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Even the name ‘cinnamon rolls’ is enough to conjure cravings. My department had a holiday brunch today, and I volunteered to make cinnamon rolls. The recipe I followed is by a fellow co-worker and friend, and is wonderful. Don’t be afraid because of the length of the recipe. Here are a few tips to make it less daunting. Try it once, and you’ll see how easy it can be!

  1. Measure out all the ingredients beforehand. I know it’s work, but this will help you feel prepared and less harried during the assembly process. I follow this rule no matter what recipe I’m making.
  2. Read the recipe through once, measuring out the ingredients the way the recipe states. For instance, if step 3 tells you add the four and nutmeg, then when you measure out your flour, add your nutmeg to it, so that when you get to that point in the recipe you only have to grab one bowl. It also makes for less to clean up afterward.
  3. Take your time. The butter isn’t going to burst into flames if you pause to read the instructions carefully. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. Let the ingredients that need to be softened actually soften. Set out your butter first, then measure out the other ingredients while it does its thing. By the time you’re ready to assemble the dough, everything will be ready to go. (Note: Butter takes about 30 minutes at room temperature to properly soften. You should be able to press—not too hard—your index finger into the end and have it give slightly without the sides of the butter mushing out like a melted wax candle. Make sense?)
  5. A good place to let your dough rise is on top of the fridge. Or, place it in the warmest room in your house (like I did). If your oven has a ‘warm’ setting, test it with an oven thermometer and see how hot it is. You want it around 85°. Any warmer and you risk killing your yeast. If your oven is too hot, let it warm up, then open the door and let most of that heat out. The temperature will fall and you’ll end up with a nice place for your yeast to rise.
  6. To be sure the warm water you add to the yeast is the perfect temperature, don’t bother with a thermometer. Turn on your faucet, and let it run. Place the inside of your wrist under the water. The water is the perfect temperature when it feels warm—not  hot—to the inside of your wrist. Like heating a baby bottle.
  7. Make sure that the butter you spread over the dough before sprinkling with the brown sugar mixture is really soft. I mean, so soft it is almost melting soft. I didn’t let mine soften enough—and it sat out the entire time I prepped this recipe—and it kind of tore at the dough when I tried to spread it. I used a tiny bit of the 1/2 cup it calls for, probably even less than 1/4 cup. It doesn’t take much. Don’t be afraid to stop using it if you find it’s tearing your dough or something. It won’t ruin the recipe.

To the recipe!

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
From Southern Living magazine’s December 2011 issue

Ingredients

  • 1 (1/4-oz.) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup very soft butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Cream Cheese Icing (see below)

Preparation

  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup softened butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. salt, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and next 2 ingredients, beating until blended. Stir in yeast mixture.
  3. Combine 4 1/2 cups bread flour and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed 1 to 2 minutes or until well blended.
  4. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup bread flour onto a flat surface; turn dough out, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes), adding up to 1/4 cup bread flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands and surface. Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
    Take a breather! Clean up, measure out the next round of ingredients, watch TV…
  5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  6. Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/2 cup very soft butter, leaving a 1-inch border around edges. Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and sprinkle sugar mixture over butter.
  7. Top with pecans. Roll up dough, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side; cut into 16 slices (about 1 inch thick).
    TIP:Use a long piece of dental floss to easily cut the dough into slices. Shimmy it under the dough log to the point at which you want to cut, then bring the two ends up and over the dough log, cross them, and pull. Ta-da! Instant slices.

    before the second rise

  8. Place rolls, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 10-inch round pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
    Take a breather! Clean up, watch TV…

    after the final (second) rise. See how the space between them fills in as they puff up?

  9. Bake (uncovered) at 350° for 20 to 22 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Spread Cream Cheese Icing over rolls. Serve immediately.

    all but this was eaten! Don't you love how someone stole the center piece?

    Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

  1. Beat first 2 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in vanilla and 1 Tbsp. milk. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, stirring until icing is smooth and creamy.
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