by Stefan Lonce
I must admit, I can’t remember the last time I was in a mall. Do they still exist? Are there still food courts? To be truthful, I don’t miss the experience that much. I don’t like crowds and I find that most people are too involved with their phones to be concerned with the world around them, which always puts me “in a mood.”
But, there is one thing I miss about the experience. The sweet aroma of CINNAMON wafting through the air as I walked through the food court. Just writing this is making my mouth water! Being in front of that certain place…you know the place I’m talking about. Well, good news everyone. I think I’ve come up with a suitable substitution for that experience…without going to the mall! Yes…at home “food court style” cinnamon buns! Attorneys please note how careful I have been to not mention any corporate names and that this is my own “trial and error” recipe 🙂
- 1 cup warm milk (about 110-115° F)
- 1 (1⁄4 ounce) package active dry yeast (about 2-1⁄4 teaspoons)
- 1⁄2 cup white sugar
- 1⁄3 cup unsalted butter, melted, but not hot
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 4-1/2 cups (+/-) bread flour or all purpose flour (Bread flour makes for a lighter cinnamon roll, but all purpose flour is fine for this. The amount of flour depends on the moisture in the air, so start with 4-1/4 cups and add the remaining as needed to make a slightly sticky, but not wet dough. On humid days you may need to add up to 1⁄4 cup extra)
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (Make sure your cinnamon is fresh! If your cinnamon has been sitting in your spice cabinet for years, invest in a new bottle. The flavor really goes downhill after a year or so and this is one of those times you really want to taste it.)
- Pinch of Salt
- 1⁄3 cup unsalted butter, VERY SOFT (You will be spreading this butter on the rolled out dough, so be sure it is very soft and spreadable, but not melted.)
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Heat the milk to about 110-115° (30-40 seconds in the microwave.) Use a kitchen thermometer to test it. You don’t want it too warm or you may kill the yeast. If you go too far, just let it cool on the counter until it reaches the right temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let it proof for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients. Mix well. If the dough is too wet, as it is in this picture, add a little more flour (up to a quarter cup, this tends to happen on humid days.) Knead the dough on medium/low speed until it takes on a smooth and cohesive texture, about 5 minutes, scraping the dough off the hook every minute or so. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a few kneads by hand to be sure everything is completely incorporated. Of course, you can do all the kneading by hand, but don’t skimp on the time.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a bowl coated with 1 teaspoon of oil (or sprayed with cooking spray) and turn it over to coat the dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. It could take longer if your house tends to be cold. (My place is 120 years old and is far from what you would call energy efficient, so if I’m baking in the winter I do a load of laundry and let the dough rise on top of my dryer while it’s running!)
It’s finally time to make your cinnamon rolls! Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 16” x 20” rectangle about 1⁄4 inch thick (a bench scraper is a great aid for this). Spread the dough with the resereved 1⁄3 cup softened butter to within an inch of one of the long edges (this is where making sure your butter is soft is crucial). Then sprinkle the butter evenly with the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll the dough up into a “log”, starting with the longer edge opposite your inch allowance, pinching the dough together at the seam.
Using a sharp knife, cut the “log” in half, then those pieces in half, then those pieces in thirds, making 12 rolls. Place rolls, cut sides down, in a well greased 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. (Would you like to enjoy these rolls hot out of the oven in the morning? Let them rise in the refrigerator overnight. Take them out in the morning and let them come up to room temperature while your oven is preheating. You DO NOT want to put a cold glass dish into a hot oven. Bake and frost as directed below.)
Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat together all the frosting ingredients (cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt) until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until needed. If you have a favorite frosting, or want to use something out of a can, feel free. Or, use no frosting at all! These taste great plain. Remember, there’s a cup of brown sugar in the filling.
Preheat oven to 350°. Bake rolls on the center rack of the preheated oven until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Spread half the frosting on the rolls while they are still hot from the oven so that the frosting melts in. After the rolls have cooled for 10-15 minutes, spread them with the other half (it will still melt in a little.) Makes 12 rolls.