My Famous Cinnamon Rolls

My Famous Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls! I first shared this recipe last holiday season, and looking back, it's one of those recipes that is amazingly fantastic (it's probably my favorite recipe on this entire blog), but it just didn't get a lot of foot traffic. At that time, we were still small, and the photos I chose to use... oof! You can tell it was the dead of winter, and I just wanted to get it published. I figured that this recipe needed a makeover, with real photos from my "real" camera, AKA not-my-phone, so you could see just how amazing they truly are. I am really attached to this recipe; it's a special dish that I make around here, sometimes as an apology, or sometimes when everyone is in a grumpy mood and we need some cheering up. It takes a while to make, but the results are always heavenly. Whenever I talk about bringing small gifts over to a friend's house "just because" this is usually what I end up toting along, and I have to say, I've never had someone not groan out a huge sigh of delight upon tasting these. They are that good! I promise!

And like all great Colonial Kitchen posts, this one comes with a little bit of history. In fact, I decided to see if I could find some history on the cinnamon roll, or cinnamon bun, itself. What I found was interesting... there is actually a lot of debate on the origin of the first cinnamon roll! Who knew! Some of that debate is over whether it originated in Ancient Rome or in the 18th century. It seems pretty unlikely in Rome, right?! I think so, too, but I suppose the idea stems from the fact that Romans loved to use cinnamon (mostly as incense) and they also had the knowledge of making yeast breads. However, they didn't have access to refined sugars (definitely necessary) nor buttery doughs, which is the main part of making a cinnamon roll dough. It seems that the most logical explanation might be around the 18th century, when the sugarcane was first cultivated in the United States and first refined in 1689. Now we can officially say that refined sugar comes from Americans... awesome. But isn't that fascinating? I didn't know that! Having access to ready-made butter, refined sugar, and ground cinnamon was completely necessary to making amazing cinnamon rolls, and that just makes the most sense to me. After that, there's an entire argument about which country of origin they come from... Sweden? Denmark? Germany? That one is up to you. I am happy to report that my family heritage comes from a little bit of all of those places. I have such a fun time checking out my DNA test results and always wanted to be a bit Scandinavian. Now I know that I am!

INGREDIENTS | 

  • I cup warm water (from the tap)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  1. In an electric mixer, combine the warm water and 2 tbsp sugar. Whisk in the sugar until mostly dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and allow it to sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until the yeast has physically changed and puffed up. This means it has activated and is alive! If this does not happen, start over and try again with a new package.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, 2 tbsp of sugar, and salt. It helps if you have a fine mesh sieve to sift the flour and separate the larger chunks!
  3. Once the yeast has activated, add the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Whisk to incorporate. Attach a dough hook to your mixer and begin slowly incorporating the flour mixture. Once all of the flour has been added, turn up the mixer to medium/high speed and allow the dough to be kneaded for about 8-10 minutes. It should come out smooth, elastic, and perhaps a bit sticky. If it is still shaggy, knead it by hand until the surface is smooth.
  4. Turn the dough into a ball and place into a greased mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm environment free of drafts. Because it is becoming colder, I often put my dough in the oven! Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and cover with a towel for 15 minutes. While you wait, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Over the stove, melt your butter over medium/low heat, stirring constantly until it has browned. Make sure the heat is low so that it does not burn!
  6. Roll out your dough to a rectangle about 12"x14". With a pastry brush, slather on the butter. If you like super buttery rolls, you could even add more butter (about 4 tbsp) to the mix, but it is not necessary! Once brushed on (make a mess!) sprinkle the brown sugar over the entire surface of the dough and press in with your fingers. It is really messy and delicious!
  7. Now begin rolling the dough, jelly-roll style, from the long end towards you. It is best to do this like a typewriter, rolling from one end to the other, then back again, until it is a long snake. Press in the edge at the bottom gently. 
  8. With a sharp knife, slice the roll into 1 inch thick slices. Place these in a prepared cast iron skillet or pan, sprayed with cooking oil or brushed with melted butter. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350. Bake the rolls for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. I usually cook mine for 25 minutes, but noticed with this round that it's a bit drier outside, so they probably could have been cooked for even less time! These rolls are more cake-like than bread-like, so they aren't mean to by dry.

TO MAKE THE ICING | 

  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk (or a combination)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 stick melted butter
  1. combine the maple syrup and melted butter in a small mixing bowel. Slowly begin to incorporate the milk and powdered sugar together, back and forth, until a nice thick icing consistency appears. This may take a little experimenting! Sometimes I only need 3 cups of powdered sugar, sometimes I need 4! You can adjust to the consistency you prefer.

I adore this recipe! It is so special to me, so familiar and wonderful. It is the perfect dish to bring along to a family dinner, a friendly gathering, or even just to surprise your family in the morning. They always turn out best when I make them in one sitting, but I have made them overnight before. Follow all of the steps until you reach the second rise (after you have sliced the rolls and placed them into the skillet). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, take them out of the fridge and allow to warm up and rise, about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. They'll need a little extra time after being kept cold! Heat the oven and bake as normal. You'll have rolls that are a bit smaller than usual, but they still taste fantastic! This is definitely necessary if you want to eat them by 8 or 9 AM. I am not getting up at 5 AM to start cinnamon rolls!!! 

Who would you gift these beauties to?

xoxo Kayla


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