Recently I have become obsessed with breakfast. I can’t get enough of great coffee, egg sandwiches, and sugary pastries. I mean, what isn’t great about a cappuccino and a flaky chocolate croissant?
Breakfast also seems to impress people when you make it. On a lazy weekend morning, if you pull out homemade cinnamon rolls, your guests will fawn over them and you for the rest of the day. You will be responsible for starting their day off on a sugary, delicious note!
Now what’s better than cinnamon rolls in the morning? Chocolate rolls! Can you imagine the cinnamon replaced with semisweet chocolate in the curves of the roll? You can? Ok, now go make some!
But first, the science! (Or not, you could always skip right to the good stuff)
Incorporation of air into a baked good is one of the reasons why a cake is different from the batter. Just looking at a slice of bread, you can see air pockets in it. In lots of baked goods, baking soda and baking powder incorporates the air through chemical reactions that produce CO2. This is also something that we feel more comfortable with. You don’t have to let anything rise prior to baking. I used to pass by recipes that went anywhere near yeast—too complicated. I have discovered, however, that yeast is magic. Not only does it provide lift, but it generates the most amazing flavors. I’m sure you, dear reader, are no stranger to fabulous yeast products like French bread.
Yeast is a microorganism–Saccharomyces cerevisiae to be specific here. It’s a teeny tiny creature whose complete joy is to eat sugar and generate CO2. The fat in the dough allows for layers (mentioned earlier…and here) that trap the CO2. That CO2, combined with the stretch of the gluten proteins in the flour, causes an increase in volume of the dough. Letting the dough rise prior to baking causes more yeast cells. More yeast cells = more dough rising in the oven.
During the very first stage of baking, the yeast cells become super active and create more CO2 than ever before. That causes the rise you see if you look in on those rolls in the oven. Once the temperature reaches a certain point, the yeast cells are killed by the heat, and the rest of the baking process commences.
And that, my friends, is a brief synopsis of how yeast works!
Chocolate Swirl Buns
I have yet to find a better recipe than this one from Smitten Kitchen.
The only change I make is to use a full yeast packet rather than just part of it in the dough.
PS: you might be wondering why you have to heat yeast up in water (or milk, in this case) prior to using it! Yeast cells are manufactured and frozen in time at their optimal growth state through drying. It is your job to hydrate them so that they can work their magic.