Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cinnamon rolls

You guys. Thank you so much for all the thoughtful input on my silly table dilemma yesterday. So useful. I'm reading over your comments carefully and taking note. And even though I would have given it to you anyways, here is the dough recipe I use for our family's cinnamon rolls. (And this year I used the same dough for the monkey bread and it was fabulous).

On Saturday morning I woke up and started staging my kitchen. Easter means cinnamon rolls, always. I use the recipe for Norwegian sweet yeasted dough (recipe 26) from The Tassajara Bread Book. I make four batches, which turns out to be a good thing because our guest list keeps growing and we end up with almost 20 people.  Not that 20 people need to eat four batches of sweet dough. It's a compulsion, the over-abundance of food.

dough, mixing
{dough, mixing}

I've missed baking. There is a lull after Christmas, with no real reason to bake and plenty of guilt if you do (ruining everyone's resolutions!). I've made the occasional dessert here and there. A standby berry tart, for company (except lately I've been making them even more simply - must remember to post about that soon). Chocolate chip cookie dough, to be frozen and then baked as needed.

dough, cinnamon
{dough, cinnamon}

I miss the quiet rhythm of the kitchen, getting my mise en place ready, stirring and kneading and rolling out.

cinnamon rolls, rising
{cinnamon rolls, rising}

The cinnamon rolls are good. I make the dough the day before, because there is enough to do in the morning without waiting for dough to rise. I roll it into rectangles, always swearing that I will figure out the exact right size and write it down. I never do. The dough is just barely sweet and lightly scented with cardamom. Everyone sneaks bites when they walk past (but they are polite, actually, and usually ask first). Circe begs, shamelessly.

There is no real recipe for the filling, but you can do it however you like. Sometimes I toss pecans and butter and brown sugar and cinnamon in the food processor and pulse until I have a mixture that is almost, but not quite, a paste. Sometimes I just pour melted butter over the dough and sprinkle it with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar (+ a healthy pinch of salt). I roll the whole thing up (roll the long side, so you don't end up with enormous rolls!) and then slice off thick pieces to bake. Sometimes I brush butter over the top of the rolls before I bake them and sometimes I forget.

sunday morning
{sunday morning*}

We have some birthdays coming up soon and I'm looking forward to the cakes, selfishly. I'm ready for some more leisurely kitchen time.

Sweet yeasted dough (slightly adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book, serves 6 - 8 very generously)

2 packages dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups lukewarm whole milk (test the temp on your wrist, it shouldn't be too hot)
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (I chop it fine, because I don't have a grinder)
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh lemon or orange zest
3 cups white flour, plus an additional 1/2 - 1 cup for kneading

:: Mix the lukewarm milk with a couple teaspoons of sugar and stir in the yeast. Set aside to proof - just let it sit for 5 - 10 minutes to make sure that it starts to get foamy. (You don't have to proof, but I always do for peace of mind). Stir in the 1 1/2 cups of flour, beating well. Set aside for at least 15 minutes in a warm place. This is your sponge - it will start to rise quickly.

:: Using a stand mixer (or by hand, but I'll warn you that it will get a little tiring later on!), cream the butter and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Don't worry if it looks a little curdled at this point, just scrape the sides down and keep going. 

:: Add the salt, cardamom and zest and the yeast sponge. Beat in 3 cups of flour, about 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides. Beat well to form a soft dough. 

:: Generously flour your work surface and your hands and start kneading your dough. The dough will be soft, so you'll need to add a bit of flour (probably 1/2 cup, possibly a little more) to make it smooth and not sticky. It will still be soft, so don't expect it to feel quite as elastic as whole wheat bread dough. Form it into a ball and transfer to a large bowl.

:: If you're going to use it right away, let it rise until doubled in size (about 40 minutes). If you are going to use it later, just pop the whole bowl in the refrigerator, covered with a damp cloth. I'll leave it in overnight and then just pull it out about 30 minutes before I need to use it so it can warm up. 

:: Shape your dough and add your fillings. You can see my notes above - I use a generous amount of cinnamon, brown sugar and a healthy pinch of salt, along with butter. Nuts or raisins are also good. Someday I'd like to just use really good jam, for a simple roll. If you are making rolls, go ahead and slice them and place them on the baking sheets (I like to use dental floss to slice dough - just loop the floss around the roll and then pull the ends tight). 

:: Allow the shaped dough to rise to about double, 20 - 30 minutes (I sometimes skimp on this and just give it 10 - 15 minutes, especially if I've done the overnight rise already). 

