You know what I have issues with? Dry, hard, not enough filling, but still too sweet cinnamon rolls.
Do you feel the same as me?
I think a good cinnamon roll should be soft but still have resistance. Moist but not doughy. Gooey cinnamon and sugar filling that doesn't make me feel like I'm doing the cinnamon challenge or anticipating an imminent toothache. In other words, perfect.
Am I being too harsh?
I don't think so. Life is too short to be content with just-okay cinnamon rolls. (lol I sound like the "just okay" AT&T commercial 😆).
No, but seriously. Why have average cinnamon rolls when you can have the BEST?
And you know what makes the BEST cinnamon rolls even better? A cream cheese icing that taste like vanilla ice cream. It will send you to heaven and back!
So let's quit this chit chatting so you can get to making this pan of amazingness!
Ingredients for the BEST Cinnamon Rolls:
For the dough:
- All-purpose flour: we want some of that bread-chew texture (you know what I'm talking about)
- Milk: provides natural sweetness and richness
- Eggs: extra richness and protein structure
- Having the eggs at room temperature will help the yeasts proof the dough faster.
- Brown sugar: our additional sweetness; it also provides our dough with a bit of flavor complexity
- Salt: balance and flavor!
- Active dry yeast: we are making bread! Yes!
- Unsalted butter: this is gonna be a rich dough! Which which will also keep our cinnamon rolls moist - exactly what we want!
- Have the butter at room temperature/ softened to make the incorporating process easy and fast. Softened butter will also prevent decreasing the temperature of the dough.
For the filling:
- Cinnamon and brown sugar: because we are making cinnamon rolls! Plus, the brown sugar keeps the filling gooey and yummy! 😋
- Melted unsalted butter: to keep the sugar adhered to the dough
- Most recipes instruct for the melted butter to be added to the cinnamon sugar, but I find it really difficult to spread evenly.
- Salt: for balance and flavor
For the glaze:
- Cream cheese: provides a mellow tang and creaminess for the glaze. Plus cream cheese and cinnamon rolls is a classic!
- Powdered sugar: melts fast and easy
- If you only have granulated sugar, add it to warm cream cheese and milk to dissolve.
- Milk: for thinning
- Vanilla: optional addition, but an addition that'll make your glaze taste like vanilla ice cream 😉
How to make the BEST Cinnamon Rolls:
- Activate yeast.
- Heat milk on the stovetop or microwave until it's lukewarm or about 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sprinkle 2 ¼ teaspoon (1 packet) of active dry yeast over ¼ cup of the lukewarm milk. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.
***DO NOT add yeast to hot milk. High heat will kill the yeast!***
- This process will "dissolve" the yeast, and if the yeast bubbles, it proves that the yeast is alive!
- Prepare wet ingredients.
- Add sugar and salt into the rest of the warmed milk. Stir to dissolve. Beat eggs.
- Having everything beaten and dissolved helps the dough mix more evenly.
- Make dough.
- In a stand mixer, add the flour, the wet ingredients, and the activated yeast. Using the dough hook of the mixer, stir everything together on low speed until dough comes together. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula or bowl scraper if needed. Mix on low for an additional minute.
- If mixing by hand:
Follow step 1 and 2 as is. Add everything into a medium bowl and mix with your hand until the dough comes together. Knead for an additional 2-3 minutes.
***dough will be quite sticky***
- Incorporate softened butter.
While the stand mixer is on low, add in 1 Tablespoon of butter at a time until all of the butter is added. Make sure to incorporate thoroughly each time before the next addition of butter.
- If mixing by hand:
Add half of the softened butter to the dough and work the butter in by folding and kneading the dough onto itself until no more butter chunks are visible. Add the other half of the butter and repeat.
***You can also turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface to incorporate butter, however, do not over flour the surface or add too much flour to the dough. The dough should remain kind of tacky.***
- Proof dough.
- Transfer dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof in a warm area. After every 30 minutes of proofing, deflate the dough (aka punch it down in the middle) and fold the bottom of the dough over itself a few times.
- Cover and repeat this process 3 more times, or a total of 2 hours.
***I recommend slightly greasing your hand/ fingers before handing the dough to keep the stickiness to a minimal.***
- As you repeat this proofing process, you will see that the dough will become stretchier without you having to knead it. That's because gluten is forming while the yeast is doing it's thing! Yeah! Less work for the win! 🙌
- Make the filling.
- While waiting for the dough to proof, combine 1 cup of brown sugar with 2 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
- Shape and add filling.
- Once the proofing time is up, transfer the dough onto a clean work surface. Flouring is not exactly necessary at this point since the butter in the dough is melted and will prevent the dough from sticking to surfaces. But if you'd like to be safe, very lightly flour your work surface.
- Using a rolling pin, evenly roll the dough into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick, roughly 12x18 in dimension.
- Brush 4 Tablespoon of melted butter (not hot) over the entire surface. Sprinkle the previously made filling evenly over the entire surface.
- Roll and cut cinnamon rolls.
