By the time you are reading this, the temperature here should be in the double digits! Let’s put on some shorts and fire up the grill! I’m kidding, although my dad definitely grilled stuff while it was snowing when I was a kid. It’s still below freezing, and while we escaped the bomb cyclone, it’s still a great day to stay inside with a hot mug of coffee or cocoa and one of these perfect cinnamon rolls. These soft, fluffy, sweet rolls are just the thing to warm you up.
I really love a leisurely weekend breakfast, and and these cinnamon rolls are the perfect way to treat yourself. I made these while we were visiting family over the holidays, and it was truly a delight to wake up, warm one of these up, pour myself some coffee, and read the local paper. It didn’t hurt that my kids were being entertained by someone else, but I’m pretty sure the cinnamon rolls were spectacular.
The recipe for these rolls comes from my grandmother’s The Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook, and the cream cheese frosting is from Epicurious. Once I mixed up the dough, I was a little worried that it was going to be too wet and sticky to handle, but after persisting and kneading by hand for about ten minutes, I was rewarded with a dough that I could tell was going to be delicious. Add some butter, sugar, and cinnamon and then top it with a rich cream cheese glaze, and I was hooked.
To start, grab a large heatproof bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk, and heat it in the microwave for a few seconds until the milk is lukewarm. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast, and let this sit for five minutes. In the meantime, gather the rest of the dough ingredients. Add 4 cups of flour, 3 beaten egg yolks, 1 3/4 cup of milk (also lukewarm so it doesn’t mess with the yeast) and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the yeast mixture. Stir all of this together with a wooden spoon until it forms a (very) shaggy and wet dough.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured countertop and flour your hands. Knead the dough, sprinkling with more flour if it gets too sticky to handle, for ten minutes. This will seem like a long time, but you need to work the dough that long to get it smooth and elastic. You’ll know once the dough stops sticking and forms a smooth ball.
Roll the dough out to a roughly 12″ by 8″ rectangle. I didn’t have a rolling pin when I was making these, so I ended up using my hands to push out the dough, and then lifted the edges up to stretch the dough out to the right size. I’m pretty confident that having a floured rolling pin would be easier.
Now it’s time to make the filling. Add 1 stick of softened butter to a bowl, along with 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Use a hand mixer to beat this until it is light and fluffy, then spread it over the filling. I used a spatula to spoon it onto the dough, then used my fingers to make sure it spread evenly. Sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon over the filling.
Now it’s time to roll things up. I decided to cut my 12 rolls out before I rolled them. you could use the traditional method of rolling up the whole rectangle along the long edge and then cutting it into 12 pieces; I just find that my pieces get squashed this way, so I tried something new that actually worked. I cut twelve strips of dough with a pizza cutter, then rolled each one up individually. Whichever way you choose to go, place the twelve rolls in a buttered casserole dish, leaving a little space between them, and let the rolls rise until they’ve doubled in bulk, between an hour and a half and two hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the oven is ready, place the rolls in for between 35 and 45 minutes. The rolls are done when they are golden brown. While they bake, make the cream cheese icing by combining 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, 1/2 stick of room temperature butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a large bowl. Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the ingredients together until they are combined, light, and fluffy.
Once the rolls are done and have cooled for a few minutes, spread the cream cheese frosting over the rolls and serve warm. These also keep well for several days and can be reheated in the microwave.
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ + 1 ¾ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 3 egg yolks, beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter (8 tablespoons or 1 stick)
- 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Heat the ¼ cup milk in a large heatproof bowl for 5 seconds in the microwave, until lukewarm. Sprinkle the yeast over it then add the sugar and stir the mixture together, and let it stand for 5 minutes.
- Warm the rest of the milk, either in a saucepan or in the microwave, until it is lukewarm. To the large bowl with the yeast, add in the beaten egg yolks, flour, salt, and the milk. Stir this together with a wooden spoon until it comes together, then turn it out onto a well-floured countertop.
- Flour your hands generously, and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. It will be very sticky and wet at first, but it should come together in about 10 minutes.
- Make sure you have a large area of the countertop floured, then roll the dough out into a roughly 12” by 8” rectangle. I used my hands, pressing into the dough with the heel of my hand and working from the center out, then picking up and stretching the sides of the dough. You could also use a rolling pin.
- Make the filling by using either a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer to beat the softened butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread this onto the dough using your hands, trying to get it as even as possible. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the rest of the filling.
- Cut the dough into 12 strips, then roll each strip up. Place the rolls into a buttered baking pan and let them rise until they’ve doubled in bulk, 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, then bake the cinnamon rolls for 35-45 minutes, until they are golden brown.
- To make the cream cheese frosting, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and use an electric hand mixer to beat them together, until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Once the rolls are done, spread them with the cream cheese frosting and serve. These also keep well for several days.