These freshly baked cinnamon rolls from scratch that are soft, fluffy and absolutely delicious and will fill your house with irresistible scent.
I am spending the first week of spring break enjoying me-time. Literally, like laying down and reading those books that I haven’t finished yet, making myself a hot boiling tea while enjoying those toasted coconut cookies. I didn’t get back to my camera and photography stuff yet because there are many things on my to-do list during a break, which I know that I should after writing this post.
Believe it or not, cinnamon rolls are considered a comfort food on cold days. However, I do want them all year long. The balance between fluffy dough, a sweet and aromatic cinnamon-sugar filling and tangy flavor from cream cheese frosting can’t get any better.
Although cinnamon rolls take time to make, they are not as hard as you might think. Instead, most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. There are a few steps before you can enjoy these babies.
- Make the dough.
- Let it rise
- Roll it up
- Let it rise one more time
- Bake the rolls
First, I want to talk about yeast. There are 2 common types of dry yeast: active dry yeast and instant yeast. Instant yeast can be mixed into the dry ingredients while for active dry yeast, we will have to do the process called ‘yeast proofing’ which is considered the act of testing if the yeast is alive or able to work. If the yeast is dead, there will be no environment that helps it become a productive leavening agent.
This process will start with sprinkling the yeast over the lukewarm liquid (for example, milk or water). The question is: what is lukewarm water? Milk/water that has a temperature close to 110F/45C. Using a thermometer is recommended when you want to check the water temperature. Too hot or too cold will not be a good environment for the yeast to activate, especially when it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast culture. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by pouring a drop of liquid on your wrist or hand. If it feels warm, it’s perfect for the yeast. Another way that I usually do when I forget my thermometer is mix half cup of hot water with half cup of cold milk. By doing this way, the liquid mixture would reach the right temperature for the yeast. After testing the temperature, sprinkle the yeast on top of lukewarm liquid and let it sit for around 5-10 minutes, until the yeast begins to form a creamy foam on the surface of the water. If there is no foam, the yeast is dead, and you should start over with a new packet of yeast.
MAKE THE DOUGH
In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, mix all the dry ingredients, except the flour. Add the yeast mixture and mix just until combined. Add 3 cups of the flour and mix using the mixer with a dough hook on low speed or by using a wooden spoon. Mix until the dough starts to come together. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour – 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Don’t use more than 3 ½ cups of flour.
After adding all the flour, keep kneading the dough on low speed for 5-7 minutes. If you don’t want to use an electric mixer, you can use your hands to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes on a well-floured surface. The dough at this time should be soft and elastic, just slightly sticky and workable.
LET IT RISE
Place the dough in the lightly greased bowl and cover it with a plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size. Here is the trick that I usually do when making these rolls. I turn on the oven to 180°F (80°C) then turn it off. Open the oven door and place the dough covered with a plastic wrap inside. Leave the oven door cracked open for about 10 minutes, then close the oven door. You can let the dough rest on the counter as well. With my trick, the dough usually rises double in size after 1-1.5 hours.
ROLL IT UP & THE SECOND REST
After the dough reaches doubled size, take the dough out of the oven and punch it down to remove the air. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 14×10 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on the dough (the butter should be softened to room temperature, not completely melted). Then add a layer of cinnamon and brown sugar mixture, leaving 1/4 inch margin around the edges. Press the sugar mixture gently into the dough using hands or a spatula so the filling can stick together. Tightly roll the dough up to form a log, starting from the longer side and place seam side down. Then use a sharp knife or a dentist floss to cut the dough evenly into 9-12 rolls (around 1-inch section) then place into a 9-inch round pan (or a 9×13 inch pan). Tips: leave at least 1-inch between the rolls as they will expand on the second rest. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and let them rise for 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size. After the second rise, they are ready to go for baking.
BAKE THE ROLLS
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until they are lightly browned on edges or until a toothpick inserted into the rolls should come out clean. You want to underbake them a little so they stay soft in the middle, that’s why they should be just slightly golden brown. You can cover the rolls with aluminum foil if they start to brown quickly. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before frosting.
Make the cream cheese frosting meanwhile the rolls cool down and spread it evenly on top.
My entire kitchen is full of the aroma of spices right now. It means I’ve gotta go and enjoy these cinnamon rolls as soon as they are out of the oven.
For The Dough
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/56g) unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg
- 3 – 3 1/2 cups (400-450g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For The Filling
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) dark or light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (8g) ground cinnamon
For Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounce (1/2 block/113g) full fat block cream cheese (not cream cheese spread) softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/56 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (85g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Make The Dough: In a small bowl, microwave or use a stove to heat water and milk until lukewarm (110°F-115°F). Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm milk mixture and let it sit for 10 minutes until foamy on the surface.
- In a mixing bowl, use a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (If you don’t have a mixer, mix by hand or with a wood spoon), add the butter, egg, sugar and salt and mix. Add the yeast mixture and mix until combined. Stir in 3 cups of flour and mix on low speed (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon) until the dough begins to form. If it’s too sticky, add the remaining flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, and knead until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough at this time should be soft and elastic, just slightly sticky and workable. Make sure that you use at around 3 1/2 cups of flour at maximum. Keep kneading for 5-6 minutes or knead by hand on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes.
- Grease the bowl and palace the dough inside, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place for about an hour until doubles in size.
- Make The Filling. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon.
- After the dough reaches doubled size, punch it down to remove the air. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 14x10 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on the dough then add a layer of cinnamon and brown sugar mixture, leaving 1/4 inch margin around the edges. Tightly roll the dough up to form a log, starting from the longer side and pinch to seam side. Use a sharp knife or a dentist floss to cut the dough evenly into 9-12 rolls (around 1-inch section) then place into a greased 9-inch round pan (or a 9x13 inch pan). Tips: leave at least 1-inch between the rolls as they will expand on the second rest. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and let them rise for 30-45 minutes, until nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls for about 25-30 minutes or until they are lightly browned on edges or until a toothpick inserted into the rolls should come out clean. You can cover the rolls with aluminum foil if they start to brown quickly.
- Make Cream Cheese Frosting. While rolls are baking, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Use a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment Beat until smooth and fluffy. Keep it at room temperature until the cinnamon rolls are baked. Do not chill the frosting.
- Spread over cinnamon rolls and serve immediately. Baked rolls can be frozen for up to 2 months. Warm up before serving.