06 October 2015

downgrade / upgrade: cinnamon rolls.

Growing up when school was cancelled for a snow day, my mom would make those cinnamon rolls that popped from a can.  (The can literally pops, you know the ones.)

Here where we live there are definitely not going to be any snow storms, and if there were it would probably be the end of the world and there wouldn't be any time to make cinnamon rolls.  Instead we get dust storms and rain storms, which don't sound as awesome as snow storms, but every once in a while a good hard rain comes and makes you feel alive*.

Today we had one of those storms and I decided to make cinnamon rolls.  In terms of the tradition, the snow storm was downgraded to a rain storm, but the cinnamon rolls from a can got upgraded to cinnamon rolls from scratch.

I admit that when I made cinnamon rolls a few weeks ago I was a little disappointed.  They tasted good enough, but they weren't as spectacular as ones I'd remembered making before.  So this time I combined my favorite parts of a few recipes and the result was a batch of rolls that I am pleased with for now.

Kristin's Cinnamon Rolls

For the Dough:
1 cup whole milk
one 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup plus 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons more (softened) for the bowl
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the Filling:
All-purpose flour, for dusting
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the dough: Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until it reaches about 100. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, 5 minutes. Whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla.

Whisk 3 cups flour, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until thick and slightly sticky. Knead on medium speed until the dough gathers around the hook, 6 minutes. (Add up to 1 cup more flour if necessary.)

Remove the dough and shape into a ball. Butter the mixer bowl and return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm oven until doubled, 1 hour 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 10-by-18 -inch rectangle with the longer side facing you.  Spread with the 6 tablespoons softened butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far long edge. Mix the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the butter.

Brush the unbuttered far edge with water. Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder and press on the long edge to seal.

Slip a long taut piece of thread or unflavored floss under the roll, about 1 1/2 inches from the end.  Lift the ends of the tread and cross over the roll, pulling tightly to cut off a piece.  Repeat, cutting every 1 1/2 inches, to make 12 rolls.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; place the buns cut-side down in the pan, leaving space between each. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the buns until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the frosting: Beat the butter and cream cheese until mixture is light.  Add the sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the vanilla and lemon juice.  Frosting can be stored in the fridge until ready to use.

cinnamon rolls, krstnhd

Kristin's notes:
(1) You can use a glaze instead of a cream cheese frosting, but... the cream cheese frosting makes all the difference.  It definitely takes the rolls to a whole new level of indulgence, but it is so much better.  The slight acid from the lemon juice in the frosting works so well with the sweetness of the rolls.  Just trust me.
(2) Every recipe I've tried has called for the 12 tablespoons of butter when you're ready to fill the rolls, which is an insane amount.  And honestly, every time I have made cinnamon rolls I have never used 12 tablespoons.  At most, maybe 6.  I just do enough to cover the surface of dough that's to be topped with cinnamon-sugar.  But if you want more butter, hey.  More power to you.  It certainly can't make these babies taste worse!

Cinnamon rolls are the best.  They are also probably the worst for you, but if you live in a place that doesn't get much rain/snow, then this tradition won't kill you anytime soon.

* Speaking of feeling alive, at one point today there was this huge crack of thunder that came out of nowhere, shook our house, and had me so freaked out I swore loud enough that our neighbors might have heard it.  I can't even explain how startled/shocked/scared I was for two or three seconds, except by telling you that I was all shot up with adrenaline and shaking for twenty minutes after it happened.  So I guess my fight or flight instincts are off and I just yell out expletives and stand in one place shaking.

(Theo was totally unfazed, by the way.  Thinks he's super brave or something.)

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