Cinnamon Rolls


Cinnamon Rolls

Everyone loves cinnamon rolls, but I found that people have very strong ideas about how they should look and taste. My family kept putting in the requests. “Could they be bigger?”, “Could they have more cinnamon?”, “Could they have more frosting?” There is no way to know how many times this recipe was modified before it got the stamp of perfection from my family. Now they just ask “Can you make more?” I like that kind of question.

Cutting the dough with dental floss may seem a little strange until you actually try it. I can still remember Mom showing me how to do it when I was a kid. Later I realized that it works on anything that tends to get crushed by a knife (soft cheese, caramel, etc.). Thanks, Mom!

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • ½ cup warm tap water (100°F)
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast
Proof Yeast (for viability): Confirm water temperature with an instant-read thermometer. In a small bowl, whisk all together; set aside until foamy (4-5 minutes). Warm sugar water helps activate the yeast, but over 120°F risks killing it.
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
In a 1-quart tri-ply saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter (5-6 minutes).

Note: If melting in the microwave, prevent superheated areas and a possible explosion by frequently removing to stir.

Melting large amounts of butter in a pan is easier and safer than in the microwave.
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk (not raw)
  • 2 large eggs
Whisk sugar into butter, followed by the milk. Whisk in eggs until loose and uniform in color. Set aside. Raw (unpasteurized) milk inhibits yeast. Cooling the butter before adding eggs prevents curdling. Cooling the mixture also prevents killing the yeast in the next step.
  • 22 ½ ounces bread flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
In a 5-quart bowl, whisk together and form a well. Pour butter and yeast mixtures into the well; whisk to draw flour from around the edges. As liquid thickens, switch to a bamboo mixing spoon, using a kneading motion (scoop the flour from bowl sides to plunge into the center, rotating bowl a quarter turn; repeat). To incorporate remaining flour, knead with your hand (press and deeply fold), forming a ball. Weighing flour produces consistent results. Bread flour is high in structure building gluten; salt tightens that gluten. Drawing in the flour makes mixing easy. Bamboo is sturdy and will not scratch mixing bowls.
  • 1 tablespoon bread flour
Evenly dust the workspace. Turn dough out on top and deeply fold 8-10 times. Flip smooth side up; invert bowl on top and rest 20 minutes. Gluten continues to develop during resting, reducing hand kneading time.
  • 1 tablespoon bread flour
Evenly dust the workspace. Place dough on top and knead (deeply fold, press palm into the dough, rotate a quarter turn; repeat) 1-2 minutes. Kneading develops flour gluten, increasing elasticity.
  • 1 tablespoon bread flour
First Proof: Dust the dough surface and then place in a 2-quart glass batter bowl. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap; proof at room temperature (70-75°F) until doubled in volume (about 1 hour). Alternatively, divide as desired and seal in separate plastic bags with airspace for doubling. Refrigerate for up to 1 week to shape and finish at your convenience. Glass and plastic bags make monitoring easy.
Chilling slows the yeast.
A high sugar content provides plenty of food for the yeast, assuring oven browning up to a week.
  • 2 teaspoons butter
Evenly butter two 9x9x3-inch square cake pans; set aside. Tall sides keep sides soft.
  • 1 teaspoon flour
To Shape: With a lightly dusted rolling pin, roll dough into a 16×24-inch rectangle. Excess flour can interfere with dough shaping.
  • 7 ounces (1 cup firmly packed) light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the filling, whisk together in a 1-quart bowl. Spread evenly over the rectangle leaving a half-inch border. A border allows fillings to be sealed in by pinching.
  Without pulling or stretching the dough, lightly roll into a 16-inch long log. Pinch edge to seal. Mark the top of the log into 8 segments. An easy way to do this is to mark the halfway point with a sharp knife, and then mark each half into quarters. Keep in mind that the ends of the log tend to have less mass than the center. The ultimate goal is 8 rolls with equal mass. Pulling and stretching while rolling up the dough can cause the centers to pop out during rising and baking.
  • 24-inch length of dental floss
To cut the segments, slide floss against the workspace (perpendicular to the log) until just under the desired cut line. Bring the 2 ends up and over the top of the log; crisscrossing and pulling tight until the dough is cut through. Floss cuts soft dough without deforming it.
  Space 4 rolls in each prepared baking pan. With your fingertips, firmly flatten each to 1 ½ inches to promote even rising heights. Flattening discourages the centers from popping up during rising and baking.
  Second proof: Cover with an oversized inverted storage container; rise at room temperature (70-75°F) until almost doubled in volume (1 hour). Covering keeps exterior soft for expansion.
  In the final 30 minutes of proofing, place an oven rack just below center. Preheat to 375°F “Convection” (verify with an oven thermometer). Bake until golden brown with centers reaching 190-195°F (18-20 minutes). Cover rolls with squares of aluminum foil if the cinnamon rolls are browning too quickly. Staying under 400°F is advisable for rich doughs. Ovens often run hot or cold or preheat slowly.
  Without removing the cinnamon rolls from the pans, transfer to wire cooling racks.  
  • 10 ounces powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons whole milk (start with 3)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla
For the glaze, in a 1-quart bowl, whisk all together. Add the extra tablespoon of milk if the glaze seems stiff. Use the whisk to drizzle over rolls while they are still hot from the oven. If not serving directly, cover with the inverted oversized storage container to finish cooling. Covering with an oversized container retains valuable moisture without making the rolls sweaty.

Additional Testing Notes: Lack of oven spring (rising in the oven) indicates over proofing.