Friday, July 30

Cinnamon rolls

I like cinnamon rolls. No, I love cinnamon rolls.

All of these pictures were taken on the dashboard of my car!

Cinnamon rolls and I have a special relationship. My mom wasn't a star in the kitchen so I didn't get too many "Sunday" breakfasts where there was a veritable spread of homemade goods. I used to marvel in awe when, after a sleepover, my friend's moms would make pancakes and/or french toast and eggs and sausage and - well, you get the idea. I did, however, used to get warm cinnamon rolls almost every weekend - straight out of a Pillsbury can. Sometimes I would watch my mom open the can, thinking how wild it was that the can popped open. When I got old enough, the job of popping the can open fell on me; I would cringe waiting for the 'pop' because I was always afraid that the can was going to explode.  Even now, some 15 to 20 years later, we still have an occasional can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  So, you see, cinnamon rolls have become our "thing."

What promise this picture has...

I have, of course, eaten other cinnamon rolls. I've always wanted to experience that freshly baked, just warm from the oven, ooey, gooey cinnamon goodness. I tried some from delis, grocery stores, and even Cinnabon; each time, however, the idea was always better than the reality. They never tasted like I imagined they would; quite frankly, the ones from the can were better.  This was, unfortunately, the case with these cinnamon rolls, too.

Seriously, how good do these look?

Ever since yeast and I became friends, I've been wanting to make my own homemade version of cinnamon rolls. Only problem is that all the recipes I've seen make at least 12-15 rolls; Tara doesn't really like them and my will power when it comes to these things is nonexistent. So I had to wait for an occasion where I could give most of the rolls away. Ever the optimist, I made some dough to store in the freezer until I was able to actually make the cinnamon rolls. When I had the perfect opportunity, I took the dough out to defrost and then decided it wasn't the perfect opportunity and promptly refroze it. And then, I did it all over again!

Best team name, ever!

I was finally able to make them for our softball team for Softball Sunday. There are about 12 ladies on the team, so I knew I would be able get most of the girls to eat at least one. All of the girls loved the cinnamon rolls, even Tara - shocker! I, on the other hand, thought they were just so-so. It's hard to pinpoint what it was exactly, but they definitely needed a little something. Maybe it was because I used a vanilla icing instead of a cream cheese version?

That's my finger grabbing some of that extra icing.

I plan on trying Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (watch the video) and Ree's, of the Pioneer Woman Cooks, recipes.

Cinnamon Rolls
(Barely) adapted from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything

I'm including the directions for a cream cheese icing/glaze because I think it'll be loads better than the vanilla icing.  I encourage you to go that route.

  • 3 1/2 cups AP or bread flour (I used APF)
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 2 Tb. cold butter
  • 2 eggs
  • About 1 cup milk, preferably whole
  • Softened butter for the pans

  • 2 Tb ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar

     Vanilla glaze
    • 1/4 cup cream, milk, or a combo of both 
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 cups confectioner's sugar 

         Cream cheese icing (from Alton Brown)
    • 2 1/2 oz (~1/4 cup) room temp cream cheese
    • 3 Tb milk
    • 5 1/2 oz (~1 1/2 cups) confectioner's sugar


    Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and cold butter in a food processor. Pulse the machine on and off until the butter is evenly distributed in the flour, but not completely blended in. Add the eggs and pulse a few more times. With the machine running, slowly add 3/4 cup of the milk through the feed tube.

    Process for about 30 seconds, adding more milk if necessary, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk and process for another 10 seconds. If the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.

    Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead it a bit by hand. Form a smooth, round dough ball, put in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap: let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (I ended up freezing the dough after it had risen. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month; defrost the dough in a covered bowl in the fridge or at room temperature.)

    When the dough is ready, form it into a ball. Put the ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a little flour, and cover with plastic wrap (I used the same wrap from above). Let rest until the dough puffs slightly, about 20 minutes.

    Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, prepare the filling by combining the cinnamon and sugar.

    Press and roll the dough into a large rectangle, about the size of the baking dish. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly all over. Wet your hands and shake a few drops of water over all; use a fork to rub the cinnamon sugar and water into the dough a bit; it should be a light paste. (Note: I read on another blog where someone nixed the water and brushed the dough with melted butter before dusting with the cinnamon sugar mixture; maybe that would have helped with the richness.)

    Roll the dough up lengthwise and seal the seam as best as possible. You'll have a long log. Slice it crosswise into 15 pieces. Put each piece, cut side up, into the prepared dish or pan: 3 across and 5 lengthwise. (I put the pan in the fridge at this point and left it in over night. I took it out in the morning and let it come to room temp. while the oven was heating.)

    Heat the oven to 350F and set your rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for about 30 mins. After the rolls have cooled a bit, you can pour the vanilla glaze over them.

    For the vanilla (or cream cheese) glaze, combine all the ingredients and beat until combined and smooth: it should be about the consistency of thick maple syrup - just pourable. Use immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


    1. We love cinnamon rolls too! The cream cheese glaze is a requirement. Nothing else tastes quite right. My recipe is very similar to this one, except in the filling I use brown sugar rather than regular sugar. Made a huge difference in taste.

    2. @Eliz - Totally ::facepalm:: on not using the cream cheese glaze. Next time - promise! I like the idea of using brown sugar instead of white. I plan on making some soon, so I'll have a chance to experiment.

    3. I am interested to see how your Bittman attempt of cinnamon rolls compared with that of Alton Brown and the Pioneer Woman's versions. Any updates?


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