Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Simply Sensational Cinnamon Rolls . . .

Cinnamon rolls were always one of those things that I shied away from trying, afraid I'd screw them up somehow. That, however, was before I overcame my aversion to baking with yeast. Within the last twelve months or so, I've managed to pretty much conquer that fear and it's a good feeling. Yes, I know--I've already blathered on about that particular topic (my yeast-baking phobia) before, so I'll refrain from rehashing it too extensively here.

Suffice it to say, though, I suspect that I owe at least part of the success of these sensational cinnamon rolls to my current happy relationship with yeast. Yes, we're cozy comrades now. Having called a friendly truce, we've built up mutual trust--the kind of trust that allows one to dive into a recipe like this not with foreboding or apprehension, but with an expectation of at least partial victory.

The preparation of these rolls is pretty uncomplicated when you get right down to it. Just a few basic steps: make the dough and let it rise; toss together the filling; roll out the dough, scatter the filling, and roll it all up; slice the pieces and let them rise; bake the rolls; ice the rolls. It's not rocket science. Heck, it's not even library science.

Just remember to bring an attitude of sensitivity to the task, and concentrate on what you're doing while you're doing it. The culinary reward will be both lovely and scrumptious. And each lucky recipient of the rolls will be in your debt.

After all, a cellophane packaged convenience-store bun can't begin to rival the warm, fragrant, cinnamon-encrusted  treat you'll have set before them. Most people encounter a well-crafted cinnamon roll, beautifully assembled from scratch, only on the rarest occasions. There's just no comparison, and they know it.

These are well worth the time it takes to make them. Of course, they're also rich and must harbor a zillion calories. Not something you'd want to have laying around the kitchen tempting you too frequently. Unless, that is, you're endeavoring ferociously to gain weight, in which case these would definitely be the ticket.

About this recipe . . . 

This is an amalgam of two cinnamon roll recipes that I like a lot. One is from a small spiral-bound book that had belonged to my mom. Put out 30 years ago by the Red Star Yeast company, it's called The Red Star Centennial Bread Sampler. And the other recipe came from Bubby's Brunch Cookbook: Recipes and Menus from New York's Favorite Comfort Food Restaurant. This is one I'd love to own and hope to add to my own collection one of these days (I borrowed it from the library, speaking of library science!). Check it out if you get a chance.

My combined adaptation of both recipes is a nice hybrid, I think, and it borrows from the best attributes of both formulas.

Cinnamon Rolls

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

For the dough:
3 and 3/4 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached; no need to sift)
2 tsp. instant yeast (I used SAF Gold Instant Yeast; this stuff works really well in rich doughs. Keep in mind, instant yeast does not require proofing and in many instances can be mixed right in with other ingredients. I'm a total instant yeast convert; I rarely use active-dry yeast anymore.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt (If you'd like to use kosher, add a pinch extra.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 egg, large

For the filling:
1/2 cup  light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (I used Penzey's brand Vietnamese--very intense flavor.)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup moist raisins (I soaked mine in warm water for about 20 minutes; drained them & gently squeezed out excess water with a paper towel.)
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (I used Trader Joe's brand--it's inexpensive, not too thick, and tastes good; you can use honey instead, if you prefer.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the icing:
2 cups confectioners' sugar (no need to sift)
2 to 4 Tbsp. half and half or milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
A couple of drops of almond extract

In a large mixer bowl, combine 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour, the instant yeast, the two sugars, and the salt. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm up the milk, water, and butter to about 120 - 130 degrees; test it with a stem thermometer if you're not sure. It's fine if the butter doesn't fully melt. Pour this into the flour mixture. Add in the egg and the vanilla extract. Beat at low speed just until moistened, then beat for 3 minutes at medium speed.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, by hand, stir more flour in gradually until you've made a soft dough (I needed to use all of my 3 and 3/4 cups of flour; my dough was quite moist to start with).

Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it by hand until it feels smooth and elastic; this may take 5 to 8 minutes (mine took barely 5 minutes to reach this stage; beware of over-kneading rich dough). 

Place the dough in a large bowl that's been sprayed with vegetable spray (I used Pam) or greased with vegetable shortening. Turn the dough so it's lightly greased all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap that's also been sprayed/greased on the side that could touch the dough.Let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk (mine took just about one hour). 

Next steps: 
  • Prepare the filling while the dough is rising (see below). 
  • Butter the bottom and sides of a  9" x 13" baking pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium size bowl, mix together the two sugars, the cinnamon, and the salt. Mix in the raisins. Pour in the maple syrup and stir to combine. Set aside.

When the dough has risen sufficiently, dump it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 12" x 15" rectangle (my dough was not very rectangular, but it didn't matter). Use a pastry brush to spread half of the melted butter all over the dough; set aside the rest of the melted butter. Sprinkle all of the filling evenly over the dough, leaving about one inch uncovered at the farthest short side of the dough.

Starting with the short side that's nearest you, carefully roll up the dough. It needs to be snug but not too tight. If you can, pinch the long seam to help seal it; then end with the seam underneath the completed roll.

