When I think of the holidays, I think of hospitality; having my family and friends over and sharing what I have with them. It’s probably the only time of year I really enjoy cooking for people outside of work (sorry not sorry, do this for a living as long as I have and you’d feel the same). And although I like to throw down with the impressive, mic-drop desert once in awhile, as often as not I gravitate to cooking comfort food. To me, cinnamon rolls fit the bill.
I don’t know where I first started connecting cinnamon rolls to the holidays. The smell of them fresh out of the oven, even just the thought as I sit and write this, and my mind is drawn to times spent with my family on the east coast. I think of the first morning everyone gathers together after travelling in from out of town. A lazy, special brunch catching up. The constant, energizing buzz of a house full of people. I think of that feel to the air when the season changes, and I swear you can smell when fall arrives in New England. All of that from a cinnamon roll. Sometimes I forget how powerful food can be.
Now maybe cinnamon rolls don’t hold the same connection for you as they do for me, but I think we can all agree they’re damn good. Just as nice, they’re a lot quicker and easier to make then you might think!
Getting all of the cooking done for your holiday events can be a little daunting, so efficient time management always makes things smoother and more fun. With that in mind, in terms of timing for this recipe, I would make the cinnamon bun dough first, and while it is proofing or freezing (both of which will take about an hour) I’d make the glaze and filling. Alternately you can make the dough to the point at which you freeze it and simply keep it frozen until you’re ready to give it a last roll and shaping. Alternately x2 you can roll and cut the cinnamon buns and keep them frozen and raw. Letting them defrost in the fridge overnight and simply proofing and baking when needed gives you a lot of flexibility too. In the alternative cases, the shelf life of the frozen cinnamon rolls is about a week at most for best results. Longer than that and the freezing cold will make the yeast sluggish.
cinnamon roll glaze
170g cream cheese
115g butter unsalted
375g powdered sugar for stiff icing
210g powdered sugar for thin icing
4g vanilla extract
110g whole milk
For stiff icing that is easy to pipe or spread as a frosting, use 375g of powdered sugar. For thin icing, good for brushing on, use 210g of powdered sugar. Bring the butter, cream cheese and whole milk to room temperature and combine with the salt, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, mixing until homogenized. Reserve to use later.
cinnamon roll filling
75g butter unsalted
240g brown sugar
cinnamon roll dough
237g whole milk
10g dry yeast
30g sugar A
70g sugar B
75g bread flour A
525g bread flour B
100g whole eggs approx. 2
75g butter unsalted
Bring the butter and whole egg to room temp. before getting started.
Heat the whole milk to 110F/45C and combine it with the dry yeast, sugar A in a mixing bowl.
Sprinkle the bread flour A over the mixture in an even layer and let it sit for 10-15min. until cracks form on the surface, telling you that the yeast is activated and producing CO2. Be careful not to disturb the poolish during this time or you won’t be able to tell who’s responsible for the cracks in the flour, you or the CO2.
Add the whole eggs, butter, bread flour B, salt and sugar B and mix with in a stand mixer with a dough hook on medium speed for 6-8min. The dough should have some substantial gluten development, but won’t be as strong as, say, a croissant dough.
Proof the dough in a warm, humid place for 1 hour or until it doubles in volume. I’ve always like doing this by placing a tray of steaming water in my oven to create a “proof box.” Using a hygrometer, a cheap monitor of temperature and humidity, can help you to adjust the conditions by adding more hot water if needed.
After proofing, press down the dough to expel gasses that developed during the rise and shape into a rectangle about the size of a half sheet pan, 12 x 15”
Freeze the dough, lightly covered with plastic wrap, for an hour, then transfer it to the fridge for 30min.
After your dough has chilled, roll it to 1/4″ thickness keeping a width of 12” and expanding the length.
Spread a thin, even layer of the cinnamon roll filling over the dough. Because the dough is cold, it will quickly set the filling which is ok! I find it’s best to use just the tip (that’s what she said) of an offset spatula to spread the filling.
Roll the dough up, starting along the bottom edge and creating a tight crimp to start the process.
As you roll the dough, pull the log that form in toward you to keep the entire form tightly curled up.
After rolling the log up, cut it into 1″ slices. At this point you can freeze the rounds to proof and bake later if you’d like.
You have two options for baking. First, you could lay the rounds out individually onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. If you choose to do this, tuck the loose end of the roll under each round so the roll doesn’t open up during proofing and baking.
Your second option is to place all the rounds together in a baking dish. This time around I thought it would be fun to try using one of my beloved cake rings! Notice I gave the rolls a lot of space so that they have room to proof and grow.
Either way, proof the rounds until they double in volume, about 1-2 hours.
Bake at 360F for 10-12min.
Immediately after baking, glaze the cinnamon rolls.
And there you have it, the secret is out! Cinnamon rolls are pretty damn easy to make. Here’s to holiday traditions, new and old!