Welcome to Food in General! Congratulations on getting in on the ground floor. I thought a post on cinnamon rolls would be a great way to kick off the blog. Literally everyone loves them, they somehow seem to taste even better this time of year, and baking them fills your home with the most enchanting fragrance.
I tried three recipes from around the web, and I think I’ve found one worthy of your family/holiday/breakfast/midnight snack traditions.
Smitten Kitchen Cinnamon Buns
I used my stand mixer (with bread hook attachment) to mix up the dough, though you could easily knead it by hand. The dough was smooth and elastic, easy to roll out and not sticky at all. The dough did require more time for the second rise than the recipe suggests, but Deb at Smitten Kitchen warns of this. They also baked a little quicker, in about 18 minutes, so start checking them early. Another thing I liked about this recipe is that the cinnamon filling is made with softened butter not melted butter. So none of that vital flavor is lost squishing out the ends when you roll up the dough. I think it also created a thicker, richer swirl than the other two recipes. The recipe uses a cream cheese frosting, but I made a simple vanilla glaze, because that’s what I wanted. You do what you want.
These were even better the next morning, after being gently reheated in a low oven. They’d be a great make-ahead breakfast or brunch dish.
Budget Bytes’ No-knead Cinnamon Rolls
I’ve made this recipe a couple times, with inconsistent results. I love the no-knead method for other things, and use it a lot. It’s a technique that uses time to develop flavors in dough, rather than actual kneading. This recipe is a bit imprecise, perhaps by necessity. The amount of water your flour absorbs is variable. So this time, my dough came out a bit too wet. The recipe makes a point of saying that’s alright. Which is true, it doesn’t change the flavor, but it does make it very messy to handle. Hence my cinnamon rolls baked up a little, shall we say, free-form.
I doubled the filling and still thought they needed more. (I like a substantial swirl.) Also, these baked in 10-12 minutes, one third of what the recipe calls for. Baker beware.
Overall, these had a much coarser crumb than I would like in a cinnamon roll. They tasted very “bready.” Which is fine, if that’s what you’re going for. Then again, if it’s bread you want, why not make this?
Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls
I was initially drawn to this recipe because the icing she uses is flavored with maple and coffee. I was intrigued. The dough is definitely the most labor intensive of these three recipes. You start by scalding milk, sugar, and vegetable oil, then let it cool*, sprinkle the yeast on top, then add eight (8!) cups of flour. The dough is left to rise for an hour, then another cup of flour is added, plus some baking soda and baking powder. PW says to stir in the last cup of flour, but by then my dough was so thick, I basically had to knead it in. The recipe calls for a second rise of 20 minutes, once the rolls are in the pans, but again mine took longer.
*Be sure to let it cool before adding the yeast! Yeast can’t survive temperatures above 138°F.
This recipe made seven pans of rolls, plus one pan of dough “ends” that I baked off despite them being the runts of the litter. (Waste not, want not. Or is it “waist” not…) The high volume makes this recipe great for baking and freezing or holiday gift giving.
And as for that intriguing frosting: it was tasty, but I’m not sure I prefer it to classic vanilla. Though after soaking in for a day, I didn’t notice much of a difference. The recipe calls for maple extract, but I was only able to find imitation maple extract in my local stores. Personally, I’ve always been a little put off by imitation maple. It can be kind of cloying and in-your-face. So I substituted three teaspoons of maple sugar instead.
Here’s a photo of the rolls with the frosting:
Pioneer Woman also provides this terrific and thorough set of notes on cinnamon rolls, including helpful instructions on freezing.
So, which ones will I be making again? Definitely the Smitten Kitchen recipe. They were by far my favorite. And if you decide to try them, let me know how it goes!