I’ve tried several methods of making cinnamon rolls, always hunting for the elusive texture of Cinnabon’s peel-and-cherish goodness. I think I’ve nailed it! The best part is that these take less than two hours to bake, start to finish, while others I’ve attempted could be an overnight adventure.
Bready part of the rolls:
- 4 C all purpose flour (possibly a bit more)
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 C milk
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1/3 C unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs at room temperature
Combine 2 cups of the flour and the package of yeast in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk, sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter is just melted, then pour it over the dry ingredients and stir it in. Mix in the two eggs, then add the rest of the flour and do your best to stir that in.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding a touch more flour if the dough is very sticky. Keep kneading until it’s smooth and elastic, which could take between 5 and 10 minutes. Spray it lightly with cooking spray, place it into a bowl, and cover that bowl with a kitchen towel. While you let it rest for 15 minutes, get the filling ready.
- 1/3 C butter, just barely melted
- 1 C brown sugar, packed
- 3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Melt the butter by putting it into the microwave for about 15 seconds. Stir it and see if the unmelted bits change their mind. If not, give it another 10 seconds. You don’t want it scalding hot, though, so don’t go overboard. Keep the butter separate from the other ingredients, but stir the cinnamon and brown sugar together.
Back to the dough
Flour a surface and roll your dough ball out into a rectangle (honestly I hate this part). You’ll want it to be about 22 inches by 18 inches and as even as possible from the middle to the edges. Once you’re happy with the size and shape, pour the melted butter over it and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture onto the butter while it’s still melty. If you’d like, you can save a bit for putting over the finished rolls.
Now we roll. Start with the long side and carefully roll the dough until you’ve got one long cinna-log. The ends probably won’t be perfect, but that’s ok. I push them in just a touch before cutting and no one really knows the difference. I usually end up with a log about 24 inches long, which is perfect because you’ll want to cut 12 rolls, and it’s easy to cut two inch segments if you put a ruler next to the roll.
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan and place the rolls in, 4 by 3. If some of your rolls are a little smaller, put those guys in the middle. Cover the pan in cling wrap and your kitchen towel and let the rolls rise for 45 minutes – they’ll be nearly doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 395 degrees F while the rolls are rising. When the time’s up, place them (minus the towel and plastic wrap) on the middle rack and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
Make the frosting
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temp
- 1/4 C unsalted butter
- dash of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 C powdered sugar
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt for about a minute. Add the powdered sugar slowly and mix on medium-low speed until it’s fluffy.
Put it all together
When the rolls are done, take them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes, then spread the frosting over them. If you saved a bit of the cinnamon mixture, you can sprinkle that on top. This is ideal if you’d like to cover the leftover rolls with cling wrap later on, as the wrap won’t stick to the frosting as much.
Enjoy these guys while they’re still warm! Heat cooled rolls in the microwave to recreate that gooey goodness.