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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls - Mastered!

My in-laws showed up yesterday to come meet their newest grandson. I feel fortunate to have such a great relationship with my in-laws such that I am excited for their visit. It helps that my mother-in-law is great with babies and this has allowed me to get a few things done around here. To celebrate the first morning of their visit, I decided to make a pan of cinnamon rolls.

Now, I posted my recipe for cinnamon rolls a long time ago. You can see that post here. However, while the basic recipe has remained the same, there have been a number of changes that have turned these rolls from good to super-freaking fantastic. I used to have a hard time passing by a Cinnabon when out and about, but now it's not a problem. I like these rolls better! It's amazing what a difference a few subtle changes can make. You may want to read through my last post first if you are not familiar with the general gist of how cinnamon rolls are made. In this posting, I will focus on the changes to the recipe and then will re-post the recipe in full at the end in case you want to print it out.

The first major change was in the filling. I'm not sure why it makes such a big difference, but changing from regular sugar to brown sugar completely changes the way the filling melts. If you mix the butter and sugar together first into a paste, along with the cinnamon, it melts even better and makes a nice gooey filling. Here you can see the dough rolled out with the filling spread out on it.

The nest major change was the way that I rolled the dough. If you look at my pictures in my original post, you'll notice just how thick the dough was when I rolled it up. That resulted in rolls that were very bread-y without a lot of that delicious filling. I now roll the dough almost as thin as I can manage. I shoot for no thicker than one quarter of an inch now. In my experience, it is imperative to have the dough cold to manage this. That's why I put the dough in the refrigerator for a second proofing. Roll the dough up and then use a serrated blade to cut perfect rolls.

Compare this photo with the similar one in the previous cinnamon roll post and you can see just how many more rolls you get in the dough when it is rolled thinly. It leads to a much better balance of dough and cinnamon/sugar filling.

You can see here how that filling melts so much better than in my previous recipe. The last change that I made to the recipe was in the icing. Adding a little cream cheese to the icing, with that little bit of tang it imparts, is absolutely divine and really puts these rolls over the top. My goodness, these things are delicious! Be sure to have a plan for all twelve rolls or you may find them all in your own tummy!

Cinnamon Rolls - Mastered!
Yield: 12 rolls

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp table salt
3 whole eggs
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1 cup brown sugar
4 TBS cinnamon

4 ounces softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 TBS milk

Mix the first 6 ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer (through the eggs). Add two cups of the flour. Mix on medium with a paddle for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour. The amount of flour can vary depending on the humidity of your kitchen. You are looking for a dough that is still somewhat soft and sticky. It will become more workable after it rises and is chilled.

Place the dough in a grease bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until it is doubled. Knock down the dough and refrigerate for 2 hours (and up to 24 hours). Turn the cold dough out onto a floured counter. Roll out into a rectangle as thin as the dough will reasonably allow; shoot for less than 1/4 of an inch. The rectangle will be approximately 20 inches by 12 inches. Beat together the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Heat gently in the microwave if it is not soft enough to spread on the dough. Spread the mixture evenly on the dough. Roll up tightly and slice, using a serrated blade, into twelve rolls. I trim off the ends before slicing so each roll has a nice look to it.

Place the rolls in a greased 9x13 inch pan. They also fit nicely four to a pan in 8" disposable aluminum pans if you want tot gift them. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake rolls for 25 minutes or until baked through and gently golden. Remove rolls from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before icing.

Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk together until it forms a smooth icing. It will be too thick to pour. Spread the icing over the rolls. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave before serving.

7/31/13: I have altered the amounts for the filling slightly. I decided, if your going to go all out and have a cinnamon roll, it might as well be the best roll it can be! I upped the amount of brown sugar slightly (from 3/4 cup to one) and increased the amount of cinnamon a bit (from 3 to 4 TBS). I just made these again this weekend. Sooooo fabulous!!!


  1. I can;t wait to try these new changes! Your original cinnamon rolls recipe was the first one I ever made :) Thanks for the new additions!

  2. I am a cinnamon roll junkie and look forward to making these! Looks delicious! Thanks Tara.

  3. These look delicious! Could they be made ahead and in the morning frosted and warmed up in the microwave? I'd like to take them to a work event but can't take the time to start from scratch in the morning.

    1. They most certainly can! You can do it a couple of ways. They can be baked and frosted and then rewarmed later (I usually am working on a pan of them for 2-3 days and they taste as good on the third day out of microwave as they did the first day out of the oven). You can do it the way you mention and bake the day before but not frost until the morning of and then reheat and frost before you leave for work. Alternatively, you can make them the day before up until they are placed in the baking pan and place them (covered) in the refrigerator to rise slowly overnight. You can then bake them while you get ready for work and have them fresh out of the oven that same morning. Your office will love you!!


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