It’s probably been at least five years since I’ve had Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. I’m drooling just thinking about it, but there aren’t any in our area and I never seem to remember while I’m traveling. These cinnamon rolls come pretty stinkin’ close. If you want to match their decadence you’ll have to increase the sugar mixture and roll the dough out wider and thinner. That’s the only difference. My favorite part of a cinnamon roll is the inside dough that is moist and gooey with cinnamon and sugar. If that’s the part you’re after, it’s manageable, but will take a just little more effort.
These are frugal, if you consider the cost of going out for fabulous cinnamon rolls. I’m sure someone can find cheap grocery-bakery alternatives, but I promise those are nothing like tearing into these straight from the oven.
I’m not into putzy recipes. There are three mini-recipes within the big one, but only the dough seems complicated. It’s probably a good thing I’m not patient enough to ever be a pastry chef, but these cinnamon rolls are good enough to be worth the effort. I promise, this is high praise indeed from the likes of me.
Cinnamon Roll Dough Recipe
[There’s a printable recipe at the bottom of this post.]
- 1 cup warm* milk
- 1 packet or 2 1/4 tsps of active or instant dry yeast
- 5 1/3 TBSP or 1/3 cup butter – melted
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 – 5 cups** of all purpose or plain flour (this is highly dependent on humidity)
*It’s very important that milk be warm, not hot. It shouldn’t be over 110F or you risk killing the yeast
** It was exceptionally humid the morning I tested this recipe and I needed nearly all 5 cups of flour. I would guess that the standard would be much closer to 4 cups.
To get started, stir the yeast into the milk and set aside for a moment. While the yeast gets started, beat the eggs, melt the butter, measure the flour, sugar and salt. In a mixing bowl combine the yeast & milk mixture, the beaten eggs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. If you have a stand mixer, life just got easy. Add half the flour mixture and mix on medium low until combined. If you’re stirring by hand, same thing, but your arm might get tired. Begin adding the second half of the flour by half cupfuls until you reach the 4 cup point. Continue mixing the dough during this process.
If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead for 2-3 minutes on low. Add the last cup of flour by scant 1/4 cups, only if necessary. If you are mixing by hand, turn the dough out onto a heavily flour dusted work surface and knead for 5 – 10 minutes, adding the extra flour only if necessary. This dough is very soft and we don’t want to create too much gluten, but it is important that it have enough structure to not fall apart when rolled into the spiral.
Spray or oil a large bowl and place the dough inside to rise. Set the dough in a warm, moist area, cover and let rise until nearly double in size. This will take an hour to an hour and a half.
Make the filling while you wait and butter a 9×13 pan.
Cinnamon Filling Recipe:
- 1 packed cup of brown sugar
- 1 TBSP ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 TBSP melted butter
Whisk together the first three ingredients. *whew* that was rough.
When the dough has finished rising, turn it out onto your work surface. Again, this needs to be heavily dusted with flour. Gently shape and roll into a 9 x15 rectangle. If you are trying to replicate Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, here’s where the variation happens. The dough rectangle should be at least 12 x 15, try for 15 x 15. It’s going to be a little awkward to work with, but think of the results. Don’t double the filling recipe, increase it by half.
Brush the dough with butter.
Then sprinkle and spread the sugar mixture evenly over the dough.
Very carefully, begin rolling the dough into a spiral. Start at the edge closest to you and roll toward the far edge. Try to keep the roll as even as possible, but do NOT roll it tightly. If you roll it tightly the middles are going to pop out while they rise and bake and we’ll have to point and laugh at your funny rolls. I don’t like being mean, so don’t roll it tightly. Now that we’re straight, finish rolling your spiral.
When you get to the far side, pinch the seam closed.
Now turn the log of dough so the seam is now on the bottom. This helps squish it together so the rolls aren’t unspiraling as you transfer them to the baking dish.
Now, grab a serrated knife, a paper towel, a buttered 9×13 pan (glass or metal) and all the patience you can muster and cut the log into 12 rolls, just over an inch in thickness each. Cut using a gentle sawing motion. Transfer the roll after each cut, the dough is so soft that it will try to fall apart if you wait to move them at once. Wipe the knife blade with your paper towel after each cut. Like magic, you’ll have just enough room in the pan for the 12 rolls.
Now, it’s either time for proofing, refrigerating or freezing. Your choice. If placing the refrigerator overnight, cover the pan with plastic wrap. If freezing, cover with foil, if proofing turn your oven on to its lowest setting (110ish) for 3 minutes. If you freeze the dough, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking. Whether frozen or refrigerated begin with the proofing step after the dough has rested in the fridge overnight.
To proof, fill a shallow pan with hot or boiling water and place on the lower rack of the oven. Place the pan of rolls on the upper rack and close the door. DO NOT forget to turn the oven off if you let it heat for 3 minutes. We’re not cooking the rolls just yet, they are rising in a very humid and warm environment. Allow to proof for 30 minutes.
Remove the rolls and pan of water from the oven and preheat it to 350F. When the oven has reached temperature return the rolls to the rack, which should be in the middle position and bake for 30 minutes. The rolls should be light brown.
While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Everyone has an opinion about the icing to roll ratio. I’ll leave that up to you, but I’d assume you’ll probably want to double my version as I don’t have a big sweet tooth.
Cinnamon Roll Icing Recipe
- 1/4 cup cream cheese – softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tiny squirt or squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 – 2 TBSPs milk
Combine all of the ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the cinnamon rolls as soon as they are removed from the oven.