I have kept a pet yeast culture off and on for years. I find the fact that I can make bread without using extra yeast handy and satisfying, because all I have to do is get it warmed up and ready to go. Over the years, I've found that sometimes I don't bake bread often enough and so I need to use the excess sourdough starter up so I don't waste it.
This culture in itself is a science lesson! Explain how it works, have your kids look up the history of bread and beer, because they're related. It's really fascinating!
These cinnamon rolls are truly amazing, moist, chewy... the kind you just can't get enough of. The recipe is extremely easy, but because it's sourdough, requires patience. The morning before I make them, I get the start primed with a little flour and water. If you don't have one, you can pick up a starter from various sources, I ordered the latest one from a vendor on ebay.
In the evening, mix -
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
Cover this and let it sit in a cool place overnight. In the morning, you should have a frothy, bubbly batter, about the thickness of thick pancake batter.
That morning, mix -
1/4 cup sugar
1 T cinnamon
Stir well, then cover a counter or bread board with about 3 cups of flour, then turn the thick batter out on to it, working the flour into it from the edges. You'll wind up with a nice soft dough, but honestly I never measure the flour.
Knead the dough, adding flour as needed to keep it from getting sticky. After about 5 minutes you'll have great dough, let it rise covered for about 1-1 1/2 hours. After that, cut it in half.
Roll each half out into a rectangle, then spread with butter, cinnamon and sugar. Just make it look good. As much as I'm a baker, and measure pretty much everything, bread doesn't need exact measurements for the flour, nor do cinnamon rolls need exact measurements for cinnamon and sugar.
If you'd like, you can also sprinkle raisins over the dough rectangle.
Roll the rectangle into a log, going slowly and rolling it fairly tightly. When you get to the end, pinch the dough together to seal the ends in. Cut each log into sections with a sharp knife, do not use a serrated knife.
In a rectangular pan spread butter. Everywhere in it - the butter helps keep it moist, and will be great for the flavor. Arrange the cinnamon rolls in the pan so they're all about a finger width away from each other, but don't worry if you have to squeeze one into a tight spot -the rolls will just rise a bit higher.
Take a dot of butter on top of each roll with a sprinkling of cinnamon, and sprinkle a bit of water on the top. I always include about 1/8 up of water in the bottom of the pan too, it helps keep things moist, there's nothing worse than dry cinnamon rolls after all your hard work!!
Put the whole thing in a warm place to rise. I use the oven because it's out of the dry air, and cold drafts. When they're in the oven, do not turn it on until you're ready to bake them. When they're about double their original size, turn it on to 300 and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown on the top.
Let them cool, then spread with your favorite frosting.