When we visited a Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant in Charlottesville, I was eating a piece of crust and I thought about how the dough had a nice bit of sweetness. Almost like it had a caramelized taste. Because our kids love it so much, I decided to try a copycat recipe for the distinctive Mellow Mushroom crust. I found a great recipe at LarkandLola.com. It was a snow day here in Northern NJ, so what could be better than homemade Mellow Mushroom garlic knots. The only problem was that the recipe made a huuuuuuuuuge amount of dough, and it was just me and Vin at home. What could I do with all of this leftover dough? When in doubt, just brush stuff with butter and sprinkle on cinnamon sugar. And so, this little cinnamon twist creation was born. The dough isn’t as fluffy or as heavy as a cinnamon bun, which I like about it. It has a crispness in the layers, so it isn’t heavy. The cinnamon sugar caramelizes around the molasses infused layers. Of course, I drizzle the entire thing with pastry icing because sticky gooeyness. This recipe is pretty easy, as long as you don’t mind rolling out dough. It isn’t as elastic as most pizza doughs, so you don’t have to pull it and hold it to make it hold its shape. As long as you can roll out four circle-ish shapes, you can make this pretty little thing. It’s kind of a pull apart bread, so it would be great to bring to a party or a potluck.
To start, you have to proof the yeast. Simply add yeast to 3/4 cup of warm water (110-115°…I used to find this difficult to get right, but I figured out that it’s better for the temp to be too cool than too warm. Just use a digital thermometer or aim for the temp of a bath for a kid. If it feels hot, it’s probably too warm.) Add 2 tablespoons of molasses and stir. Let this sit for about 10 minutes, until it looks foamy on top.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the yeasty mix (!) and set aside while you get your dry ingredients ready. Dump flour and salt into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add in the wet ingredients and mix on lowest setting for about 5 minutes, at which point your dough should be elastic and will probably cling to the dough hook in a mass when lifted up. It will be a little sticky, but it shouldn’t actually stick to your finger when you touch it, if that makes sense.
Grease the bowl with a little oil. I just pour a little in and wipe it with a paper towel. Put the dough in the greased bowl and cover with saran wrap. Let it sit somewhere warm until it doubles in size, I usually proof dough in the cool oven with the oven light on . Mine took about an hour and fifteen minutes.
NOTE: If you don’t have a stand mixer, I don’t know how you get anything done. Just kidding…just make a well in the center of the flour and mix in the wet ingredients until it comes together. Then turn out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead until it is a mildly elastic ball. This should take about 5-10 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Now, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a round disc. Cut it into four equal parts.
Return three pieces to the bowl and roll out one ball into a thin round shape. It should be about 1/4″ thick. Transfer the circle onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with an even layer of cinnamon sugar. It should be enough to coat it, but not too much, or it will run all over the place while it bakes. If this happens, don’t panic! It’s easy to fix when it’s baked.Roll out another layer and lay it on top of the first disc. Try to match them up as best you can. Continue with the remaining layers, but don’t butter or sugar the top layer.
Now, the fun part. Gently place a biscuit cutter or pastry ring in the center of the circle. If you don’t have one, just use a juice glass or a narrow mug. Now, cut the circle into 16 pieces, ending at the edge of the pastry ring or juice glass. Just cut it in half, then in half, then in half and so on, so you end up with 16 even pieces, attached to the ring in the center.
Now, twist and gently pull each arm of dough into a spiral, where you can see the layers of dough and cinnamon sugar.
Pinch two arms together so they look like flower petals. Remove the pastry ring and cut an X in the center of the middle circle. Fold the X outward a little, so there is a small whole in the very center of the ring.
Brush the pastry with butter. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Some cinnamon sugar may (probably will) have leaked out. That’s ok! It’s delicious cinnamony caramel! If there is too much of it, just use a metal spoon and pull away the excess caramel to the edges of the baking sheet. Be careful, hot caramel is dangerous.
Drizzle with pastry icing while warm, if desired. I would desire that if I were you. Let it cool and transfer the whole shebang to a serving plate. Super yummy and it keeps stored in a container or plastic bag for a few days without getting stale. Serves 8-16, depending on how you pull it apart.
3/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)
1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup cinnamon sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1-3 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Mix molasses into warm water. Stir in yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. Add vegetable oil.
Measure dry ingredients into stand mixer bowl. Knead with dough hook on lowest setting for 5 minutes until it a slightly sticky, but elastic dough forms. If it seems too wet, add a little flour. If it seems too dry, add a little water. Proof dough in greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap until doubled in size.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each layer into a 1/4 inch thick circle, about 12 inches across. Place one layer on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Layer and repeat with two pieces of dough. Place final layer on top. Using a pastry ring as a guide in the center, cut into 16 equal pieces, attached by center circle. Twist each arm of dough and pinch together to form eight arms, like a flower. Cut X in center of circle and pull back to create a hole in center. Remove pastry ring. Brush with butter and bake for 15 minutes, until pastry is firm and golden.
Knead butter into powdered sugar until combined. Stir in vanilla and enough milk to make a pourable, but not too wet glaze. Drizzle over warm pastry.
Let cool and transfer to serving plate.