baking therapy: cinnamon rolls

Posted on March 7, 2011

On Saturday night at about 8 pm I decided that I had to have cinnamon rolls. My sweet Jordan humors these moods of mine, but also tempers them with a little reason: perhaps I should not try to make and eat cinnamon rolls on Saturday night, but instead have them for breakfast on Sunday. Making the dough, plus 2 hours for the dough to rise, plus baking time … point taken. I also wisely decided that I should not eat a dozen cinnamon rolls myself, and invited a few lovely friends over for Sunday brunch.

These cinnamon rolls are awesome – gooey and cinnamony with a little tang from the cream cheese frosting.  And the best part is you can make them almost entirely ahead of time, which means you sleep in and have homemade cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. You really can’t ask for more on a Sunday morning.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, by Alton Brown

For the dough:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
6 T butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 cups flour
1 packet instant dry yeast
1 1/4 t kosher salt

In a stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugar, butter and buttermilk to combine. Add two cups of the flour, yeast and salt and mix. Switch out the whisk for the dough hook and add another 1 1/4 cup of flour. Knead on low for 5 minutes. Touch the dough – it should be smooth and soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour. My dough did not need additional flour, but yours might. Knead for another 5 minutes on low.  Knead the dough with your hands for 30 seconds and place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise. Lightly oil the top and cover with a towel.

Now for the rising. The dough should rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. If you live in an old, poorly insulated apartment like I do there is probably not an appropriately warm place for your dough to rise. And if you’ve never made a yeast dough in said apartment, you will most likely have a panic attack when after two hours of quiet counter sitting your dough has not risen and you already have 4 confirmed breakfast guests. So you don’t experience a similar panic and wasted time, I recommend you place your dough in the oven, fill a dish below it with boiling water and close the door. Replace the hot water every 30 minutes or so and your dough will rise beautifully.

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 T cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 T butter, melted

Once your dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a counter and butter a baking dish. Roll the dough into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle. Spread the melted butter on all but the top 1 inch. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt mixture on all but the top 1 inch. Roll the dough, starting with the edge closest to you and pinch the edge to seal. Turn it over so the seam is face down on the counter and cut into 12 pieces. Place the pieces in a buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge.

The next morning about an hour before your guest arrive, take the rolls out of fridge, remove the plastic wrap and place in an off oven with a pan of boiling water to rise again. After about 30 minutes they should look delightfully poofy.

Remove the rolls and water from the oven. Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Cook the rolls for about 30 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top. Frost with cream cheese frosting once you take them out of the oven.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
3 T milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the milk and powdered sugar and mix to combine. Spread over the hot cinnamon rolls and serve.

Like I said before, these rolls are good. They are everything you want out of a cinnamon roll and, despite involving yeast and rising, are pretty easy to make. But, I think what these rolls have really taught me is that the pan of hot water trick is one to live by.

-Emily