was off to a good start.  Then I noticed the 1/4 C. measuring cup I thought I was using to portion out corn and sweet rice flours laughing at me from the counter top.  My heart sank as I looked down to see the "1/3" etched into the handle of the silver cup in my hand.
Swearing ensued.
Then the rationalizations began.  OK, I've added 1/2 C. more flour than I needed to here.  I'll just omit 1/2 C. of something else to balance it out.
The recipe I was using, courtesy of Shauna Ahern, aka, Gluten-Free Girl, called for 1/2 C. of milk powder.  Milk powder... how important could it be?  It's outta here.
So I mixed my dough and let it rise for the required hour.  I rolled it out and spread on melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.  I scattered raisins and walnuts.  I rolled and sliced and let rise for a second hour.  
So far, so good.

The smell in the kitchen was just as I'd imagined it would be as my rolls baked away in the oven.  The tops changed from a cream color to a deep brown, and I flipped the hot, buttery buns onto a plate, smeared them with more butter and cream cheese and shoved one into my eager face.

Right out of the oven these cinnamon rolls weren't half bad.  I ate two in the first hour and made happy faces as I packed up the rest to enjoy later.

This is where the story turns sour, friends.  These rolls didn't respond well to old Father Time.  By the time night fell they were already stiffening up, and by morning full-on rigor mortis had set in.  I did my best to gnaw my way through them, but my guts threw up their picket signs in such protest that all negotiations on these rolls were shut down, once and for all.

In the 20/20 clarity of hind sight, I realize that measuring 1/2 C. of flour out of the bowl, rather than subbing out another ingredient entirely would have been the way to go.  In the world of gluten-free baking, as in the science lab, precision is key.  

I obviously should have been wearing my safety goggles.

Here is the correct recipe for these gluten-free cinnamon rolls and a nice piece by Shauna Ahern on the importance of precise measurements in gluten-free baking (a little more irony), as well as a case for weighing those dry ingredients for increased accuracy.


  1. On no...I am so sorry about your rolls :( But they do look gorgeous. And congratulations on your new degree :)

  2. oh my! the pictures look so terribly wonderful! i'm sorry the rolls didn't come out right, but I'm planning to try them myself just because i trust shauna and honestly i really do love your pictures :)


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