Two words: cinnamon roll.
OK, that was almost too easy. Yet today, while you’re on the treadmill, or balancing your checkbook, or changing lanes, or reading a bedtime story, you will be thinking of having a cinnamon roll, ideally within the week. Maybe even sooner.
Such is the power of suggestion, especially when the suggested object is gooey and spicy and soft and sweet all at once.
Once you get one on a plate, you’ll look for that subtle seam where the swirl begins and start pulling the roll apart in soft, cinnamony arcs, edging toward the core of the coil, which you know is the cinnamoniest and the gooiest bite, even as it’s also the last.
While some may swear that there are no truly awful cinnamon rolls, there are substandard models. You know the culprits: The bread is dry or dense, the filling is stingy, or the glaze is grainy. The disappointment is tough to swallow, because cinnamon rolls aren’t something we eat every day (or shouldn’t, anyway).
One way of making sure you’re enjoying the freshest, best rolls possible is to make them yourself. Cinnamon rolls aren’t difficult, although their feather-light nature starts with a dough that admittedly is on the sticky side. While it’s possible to knead it by hand, ideally with a bench scraper, life is a lot easier with a stand mixer and a dough hook.
Because the rolls are a yeast dough, and warm rolls are best, timing can be an issue since the process, from start to finish, takes about four hours. Rolls made the night before can be wrapped in aluminum foil and rewarmed in a 250-degree oven for 15 minutes. Or you can wake up before the sun to mix them, let them rise, shape, rise again and bake. Or schedule a late brunch!
Here’s a neat solution: Mix the dough the night before, let it rise, then shape the rolls in a pan. Then cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator, although no longer than 12 hours. In other words, to serve freshly baked cinnamon rolls by 8 a.m., mix the dough the night before, let it rise for an hour, then shape the rolls, popping them into the refrigerator by 9 p.m. or so.
The next morning, take the rolls out of the fridge an hour before you plan to serve them. Replace the plastic wrap with a clean towel and let them sit for a half-hour in a warm spot to take off the chill while the oven preheats, then bake.
Friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers will fall at your feet, and it took only two words: cinnamon roll.
Makes: 12 large rolls.
Note: This recipe is adapted from “Baking With the St. Paul Bread Club,” by Kim Ode (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $24.95).
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cup warm water
2¼ teaspoon (1 envelope) active dry yeast
½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup canola oil
4½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting, divided
1½ teaspoon salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, very soft, but not melted
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Milk to make a spreadable consistency
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, 1½ cups water, yeast, dry milk, sugar and oil. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or, if mixing by hand, a wooden spoon, add 3 cups of flour and mix well. Add salt.
Add 1 more cup of flour, then begin kneading with a dough attachment. If by hand, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured counter and, using a bench scraper, reach under the dough, lift it and fold it over itself.
For either method, repeat this motion while gradually adding the remaining ½ cup of flour until it’s fully incorporated. Resist adding more flour. The dough will be very soft, but easier to handle once it’s risen.
Place the dough into a clean bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 to 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto a surface dusted generously with flour. Roll into a rectangle 12 inches wide and 18 inches long. Spread the softened butter evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the top edge. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over butter. Working from the widest side, gently roll up the dough into a jellyroll shape assnugly as possible, pinching the border to seal the roll.
Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan, preferably nonstick, with cooking spray. Mark the dough into 12 even pieces, each 1½ inches wide. Using a 12-inch length of dental floss, work the floss under the dough, then criss-cross the ends and pull, making a clean cut through the dough. Place each roll on its side in the pan. Cover with a cloth and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
(To have warm rolls first thing in the morning, tightly cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to rise slowly, although no longer than 12 hours. The next morning, take the rolls out of the fridge an hour before you plan to serve them. Replace the plastic wrap with a clean towel and let them sit for a half-hour in a warm spot to take off the chill while the oven preheats, then bake.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Drizzle with glaze and serve warm.
For the glaze, stir together powdered sugar and vanilla, and add milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze spreads easily.
Per serving: Calories 363; fat 10 g; sodium 327 mg; carbohydrates 61 g; saturated fat 3 g; calcium 62 mg; protein 7 g; cholesterol 42 mg; dietary fiber 2 g
VARIATION ON A ROLL
Here’s an alternative method for shaping rolls using muffin tins, should you be interested in a smaller cinnamon roll that doesn’t have to be pulled apart from the others. It uses slightly more filling. This will make 24 muffin-sized rolls.
Turn the risen dough out onto a surface generously dusted with flour. Divide dough in half, returning one of the halves to the bowl. Roll the piece of dough into a rectangle 9 inches wide and 12 inches long. Spread 3 tablespoons of very soft butter over the surface, leaving a half-inch border at the top. Then sprinkle evenly with 1/3 cup packed brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Working from the bottom, gently roll up the dough into a jellyroll shape as snugly as possible, pinching the clean border to seal.
Spray the cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray. Slice rolls into 12 even pieces (1 inch wide) and place in muffin cups.
Repeat with remaining dough. Cover pans with a cloth and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (To have warm rolls first thing in the morning, tightly cover muffin tins with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight to rise slowly, although no longer than 12 hours. The next morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to serve them. Replace the plastic wrap with a clean towel and let them sit for 30 minutes in a warm spot to take off the chill while the oven preheats, then bake.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake risen rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden. Drizzle with glaze and serve warm.
Per serving: Calories: 196; fat 6 g; sodium 164 mg; carbohydrates 32 g; saturated fat 2 g; calcium 33 mg; protein 4 g; cholesterol 23 mg; dietary fiber 1 g