Cinnamon Rolls - Don't go to Cinnabon
I got into yeast baking while in college, in a tiny little kitchen with a tiny little oven. Thankfully, I've moved on from that, but I still have tiny little counter-space. No worries though, because it's plenty to make cinnamon rolls with. And I loves me some cinnamon rolls (as do all my friends).
These are actually pretty easy to make, even if you've never made yeast-based dough before. Probably the hardest two parts are the rolling out, and the waiting. Other than that... pretty easy. These were one of the first yeast doughs I did, and they came out great. The recipe has been tweaked since then, but it's still great. If you're already a regular yeast-user, some of the instructions are going to be unnecessary for you, but I want this to be accessible to everyone, so just skim the parts that are uninteresting.
That said, here's the ingredients list:
- 1 C. milk
- 4 1/2 C. all purpose flour
- 1/2 C. granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or one packet dry)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 C. margarine or butter, melted
- 1/4 C. butter, melted
- 2 T. cinnamon
- 3/4 C. brown sugar
OPTIONAL pan addition:
- 3/4 C. butter, melted
- 3/4 C. brown sugar
- 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 C. butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 C. confectioner's sugar
Here are the pictures and comments!
- Margarine or butter are fine here - I use margarine, just because you can't taste the difference and butter is drat expensive. I also recommend that SAF Perfect Rise yeast, as well as the King Arthur Flour. SAF Perfect Rise is just that, perfect. And the KA Flour is just so much better than the average stuff in the grocery store - the all-purpose has a higher protein content than your average all-purpose flour, which makes it perfect for breads. If you're not using KA, then buy bread flour.
- Here we go. I use two bowls - one for mixing, one for rising. Why? Because I hate washing out bowls in the middle of baking, that's why. Either way, they're both fairly large-sized bowls.
- First, you want to pour your milk out, and heat it up. I toss it in my microwave on high for 1 minute. Basically, you want your milk to be lukewarm - if you drip it on the inside of your wrist, you shouldn't feel it, because skin temp is just about right. Yeast needs warm and wet to grow. It also needs sugar, so after you heat your milk up, throw it in your bowl, mix in the sugar, then add the yeast. In the above picture, all three are in there.
- Next, you can do what's called "proofing" the yeast - getting your proof that the yeast is alive, well, and working. With the yeast I'm using, you can get away without doing this, but it's not a bad idea. After you mix your yeast into your liquid and sugar, let it sit around for about 10 minutes. It should start looking like this:
- Basically, it should start forming bubbles, and start to smell really yeasty. If it doesn't start bubbling at all after 15-20 minutes, toss it out and start over.
- And for fun, here is another yeast product that is also yummy - Lindeman's Kriek Lambic. Note the classy sorority pint glass:
- Once your yeast is started, start mixing in your flour, a 1/2 cup at a time. Your dough will start looking like so:
- Keep adding that flour, until you've added two cups:
- At this point, work in your melted margarine and your eggs. I usually do the eggs first, and while doing that, stick the margarine in the fridge. If it's blazing hot, it will kill your yeast, and you will be sad. Here's what the dough looks like after the margarine and eggs:
- Keep adding the rest of the flour. You may need slightly more or less than the exact 4 1/2 cups listed. It all depends on where your live and what the humidity is like. It's a bit dry in Boston right now, so I used slightly less. And don't forget, you'll also add a bit of flour as you're kneading and rolling out, so don't overdo it. Anyway, as you're adding lots more flour, a spoon gets less useful, so I switch to another implement:
- Your dough should be cohesive, and not overly sticky. Basically, you'll get a bit stuck to your hand if you stick it in there, but you shouldn't come away with dough trailing from your hand like ooze.
- After all your flour is added, you need to knead it a bit. Not a lot, as you want this to be a softer roll when you're done, but a bit, just to get the gluten to develop. I knead it in the bowl, because my hand is already dirty. Just do it a couple of times until you get a nice ball, like this one here.
