Wife Jan is interviewing job applicants over the next two weeks. The university will only cater groups of 10 and there will only be five for breakfast during the interviews. Jan asked me to cater the sessions—deviled eggs, a baked good, and fruit salad. Today, I decided to go with cinnamon pinwheels.
For the first interview I used some old standards—curried deviled eggs and biscuits. While the candidates would change each session, the interviewers remained the same. I tried to make a different flavor of deviled egg and a different baked good for each meeting. Jan told her coworkers that I had made cinnamon biscuits for one of our own breakfasts, she passed on a request for something like that, rather than just plain old biscuits.
Note: For may for my deviled eggs today I decided to go a bit Italian.
Karl’s Cinnamon Wheel Biscuits
2½ cups flour, AP
2 Tbs. potato flour (starch)
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2+ Tbs. Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar, separate uses
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, semi-frozen
2 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
Milk, to make 1¼ cup when added to the eggs (I use 2% lactose free)
2-3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1+ Tbs. cinnamon
Other things needed (order of use)
Large mixing bowl (I use a heavy Pyrex bowl 12 inches wide and four deep)
Pastry board, marble (optional)
Rolling pin (I use an 8” Chinese jiaozi roller)
10×14 inch lipped baking sheet
1. Put a stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, until it is semi-frozen.
Tip: Putting a whole stick of butter in the freezer gives me a handle to keep my fingers away from the grater blades as I shave off six tablespoons.
Note: You do not want the butter to be frozen solid, because it then becomes hard to grate.
2. Sift the flour, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and sugar several times into a large bowl.
Tip: Repeated sifting helps distribute the ingredients evenly through the mix.
Note: If you have not blended your sugar to break up the bits of zest, you may need to add the sugar after sifting, as the zest will get caught in the flour sifter.
3. Using a box grater, grate ¾ of the stick of frozen butter into the flour mixture.
Tip: Half way through, stir the butter shreds into the flour, so that they do not clump together.
4. Use a pastry cutter, to break the butter shreds into tiny bits.
Tip: Many recipes have you cut the butter into large lumps and then you break them up with the pastry cutter. While this eventually works, the heat created by the repeated chopping starts to warm the butter. With the frozen butter shreds you only have to chop the butter a few times to get a thorough mix.
5. Preheat the oven to 375º F.
Note: I used to bake these biscuits at 425º F, but I found that the tops over-browned before the center was cooked through. Lower and slower works for me.
6. Put the eggs and vanilla into a large measuring cup and scramble them well.
Tip: Beating the eggs first prevents making a mess as you try to beat the milk and eggs together.
Note: Lately, I have been adding a second egg to several of my baked goods to make them richer.
7. Measure one cup of milk and add some of it to the egg.
8. Add enough milk to make 1¼ cup of liquid—egg plus milk—and beat lightly to mix completely.
9. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture.
Tip: I have found that it is easier to add more flour to dry out a “wet” dough than to add liquid to a “overly dry” dough.
Note: Keep the measuring cup close to hand. You will add some more milk to it to brush on to the tops of the biscuits.
10. Use a spatula to combine the milk and flour mixtures, until most of the dry flour has been incorporated into the dough.
Tip: Unless you have cold hands—like my wife—you want to handle the dough as little as possible. Warm hands—like mine—will melt the butter.
11. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 times, until there is no visible dry flour.
Tip: Flour your hands and the kneading board well.
Note: If necessary, add a bit more flour to make a soft dough.
12. Form the dough into a ball and roll the dough out into a 14 X14 inch square.
Tip: Flour your rolling pin well, so that it does not stick and cause tears in the dough sheet.
Note: The dough sheet will be less than ¼ inch thick when you have it all rolled out.
13. Starting at the edge closest to you, fold one third of the dough sheet over the middle third.
Tip: You may need to use a bread board scraper to free the dough from your kneading surface.
14. Take the edge that is farthest from you and fold that third over the first two layers.
Tip: This is called a letter-fold.
Note: You will now have a rectangular piece of dough, three layers thick.
15. Letter fold the outer edges of this rectangle in to the center.
Note: This will produce a thick four inch square of dough nine layers thick.
16. Let the dough rest for two minutes.
Tip: This gives the gluten bonds time to relax and makes it easier to roll out again.
17. While the dough is resting, line a large lipped baking sheet with parchment paper.
Tip: I used to grease my baking sheets, but the biscuits tended to stick and burn. The parchment paper needs no grease.
18. Re-flour your board and roll the dough square into another 14 X 14 inch square.
Note: This is where I take a sharp turn from my biscuit recipe. Instead of a second letter fold I turn these into a “jelly” rolled biscuit.
19. Spread the brown sugar over the dough sheet.
Tip: How much sugar you use depends on how sweet you want your rolls. My mother, Claudia, would use a raised bread dough and a full cup of sugar, These breads come together much more quickly and are less sweet.
Note: Leave a one inch edge on the far side bare of sugar. This is where you will seal the jelly roll.
20. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the sugar.
Tip: Again how much you use is a personal choice.
21. Starting with the edge closest to you roll the dough away from you.
Tip: Do not roll the dough up too tightly. As the dough bakes the bread will expand and you do not want too much resistance.
22. When only the bare edge is showing, brush it lightly with milk.
23. Finish rolling and pinch the edge to seal the roll.
24. With a sharp knife, cut 1½ -2 inch slices from the roll.
Tip: I got 12 biscuits from my roll.
Note: It is important to use a sharp-edged cutter to slice out your biscuits. Pinching the edges restricts the biscuits from puffing up as they bake.
25. Place the biscuits on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
Tip: You may pat the disks down a little to make the biscuits a bit wider.
26. Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk.
Tip: Use the original measuring cup and the pastry brush.
27. Bake the biscuits at 375° F, on the middle rack, for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Tip: Rotate the baking sheet after 10 minutes so that they bake evenly.
28. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack for 5 minutes to cool.