When I was little I wasn't a big fan of cinnamon rolls; the ones at Cinnabon were too sweet for my taste. Luckily, on one of our family's annual trips to Chicago my mother introduced me to the cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather. We both absolutely loved them. Once, in a moment of poor judgement, my father admitted to my mother that he actually preferred the rolls at Cinnabon to the ones at Ann Sather. My mother still hasn't let him live it down! As far as we're concerned, Ann Sather is the best. When I was in college and graduate school in Chicago, I would always try to think up good reasons to go to Ann Sather. After eating two of their cinnamon rolls (they came with the egg dishes I always ordered) I didn't feel like eating for the rest of the day, but it was always worth it. When I'm not at Ann Sather I typically avoid cinnamon rolls. I'm usually trying to save on calories and it's very rare that they even compare.
However, that's one of the most fun things about being part of TWD. If I weren't part of the group I would have read this recipe, wanted to try it, but then talked myself out of it after counting the sticks of butter (4.5, I think). But since I'm part of the group, I have an excuse to try these rolls. I know they aren't actually cinnamon rolls (Ann Sather actually has pecan buns as well but I've always been too fixated on the cinnamon rolls to try them), but I had a feeling I would like them. Because I've been travelling so much I didn't have a chance to make these on a weekend, so I spread the process out over several weeknights. I'm actually glad I did, it made the whole thing feel more manageable. I was pretty overwhelmed when I read through the entire recipe.
On the first night (after I made the Olive Fougasse) I gave my stand mixer some time to rest and cool off, and then made the brioche dough. After the first rise I put it in my fridge, and let it rise again (it actually didn't rise that much) until after dinner on the following night. The following night, I took the dough out and used my kitchen scale to measure two balls.
I rolled it out and topped it with the cinnamon-sugar and chopped pecans. I followed the advice I read on the P&Q's and toasted the pecans for extra flavor. I then rolled the logs, stuck them in the freezer, and went to Portland, OR to spend 10 days with my in-laws! In hindsight, I'm reasonably sure I topped and rolled these in the wrong direction. I got 8-9 tall and skinny buns out of each roll. I'm now thinking that if I had rolled the other way, I would've had the 7 shorter and fatter rolls that the recipe calls for.
When I got back from Portland (the trip was a lot of fun but a long time away from home...) I took the rolls out of the freezer and prepped the pans with the butter and sugar.
I then cut the rolls at neatly as I could manage, topped them with pecans, and put them into the pans. I made a mistake in this part of the recipe as well. I knew it made much more sense to put the "pretty" side of the pecans up, but I thought I was following the instructions by putting the flat ("ugly") sides up. I was mad at myself when I looked at the color picture in the book and noticed that, sure enough, I should have trusted my instincts and put the other side facing up. Oh well, it definitely didn't affect the taste.
After I got the buns into the pans, I covered them with plastic wrap and left them in the fridge overnight. I had read that this would work, and even though I wasn't totally sure, it saved enough time in the morning that I was willing to give it a chance. I set my alarm for 5:30, woke up, took the buns out of the oven, and went back to sleep while they rose.
After about an hour and a half the buns hadn't risen very much, and were nowhere near actually touching each other, but I had to go to work so I put them in the oven anyway. I was very worried about whether or not they would rise in the oven - and it didn't help my confidence when Paul walked in, looked in the oven, and asked me if I was sure I'd let them rise enough - but luckily when I got out of the shower and peaked in the oven they had risen beautifully and filled the entire pan. I was so relieved! I brought one pan's worth to work and kept the second one for us (we each ate one and then I froze the rest in pairs).
Everybody who tried these loved them (or at least my co-workers were nice enough to lie). They were incredibly buttery - almost like a croissant - but I like butter and liked that these were flavorful without being too sweet. My co-worker, who said these "were awesome", said they were like butter flavored with cinnamon. I would only make these again if I had a lot of people to serve, and even then only infrequently, but I'm definitely glad I tried them.