Using an extremely sharp, smooth knife (like a chef's/French knife), gently but firmly cut the dough into eight slices of even thickness.

Place them in the pan, evenly spaced. Cover the pan with lightly greased/sprayed plastic wrap, and loosely cover it with a dish towel. Place it in a warm spot to rise.

When the rolls have doubled in size, in perhaps half an hour (it's important not to over-proof rich dough, so be on your toes), they are ready to go into the preheated oven. Bake them for approximately 25 minutes, until they're golden brown and they sound hollow when you tap them. (To err on the safe side, I tested mine with a stem thermometer stuck into the doughy part of a roll; I looked for a temperature of about 200-210 degrees inside.)


Make the icing before the rolls come out of the oven. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, half-and-half or milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Stir until all the lumps dissolve. If you'd like the icing thinner or thicker, adjust it with a bit more sugar or milk. To drizzle it on, make it on the thinner side. To smooth it on like frosting on a cake, make it a bit thicker.

As soon as the rolls come out of the oven, brush the rest of the melted butter over them.

Then, ice the rolls. They're great served warm, and they're definitely best the first day. They can be left in the pan when cool if you like; just cover them well with plastic wrap.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Danielle said...

Yummm! Those look really good. I thought making cinnamon rolls were really hard but i guess they're not

Anonymous said...

Since you make it sound so easy, I will give these yummy treats a try. I am also a little scared of yeast but made a Brioche not to long ago that came out very well.

Jane said...

Hi PopGirl890,
Yeah, they do take a little time, but if you can follow a recipe you can make 'em!
Thanks very much,
:) Jane

Hi Rockies--
You know, brioche is another one of those things that I've never made at home, largely because of feeling intimidated. I should really take that plunge too!

Stella said...

Hey Jane! You know, I've shied away from making cinnamon rolls for so long too! I don't know why I fear them so much. Hmm? I'll have to think about that, as I already have a pretty decent relationship with yeast.
These look really beautiful-just as described. I would one with a big cup of coffee (smile).
p.s. really pretty pics-love that!

Jane @ Sweet Basil Kitchen said...

I knew with the name Jane your blog had to be good! My mother was also scared of yeast, so I did not grow up with homemade bread and rolls. However, I can't live without them now! Great photos and food demo!

scrambledhenfruit said...

These look so good- Cinnamon Rolls are such a comfort food. I love how they smell baking in the oven. I like to make them when I know that other people are going to be around. Otherwise, I'm too tempted to eat them all.

Paula said...

To die for! I think I can smell them baking.

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

These are one of my bf's favorite treats. I'm sure he'd be in heaven if he woke up to the smell of these freshly baked rolls. And I'd be pretty happy to grab one (or 2 or 3) too.

Chele said...

Oh but they do look good!

Unknown said...

I'm still a yeastphobe, so I'll just drool over this, and hop on over to my beloved local bakery to get some of these :)

Roadtrek Girl said...

Ohh my favorite. I wish I could bake this every day and not gain a pound !! I love the pictures-your blog is always so helpful with step by step...perfect. Now if you could just ship me a dozen hot cinnamon rolls life would be perfect too. And thanks for stopping by ..

Mags @ the Other Side of 50 said...

There's just something about homemade cinnamon rolls that screams motherly love to me and brings me back to my childhood. Your rolls look lovely.

Amanda said...

OMG totally gorgeous!! I wish I could have one RIGHT now!

Amanda said...

OMG totally gorgeous!! I wish I could have one RIGHT now!

Kerry said...

These look amazing. If I end up making cinnamon rolls for dinner, I'm blaming you. :)

Unknown said...

I love anything cinnamon! These cinnamon rolls look fantastic!

Anne said...

Oh those cinnamon rolls look absolutely perfect! I love the shape and the texture looks just right. I haven't made any cinnamon rolls since winter but this is pushing me over the edge! :)

You should try Dorie's Pecan Honey Sticky Buns and the Brioche raisin snails (you can make one batch of her brioche and use half to make both). So good, and totally doable. Can't go too wrong with yeast, butter, and patience!

Great job as usual, Jane- you're blog is always inspiring!

faithy said...

i love cinnamon rolls! My fave! Yours look so wonderful..i'll have to give your recipe a go soon! I'm always searching for the right recipe!

kitchen flavours said...

Wow, looks really good... I have always, always, wanted to make cinnamon rolls, but the extra steps involved always make me keep putting it off! Looking at your delicious rolls, I should really give it a try!

Jessica said...

These look fabulous! Yum!

Katie said...

They look sensational! You obviously share my love of all things cinnamon :)

Pushpa Soh said...

New to your blog. All your bakes turns out perfect. I'm happy to have ventured into your path knowing there are alot of bloggers around. Just had cinnamon rolls at Mid Valley. Its so sinfull but the smell is so tempting. Thank You for all the nice info you generously gave away. I will be back everyday.

Kim @ Two Good Cookies said...

I need to make these. NOW.

Carol said...

