The birth of a cinnamon roll


Know what I love?

Cinnamon rolls.

And who doesn’t?  The combination of spicy cinnamon, sweet sugar, (and sometimes tangy – if you use cream cheese) icing is simply TO DIE FOR.  I’ll admit I’ve turned to the good ol’ Pillsbury cinnamon rolls … no harm, no foul, it’ll do in a pinch.  If I want cinnamon rolls RIGHT NOW, that’s the way I’ll go about it.  A step up from that is the Pillsbury box of bread mix as the dough base, and going from there (makes a mean cinnamon swirl loaf of bread, too)… but for some reason I’d never taken the time to make them from scratch.  I don’t know why, probably just all the time it takes to wait for it rise- I am NOT a patient person.

ESPECIALLY if food is involved.  Not even a little bit.  Not at all.

Then, one day, it just hit me.  I needed a cinnamon roll.  Not from my local grocer’s refrigerator or freezer section, not from a box, but from my own kitchen, and (thankfully) not RIGHT NOW.  I could be patient… waiting for dough to rise and rise again, and rolling it out, rolling it up, slicing and baking…. from scratch!

I tried a couple recipes that were good, but nothing to write home about, they just didn’t quite satisfy me…  Then one day, enter the Pioneer Woman.  This was an entirely new approach to making dough I’d never seen before.  Now, I’m not exactly a seasoned chef so pardon me if making dough and letting it rise on the stovetop is a common practice that I’m unaware of… but to me it was new and intriguing.  I had to try it.  Let me just tell you … it was DIVINE.

Having been making “semi-home made” cinnamon rolls for awhile now with my Pillsbury ‘bread in a box’, I already have my own favorite filling.  As for the icing, personally, I am not a fan of cream cheese (GASP!-I know. How DARE I speak such blasphemy) I prefer the thin, sweet glaze.

So sue me.

Boyfriend, on the other hand, LOVES cream cheese.  He loves it spread on his bagel, frosting his cupcakes, and icing his cinnamon rolls.  And since I secretly plan to make him too fat to be appealing to others, cream cheese frosting it was.

So for these particularly delectable rolls, visit PW’s cinnamon roll recipe here.

I halved the recipe, and still ended up with a TON of rolls. No, seriously, SO MANY ROLLS…




The birth of a cinnamon roll


    For the dough:
  • ½ quart whole milk (I used skim and the rolls survived)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (+ ½ cup extra, separated) all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ Tbsp salt
  • For the filling
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the icing:
  • 1 6oz container whipped cream cheese at room temperature (you probably need a little more, since I was really stretching to frost the rolls towards the end)
  • Powdered sugar to taste (can be anywhere from ¼ c to 1 cup)
  • 1 – 2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • You will also need 4 round cake pans, I got the 8” foil ones you buy in the baking section of the store.
  • [Alternate glaze recipe: Powdered sugar + Skim milk (+ optional bit of melted butter) + vanilla extract -- mix butter and milk, add powdered sugar, adjust to desired consistency]


    For the dough:
  1. Mix the milk, oil, and sugar in a pan. Heat until just before boiling (little bubbles will form on the sides of the pan) and turn off the heat and let it sit to cool. PW says 45min – 1 hour but I promise you I didn’t let it sit that long, especially since it was halved- I happen to have a thermometer so I can tell when the mixture hits optimum yeast-activating temp (which is around 100-115 degrees). This temp usually feels warm but not so hot that it burns your finger (if you’re using your own built in finger-thermometer). Once it reaches that, stir the yeast in and let it sit a minute to proof (get foamy), then add the flour & stir. Cover the pan with its lid and let it rise for about an hour.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. After the dough has risen, stir this mixture into the dough.
  3. Sprinkle your counter (or wherever you’re going to roll your dough) with flour, take the dough and roll it into thin a rectangle-ish shape.
  4. It will probably resemble this (this still has some rolling to do):
  5. For the filling
  6. You will need a stick of softened unsalted butter, some brown sugar, cinnamon, and a bit of salt. Using your hands, spread the softened butter on the rolled out rectangle of dough, you don’t have to use the whole stick (I usually don’t). Sometimes you feel really bad when you know there’s an entire stick of butter hiding inside your cinnamon rolls.
  7. In a separate small bowl, just mix together about a cup of brown sugar, 1-2 Tb cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. You can control the cinnamon flavor by using more or less cinnamon. Sometimes I like to add cocoa to the filling too, or substitute it for the cinnamon, just for a little variation. It’s still pretty tasty, to be honest. Almost like a little babka-roll, not anywhere as delicious at what you can get in NYC of course, but it’s enough to take the edge of a craving when you’re 2,000 miles away from authentic babka. It’s also proven a good idea to add chocolate chips, or cinnamon chips, chopped pecan, and I’m sure dried fruit would all be welcome additions as well.
  8. Sprinkle whatever filling you choose generously over your cinnamon roll rectangle—don’t skimp. Worst case scenario you have cinnamon goodness exploding everywhere out of your rolls, no big deal.
  9. Once you’ve covered your rectangle with delicious, roll it up as tightly as possible, and pinch the seam to seal it.
  10. Cut them into about 1” thick rolls and lay them in a greased round cake pan. You can space them out ok since they’re gonna puff up. Let them rise another 20 – 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 375. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
  11. Cut them into about 1” thick rolls and lay them in a greased round cake pan. You can space them out ok since they’re gonna puff up. Let them rise another 20 – 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 375. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
  12. For the cream cheese frosting, I used (what was left of) a container of whipped cream cheese (just happened to be the only cream cheese we had in the house), powdered sugar, and some vanilla bean paste—it’s got those tiny little flecks of vanilla bean that I think are just signs of extra delicious. Regular vanilla extract would work just as well, though. Throw the cream cheese in a bowl, whip it with an electric mixer, add ¼ cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla and whip to combine. Taste this and decide if you want to add extra vanilla and/or sugar and continue to add powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time until you like the way it tastes. Set this aside until the rolls are slightly to mostly cooled, you want them a little warm still so the frosting turns nice and melty.
  13. These rolls are clearly best served warm (aren’t all cinnamon rolls?)
  14. As a side note, I fell in love with Einstein’s pumpkin cream cheese over the holiday season, and would definitely recommend using flavored cream cheese as an option. Remember these are your rolls, and you can customize the filling and frosting as you see fit!!! Also, don’t be afraid to use reduce fat cream cheese, I mean, I’m sure by the time you reach the frosting you can’t be too worried about splitting caloric hairs, but if you want to feel a teeny bit better about yourself, go for it!



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