Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls (like Cinnabon, only better!)

Small bits of ooey, gooey goodness.
Iced cinnamon roll

That's how someone described these cinnamon rolls to me and I have to agree with them.  Yes, you can always go and buy cinnamon rolls in a tube from Pillsbury.  It's a lot easier, but it's certainly not even close to tasting as good.

It's worth making these just for the smells that will permeate your house while they're baking! When people come to the house while I'm making them I always get comments about how fantastic they smell - which is nothing compared to the comments about how they taste.

The other thing about these is just how versatile they are - you can make them into cinnamon rolls like the ones I describe here or you can roll the dough a bit thicker and make it into a loaf of bread.  I always make extra dough just so I can do that, then in turn use that in the best french toast you've ever had!  You can also use the dough by itself (no cinnamon/sugar mixture) and turn it into some of the best dinner rolls you'll ever have - as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I do for Thanksgiving (and other occasions) every year.

I want to thank my mom for this recipe - she's been making this for as long as I can remember.  I've made a few changes to it here and there as I tend to do with just about everything I make, but the basic recipe hasn't changed.  She's still the best cook I know and the inspiration for everything I make - love you Mom!

If you try this recipe (or any of my others) please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Watch how to make them here!


2 packages yeast
5 – 6 cups flour
1 cup butter (2 sticks) 
2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar 
1 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten 
1 cup boiling water

1 pound brown sugar, approximately 2 cups packed
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)

Cream Cheese Icing
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk


  1. Dissolve yeast in the warm water (if you add a teaspoon of sugar to the water and stir well it will help activate the yeast). 
  2. Cream butter and sugar and slowly add the boiling water. 
  3. Let stand until cool and all butter is melted (to speed the cooling, I usually only add 3/4 cup of boiling water, then when the butter is melted, I add a couple of ice cubes.  This will cool it enough that you don't have to wait). 
  4. When cool, add the yeast and eggs and blend well. 
  5. Add salt and mix.  Add flour slowly, you want the dough to be very moist, not stiff. (It probably will be closer to 5 cups of flour than 6, but flours vary widely; humidity can also alter how much you use).  I use bread flour because I prefer the texture, but all purpose flour will work fine.
  6. Once the dough is the desired consistency, place in a greased bowl in the refrigerator, and cover with a dish towel overnight. Depending upon the time I have available, I sometimes make the dough in the morning and make the rolls in the afternoon as opposed to sitting in the refrigerator overnight (if you do this, you don't need to refrigerate it). 
  7. Next day (or that afternoon, depending upon when you make the dough), roll the dough to approximately 1/4” thick*.  
  8. Spread with melted butter. I use 1 - 1 ½ sticks of butter for this. You can also spread softened (not melted) butter instead if you prefer.
  9. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon (I also use a pinch of nutmeg - but this is optional). Sprinkle the mixture over the butter on the entire surface of the dough. I've actually tried different ways to do this. If you prefer, you can melt the butter and add it to the brown sugar and cinnamon.  This will make a paste-like mixture you can spread over the dough if you prefer.**
    Dough rolled out, spread with melted butter and
    sprinkled with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  10. Roll up from the widest side and cut into slices about 1” wide and place in a non-stick pan***. 
  11. Cover with moist cloth and let rise about 2 hours. 
  12. Bake in a 400 degree oven until slightly browned on top. (About 15 minutes). 
*If you want to make a loaf of bread instead, roll out to approx. 1/2" thick.

**The original recipe from my mother didn't use brown sugar.  It instead used a sugar/cinnamon mixture in place of the brown sugar/cinnamon. Feel free to try this instead - it's equally good!

***DON'T CROWD THE PAN!  It's very important not to crowd the pan when you put the rolls in. The rolls will still expand and the middle won't cook properly if there are too many in the pan.

NOTE:  Depending upon what I'm using the dough for (cinnamon rolls or straight dinner rolls), I will add a tablespoon of vanilla to the dough at the same time as the eggs/yeast mixture.  It's actually a great addition even if you're making dinner rolls.

Cream Cheese Icing****
  1. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, margarine, vanilla extract (in addition to vanilla extract, I make an orange extract that I sometimes use as well. This gives it a slight flavor difference that is worth the trouble), confectioners' sugar and milk. 
  2. Beat until creamy.
    Iced cinnamon rolls
  3. Spread the icing over the rolls
  4. Enjoy!
****This is another area where the original recipe from my mother varies from this one. The original recipe uses a much simpler icing. If you'd like to try this, simply mix together one and a half pounds of confectioner's sugar, one and a half teaspoons of vanilla extract and just enough milk to make a fairly loose frosting. Again, it's different from my recipe but excellent (some of my family would tell you it's better!).

Best when served warm.

COOK'S NOTE: These also make very light dinner rolls. Just roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Baste with melted butter and fold over slightly off center. Cover and let rise for approximately 2 hrs. Then bake as above.  Alternately, you can roll the dough into small balls (approx. 3/4 inch).  Place three of these in each indentation in a muffin tin, then bake as directed.
Loaf of bread made from cinnamon roll dough.  Simply roll
the dough thicker than you would with the cinnamon rolls,
then continue as directed except don't cut them.  Pinch the
ends together and bake.  Makes incredible french toast!


  1. These are as Mary Poppins would say, supercalifragilisticexpialidocios!!! A little slice of heaven in a plate!

  2. Gary, this is pretty much exactly how I make mine! Worth every second of prep as they are amazing!

  3. You know what they say about great minds! Seriously, they really are awesome. One of the reasons I love them is that there is no "knead" or "punch down the dough" step like you see in most yeast breads. I love it when I can do less work!

  4. Know what you should include in this, is your version of monkey bread!

  5. I haven't made that in awhile. I've been trying to publish recipes after I make them simply so that I have pictures to go along with them. I guess it gives me a good excuse to make it again!!