:: Bake at 350 - 375 degrees for 45 - 50 minutes until lightly golden. This is completely dependent on your shapes and sizes. In general, the smaller your shape, the hotter your temp. My cinnamon rolls cook at 375 for just 15 - 30 minutes, depending on how thick I make them. But if I were going to do this in a loaf then I would have used 350 and baked for closer to 50 minutes. Larger pieces of dough need more time to cook through without burning.

* This picture is from post-Easter 2009, and just looking at it makes me long for a cup of tea. Resisting on Easter, when tea and coffee were free flowing and real cream (my weakness) was readily available, was unbelievably difficult. The fact that I managed probably means that this lack of caffeine is making a difference.


  1. They look so good!

    Quick question - I love your coffee-mug/plate combination. Mind sharing where they're from?

  2. argh i totally meant to make pumpkin cinnamon rolls last fall winter and never did. that was silly. because these look soo good.

  3. Very beautiful. I really love that plate you used for the photo with the coffee. It turned out perfectly. Basically, I second Kristin. :)

    Always wanted to try these but always too lazy to do so. I need to do something about that. True chefs welcome an adventure.

  4. I am actually salivating. This is being bookmarked for sure.

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  6. Wow this looks so delicious. love the final photo!

  7. nom nom I just saved this recipe. I can't wait to try it out.

    - Sarah

  8. Those look beautiful!

    What is it about Easter and Cinnamon Rolls though?

    I grew up eating them every Easter too, and this year, had an insane craving for them. So I ended up making a mini-batch on Saturday night for the Husband and I...yum.

  9. Oh my goodness, I want this cinnamon roll right now.

  10. I'm trying your recipe the next time I make cinnamon rolls. I've tested several, and none have worked well. (I partly blame an always-too-cold house since the dough never seems to rise enough...)

  11. you continue to inspire me with your caffeine cutback; it's really impressive. somehow cutting out those special occasion accompaniments is even more daunting than, say, giving up one's habitual morning cup.

  12. These look so good! I absolutely love all of your pictures - they are all simple, yet beautiful.

  13. Is that a roller shade you're rolling dough out on? If not, what is it? Because I kind of think it looks genius and am going to steal the idea, whatever it is. :)

    Also, that is great news about the caffeine! Keep it up!

  14. Cinnamon rolls make me so incredibly happy. I will try this recipe. Thank you!

  15. @ Kristin - Oh, I wish I could give you a source for those mug/plate sets! They are some Italian brand (I think?), and we had been eyeing them at a local boutique for ages. At some point, the store was closing down and they got deeply discounted, so we treated ourselves to a full set. I love them inordinately. Also perfect for tomato soup + grilled cheese sandwich. I'll try looking to see if they have a mark on the bottom that might help me track them down.

    @ stephanie - It's a pastry frame like this one , actually! (Although I've never tried using a rolling pin cover, which seems to be part of the set) It's basically just a canvas cloth on a stretcher, so you flour it and then roll out. It's a lifesaver if you have a kitchen with grouted tile, because cleaning flour out of the grout drives me nuts.

    @ lauren - Spot on, lady. I've actually adjusted pretty well to not having caffeine day to day, but there are moments when it kills me. Lazy Sunday mornings, brunch parties, etc. I will eventually go back to letting myself indulge on those occasions, but not quite yet, I don't think.

  16. Thanks! They really are gorgeous (and now I'm in love with the soup/sandwich combo also).

  17. I love cinnamon rolls! They are so delicious. I have not made any in a while. Might have to mix up a batch just in time for this cooler weather we are getting.

  18. yum!!! they look scrumptious

  19. yes please! these look delish!

  20. Cinnamon rolls are my favorite thing in the entire roll. I could eat them 24/7

  21. They're so perfectly round! And they look so good.

  22. Added to the Heart of Light Recipe File for when we get home. And have a proper kitchen. And access to things like, you know, MY KITCHENAID STAND MIXER, which I miss almost but not quite as much as the doggies.

    So impressed by your caffeine abstinence. Yes, so impressive. I just. can't. do. it.

  23. I just made these, they turned out beautifully. Next time I am definitely making them with raspberry jam and a bit more lemon zest in the dough. Thanks!

  24. Thanks! Looks good! I saved it in my recipe tab.
    I love your line:
    "I've missed baking. There is a lull after Christmas, with no real reason to bake and plenty of guilt if you do (ruining everyone's resolutions!)"
    So true!!!

  25. These look absolutely delicious!


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