- Roll the cinnamon dough long ways into a log. Cut them evenly into 12 pieces with a bench scraper or knife. Line them into a 9x13 cake pan or a casserole dish or feel free to do the same with a 12 inch round pans or make 2 smaller pans! Cover the dough and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
- Bake cinnamon rolls.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for about 25-28 minutes until it's golden/ golden brown on the outside and when you insert a toothpick, it comes out clean. Remove from oven and let it cool.
- Make icing.
While waiting for the cinnamon rolls to cool, let's make the icing!
- Warm 4 ounces of cream cheese and ¼ cup of milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk until the cream cheese is thoroughly melted and combined with the milk. Remove from heat. Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ cup of powdered sugar. Mix until combined and smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate and reheat when needed.
***A splash of milk may be needed to thin out the glaze if reheating for future use***
- You can also use the microwave to simplify this step (my preferred method). Heat the cream cheese in the microwave for about 25-30 seconds or until it is very soft and warm. Whisk to make sure it is evenly melted and smooth. Add milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth.
- Shower the cinnamon rolls with icing and enjoy!
- This icing stays fluid for a while at room temperature, so you can apply it even after the cinnamon rolls are cooled. But why wait that long? Cinnamon rolls are soooo good when it's still warm.
Want Cinnamon Rolls as a morning indulgence?
Cinnamon rolls are not just for dessert. It's perfect for breakfast! (actually anytime of the day?)
The point is, you don't have to wake up at 4 in the morning to have this perfection for breakfast! Yes!
You can follow the recipe up till lining cinnamon rolls in your baking dish. Once the rolls are lined in your baking dish, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, take the cinnamon rolls out of the fridge and let it warm up at room temperature for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven.
Continue following the recipe as is, but add an additional minute or two of baking time to compensate for the cool dough.
Freezing the dough?
Yes! The dough can be frozen for up to 2 months, if tightly wrapped and stored in resealable bags.
Follow the recipe up to rolling the dough with the filling into a log. You can divide the log into 2 even pieces for easier storing.
When you are ready for to make some cinnamon rolls, simply thaw the dough overnight in the fridge (the dough is actually easier to cut when semi-thawed!), and follow the recipe as is. However, the dough may need 5-10 extra minutes at room temperature to warm up before baking.
I needed more glaze...
Bake with love, ❤️
For the dough:
For the filling:
For the cream cheese glaze:
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Activate yeast.Heat the milk to about 115°F, lukewarm.Sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup of the milk. Stir and set aside for about 10 minutes. Yeast will bubble.Add brown sugar and salt into the remainder of the warmed milk. Stir to dissolve.
- Mix dough.If using a stand mixer:Add flour, milk mixture, eggs, and activated yeast into the stand mixer bowl and mix on low until dough comes together. Continue mixing on low for 1 minute.If mixing by hand:Add flour, milk mixture, eggs, and activated yeast into a medium bowl. Mix the dough ingredients with your hand until everything is moisten. Keep kneading the dough for an additional 2-3 minutes.***dough will be wet and very sticky***
- Incorporate butter.If using stand mixer:With the stand mixer on low speed, add 1 Tablespoon of softened butter at a time until all of the butter is added. Make sure to mix the dough until no more chunks of butter is visible before adding the next Tablespoon of butter.If kneading by hand:Either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface, add ½ of the softened butter to the dough and knead the butter into the dough until no more chunks of butter is visible. Repeat with remaining butter.***dough will still be on the stickier side, but don't be tempted into adding more flour***
- Proof dough.Once all the butter has been added, transfer dough into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic and let proof in a warm place. After 30 minutes of proofing, punch/ deflate the dough. Fold the dough onto itself a few times by pulling the bottom of the dough over the top.Repeat this step 3 more times or a total of 2 hours.
- Make filling.While waiting for the dough to proof, make the filling. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix until cinnamon is thoroughly distributed.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Shape and cut dough.Once the proofing step is complete, transfer dough onto a clean work surface.*optional: lightly flour surface*With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a ¼ inch thick rectangle, roughly about 18x12 inches in dimension. Brush the entire surface of the rolled dough with melted butter and sprinkle the entire surface evenly with the cinnamon sugar filling.Roll the dough long ways into a log. Cut the dough with a bench scraper or knife into 12 even pieces. Line them in a 9x13 baking pan or casserole dish.
- Bake.Bake the cinnamon rolls for about 25-28 minutes. Cinnamon rolls are done when it's golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Make icing.While waiting on the cinnamon rolls to bake and and cool, heat cream cheese and milk in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk the cream cheese until all is melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extra. Whisk together until smooth and incorporated. * This step can also be completed with a microwave*
- Drizzle icing and enjoy!These cinnamon rolls are amazing while they're still warm with warm cream cheese icing.
- To bake cinnamon rolls the next morning, cover and refrigerate the cinnamon rolls overnight once they are lined in your baking dish.
In the morning, let the cinnamon rolls warm up at room temperature for about 10 minutes while preheating your oven. Add an additional minute or 2 to your baking time to compensate for the cold dough.
- To freeze dough, stop after rolling your dough into a log. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and store it in a resealable bag up to 2 months. *Dough can be divided into 2 logs for easier storing.*
- To use, thaw dough in fridge overnight and follow steps as is. Add an additional 5-10 minutes to let dough warm up at room temperature before baking.