For our first baking brunch of the year, we took on cinnamon rolls. Ooey, gooey, sticky, nutty cinnamon rolls.
Two and a half sticks of butter cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon perfection cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon roll recipes fit into a funny category between sweet treats and yeast breads. Since they typically use a yeast dough, at least a short rise will be required. Really, the time commitment was the main thing holding me back from trying cinnamon rolls again – the first time I made them, I used a recipe that called for a potato base and at least 8 hours between the mashing, kneading, rising, rolling, rising, and baking. But who wants to wait all that time before baking a delicious treat? Not me.
For this batch of goodies, we used this recipe, adapted by Nicole Ray, a local artist, crafter, and blogger. I started and kneaded the dough at home, and by the time we got to Shana’s, it was ready to be rolled out, buttered up, and topped with cinnamon, brown sugar, and chopped nuts. While the rolls rose, we scrambled eggs, whipped meringue for cocktails, and got caught up on gossip, football, and manicures. We pulled the rolls out of the oven just in time for dessert:
Shannon commented that our baking gets better each time, and the proof is in these gorgeous rolls. The dough was sweet but not overwhelmingly so – and the cinnamon-sugar filling was balanced by the tang of the cream cheese frosting. I opted for no frosting, and was completely happy with my choice – just as happy as Shane was with the sticky leftovers he ate for breakfast on Sunday.
Having only made this recipe once, I can only speculate on what I might change for next time, so see my notes in text below:
Yields 15-16 medium-sized rolls
1 cup warm milk – warmed over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or microwaved for ~1 minute
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature – not melted, but soft enough to be pliable
2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons instant yeast – you can buy this in packets or in bulk, but make sure it is instant, not active dry
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted or softened? – melted will be easier to spread. Can probably reduce by half.
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar? – can probably reduce to 3/4 cup.
4-5 tablespoons ground cinnamon – we used 5 tbsp and it was a bit too much.
3/4-1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) – if you like nutty cinnamon rolls, you might consider doubling this.
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all dough ingredients in the order provided. Since you’re using instant yeast, it isn’t necessary to proof the yeast; however it is critical that your water and milk be warm so that the yeast dissolves properly. Stir with a dough hook until a soft dough forms, then turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface, and knead until elastic — about 10 minutes. The dough felt a little grainy to me – certainly less smooth than pizza dough – but don’t get too stressed out about that as long as it’s stretchy and elastic. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 10 minutes.
While the dough is resting, butter a 9×13×2 inch baking pan; set aside. Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling in a separate bowl.
After dough has rested, roll and stretch the dough into approximately a 15×22.5-inch rectangle. This is much larger than you’d think, so you might want to actually measure rather than eyeball it. Spread the softened butter over the top of the dough with a spatula or pastry brush. This is a LOT of butter, guys. While I have no complaints about the deliciousness of it, I think the rolls might’ve baked more evenly (and been marginally less bad for us) if we’d reduced this by 1/3 or 1/2. Sprinkle the cinnamon filling over the butter, then top with the chopped nuts (if using). We used 1 cup brown sugar, 5 tablespoons cinnamon, and a generous 3/4 cup chopped pecans, and ended up with at least 1/4 cup extra cinnamon filling and a very uneven nut distribution – hence the note about reducing the cinnamon/sugar and increasing the nuts. Starting with long edge, roll up dough jellyroll style, pinching the seam to seal.
With a serrated knife, gently mark sections of 1 1/2-inches wide, then saw into pieces and place cut side up in the prepared pan. The unbaked cinnamon rolls should not touch each other before rising and baking. If your rolls are too close together, you might consider using a second pan (or two 9x9x2 pans) to ensure even baking. Cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size – rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake approximately 25-30 minutes or until they are a light golden brown. SGF recommends 20-25 minutes, but the inner rolls’ dough was still gooey after 25. While the rolls are baking, prepare your frosting by combing all frosting ingredients and stirring until creamy. Remove the rolls from the oven and spread with frosting. Eat and enjoy!
Note: SGF indicates that this recipe can be made in advance. After the rolls are placed in the buttered trays, you can either refrigerate them overnight or wrap in plastic and place in the freezer. To bake the next day, resume the recipe at the preheat step. To bake from frozen, remove the rolls from the freezer the night before baking and let thaw on the counter, then resume the recipe at the preheat step.