Cinnamon Rolls

I blame Bessie for my baking obsession.

For those among us who have never been blessed by Bessie’s presence, she is the 1995 Dodge Neon that I drove during my four years of college. And by “drove,” I really mean “prayed would start and somehow manage to make it the 10 miles I needed to go to get to work every day.”

My dearest Bessie had a habit of breaking down. Often. Very often. I guess that’s what happens when you pay $800 for a car, sight-unseen (another one of my parents’ “I told you so” moments).

Thankfully, my dad is an awesome mechanic. He can fix anything. And he did. Many times over. And he’s my dad. So he never charged me for it. Fortunate for me, broke college student. Not so fortunate for him. So I paid him in baked goods.

A batch of double-chocolate brownies for installing two new tires.

A three-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for replacing a broken serpentine belt.

And that “tick-tick-tick-clank” noise cost me two week’s worth of chocolate-almond biscotti.

Think I can convince my mechanic to change my oil for a dozen cinnamon rolls?

Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Prep time: 2 hours
Start to finish: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Makes 4 dozen

For the dough
4 cups whole milk
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
8 cups (plus 1 cup extra, separated) all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 scan teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt

For the filling
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups raisins, walnuts, or pecans (optional)

For the frosting
8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, canola oil, and sugar in a large pot. Scald the mixture (heat until just before it starts to boil). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm (but not hot), sprinkle in both packages of active dry yeast. Let sit for a minute. Then, add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and let rise for at least 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir mixture together.

At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, punch it down.

Take half the dough, and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a thin, long rectangle. Spread 1/2 cup softened butter over the dough. Next, sprinkle 1 cup of brown sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. Spread any additional fillings (raisins, walnuts, pecans) evenly over the dough.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Then, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Cut dough into ¾ to 1-inch thick rolls, and place them in buttered pans (I usually use 2 9×13-inch baking pans. 3 or 4 round pie or cake pans would work well, too).

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Cover and let the rolls rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake rolls at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

While rolls are baking, make the frosting. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt; mix until smooth. Spread frosting on rolls before serving.

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