Let’s pretend that you are sick, it’s 10 p.m., you have already baked two kinds of cookies and you need to make something brunch-y for one of your best friends and her husband. Do you:
A. Look in the fridge, note the presence of eggs, cheese and bacon, and go to sleep
B. Go to sleep and figure you’ll pick something up at Naval Bagels in the morning
C. Make cinnamon rolls from scratch
If you picked A or B, congratulations! You are a normal person. If you picked C, you’re me.
I know, I know. You have been eating like it’s your job since Wednesday. Do you really need cinnamon rolls? I would say yes. One whiff of these things and you’ll agree. Or you can make them now and freeze them, then bake them Christmas morning. How’s that for pre-planning?
Quick Christmas-morning-cinnamon-roll story: We rarely buy or eat cinnamon rolls, but for many years in a row my mom had been picking up Cinnabon on Christmas Eve so we could have them Christmas morning. A few years into this tradition, we were in Ft. Lauderdale for Christmas and there wasn’t a Cinnabon at the mall. So my mom looked in the phone book, called around and ended up driving 45 minutes or something to get Cinnabon for us! Maybe this year I will make some of these the day/night before, so we don’t have to worry about it. Or we could just go to Krispy Kreme. Mmmmm.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how difficult these are to make. They probably aren’t the best thing to start with if you’ve never baked anything before, but they’re not terribly challenging. They do take a while, though, and they make quite a mess…
as you may be able to see in these photos. Melted butter, sugar and cinnamon are very yummy in the cinnamon rolls, less so when dripping all over your floor. I cleaned up some of the cinnamony mess before I took the next photo… but it was quite a situation.
This recipe is from the Pioneer Woman, who is quite amazing and able to roll dough into much better rectangles than I can. So there was one shady roll at the end of this log. I don’t think anyone minded.
I may cut these a teensy bit thicker next time. And not put them so close together.
The problem is that I used regular pie plates instead of a big baking dish, because I didn’t realize I was going to have so many rolls. I filled up three pie plates and the rolls were too close together. And that was just using half the PW recipe! It would be really great to use those disposable aluminum pie plates. I just didn’t have any. Alas. AND I forgot to take photos of the icing-making process. Sorry. It is super easy though, so don’t worry.
Cinnamon Rolls (Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
NOTE: I halved this recipe because I didn’t want 50 cinnamon rolls. Feel free to double it or visit PW’s blog if you’d like more
1 pint whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Heaping 1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
Lots of cinnamon
Stir the milk, oil and sugar together in a medium skillet. Heat the mixture almost to boiling point, but do not let boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm leave to cool. When mixture is lukewarm to warm (not hot), sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for one minute, then add 4 cups of flour. Stir mixture together. Cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rise for at least an hour (this should be in a warm place with no drafts – for example, on top of the stove vs. near an open window).
After rising, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (PW says, “At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down”).
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Form a rough rectangle with the dough. Roll it out, keeping a general rectangle shape (the end result will be about 30 inches by 10 inches). Spread 1/4 cup melted butter over the dough with your fingers. If that doesn’t cover the dough, add more. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over the butter, distributing it as evenly as possible over the entire dough rectangle.
Starting at the end away from you, begin rolling the dough (relatively tightly) toward you. Lots of butter and sugar and cinnamon will likely start to attack you, but do not be deterred. When the whole thing is rolled, pinch the seam to seal the log.
Spread 1 tablespoon (or more) melted butter in a cake or pie pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls about 1 inch thick and lay them in the buttered pan, leaving room for the rolls to expand. (I stuck the rolls in the fridge at this point, then took them out and let them come to room temperature and rise the next morning. You could also freeze them now).
Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until starting to brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Make the icing while the rolls are baking, but don’t let them get too brown!
1/2 pound (2 cups) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla*
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup melted butter
1/8 cup brewed coffee
Mix together all the ingredients and stir until smooth. The frosting should be thick but pourable (taste and adjust if needed – add more powdered sugar if icing is too thin, more milk or melted butter if too thick). Drizzle generously over the warm rolls, making sure to get some in the corners. Don’t skimp!
*Pioneer Woman recommends maple flavoring instead of vanilla, but I couldn’t find any at our grocery store. I am sure it would be lovely if you can find it.
***Updated: After baking and icing the cinnamon rolls, you can wrap them up and freeze them right in the pie plate (best if you are using disposable ones) for later. When you are ready, just heat them up in the oven at about 275 so they don’t get crispy.***