An Education about cinnamon rolls

Oh my gravy, y’all, I have been so busy with freelance work and dissertation work and teaching work that I haven’t been able to get to my “fun” work: blogging about my cooking and eating adventures! (And, truth be told, I’m working on a record review as part of my freelance stuff as I write this!)

So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make some cinnamon rolls. I can’t even remember why, other than that I just got a hankering and followed through on it. So, on a Saturday night, I mixed up the dough:

Let’s back up for a minute: Despite my love of and long practice of baking, I’ve not worked much with yeast. In fact, this was only my third time making cinnamon rolls. The first time I made them was in Home Ec in seventh grade and I made a C. That’s right: I got a C in cinnamon rolls. I can’t remember anything else about that class or what my overall grade was, but that C stands out in my memory like a bitter flare. The second time I made them was about four years ago, and I used a recipe out of the gargantuan Home Baking and it was extremely work-intensive. Fussy. And a huge recipe. I didn’t really want a metric ton of cinnamon rolls this time around, and I found those to be a bit bready.

Yeah, so, not much experience with yeast. And this recipe here calls for “rapid-rise or instant yeast.” And I had a packet of yeast, but the packet didn’t say, “rapid-rise” or “instant.” So I assumed that it wasn’t rapid-rise, so I proofed it and was too lazy to not make the appropriate adjustments in that I didn’t deduct 1/4 cup of liquid from the rest of the recipe to adjust for the 1/4 cup of water I used in the proofing. So, when I left to go see An Education with Sally, I was worried that I’d just totally ruined the rolls. (I lamented this to Sally and she informed me that if the yeast came in a packet, it was instant yeast. So, lesson learned.)

After I came home from the movie, disgruntled because I hated it, I checked on the dough. I was not impressed by how little it had risen. It should have doubled in size in two hours, but it hadn’t. So, I covered it in plastic wrap and went to bed, fairly certain that I would be making a run for storebought cinnamon rolls in the morning.

Next morning, the dough still hadn’t doubled in size. Worried, I set it out on the counter and let it come to room temperature. The recipe says it yields 18, but I only got 11 (not including ends).

When I got them out of the oven a while later, a bunch of the filling had melted down into the bottom of the pans and caramelized the bottoms of the buns: YUM.


After baking, I applied the icing, and then we ate them! The verdict? Pretty yummy! I personally like a higher filling-to-bread ratio, so I think I’ll roll the dough out thinner next time and maybe increase the amount of filling I make. I think I’ll also use a lighter touch with the icing (although if I make more rolls next time and use the same amount of icing, this problem might take care of itself). Matt was happy with them as they were, Harrison ate about 1/8 of his, and I think Laurel had some … can’t remember. I guess my boneheadedness with the yeast wasn’t too much of a tragedy.

Cinnamon Swirl Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from smittenkitchen.
Makes 18 buns. Allegedly.

1 cup 2% milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For dough: Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, about 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. (I opted to let the dough hook do the work here.) Form into ball. Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray or oil. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling: Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in medium bowl.

Press down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over butter. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. Cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two pie plates or square baking dishes, whatever, with nonstick spray (or oil them if you’re opposed to nonstick spray). Place rolls in baking dishes, cover with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Eat. Try to be graceful about it.

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  1. sally

     /  March 6, 2010

    I’m thinking of another go at yeasty breakfast treats tomorrow, this time attempting (again) kolaches. Chad thought that the last batch of cinnamon rolls most closely approximated his Memaw’s cinnamon roll/kolache dough, so I was thinking I’d just make the cinnamon roll dough, with substituted kolache filling or sausage.

    I use the recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book, if you’re ever looking for another to try. It might be fussier than you’d like (three risings for breakfast breads), though. And it is quite yeasty, which I like, but I don’t know if that is part of your “too bready” complaint from your last foray. This last batch of cinnamon rolls was definitely the best I’ve managed, and so it’s taken several tries over several years for me to start to get it right. I like that book’s whole wheat bread, too, though I sub. half white flour, as I can’t handle the density of a whole whole wheat…Bread is simple, but definitely not easy!

    Oh, and I looked up: active dry is not the same as instant, apparently, as active dry still requires something to feed it (honey, sugar), whereas instant is fortified with something that takes care of that need.

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