Encouraged by her success with the Chocolate Bundt Cake with Semisweet Chocolate Ganache, Beja wanted to surprise me by making cinnamon rolls by herself. The problem was that she used my old cook book which made some sweeping assumptions, one of them being that all the readers would have the same knowledge base as the average home cook of the 1940’s.
There is a world of difference between the home cooks of the 1940’s and the home cooks of today. Most home cooks in the 40’s had a fundamental, shared understanding of common kitchen cooking techniques. They knew what “rising” was, what it meant when a recipe said “divided,” and how to automatically get bread “started.” They didn’t always note those smaller processes. That’s why my 11-year old daughter crashed and burned when she tried making cinnamon rolls from an old cookbook. It didn’t have enough detail and she skipped some steps that were assumed knowledge.
Beja was really upset at the flop. I tried consoling her. After all, I didn’t start cooking until 16 years ago when I became a mother and had to out of necessity. Beja, at 11, knows way more than I ever did at that age. But telling her that she is smarter than me didn’t help matters. She was upset because she wanted to surprise me and make me happy. And. That. Was. Ruined.
After Beja’s kitchen fail, I was determined to find a recipe that she could easily follow. One that would give her a sense of accomplishment. One that would set the world right again and make my baby happy. That’s what mom’s do, right? Enter this recipe, which is a copycat of Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and my attempt at keeping life’s disappointments at bay. Trust me, making this recipe—even though it requires lots of time for the bread to rise—was much easier to manage than the last time I had to right a wrong.*
*Also known as “The Great Guinea Pig Dilemma of 2010.” Forever a black mark in our family’s proud, animal-loving history that resulted in one dead guinea pig, one teary culprit, one angry accuser, and the subsequent three new guinea pigs that we (read: I) fastidiously cared for until their last days. Benefiting from my everlasting shame and guilt, they were well-fed, happy, and had more cage space than I want to confess.
Back to cinnamon rolls.
My relationship with Cinnabon cinnamon rolls is complicated, including sheer delight with the first bite, followed by shame after eating far more than I should. But I know when I need to take one for the team and this recipe is it. I went online, found the pretty-much-exact-replica of the recipe, and let Beja make it with the success I was dreading.
So here I am, looking at 14 cinnamon rolls that will be my undoing. I’m consoling myself in that I’ve helped my daughter with a valuable lesson: don’t let failure stop you. I’m also dreading the three extra pounds that I’ll gain just by looking at these unimaginably delicious sweet treats. Because I can only take the high road so much, I’m now going to appeal to my baser side…I’m taking someone else down with me. Therefore, I evilly submit the copycat recipe for Cinnabon cinnamon rolls for you enjoy as well.
May you have more will power than I.
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 package (1/4 oz) active yeast
- ½ cup white sugar
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- CRUMBLE FILLING
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus additional ¼ cup softened stick for spreading
- CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (about two lemons)
- ½ tsp salt
- Microwave the mike for 45-60 seconds.
- In a large bowl, pour in the milk and yeast. Stir until dissolved.
- Add sugar, butter and mix well. Then, add salt and eggs. Mix well again. Add the 4 cups of flour a bit at a time until all is well combined, reserving the last ½ cup of flour.
- Hand-kneed the dough on a flat, lightly floured surface. Knead into a large ball for about 8 minutes until it goes from gummy, to smooth. Add as much of the reserved ½ cup of flour that you can while kneading.
- Let the dough do a first rise. Put it a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking oil and cover with plastic wrap or a towel.
- Put it in a warm, draft-free place and let it rise until it is doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. (My technique: I turn on the oven, and place my hands against the side of the oven. When it gets too hot to touch--about 1 minute of warm up--I turn off and place the dough in the oven to rise.)
- Once the dough has risen, make the filling. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and ¼ cup unsalted butter that has been softened in a small bowl and mix well. Mixture will be crumbly. Set aside.
- Prep the counter with some sprinkled flour and roll out the dough ball until it is roughly 16" x 21" rectangle and about ¼ inch thick.
- Spread the remaining ¼ cup of softened butter over the dough. Then, sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon crumble mixture evenly over all the dough.
- Roll up the dough, starting with the longer side and cut into 14 cinnamon rolls.
- Place cinnamon rolls in a lightly greased 9x11 (3 quart) glass baking dish. They might not exactly touch, but that is okay because they will expand during the second rise and while they are baking.
- Let the rolls do a second rise. Cover with aluminum foil, and place in a warm, draft free area to rise until nearly doubled, which should take about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake the cinnamon rolls until they are golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. The dough should still be soft, though fully cooked towards the center of the roll.
- While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Using a hand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and salt until fluffy and combined.
- When rolls are finished, you'll need to turn them over. Do this by taking a baking sheet just larger than the baking dish with the rolls, and line it with parchment paper. Using dish towels, turn the baking sheet (and parchment paper), upside down over the rolls and quickly flip over so that the rolls are deposited on the baking sheet, upside down. Remove the baking dish.
- While the rolls are still warm, spoon a few big dollops of icing over the rolls and spread generously (using an offset spatula is best). You need to do this quickly so the heat of the rolls melts the icing.
- Let cool a little and serve with the extra frosting. (There should be about a cup leftover.)
Recipe adapted from Kennon-Green Family.