Perfect Cinnamon Rolls

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I was peeking through my photo archives this weekend, and found these pics from the 4th of July, when we were kicking it in SoCal with the family. I’d promised my sister I’d teach her the secret methods to making wickedly, wonderfully, mouth-wateringly gorgeous cinnamon rolls. We beat and battered in the kitchen to pull together this favorite family recipe.

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Just as the soft, swirling rolls were set aside to rise, my other sis dropped by with her photographic talent of a hubby and the morning turned into a spontaeous photo lesson. Brother-in-law, John (of L.A’s Tony & John Photography) started talking basic tips. Then, he started showing me apertures and exposure and clicks. Before long, we’d turned the house upside-down, pulling out pots and potholders. Bowls, spoons, melted butter. Texture. Color. Design elements. We set up a tiny photoshoot table inside the house, then on the side of the house, then in the middle of backyard–anything to catch that perfectly diffused beachside sun.

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John moved around the table of uncooked cinnamon rolls like a panther ready to pounce. He studied the angles, altered his focus, moved in and out, over, above, around and around those homely little cinnamon rolls. He’s an artist, you know. Watching him was inspiring. I tried to follow in his stead, tripping once on a plastic toy and twice licking cinnamon from my fingers. Watching me was humor in a handbasket.
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An hour or so after our backyard safari, we’d photographed, photoshopped, and felt the grumble of hard-work gnawing at our innards. Time to retire, we agreed. And, so to the kitchen we fled, spooning heaps of fresh, fluffy frosting atop warm cinnamon rolls. Cleaning up the mess we’d made while working. It’s kinda nice, doing a job that’s as much fun to clean up as it is to mess up.

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Of course, that was way back in July. And, who wants to make a steaming hot sheet of cinnamon rolls in July? (Other than, you know, anyone with common sense?)

With the weather now cooling, and the tide of autumn washing it’s way across the sky, it seemed a perfect time to share this family recipe of ours. From our kitchen (and my sister’s backyard) to yours, Happy Cinnamon Rolling.

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Perfect Cinnamon Rolls with Decadant Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

FOR THE PERFECT CINNAMON ROLLS:
2 cups very warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup instant, nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
5-5 1/2 cups flour, all purpose (bread flour can be used if you have it on hand)
1 stick butter (softened)

FOR THE CINNAMON-SUGAR FILLING:
1 stick butter, very soft
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
4 oz. cream cheese
2 sticks butter
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

FOR THE PERFECT CINNAMON ROLLS:
In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water and yeast. Whisk in the sugar and allow the yeast too foam slighty by letting it sit alone for 5 minutes, or so. Stir in the dry milk, salt, and egg. Slowly start stirring in the flour, cup by cup, until a thick, sticky dough is formed. Don't add too much! You want it sticky and pliable, not overly floury. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, sprinkle a thin layer of flour on top, and knead the bread until it becomes a little less sticky and slightly elastic. Now begin to knead the butter into the dough. It should make the dough very soft and greasy enough so the dough no longer needs any flour. Once the butter has been kneaded through, and the dough is elastic, set it in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with a slightly damp, clean cloth, and allow to rise for about 1 hour. Use your hands to spread the butter in a nice, thick layer across the surface of the dough. Sprinkle a generous layer of white sugar on top of the butter. (You can use brown sugar, too. But I love the white-sugar-taffy that pools in the bottom of a pan when making it this way.)

Now for the IMPORTANT step. Sprinkle a GOOD layer of cinnamon on top of the sugar. Too much and you'll clear out the sinuses of everyone eating. Too little, however, and you're cinnamon rolls won't be nearly as delicious as they could be. Don't be stingy with the cinnamon. If you're feeling really daring, drizzle a second layer of 3-4 tablespoons of melted butter over the cinnamon & sugar layer.)

