Perfect Cinnamon Rolls


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.


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.


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.
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.


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.



Perfect Cinnamon Rolls with Decadant Cream Cheese Frosting


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)

1 stick butter, very soft
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon

4 oz. cream cheese
2 sticks butter
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 Tablespoons milk


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.

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