Cinnamon Rolls are one of my second oldest son’s favorite treats, so I try to bake these every couple of months to show him a bit of special mama love. If you’ve ever made homemade cinnamon rolls, you know that they can take a bit of time. If I want these for an afternoon treat, I start the dough in the morning. If I want them for a breakfast, I start the dough the afternoon before, bake them, and then I wait to warm them and frost them in the morning before serving.
You can make the dough ahead and freeze it. Sometimes I do this through the holidays to eliminate one step- all I have to do when I want to use it is pull it out and let it thaw and rise overnight. I am pretty sure that if you wanted to assemble the rolls and freeze them individually, you could, but I have never tried it. I imagine you would need to let them completely thaw and rise a bit before putting them into the oven to bake.
These are not your typical cinnamon rolls- if you are patient with letting the dough rise sufficiently, they will be the softest, gooiest rolls you’ve ever had. SO GOOD. The bread dough on these rolls really shine, it is sweet and soft and light. The filling is your average cinnamon blend, you can vary it by adding raisins, or chopped nuts like pecans. Once you get comfortable making these, you can even add orange juice and zest to the dough, filling and frosting for some amazing orange rolls.
Here’s what you need:
1 1/4 cups water
2 1/2 tblsp. Yeast
3 tblsp sugar
6 tblsp melted butter
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups – 4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened Butter
3/4 cup White sugar
1 cup Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/8 cup Flour
*raisins or chopped nuts (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 tblsp. softened butter
8 oz of softened cream cheese
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar
dash of vanilla (optional)
Here’s what you do:
For the dough:
Add water, 3 tblsp. sugar and yeast together in your mixing bowl and stir to combine– it’s important to let your yeast completely activate before moving on to the next step. You want it to look like this:
See how bubbly and ‘foamy’ it is?
Next, in a smaller bowl, combine your melted butter, warm milk and remaining sugar. (make sure your milk and butter mixture is not too hot, your looking for just above lukewarm here, if it is too hot, it will kill the yeast in your water mixture when you add it and then there will be no rise to the dough.)
Add this to the yeast mixture in the mixing bowl.
Next, add about 3 cups of flour and the salt. Put your bowl on the mixer stand and use your dough hook to begin mixing the dough on a low speed. Once the ingredients are combined, you may begin adding additional flour by the 1/2 cup until the dough begins pulling away from the sides. Now, this is important: It’s okay for the dough to ‘stick’ a little. It should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl and forming a ball but should still be soft and slightly sticky. The only way I know how to explain this is to stop the mixer, touch the dough with your finger and if it ‘grabs’ your finger a little bit, it’s perfect. If dough comes off on your finger, it’s too moist, but if it is dry with no stick at all, you’ve added too much flour. Your cinnamon rolls will still taste good, but they will be more dense and less ‘fluffy’.
Less flour=Soft Dough; More Flour=Dense Dough.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and hand- knead for a few minutes, form into a ball, and let it rest while you prepare the mixing bowl with non-stick spray. (Or, you could freeze the dough at this point, wrapped in plastic wrap and store in a gallon freezer bag, to use at a later date. To thaw, take it out of the freezer the night before, unwrap and place in a prepared bowl, cover and let it thaw and rise)
Place the dough back into the sprayed bowl, lightly spray the top of the dough, cover the bowl with wrap and let the dough rise till doubled in size. Be patient with the rising process! It usually takes a couple hours to get a good rise out of bread dough and one thing I’ve learned with any kind of bread recipe is that you cannot rush that process and expect a good result.
While you’re waiting for the dough to rise- gather your filling ingredients.
Combine the sugars, flour and vanilla. Next, cut in your butter with a fork or pastry blender. Now add about 2 tablespoons or so of powdered cinnamon, I usually eyeball this amount, my family loves a good strong cinnamon taste, you can absolutely adjust this amount to your liking.
The end result will look like this. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto the counter and divide in half. Roll each half out into a rectangle.
Spread fillings over each half.
As you can see, I spread plain cinnamon onto both halves and I sprinkled raisins on one of them for a variation. Pecans are always really good too.
Next, you want to roll up the rectangles. Go slow and gentle from one end to the next and seal the seam by pinching the dough together.
Turn the roll over, seam-side down and slice your rolls.
Place the rolls on a baking sheet that has been prepared with either non-stick spray or a silpat liner. (OR- you could try freezing the prepared rolls at this point. When you want to use them, pull out, thaw and let rise before baking- I’ve never done this, but I have heard of people doing this successfully, provided that you allow the rolls to thaw and rise completely before baking)
Cover with wrap and a towel and let them rise. Yes, they must rise again! Maybe I should call these Very-Time-Consuming-But-Worth-It Cinnamon Rolls!
After they have risen again, about 45 minutes or so, preheat your oven to 400 and let it completely preheat before you put the rolls in. Bake the rolls, uncovered, till golden brown… about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size you cut your rolls. Mine were pretty big, so I’d say they took about 13 minutes.
While they’re baking, if you plan to serve them right away, make your frosting (Just combine all the frosting ingredients in a bowl, adding more or less of the powdered sugar to your preferred consistency) and set aside.
Aren’t they pretty?
Yum! At this point, if you’re wanting to save them for morning- let them cool completely and store them, covered with wrap, on the counter. In the morning, cover them with foil, and warm them in the oven at 175 till heated thru. Then frost.
When you frost them, don’t forget to get some of the candied caramel off the bottom of the pan to top the frosting with!
Plate them up and serve with tea, coffee or cocoa.