I’ve shared this recipe before. But so what? It’s worth sharing again, especially because I kicked off our New Year’s Day by serving cinnamon rolls made from a different recipe that were a total flop, partly because I forgot to put salt in the dough, thereby giving edible illustration to the whole “salt of the earth” metaphor. Sigh.
While I can never resist trying new recipes for things, the rolls made from this, my old standby recipe, are good, and although I’m no food-science-y type person, I’ll bet they’ve got less sugar by weight than a good many breakfast cereals. Seriously. One of these, especially if you make them with half whole-wheat flour, makes a very respectable breakfast, especially if you share with people you love.
Yes, you need to use butter for these. That is what makes them good. My best tip for persuading people to think well of your cooking and baking is “use butter.” And, yes, you really should use whole milk. (Which reminds me of my second tip: don’t use reduced-fat anything.)
So here we go:
Dissolve a heaping tablespoon of dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm—not hot—water. Set aside.
Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, and stir in 1/3 cup sugar (I like to use organic fair-trade evaporated cane juice). Stir in 1 cup of whole milk that’s been warmed up slightly, 1 beaten egg, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1 and ½ tsp. salt. To this add the yeast-water mixture. Gradually stir in 4 to 5 cups bread flour (use up to half whole-wheat; if you do, add 1 Tablespoon wheat gluten to make it more delicious), changing the stirring to kneading once necessary. Knead 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, wipe dough all over with butter, cover, and set aside for 1 hour.
Alternatively, if you have a bread machine, you can put the ingredients in the machine in the order described by the manufacturer (some are yeast first, some are yeast last) and run it on the “dough” setting.
Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2 to 2.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Set aside. Soften another stick (1/2 cup) butter and set aside.
When the dough has risen, gently push it down, and begin to stretch and pull it to fit an 11”x15” baking sheet. Take your time and push it down evenly. Using a pastry brush (or your clean fingers), spread softened butter all over the dough, except for the long side that is farthest from you, leaving a 1”x15” strip CLEAN.
Then carefully spread the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Roll up from bottom edge loosely—not firmly—and use the “clean” edge to seal up the roll. Saw the log very gently with a serrated knife into 1.5 inch pieces—it helps to score the log lightly before you cut–or take the easier way and snip through the log with kitchen shears. Lay the slices almost touching in a buttered 9”x13” pan. Cover and allow the rolls to rise for an hour.
While you wait, make the frosting by creaming together 2 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract. When the rolls have risen again, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Tip onto a large plate immediately, and when slightly cooled, spread with frosting. Yum.