- Then take your other bowl, and oil it. You could be all fancy and oil it by hand, or be lazy and use some PAM on the fucker. That's what I do. It's vegetable oil; it works just fine. Toss your dough ball in there, then flip it over. That gets the oil all over it, so that it stays nice and elastic as it rises. Toss a towel over the bowl (or a sheet of saran wrap) and place it somewhere warm. If your bowl is kind of shallow, you can spray the saran wrap with PAM too, so it doesn't stick as the dough rises.
- As you can see, my oven is the warm place. Just turn your oven on about 250 for a bit, and set your bowl on top - especially if it's ceramic. The ceramic holds heat nicely, but doesn't get too hot. Let the dough rise until doubled, about two hours. It'll start looking like this:
- Once your dough is done with that first rise, turn it out onto a surface you cleaned well and dusted with flour - like my countertop. Throw a little bit more flour on top, and let the dough sit there for a few minutes.
- While that's sitting there, you can do the optional pan addition I mentioned. It's really a trick I picked up from sticky rolls. Basically, you mix melted butter and brown sugar together, then pour that in the bottom of your pan before you put the rolls in. While the rolls are baking, the sugar carmelizes. Delicious caramel. I did it this time, because I'm on a caramel kick, but again, totally optional. And ps, you're using a 9" x 13" x 2" pan, okay?
- Roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin (or wine bottle, whatever) until it's a big-rear end rectangle. The official measurements are 16" x 21", but I hate rulers, so I just eyeball it.
- After you've got that nice and rolled out, you want to put the filling in. Take your butter for the filling, and melt it. Once it's melted, use a pastry brush and brush it over the entire surface of the dough. Then, take your cinnamon and brown sugar, mix them and break up the brown sugar clumps, and sprinkle that evenly over the dough. Leave about 1/2" of one of the long sides filling-free, because that will be the end of your roll, and then it will stick better to the other dough.
- My dough here has some extra brown sugar sprinkled on it, simply because I thought it needed more. Also, with respect to cinnamon, if you can get it, get the Vietnamese cinnamon. Much more potent than your average grocery store cinnamon.
- Then it's time to roll. Start at a long edge, and roll up, like so:
- You'll end up with a log of dough. It's okay if the ends aren't exactly even - you can press them in a bit to even them out. Then you need to cut the log into 12 rolls. I use thread, because a knife squishes your dough, and we don't want that. To use a thread (or unwaxed, unflavored floss, whatever), just cut off about a 10" length of thread. Then slide the thread underneath your dough to where you want to make the cut. Bring the ends up and pull them towards each other, like you're about to tie a bow with them. Then just keep pulling until you've cut through the dough.
- Cutting in progress:
- Cut the log in half, then each half in half, and then those into thirds, and you'll have evenly-sized rolls.
- Then place your now cut rolls into your pan, as evenly as you can. It's okay that they're not touching, they'll get bigger.
- Let those rise in a warm place for about half an hour, or until doubled in size. While those are rising, take out the cream cheese and butter for the icing so that they soften up.
- Here are the rolls going in to the oven! The two that were crooked were the end of the roll. Bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- While the rolls are baking, make your icing. I usually use a mixer only briefly for the icing, to get the cream cheese and butter nice and smooth.
- So, start by beating your cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Then add the salt and vanilla, then start adding the confectioner's sugar gradually, creaming the sugar and butter/cheese mixture together, like so:
- Once you've got all the sugar in there, I like to give it one more quick pass with the mixer, so that it's extra-smooth and fluffy. Your icing should look like this when done:
- And before anyone says anything, that's just my vanilla bottle. I buy good Madagascar stuff in large quantities, and decant into that bottle, because it's much easier to handle than the huge bottles that show up at my door.
- By this point, your rolls are about done. Take them out of the oven, because your roommates are probably standing over your shoulder drooling, because they smell awesome:
- Let cool for a few minutes, so that you don't burn yourself, then top with icing and devour.