Have you ever woken up in the morning and just craved a cinnamon roll? Most people have at one point or another. Even Lemony Snicket was once quoted as saying ‘Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.’ And, well, if Lemony Snicket says it, then it must be true. I remember when I was in high school and it was a really big deal for me to get the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and bake them off before driving to school. I would eat it, still hot, while turning into the school parking lot and savor that gooey sweetness. Then five minutes later, I would have a sugar crash in homeroom. As I got older, I yearned to make my own cinnamon rolls and once I graduated from culinary school I had really learned how. The process we used in culinary school had a few more steps so I have developed a quicker version for those who are impatient to begin eating immediately!!! But before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about why so few of us take the trouble to make cinnamon rolls. More commonly than not it is because people are scared of yeast
How does yeast work and why is it so scary?
For those of you who do not already know, yeast is a microorganism of the class, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast is also very hungry which means it needs to be fed. It consumes sugar and then gives off carbon dioxide and alcohol. Yeast loves temperatures right around 90 degrees F and, in fact, it thrives at this temperature. By combining yeast with a warm liquid and a bit of sugar it will grow and be happy and make your yeast products rise and become fluffy and tasty. But if you should happen to kill your yeast by exposing it to temperatures over 120 degrees F then the yeast will be quite grumpy and sad and your cinnamon rolls will be hard lumpy hockey pucks. Grumpy yeast is what people are more scared of than anything. But not to fear! I will teach you some easy simple methods for ensuring that your yeast is always happy and stays happy throughout the baking process.
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour, have more on hand if needed
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 package rapid rise yeast (7 g)
- 2 egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
- Combine all dry ingredients in a stand mixer bowl (flour, salt, sugar, yeast). Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 15 seconds until combined. Heat milk to about 90 degrees in the microwave. You should be able to comfortable slide your pinky finger into the liquid and it feels warm and pleasant (like a bath) and not scalding hot. If you burn your finger the milk is definitely too hot!
- Add milk, eggs and vanilla paste to mixture. Combine slowly for about 1 minute and then crank the mixer up to medium speed and mix for about 4 minutes. Add the softened butter and mix until the butter gets absorbed into the dough (about 1 minute). Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. The dough should be sticky but it should not be mush in the bowl. If it is not forming a nice round ball then you should keep mixing.
- Scrape the bowl down (dough included) and sprinkle flour on top of and underneath the dough to prevent it from sticking.
- Now you need to cover the dough and put it in a warm place to rise. (An unlighted oven, near a warm sunny window, etc. Treat the dough like it is a living thing because it is!!! If the environment where you are placing your dough feels too hot for you than it is probably too hot for the dough. Again, ideal temperatures need to be around 90 and should stay around 90 throughout this process. That’s not to say that it can’t get a bit cooler (it will just slow the yeast growth). But it definitely should not ever get hotter than 120 degrees F. This will keep your yeast happy. And remember, happy yeast = fluffy cinnamon rolls.
- Allow the yeast to double in volume for 1 to 2 hours. This is rest time for you but activity time for your yeast because it is going to grow and grow and consume sugar and turn it into fluffy dough. What should you do for those 2 hours?
Activites to Do While Yeast is Rising
- Constantly and nervously check on the yeast every 15 minutes to make sure it is rising. (I am guilty of this myself)
- Go for a long run so you can neutralize the calories you will shortly ingest from your homemade cinnamon roll.
- Do one and a half loads of laundry.
- Clean your home.
- Get on Facebook and tell everyone how you are making cinnamon rolls for the first time. Yay!
You can also make your Cinnamon Filling!!!!
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon.
Combine all ingredients together in a mixer and whip with the paddle attachment until soft and fluffy.
Finishing Your Cinnamon Rolls
- Remove dough from its warm resting place and punch it down with your fist. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle until it is about ¼ inch thick.
- Spread the cinnamon filling you just made all over your dough.
- Roll the dough long-ways into a log and pinch the seam tightly together. Use a sharp knife to cut the cinnamon rolls as big or as small as you like.
- Grease a 9 by 9 metal tin with butter or Canola spray and lay the cinnamon rolls cut side down into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until poofy. About 30 to 40 minutes.
- Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until brown sugar is bubbling and cinnamon roll is golden brown.
Make Icing While Cinnamon Rolls are Baking
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 4 tablespoons water (or more) if icing is not fluid.
- Combine sugar and water in a bowl and stir rapidly with a spoon to form an icing. You can add more sugar to make it thicker or more water to make it thinner.
Finish the Cinnamon Rolls
While the cinnamon rolls are still hot from the oven, drizzle the icing all over them with a spoon. And you now have a homemade cinnamon roll. Congratulations! If your yeast is being naughty or you have any questions about how to make yeast products please let me know!