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We Made This: Roll Dough for Cinnamon Rolls/Christmas Tree!!!

My mom's cinnamon rolls have been a hit with my family and our friends for decades.  Every semester just before finals, my college dorm-mates and I eagerly awaited the arrival of a Banker's Box full of them.  Now, the kids and I have taken over the roll baking duties.  No. 1: 5 y.o., No. 2: 4 y.o., and No. 3: 1 y.o. all help with different steps of the baking process.  Today's post contains the steps for making the roll dough.  In future posts, I'll include instructions on how to use the dough to make cinnamon rolls and baked Christmas trees!

My payoff for writing this post:  As I outlined the baking steps below, I realized that the kids can almost completely take over this job!!!

1/2 cup of warm water
1-1/2 cup of room temperature milk
2 (1/4 ounce packet)s of yeast
1/2 cup of shortening cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs (the larger the egg, the more moist and sticky the dough)
7 - 7 1/2 cups of flour

Things the kids help with:
Step 1:  Set the milk out to let it come to room temperature
If you get started late, you can always put the milk on top of a warm oven to help it reach room temperature more quickly.

Things the kids help with:
Step 2:  Grease the rising bowl
I know some people who use olive oil so the dough won't stick to the bowl it rises in.  I prefer butter.

Things the kids help with:
Step 3:  Place a half cup of warm water in the mixing bowl, and dump in the yeast.  Stir the mixture with a fork until all the yeast is dissolved.  It'll make a murky pool.  If you use Red Star yeast, it'll smell like beer.
Let the mixture sit for about five minutes to give the yeast time to perk up.
Yeast science from Good Eats!:

Things the kids help with:
Step 4:  chop up the shortening with butter knives
I like to cut the shortening into little cubes before I put it in the mixer.  I'm not sure if this helps at all, but there you have it.

Things the kids can help with:
Step 5:  Dump in the sugar, the shortening, the milk, the eggs, the salt, and half the flour
A few months ago, No. 1, and No. 2 got promoted to egg breaking duties.  They love it!

Things that I don't let the kids help with
Step 6: Mix until smooth, then gradually mix in the rest of the flour half a cup at a time, once again mixing until smooth.  I can usually get in 7 cups of flour.  Occasionally, I can mix in all 7.5 cups, (mostly when I use jumbo eggs).  When the dough is smooth and elastic, and additional flour doesn't mix into the dough, you're done.

I don't let the kids do this step yet, because I shortcut the processor by using a mixer with a dough hook.  I'm worried the mixer might injure them since I have to fight the dough at the end, so I don't let them do this.

However: The original recipe called for hand kneading the dough to add the rest of the flour.  If your kids have the patience, (it takes at least five minutes of strenuous kneading), then they can pull off the whole thing!

Things the kids help with:
Step 6: Set the dough in the rising bowl.  Then, if you live in a cool climate like we do, set the bowl either in or on a warmed up oven.  I prefer on.  The in part makes me nervous ever since my mom melted down a Tupperware bowl in the oven when I was a kid.  I started with our oven at about 155, and slowly worked my way up to 185.  The heat was enough to make the dough happy so it would rise, but at the same time not toast it.

Things the kids help with:
Step 7: Cover the dough, and wait for it to rise.  After an hour, punch the dough down, flip it over, and adjust your oven (just in case it was getting too warm on the bottom).  Our kids love the punching down part!  Wait another hour, and your dough should look like this

And now, we've arrived at the part where you can take two different paths.  You can make cinnamon rolls, the traditional crowd-pleaser, or you can make 'Christmas Tree', our once a year, 'eat it during the parades' Thanksgiving treat.  Christmas Tree is the easier of the two.  I'll cover both of them soon!

Happy Holidays!


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