Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate

I'm a member of Tryazon which allows me to apply to test products by hosting parties where I use the products in some fashion. I've done this three times so far with Zoku popsicle makers, Splenda, and Brownie Brittle. Unfortunately, I caught a bad cold that delayed my testing of Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls, but Tryazon and Rhodes were flexible enough that I was able to reschedule, putting together two smaller testing groups using our gaming groups. This allowed me to try out three bags of cinnamon rolls by using three different methods of basic preparation; two of these were recommended by the product directions. I received three free coupons to get the products I tested as well as a free potholder and $1 coupons for the folks who tried these with me; no other form of compensation was received for this honest evaluation.

I had some difficulty finding the product Rhodes originally wanted me to test, the Microwave variety of Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls. The Rhodes website claimed they were available in a Marsh grocery store near me, but at the nearest Marsh store their customer service department couldn't find the product in that or any other nearby location. Luckily, Rhodes was OK with my testing any of their bread products, so I went to our nearby Kroger and found their basic 12-pack of frozen cinnamon rolls, so at least we got a similar idea to how the microwavable cinnamon rolls might taste. As it says on the bag: Quick Method may make rolls less smooth on top. Flavor is unaffected. Best appearance is achieved using the Regular Method.

Note: Defrosting these rolls is time consuming. They suggest either setting them out in your kitchen overnight, or at least for 3-5 hours, or 1.5 hours in the oven on low heat. No wonder they are trying to introduce a microwavable version, because that sort of planning ahead may be difficult for many working people today and certainly will not satisfy sudden cravings for cinnamon treats. I used three methods to defrost and bake these rolls -- three bags = three experiments, right? Similarly, because this is The Chocolate Cult, in addition to the cream cheese icing that came with them, I tried white and milk chocolate candy toppings from a candy making kit I was testing earlier (you'll see a review of it closer to the Winter Holidays). Waste nothing, especially chocolate!

The Frostings Used -- Cream Cheese, Milk Chocolate Candy, and White Candy:

Test #1: Microwave Defrost Idea

For my first test, I realized that I didn't have enough time before people came over to follow the directions on the bag literally.  But fortunately I had three bags and could afford to experiment.  I defrosted these for 4.5 minutes using my microwave oven's defrost program, flipping them over halfway through.

Note 1.1: Of course, this made for smaller, denser rolls (only rising to 1.5 inches once baked). Any textural difference with these rolls falls on me, not Rhodes. I shared these with the six men in my Sunday gaming group, as you can see in my photo below.

Note 1.2: After defrosting them using this method, the cinnamon rolls took 5 minutes longer to bake than the suggested time on the bag. However, they also expanded a great deal, as you can see in this side-by-side photo of the pre-defrosted (left) and baked (right) rolls. The height of these rolls was just over 1 inch.

Results: All seven of us who tried this -- the six guys in my gaming group and myself -- really liked the cinnamon rolls. Everyone also liked them with each topping that they tried; at least three people tried all three flavors. This made me very hopeful that the next two tests, using the methods on the bag, would result in even better cinnamon rolls.

For the next two tests I added in a mint dark chocolate topping as well, when my testers claimed that they'd had mint dark chocolate and cinnamon and found it to be delicious ... I'm always up to using dark chocolate!

Test #2: Regular Method on the product bag

This requires putting the rolls into the pan you will use and covering the entire thing with plastic wrap, then letting them defrost in your kitchen for 3-5 hours until they double in size. As you can see in the accompanying photos, I shared these with a seven-person gaming group that came over on a Friday evening, including both men and women.

Note 2.1: This is a moderate time to wait, but the resulting risen rolls were 1.8 inches high prior to baking and 2.2 inches high after baking! They were actually so much bigger than the frozen version that I tried to remove some to another pan, which made one of them fall. I'd recommend two 11"x17"x2" pans to start with if you make a full dozen. Below you can see the Quick Method rolls after they were baked (left) versus the pre-baking risen rolls using the Regular Method (right). As you can see, the the Regular Method rolls are already bigger, even before baking!  I thought I'd gotten a photo of the post-baking Regular Method rolls, but apparently my phone lied to me.

Note 2.2: These were so closely baked that it was nearly impossible to get the first four rolls out of the pan cleanly. Pieces just stuck to each other, even though I let them cool a bit before removing them. Below you can see some of this damage to the unfrosted Regular Method rolls versus the finished Quick Method rolls (left); frosting them (right) hid a lot of damage.

Results: Four of the testers had rolls from all three methods, and this was the prefered cinnamon roll. Of the testers from the same tasting group, this was also preferred over the Quick Method rolls. However, both were liked a lot.

Test #3: Quick Method on the product bag

This requires heating the oven to 175°F, turning it off, and then placing the panned rolls into the oven for 1.5 hours until the rolls double in size... These did not look double the size. The rolls were 1 inch high before they went into the oven and 1.5 inches high after baking. Below you can see the pre-risen rolls (left) versus the baked quick method rolls (right).

Note 3.1: Prior to baking these rose to 1 inch and were larger than the microwave attempt, but definitely smaller than the Regular Method. Baked, they were 1.5 inches in height, but had spread out to fill the entire baking pan; again, this was better than the microwave attempt but less than the Regular Method.

Note 3.2: You have to let these cool at least 4-5 minutes before attempting to remove them from the pan, or the rolls will fall. After this time, the fluffiness created by the air is trapped much better, and the rolls remain fluffier.

Results: These had a lighter texture than the microwave risen rolls did, though they were still a bit doughy in the very center, even though I baked them at the maximum time (20 minutes) recommended on the bag.

I had leftover from the Regular and Quick Methods so I shared those on Saturday afternoon, October 24, 2015, with another small group of friends adding one new person to those who tried the rolls. And then they were all eaten!

Overall Impressions

In total, 15 individuals tried these rolls with me over the course of two get-togethers; five women and ten men tried these out. Three of the 15 were my own family; my guys tend to be more critical of what I serve than any of my friends.

The rolls have a strong yeast scent to them as they are defrosting by any method and a light cinnamon fragrance when in the oven. They have wheat, soy, and dairy, in case those are allergens for you, as well as (obviously) cinnamon; I have a friend with a cinnamon allergy.

The more time I gave the rolls to rise before baking, the larger they got in all dimensions.

The smaller rolls were more doughy, but the larger rolls could become doughy if you did not let them cool enough before removing them from the pan.

Individual tasters liked different rolls, but everyone prefered the largest ones, which were made using the Regular Method.

Some tasters prefered the Microwave Risen rolls over the Quick Method because they liked the stickiness and increased cinnamon flavor of those. Again, no one said they wouldn't eat any of these rolls if offered.

The cream cheese frosting was very rich and sugary; it would have been fine with half the amount, most tasters agreed. The most popular frosting was the mint dark chocolate -- it goes great with cinnamon.

Readers, have you tried these Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls in any form? Did you add chocolate? Let us know in the comments below!

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