Cinnamon Rolls–Destined to Become a Tradition

28 Dec

Now that Christmas is over and gone, (*sniff*) we have some time to reflect on all the delicious goodies that the holidays brought to us…most notably for me, the discovery of homemade cinnamon rolls a la Pioneer Woman.

Because I’m such an unabashed flog addict (at the moment, I’m subscribed to, oh, 31 individual flogs on google reader…), I’ve been hearing a LOT of buzz about the food blog world about these cinnamon rolls. Especially so during the past few weeks, because with the coming of the holidays, the demand for cinnamon rolls–and sweet treats in general for that matter–has increased drastically. I must have seen references to this recipe five or six times before I had the good sense to go check it out myself.

What I discovered was a dangerous and powerful weapon.

As it turns out, cinnamon rolls are fairly easy and convenient to make at home. AND, when you make them at home, you actually have control over what goes into them, so you can not only skip Cinnabon’s step of dunking the rolls in atrocious amounts of butter (I mean, butter is delicious, but really? How far do you want to go with that?), but you can also be sure that your rolls don’t have things like azodicarbonamide and L-cysteine in them.(Yes, I googled that. Actual ingredients in a Cinnabon.) I won’t tell you the other nutritional information of a cinnabon roll because it will probably terrify you, but let me tell you, it is not pretty. On the other hand, my homemade cinnamon rolls actually were–dare I say it–not that bad for you. Shocking, I know! But it’s actually true. I modified the Pioneer Woman’s recipe in places to make them a little less artery clogging-ly delicious, and I really can’t imagine that there was that much of an impact on the taste. Most people who tried her rolls thought they were actually a little too greasy, so I cut way down on the butter and they were still very, very moist and actually benefited from a slightly more delicate, airy and sweet flavor! Win, if you ask me! I also slightly modified the rising procedure from the Pioneer Woman to Alton Brown’s (oh, do I love that man’s recipes) make ahead rising technique, partly for convenience and partly because I just wanted to see if it would work. With AB’s recipe, you can roll the buns the night before and keep them in the fridge so that nothing has to be done the next morning but let them rise and stick them in the oven. (can you say Christmas morning tradition?)

Although I did not make the Pioneer Woman’s icing myself, I imagine it would be very good. It has maple and coffee and vanilla and butter and seemed delicious. For my first batch, we had the glaze seperate, and we put it on after taking the rolls out of the pan, according to personal preference. I even tried a roll plain–still mind-blowingly delicious! Our glaze at first had just plain powdered sugar mixed with milk and a little maple syrup, but we thought it was a little lacking. I suggest that you use either maple extract or a lot of maple syrup for a strong maple flavor, or you add both syrup and coffee to the icing, or you just use coffee, or–here’s what I think would be good–replace most of the milk with orange juice and skip the syrup. I personally don’t like butter in my icing, but I also don’t like buttercream frosting, or cream cheese frosting, so that might just be my weirdness.

The bread that makes the roll part of these is *very* good, and I imagine that you could make it by itself as a roll, or as a filled roll, perhaps in a donut shape, as crescent rolls, or maybe even a slightly more savory than normal cookie. Or–do I dare suggest it?–perhaps a monkey-bread type application?….ohhhhhh my god I never said that…..

You know what? You’ve just simply got to try this recipe. You just have to. Go. Now. Try.

Cinnamon Rolls

adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Alton Brown

makes three pans of rolls, about 8 or 9 small/medium rolls per pan


  • 2 cups Milk (I used 1% because that’s what we had)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups (Plus 1/2 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • 3 TB Butter
  • a little more than 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon (more than you might expect, be sure to have plenty stocked up)
  • 3 seven-inch round foil pans
  • Glaze (optional, see below)


Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 30-45 minutes or until the mixture reaches 110-115 degrees. Sprinkle in the package of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for around 5 minutes, then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1/2 more cups of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface very generously with flour. (Don’t be afraid to! This is an IMPORTANT STEP. Trust me. I know.) Take the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape.

Melt the butter in the microwave and use a basting brush to spread a thin layer evenly over the dough, reaching all the way to the edges. (This layer can be as thin or thick as you like. I probably only used 1 1/2 TB of butter for the whole thing and they turned out great, but if you want to use a whole stick, go for it!)

Now sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. If you want, you can use your hands in circular motions to really get an even coating and work the cinnamon sugar into the dough. I was bored, so I did, but Pioneer Woman didn’t. Then again, I don’t imagine that she’s the sort to be bored at any point in time–ever–so…

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it, using water to get a nice tight seal if necessary. (no pictures of this because my hands were gross, sorry!)

Spread melted butter in three seven inch round foil cake or pie pan to grease them. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick, using either a knife or a piece of floss, and laying them in the buttered pans.

Cover the rolls tightly and put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, take the rolls out and place them on the top rack of the oven while it is still turned off. Put a pan filled 2/3 way full of boiling water on the bottom rack, then shut the oven door and leave the rolls to rise for 20-30 minutes, or until they look slightly puffy.

Take the rolls and the boiling water out of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches temperature, pop the rolls in and bake until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Despite the hypnotic aroma, it is important that you let them cook ALL THE WAY. If you start convulsing with desire for the warm, buttery, sugary, cinnamony goodness, I suggest you remove yourself from the area and get some fresh air. By the time you get back, they’ll probably be done.

For the frosting, pick one of the following, or free-form it yourself (as long as you start with powdered sugar and throw in some liquid, it’s gonna turn out.) Add more sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency–it should be thick but pourable.

TRADITIONAL MAPLE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of milk, a dash of vanilla extract, and maybe 2 TB of maple syrup.

COFFEE MAPLE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 3/8 cup of brewed coffee, 2 TB of syrup, and 1 TB of milk.

ORANGE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 2 TB of milk.

CREAM CHEESE: Take 4 oz (half a box) of cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, half a stick of unsalted butter (softened), and dash of vanilla, and use an electric mixer or whisk to combine. Whisk thoroughly, until smooth.

Either drizzle the glaze (and you don’t have to use all of it if you don’t want, but hey, why not?) over the rolls WHILE STILL WARM and then let it settle, or skip it and let people put it on their personal rolls themselves to whatever point they desire.



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