Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls are the harbinger of a lazy morning, filling the kitchen with the aroma of butter, cinnamon, and freshly baked bread.

Cinnamon Rolls are the harbinger of a lazy morning, filling the kitchen with the aroma of butter, cinnamon, and freshly baked bread.
With each puffy swirl of dough dripping with cream cheese frosting, every bite is tangy and sweet. This recipe is fantastic for the holidays, because it’s an all-in-one method that only takes for the filling, frosting, and dough. The rolls can even be made in advance to bake and frost without any fuss.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Makes: twelve 3 1/2-inch rolls | Active time: about 45 minutes | Downtime: 45-minute initial rise, 8-hour second rise
Ingredients:
Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup/4oz full-fat cream cheese, very soft
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups/5oz powdered sugar
Cinnamon Filling: 1 stick/ 4oz unsalted butter, creamy and soft 3/4 cup packed/6oz light brown sugar 2 tablespoons | 1/2 ounce ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (half as much if iodized)   Dough:
  • 3 1/2 cups | 16 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 cup | 31/2 ounces sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick | 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup | 4 ounces milk (any percentage)
  • 1 cup | 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt (any percentage)
  • 1 cup | 4 ounces pecans, toasted
Method:
  1. Combine cream cheese and vanilla with half the powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low to moisten (it may look curdled), then sprinkle in the rest of the sugar a little at a time. Once incorporated, increase speed to medium and beat until pale ivory, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a zip-top bag and set aside until needed, up to 24 hours at room temperature.
  2. Prepare filling in the same bowl, mixing butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with the paddle on low speed until moistened. Increase to medium and beat until the dark paste is creamy, light, and very soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a zip-top bag and set aside until needed, up to 24 hours at room temperature.
  3. Wipe the bowl with a paper towel, then stir together flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and baking soda until thoroughly combined.
  4. Melt butter in a 2-quart saucier over low heat, then stir in milk and yogurt and warm to about 80°F. Add to flour and stir with a flexible spatula to form a very dry, shaggy dough. With the dough hook, knead on low speed until silky smooth and elastic, about 20 minutes; you should be able to gently stretch it into a thin but rough sheet without tearing.
Proof and shape the dough:
  1. Cover with plastic and proof until the dough is puffy, light, and doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes at roughly 70°F. If the dough feels dense, firm, or overly resilient, proof 15 minutes longer and test again (this is more likely in chilly months).
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, dust with flour, and roll into a 13-inch square. Briefly microwave cinnamon filling if firm, snip a corner from the bag, and squeeze over the dough; spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle nuts on top and roll into a log, ending seam side down.
  3. Slide an 8-inch strand of thread or unflavored dental floss under the dough until you reach the middle. Cross the ends over the top and pull tight to divide the log in two. Cut each half into 6 slices and arrange in a parchment-lined 9-by-13-by-2-inch aluminum baking pan (or two 8-by-3-inch round cake pans). Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 48 hours.
Bake and serve:
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F. Let the cinnamon rolls stand at room temperature until the oven is hot.
  2. Bake the rolls (covered) until puffed and firm but pale, about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until lightly browned, about 15 minutes more (or 205°F).
  3. Snip a corner from the bag of vanilla frosting and squeeze over the rolls; spread into an even layer. Serve immediately, and leave no survivors; life’s too short for day-old cinnamon rolls.
  TIPS:
  • Don’t rush the kneading process, which is longer than usual in order to develop gluten in the soft, rich dough.
  • In this recipe, baking soda isn’t meant to provide leavening to the dough, but to regulate its pH, allowing the rolls to brown more easily in the oven.
Make ahead The bag of frosting and the pan(s) of Cinnamon Rolls can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw both overnight (about 8 hours) at cool room temperature (no warmer than 70°F). In the morning, bake in a fully preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove and discard the foil and continue baking until golden, about 5 minutes (or 205°F). Mix it up:
  • Apple Cinnamon: Prepare the frosting with 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter instead of the cream cheese; prepare the filling and dough according to the recipe. During the first rise, dice a medium (6-ounce) Granny Smith apple into 1/4-inch chunks, and scatter over the filling in place of, or in addition to, the 
pecans.
  • Banana: A fantastic change of pace from ordinary banana bread, this variation will help you use up overripe bananas to make a wonderfully aromatic cinnamon roll. Reduce the milk in the dough to 2 ounces (1/4 cup) and replace the Greek yogurt with an equal amount of ripe mashed bananas (from 3 to 4 large bananas).
  • Brown butter sweet potato: This sweet, nutty, and vibrant ochre dough is perfect for chilly autumn mornings. Prepare frosting and filling as directed. For the dough, melt butter in a 1-quart saucier and continue cooking until golden brown, then cool to roughly 115°F.
  • Replace yogurt with an equal amount of cold mashed sweet potato.
  • Double Chocolate: After the powdered sugar, gradually add ¾ ounce (¼ cup) Dutch process cocoa to the frosting. For the filling, add 1 ounce (⅓ cup) Dutch process cocoa and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; omit the spices if you like, or leave them in for a Mexican chocolate vibe. Instead of (or in addition to) pecans, sprinkle the dough with 3 ounces (½ cup, roughly chopped) 72% dark chocolate just before rolling up.
  • Honey buns: Convenience stores sell these sticky snacks with and without frosting, so make it or skip it as you prefer. For the filling, replace brown sugar with 51/4 ounces 
(3/4 cup) white sugar, reduce cinnamon to 1 teaspoon, and add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Otherwise, prepare the cinnamon rolls as directed. During the first rise, cream 4 ounces (1 stick) soft unsalted butter with 8 ounces 
(3/4 cup) clover honey and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (half as much if iodized). Spread into an even layer in the baking pan(s), and arrange sliced Cinnamon Rolls on top; otherwise refrigerate and bake as directed. After baking, loosen the rolls from the pan with a knife and invert onto a serving platter.
  • Pumpkin Spice: For the filling, add 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves along with the other spices; after creaming the butter, fold in 6 ounces (¾ cup) canned pumpkin puree. For the dough, replace the Greek yogurt with an equal amount of canned pumpkin puree.
  • Sticky Buns: During the first rise, put 12 ounces (11/2 cups gently packed) light or dark brown sugar into the baking pan(s). Drizzle with 3 ounces (1/3 cup) heavy cream, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (half as much if iodized), and mash into an even layer with a fork. Arranged the sliced Cinnamon Rolls on top and proceed as directed. After baking, loosen the rolls from the pan with a knife and invert onto a serving platter.
 

This recipe is from Bravetart by Stella Parks. Published by W. W. Norton and Company.


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