Oh, are those rolls BEAUTIES, Jane. I could go for one right now.
I love working with yeast too, so I can't wait to try these.
Thank you! :)

Lemons and Lavender said...

Those cinnamon rolls look so good. I feel like I could just jump into the photo and grab one! Beautiful! said...

I just found your blog, love it and tend to make some things from it. One quick question, I am about to buy the SAF yeast and read on your tip comment, you mean to say you don't need proofing time when using? By the way where did you purchase it?

cocoa and coconut said...

This looks like so much work, but I bet its worth it.

Debi said...

I made these delicous cinnamon rolls yesterday. Very, very good. A little time consuming, but not too difficult. The recipe for the dough didn't state how much sugar (it just said 1/4), so I looked at other recipes for cinnamon rolls and most had a
1/4 cup, so that is what I used. The times were all very accurate too!
My hubby LOVED them. I definitely wll make them again.
I have loved to bake all my life and these were my first cinnamon rolls.
For those of you out there a little nervous about making them, don't be. You can do it.

Jane said...

Hi Debi,
Thanks very much for your comments about this recipe. I have fixed the error of omission ("1/4 sugar") in the post and in the printable version of the recipe, and I really appreciate that you pointed it out. I'm so glad you liked how your rols turned out!
Thanks again,
Jane :)

Howard L said...

I've tried all different recipes for Cinnamon Rolls. Before I tried this, my favorite was Alton Browns. His was alittle bit more involved than this. But this takes time too. I made one mistake on this, that is when I soaked the raisins I forgot to squeeze excess water out of them so the mixture was real gooey to spread on the flour, but holly cinnamon rolls, they came out so delicious. My wife really loved it with the raisins. 5 stars for this one. People have understand to make great things, it takes time and patience. I'll be making this again

Jane said...

Hi Howard,
I am so glad you liked this recipe! That's saying a lot coming from someone who has tried quite a few cinnamon roll formulas. Thank you so much for letting me know. I was tickled pink to get your comment!
Jane :)

Our Kiwi Adventure said...

My husband and I made these today. It was a cold and rainy day here in New Zealand, and what better way to spend the time than to make these amazing cinnamon buns? They turned out beautifully. Absolutely delicious!

Jane said...

Dear Kiwi Adventure,
Many thanks for letting me know your cinnamon buns turned out so well! I'm thrilled that you liked them. Yes, cold and rainy days do seem brighten up considerably when these buns are baking in the oven! I know just how you feel.
Jane :)

Michelle Pabalate said...

Hi Jane,

Thanks for sharing this recipe - I can't wait to try it, it sounds so good. But I was wondering, can I make these up to the point of baking, and freeze them to bake later, or will that affect how they rise?

Thanks! :)

Jane said...

Hi Michelle, My apologies for the delay in answering your question.
I haven't tried freezing this dough, but I figure it's worth a try. Remember, if you do it, you should freeze the dough at the point after it's had it's first rise, then been deflated, rested, filled with and shaped. Don't let it begin to rise again after it's been shaped; you need to get it cold at that point so the yeast can slow down. Good luck!
Thanks very much for visiting,
Jane :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane.... wowzers.... your photos!! these are exactly the cinnamon rolls i'd love to create. however i too have had poor experiences with yeast. could you quickly give me the rundown of how to do this if i *didn't* go and get the instant yeast and just used active dry? i'd have to order it special.... and i'm impatient. thanks!

Jane said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for visiting! Okay, in answer to your question, if I were going to use active dry yeast for this recipe instead of the instant yeast, I'd probably use 3 teaspoons (aka 1 tablespoon; that will be about one and a half of the little paper packets) of active dry. I'd use the half-cup of water in the recipe to proof that yeast before adding it into the other ingredients (you just stir the active dry yeast into the water in a bowl or cup to proof it; the water can't be too hot or you'll kill the yeast, shoot for about 120 degrees, or whatever feels a little warmer than lukewarm). After about 10 minutes, when the yeast looks a little bubbly (proof that it lives!) you can add this water andyeast mixture into the other ingredients (do this at the same point in the recipe where you add the warm milk and melted butter into the dry ingredients). Everything should work out fine from here on out, assuming your yeast was fresh and alive to start with. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Unknown said...

Yum, looks very tasty :3

Anonymous said...

WOW this recipe looks like something I could dive into! You mentioned these are best the first long do they stay fresh or what's the best way to keep them fresh? Thinking of baking a batch and delivering next day to family gathering. :) Thank you.

FrancesandtheBee said...

I made this for Christmas brunch (sans icing, and I did use honey instead of maple syrup) It's an excellent recipe I'll definitely use again. Thank you!

Helen said...

I made these today .... heaven on a plate with the added bonus of a heavenly scent all throughout my house ... thank you for a wonderful recipe. Merry Christmas x

Jane said...

Dear Helen,

Thanks so very much for letting me know you made this recipe and liked it so much! That's just wonderful to hear. I hope you have a lovely Christmas!

Jane of Jane's Sweets

Helen said...

I wish I could upload a photo to you! They're on Facebook and a link to your blog. Hope you don't mind xxx