INDIANAPOLIS - There isn't much that can rival the aromas of frying bacon, brewing coffee or roasting garlic to me except the sweet, delicious, right-out-of-the-oven scent of a homemade cinnamon roll. This is the best aromatherapy you can get – baked fresh in your own home, on your own time. And it's easy enough that you can do it, too.
Cinnamon rolls have one of those smells that evoke memories. I cherished Sunday mornings where my mother splurged on the "whomp" cinnamon rolls (cinnamon rolls in a can) for Easter breakfast before church.
Whomp: (verb) - To slam or knock a container of canned biscuits or sweet rolls against the counter to aid in opening. Ex. Mammaw whomped that can of Pillsbury Grands on the table before preheating the oven.
As a pastry chef I produced hundreds of thousands of these delicacies. And although making them every day was sometimes tiring, all of the hard work was repaid when the smell of them began oozing out of the ovens.
Although I've been known to use a can or two of "whomp" cinnamon rolls in a pinch, baking them yourself is far more gratifying.
You'll need the same basic ingredients you need for baking most breads – yeast, milk, flour – and a few extra ingredients if you want to get creative and add orange zest or fancy up a filling.
Some folks love nuts in their cinnamon rolls, but I traditionally do not add these. I've noted in the recipe when/where to add these if you'd like to.
The simplicity of this sweet roll is really what sells it, and I personally think most of the time less is more, especially in baking. Easily make these rich cinnamon pastries the night before then pop in the oven the next morning for 30-40 minutes for a deliciously warm wake-up call.
Twinkle's Sinful Cinnamon Rolls
1 cup whole milk
3 tbs. unsalted butter
3 ½ cups all purpose flour, divided
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 ¼ tsp. rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 yeast envelope)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. olive oil
½ cup white sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ cup sour cream
Pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
For the dough:
Combine milk and butter in a glass bowl and microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warm – approximately 120°F to 130°F. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or into a large glass or metal bowl if you are mixing by hand.
Next add 1 cup of the flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. In your mixer, beat on low for about 3 minutes. If working by hand, stir for 4 or 5 minutes or until wellblended. Make sure to scrape down the edges of the bowl and along the bottom, making sure it is well-incorporated.
Add the rest of the flour and mix on low until flour is well-blended and dough is gooey, once again scraping down sides of bowl.
The dough should begin to form a ball and pull away from sides of bowl, but if it is still too gooey, add a little flour teaspoon by teaspoon until you see a ball start to take shape. You'll do the same if you are mixing and kneading by hand.
Turn the dough out onto lightly-floured and clean work surface. Knead it for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and stretchy. If you have a dough hook attachment, you can also use that instead.
Lightly oil a large glass bowl with the olive oil. Place your dough ball into the bowl, turning over and over to coat it so it will not dry out while rising. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
In a small bowl, blend together the brown sugar, white sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside until dough has risen.
After your dough has risen, press it down and place it back onto your work surface. Grab a rolling pin and roll it out into a 15×11-inch rectangle. You'll want the dough to be a little less than ¼ of an inch thick.
Spread the sour cream evenly over the dough, leaving an edge of about ½ inch. Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mix over the sour cream.
If you would like to add nuts, sprinkle a cup or so of chopped pecans or walnuts over the dough at this point.
Starting at the wider side of the dough, begin to roll it up into a log shape. With the seam side down, trim the ends. You can definitely still bake these, too. NO cinnamon roll shall be left behind!
Cut the log crossways with a sharp knife into ½ inch slices. You should get about 16-18 rolls.
There are two ways to bake your rolls. You can spread them out on a sheet pan or you can bake them in a glass baking dish. Either way, spray your pan with cooking spray and place the unbaked rolls on the pans or oven-safe dish.
Next, cover your rolls with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. I usually make these in the evening and refrigerate for morning, so most of the hard work is done when I've got the time.
If you want to go ahead and cook them, skip the refrigeration step.
Let them rise again in warm draft-free spot until almost doubled in size – approximately 45 minutes.
Place on the center rack of your preheated oven and bake until tops are golden, about 25 minutes.
After taking them from the oven, invert immediately onto a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
Combine whipping cream and vanilla in medium bowl or in your stand mixer bowl. Whisk in sifted powdered sugar until it becomes thick. You may need to add a little more powdered sugar by the teaspoon until you get the right consistency, about the ooziness of honey.
Flip buns over onto your serving dish and ice, sealing in all the moistness. This is very important, because this kind of yeast dough can easily dry out once it has cooled, and usually these rolls taste the best the day they are baked Word of caution: these rolls are sure to go fast. They don't last long around my house!
Pro-tip: For quicker rising time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and then turn off. Place covered cinnamon roll dough on the center rack. This should cut rising time by half.
For more on food and for more recipes check out twinklevanwinkle.com.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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