Cinnamon Rolls

I tried making cinnamon rolls two Christmases ago, and they didn’t rise enough and didn’t bake evenly so that rolls in the middle of the pan were too doughy to eat. It was one of my more demoralizing baking experiences and put me off of cinnamon rolls until this past Christmas when I decided, rather spontaneously, to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast while we were staying with my dad. Since I had seven people to feed, I’m very happy to report that these turned out great. To quote my dad: “These are the best damn cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had.”

Cinnamon Rolls via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

These rolls are an adaptation of the Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns from Smitten Kitchen. Since these were a last-minute decision (at least, about as last-minute as you can get with a yeasted breakfast dish) and since I was at my dad’s house in the middle of nowhere, I had to do a bit of improvising with the recipe beyond simply using it to make classic cinnamon rolls. I didn’t have any buttermilk so I made sour milk with vinegar. My dad only had active dry yeast, so I proofed it in some warm milk and a pinch of sugar before mixing it with the other ingredients. We were short on eggs, so based on one of the tips at the end of the original recipe, I swapped two of the egg yolks for a single, whole egg.

The biggest challenge was that my dad didn’t have any powdered sugar on hand. I ended up dissolving granulated sugar into some milk, adding a splash of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon in the process. My improvised glaze was still a bit grainy, but it worked well enough and definitely didn’t detract from what ended up being a fantastic batch of cinnamon rolls.

The view from my dad's back yard--the benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. (Photo taken by Aidan.)

The view from my dad’s back yard–the benefit of living in the middle of nowhere. (Photo taken by Aidan.)

I think of cinnamon rolls as a special occasion food—not the kind of thing you’d eat on a daily basis—and to that end, these were exactly what they should have been: soft, rich, and gooey. They are, of course, sweet, but not the kind of super-sweet that will hurt your teeth or your stomach. This recipe also makes it easy to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast without waking up four hours earlier than everyone else. You mix up and knead the dough the night before, let it rise, roll out and form the cinnamon rolls, and then let the cinnamon rolls rise in the pan overnight in the refrigerator. The original recipe tells you to remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking. I wasn’t happy with how much they had risen at the end of the 30 minutes, so I left them sitting on the counter for a full hour before putting them in the oven. The rolls rose beautifully in the oven and baked very evenly.

Cinnamon Rolls via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

This recipe is so good it’s going straight to my best-hits list. I can’t wait to make these again. And again. And again.

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Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

This recipe makes a dozen cinnamon rolls. Although I improvised a glaze using granulated sugar, I’ve included the ingredients for a basic powdered sugar glaze that I’ve used before and would use again the next time I make these.

For the dough:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 3 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet instant dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

 

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together the egg yolk, whole eggs, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and the salt and mix together until just combined. Add the remaining 1 ¾ c of flour. Using the dough hook, let the mixer knead the dough on low speed for 5-7 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, and moist. The dough should still be a bit tacky to the touch, but not sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise at room temperature until doubled (2-2.5 hours).
  2. When the dough has finished rising, butter a 9×13 baking dish. (The original recipe recommends a ceramic or glass dish, but I had good luck with a basic aluminum cake pan.) Turn the dough out on a floured counter and roll it into a rectangle approximately 18 inches wide and 12 inches long. Roll the dough out so that the widest part of the dough is facing you. Brush the melted butter on the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the brown sugar and then with the cinnamon.
  3. Starting with the side of the dough farthest away from you, roll the dough tightly into an 18”-long spiral. (The best way to get a tight roll is to simply go slowly, making sure to keep the dough taut all the way across as you roll.) Using a serrated knife or dental floss, cut the log into 12 pieces—each piece should be about 1.5” wide. Place the rolls in the prepared baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (The original recipe says that you can chill the rolls for up to 16 hours.)
  4. In the morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter for 30-60 minutes before baking. (I let mine sit for a full hour, but I think my dad’s kitchen was rather cold.) While the rolls sit, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 30 minutes, until they’re raised and golden. If you’re a sucker for precision, they should have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.
  5. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Whisk together the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle over the rolls. Serve while they’re still warm and gooey!

Apple Cinnamon Scones

My semester is done! I’ve powered through the stack of final exams, tallied the final grades, and pushed all the papers that need pushing to wrap up the last 15 weeks of teaching. Of course, I’m still writing and researching and generally chipping away at my dissertation, but the end of the semester means a bit more time for sewing, holiday baking, and catching up on some blog posts.

Apple Cinnamon Scones via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

These scones were a last minute addition to our Thanksgiving menu when I decided the day before that I’d like something special for breakfast Thanksgiving morning. I wanted to use some apples that we had on hand and Aidan wanted scones, and thus began the hunt for an appropriate recipe. I’ve made these apple cinnamon scones from King Arthur Flour before, and they were excellent. Unfortunately, the recipe calls for several ingredients that I didn’t have on hand, and there was no part of me that was willing to brave the grocery store just for scones. Since sour cream was the best liquid I had on hand (it’s weird to think of sour cream as a liquid, but it functions as one in baking), I started looking for a sour cream scone recipe that I could tweak a bit to make apple scones.

Apple Cinnamon Scones via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Ultimately, I ended up adapting a recipe from The Kitchn for Sour Cream Strawberry Scones. I omitted the brown sugar crumble topping called for in the recipe, swapped the strawberries for a chopped apple, and added some cinnamon to the batter. In the end, these scones turned out well and were a great way to kick off our holiday. The sour cream gives them a good flavor and a nice, tender texture. They are only slightly sweet—appropriate for breakfast and not the kind of scone that you would mistake for dessert. If you like a sweeter scone, it would be easy to add a bit more sugar. Perhaps 1/2 a cup instead of 1/4. Using the crumble called for in the original recipe might also make the scones a bit sweeter. The next time I make these, I might also toss the chopped apple in a cinnamon sugar mix before adding them to the batter. Regardless, this is a solid recipe. And the best part is that you can make these scones the night before—just mix up the batter, shape the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and keep them in the refrigerator overnight. I’m looking forward to making it with strawberries when winter is over—perhaps as a way to celebrate the end of the spring semester!

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Apple Cinnamon Scones (adapted from The Kitchn)

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 c sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 medium apple, chopped

For the topping:

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the sour cream mix to the flour mix and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold the sour cream mix into the dry mix. When almost all of the flour has been incorporated, turn the dough out onto counter.
  3. Gently pat the dough into a rectangle and sprinkle half of the chopped apple over the surface of the dough. Fold the dough in half and again pat it into a rectangle. Sprinkle the second half of the apples over the surface of the dough and fold the dough in half a second time.
  4. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat the dough into a large disk about 1” thick. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  5. Half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping. When the oven is fully heated, brush the top of the dough with some milk and generously sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough. Using a bench scraper, knife, or pizza cutter, cut the scone dough into 8 wedges. Pull the scones apart so that there is at least an inch between each scone.
  6. Bake the scones for 18-20 minutes until they are golden brown and the sides of the scones are firm. Allow them to sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring the scones to a wire rack. The scones are best served warm.