It is cold, dark and icy here in the midwest. Finally! It took a while for winter to really kick-in….but it did. And when it is cold, dark and icy, there is nothing more motivating to get out of bed in the morning than baking-off a pan of classic cinnamon rolls. I really enjoy baking in the morning, as in popping some fridge-proofed goodies in the oven for a fresh treat with coffee. Is there anything better? You feel accomplished, like a boss for making your own delicious treats, and you probably have leftovers (unless you take the rest to work – which I encourage when possible!).
Like many, our family usually does cinnamon rolls for Christmas. I always (always!) make mine way ahead….like, a week or two ahead of time. This year, I really think I have come to my perfect recipe – Claire and Stella do not disappoint with their dough and filling recipes, respectively (I love Dessert Person and Bravetart – both fantastic books!). I have dabbled with other recipes tweaking here and there, but this combo is now my favorite and will be my ride-or-die cinnamon roll template.
My method is that I freeze the rolls before right after rolling them (after the dough completes the bulk ferment and you’ve rolled/filled/cut into the rolls). The rolls go into their baking pan that has been greased and lined with parchment. I place a piece of parchment or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the rolls to help mitigate moisture loss (freezer burn), and really cover them tightly, even putting them in a plastic bag, to prevent from drying out. The night before I want to bake, I remove the pan from the freezer, un-wrap, remove the parchment from the surface of the rolls, and then re-cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for the final proof overnight (8-12 hours). When you wake up in the morning, pre-heat the oven, remove rolls from the fridge and bake. Voila! You are the Pillsbury Dough Person.
And…the above is what I did this Christmas. I made a double batch of both the dough and filling below, froze the rolls (I did this 1 week ahead of time), then on Christmas eve, I proofed overnight in the fridge, and baked-off in morning. Hot tip: use disposable aluminum baking pans if you’re giving these away as a gift.
I read a few articles/blogs about freezing after “par-baking” (baking the rolls just until they are set, but not brown), and then finishing the baking straight from the freezer. This didn’t sound appealing to me…
Controversial, but I am firmly in the camp of not frosting or icing my cinnamon rolls. The icing attracts water, and gets weird a gooey the next day. In my opinion, it also takes the rolls into a too-sweet category. I’d much prefer a schmear of jam (homemade strawberry is ideal, but I’ll take marmalade any day, too). You can play with the spices in the filling – add some ground ginger and cardamom if you’d like!
These classic cinnamon rolls last a few days after baking, but are the tastiest day-of baking. Toasting or a gently re-heat (honestly I sometimes just microwave one for like 10 seconds….no judgement here) the next day or two does the trick.
Enjoy now….or later. Choose you adventure!
PS: I’ve abandoned the Word Press Recipe Maker plugin; it’s honestly one more thing to update and I am over it. Posting recipes is as much for me as it is you, and I think me simply typing out recipes works juuuust fine!
Classic Cinnamon Rolls
Makes about 12 rolls (1 large 9″x13″ pan or two 9″ cake pans)
- 1 cup (227g) whole or 2% milk
- 1 1/2 tsp (5g) active dry yeast (I use SAF gold)
- 4 1/2 cups (585g) all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (66g) sugar
- 3/4 tsp (5g) fine sea salt (use 1 1/2 tsp if coarse kosher salt)
- 10 TB (152g) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes and chilled
- 3 large eggs (about 150g)
- 8 TB (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup (170g) gently packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp (2g) fine sea salt
- 2 TB (15g) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Other spices, as desired (cardamom, ginger, allspice….)
For assembly: a few TB of flour or a few tsp of neutral oil for rolling
- Prepare the dough a day ahead of time: warm the milk to 105F. Add yeast to milk, and mix. Wait 5-10 minutes for the mixture to become slightly bubbly.
- Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, sugar, salt, butter and eggs.
- Turn on the mixer to low, and add the warm milk and yeast mixture.
- Mix on medium for about 5 minutes, until the butter is all incorporated (the warm milk will help it soften as the dough mixes). The dough will be soft and sticky at this point.
- Turn the mixer up to medium-high, and mix for 5 minutes. The dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl and will be mostly gathered around the dough hook. The dough will still be soft and sticky, but if it is still clinging to the sides of the bowl after mixing on medium-high, add 1 TB of flour at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (I had to add 3 TB of flour).
- The finished dough should be slightly tacky, but not overly sticky.
- Bulk ferment the dough: remove dough from dough hook, and gather into a ball in the mixing bowl. Lightly coat with neutral oil to prevent moisture loss. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours (overnight is great here).
- Prepare the cinnamon filling by mixing the softened butter with the sugar, spices and salt. This should be a soft, smooth paste that is lightened in color by mixing – get in there and really mix it!
- Roll the dough with the filling and final proof: remove the dough from the fridge and roll out the cold on a lightly oiled work surface (you can also use flour, but I prefer oil here) into a 20″ by 9″ rectangle, with the longer 20″ side facing your body.
- Smear the cinnamon filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving just a small border of naked dough around the entire rectangle.
- Roll the dough at the long 20″ side facing you, and roll away from your body, making a tight spiral. Pinch the log together once the spiral is complete, and gently squeeze the center towards the ends of the roll, to make and even-diameter roll.
- Trim 1/3″ off each end to expose the spiral, saving the ends. Cut the log into 12 equal pieces, about 1 1/2″ each. Using dental floss is the easier way to do this: slide dental floss under the log, and bring the two ends together while keeping the floss tight. You can also use sharp non-serrated knife for this.
- Place the rolls into a grease or buttered pan, that has also been lined with parchment: either one 9″x13″ pan (12 rolls) or two 9″ cake pans (6 rolls each). The parchment helps to prevent the rolls from sticking when they ooze their sugary-cinnamon filling (a good thing!). Tip: I like to put the 1/3″ trimmed ends underneath two of the rolls, to not waste anything.
- Now, you can either cover the rolls directly with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment (so it touches the tops of the rolls), and wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and freeze for up to a month, or cover and place in the fridge to final-proof overnight (8-12 hours), or final proof for about 40 to 60 minutes at room temperature (70-74F is ideal) until they are about 50% larger.
- If baking from the freezer, remove the rolls from the freezer the night before you want to bake them (8-12 hours), and final proof in the fridge.
- Bake the rolls: pre-heat the oven to 350F. Remove covering from rolls, and bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
- Allow to cool just slightly, then enjoy!