Roll the cinnamon rolls up tightly, pinching the top edge closed to keep the cinnamon rolls closed while baking. Slice into 2" rolls with a knife and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Allow to rise for another 25-30 minutes before baking.

Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or just until the edges of the rolls have browned slightly. Remove from oven, allowing to cool for 20-30 minutes before frosting and serving.

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
In a large bowl beat together all ingredients until a thick but spreadable frosting appears. Slather on slightly warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy!

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16 Responses to “Perfect Cinnamon Rolls”

  1. 1

    sara on October 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm Reply

    I've gotta say, I LOVE my own recipe but I can positively SMELL the cinnamon in your last picture and now I must try this recipe! Thanks for all the fantastic details.

  2. 2

    Rose on October 3, 2010 at 11:50 pm Reply

    Oh yum!!! Ive always wanted to try making these but just havent got around to it.

    ROse

  3. 3

    www.sutumesarellemekarisma.com on October 4, 2010 at 12:00 am Reply

    irresistible deliciousness of existence… I really adore these rolls, can not make any objection in case of treating:) YUMMY!

  4. 4

    screwdestiny on October 4, 2010 at 12:42 am Reply

    Good Lord, I can feel my arteries clogging already…but these do look positively awesome.

  5. 5

    Marisa on October 4, 2010 at 7:36 am Reply

    These sound absolutely amazing. You know, Pioneer Woman just reposted her legendary cinnamon rolls. I was going to make hers, but yours might sound a tad bit better.

    I think you ladies need to get together and have a bake off! (And invite me, as a judge.)

  6. 6

    Cumorah on October 4, 2010 at 9:12 am Reply

    Oh dear Brooke,
    If I weren't on a treat fast, which I am, since It's been 13 months since baby number four, and I still have 13 pounds to go…I would be whipping up an enormous batch of these. I would probably let each of my chitlins have one. I would share one sweet roll with my sweet hubbie, and I'd leave all the rest to me. But, alas…I don't want to make it 15 to go…so I will dream about your yummy rolls in my sleep, where I can eat anything my little heart desires! {and save this recipe to celebrate the day when my hips can squeeze their way into my favorite skinny jeans again!}

  7. 7

    Leslie on October 4, 2010 at 10:32 am Reply

    SINFUL indeed!!!!

  8. 8

    Hoontah on October 4, 2010 at 12:53 pm Reply

    Oh Brooke, How I adore your blog. Unfortunately today it is only torture. Since the most gorgeous cinnamon rolls I've ever seen show up on my computer screen without a recipe. Drat.

    So when exactly is your cookbook going to be available? I don't mean to rush you, but I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy! I love your blog, the recipes, insanely tempting photos and the cheerful content. I can't wait to see it in book form!

  9. 9

    Erinsgobragh on October 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm Reply

    That is the perfect amount of icing!

  10. 10

    I run for cake! on October 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm Reply

    YUM YUM YUM!

  11. 11

    smalltownoven on October 4, 2010 at 7:48 pm Reply

    Ahh! I gotta admit, I love the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon roll recipe but I've never really met a cinnamon roll I didn't love. These look absolutely gorgeous. I'm salivating already! I'll have to make these soon. Perfect for the cooler days coming up!

  12. 12

    a. maren on October 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm Reply

    everyone is making cinnamon rolls this time of year! must be the season. yours look gorgeous, especially that FROSTING! to die for.

    http://www.icyviolets.blogspot.com

  13. 13

    A Little Of A Lot on October 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm Reply

    YUM !!! The perfect Breakfast treat for a perfect Fall morning

  14. 14

    Camille on October 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm Reply

    Zing! You frost your cinnamon rolls exactly the way I LIKE them! I say pile it high and deep!

  15. 15

    grace on October 14, 2010 at 7:44 am Reply

    buttercream? buttercream on cinnamon rolls? you minx! i love it. :)

  16. 16

    Kate on April 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm Reply

    At what step do you roll out the dough?…

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