I have a thing for cinnamon rolls. I LOVE them. There is nothing better than a fresh, gooey, warm cinnamon roll. Nothing. So it’s been a rather intense sore spot in my life that I have never been able to make one. It shouldn’t be that hard. But anything involving yeast is the bane of my existence. This ridiculous 900-step cake? I can do that with my eyes closed. 4-hour bread pudding? Piece of cake.
But heaven forbid a recipe involves yeast and rising. I just can’t seem to get it right. They’re the only recipes I follow to the letter, and I mess it up. Maybe that’s where I’ve gone wrong. I should just wing it. Things turn out better that way. Or buy a bread machine. But I feel like that’s cheating.
Given my intense love for cinnamon rolls and my repeated failure at anything involving yeast, you can imagine my overwhelming joy at finally creating an edible cinnamon roll. And not just any cinnamon roll, the best cinnamon rolls in the world. I don’t even feel vain saying that because they really are. Really. Gooey, flaky, and amazing. And totally jam-packed with fat and calories but that’s beside the point.
The original recipe is from the Brown Eyed Baker and can be found here. I used the dough from her recipe but made my own filling because I’m a traditionalist when it comes to cinnamon rolls. I’m sure the others are delicious, but I like the regular kind.
Since I’m in Montana, I didn’t have my beloved KitchenAid and did everything by hand instead. I’ll give you the instructions for how I made it, but if you have a KitchenAid, you’ll probably want to follow her instructions instead. Oh, and you’ll need all day to do these, so plan accordingly. It’s worth it, I promise.
world’s best cinnamon rolls
adapted from the brown eyed baker
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 C warm water (110-degrees)
1/2 tsp + 1/4 cup pure cane white sugar, divided
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons pure cane brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz (1/2 pkg) 1/3-fat cream cheese, softened
5 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 C pure cane white sugar
1/2 C pure cane brown sugar
2 (heaping) Tbsp cinnamon
cream cheese glaze:
3 oz 1/3-fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1. In a large bowl, whisk yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into 1/4 C of water at 110-degrees until dissolved. Allow to proof for approx 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Whisk in 1/4 C sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.
3. Using a spoon, stir in flour and salt and mix just until dough begins to come together (barely). It will still be really dry.
4. Stir in softened butter. I used strong, j-shaped strokes to try to replicate the motion of the KitchenAid dough hook. For one batch, I tried kneading by hand but that overworked the dough. I recommend just keep “stirring” with a spoon until butter is well-incorporated, about 3-4 minutes. Dough will now be really gooey, but should have formed a ball and keep its shape.
5. Dump dough onto waxed paper and knead in (by hand) an additional 1/4 C of flour, just until incorporated. Don’t overwork the dough! Dough might still be a little sticky, but shouldn’t be messy. Add a little more flour if it sticks to your hands more than itself.
6. Form dough into a ball and place in greased bowl. Cover and allow dough to rise until doubled in size. My trick: turn on oven when you start the process, then turn it off and place dough in the warm oven (about 80-degrees). Make sure it’s not too warm, though. You want it to rise, not bake. In one of my failure batches, I tried letting it rise at room temp and that just didn’t work at all. Word to the wise.
7. When dough has risen, dump out on floured surface and knead until no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Let rest for 5 minutes before rolling out.
8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to about a 12×12-inch square. My dough was pretty elastic-y, so it took a while. Just keep rolling.
9. Spread the 4 oz of softened cream cheese evenly across the dough.
10. Then fold the dough in thirds, like you would a letter for a business envelope: bottom up, then top down. Repeat the process from the sides so you end up with a nice square.
11. Flip dough over and begin to roll out again into about a 12×20 rectangle (it doesn’t have to be exact). The cream cheese will want to escape so just go slow and steady. These cinnamon rolls definitely teach patience!
12. Evenly spread 5 Tbsp melted butter across the dough (all the way to the edge), leaving about 1 inch on one of the short sides bare.
13. Mix together cinnamon and sugars and spread evenly, except for the blank inch on a short side. It looks like a lot but you’ll appreciate it in the long run.
14. Starting with the non-bare short side, tightly roll dough. You might lose some cinnamon and sugar. It’s okay. Seal dough by moistening the inch margin and pressing together.
15. Slice dough (I’ve found a pizza cutter works best) into slices approx 1-1/2 inches thick. Place spirals in greased 9×13 pan, cover, and place back in warm oven to rise for an additional two hours. If you are doing these overnight instead, skip the second rise in the warm oven and just pop them right in the fridge. (I’ve tried it, it works.)
16. Uncover and bake at 350° for approx 30 minutes, or until golden brown. If you’ve refrigerated the rolls, allow them to come to room temp before baking.
17. While rolls are cooling, prepare the glaze: whip together cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until desired consistency. Since the rolls themselves are so rich, Husband and I prefer a thinner glaze rather than thick frosting.
18. When rolls are warm, but not hot, glaze rolls. Serve warm.
19. Enjoy the best cinnamon roll you’ve ever had.
Told you it was an all-day adventure!
Oh, and Merry (belated) Christmas from Montana!
And one more thing: we’ve reached week 31 of the Babysaurus countdown but there was no way I was schlepping my chalkboard up here. The baby updates will be back next week. Or maybe the one after. I get busy sometimes.