In college, I worked retail for a few months at one of those stores that sold overpriced ripped jeans, tank tops, and hoodies, with murals of half naked hotties plastered on the walls, and an overpowering scent of Axe body spray-esque cologne in the air. And I hated it. I hated the aggressive techno music, I hated the rude customers, and I hated the smell of that cologne. The only good thing about the short-lived job was my almost daily meal of a big, warm, gooey Cinnabon.
I was a woman obsessed. I’d leave classes early to make sure I got to the mall in time to have one before my shift, or rush over on my fifteen-minute break. The Cinnabon employees and I knew each other by name. Now that I think back on it, it’s kind of disgusting how many of those cinnamon buns I ate in that three-month period. Disgusting, but awesome. I absolutely love cinnamon buns!
Now that I’ve accurately given you a look into my cinnamon bun fueled sickness, you can understand why mastering this recipe was so important to me. I don’t frequent malls anymore- I’m more into home goods and specialty groceries at this point in my life. But even though I rarely pass a Cinnabon store and get enveloped in that heavenly smell of dough, cinnamon, and sugar, I still think I deserve (yes, deserve) to have cinnamon rolls. I like to justify homemade ones like this: they may be just as sugar laden and still a dieter’s worst nightmare- but at least you’re seeing every ingredient that goes into it, and avoiding scary preservatives and unknown ingredients, right? And with the right tips and tools, you can make rolls identical to the perfectly perfect ones at the mall.
What You’ll Need:
For the Dough:
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup margarine (I used butter)
1 tsp salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
For the Filling:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
⅓ cup margarine, softened
For the Icing:
6 tbsp butter
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla
⅛ tsp salt
What To Do:
Warm your milk in the microwave for about thirty seconds, or on the stovetop for about a minute to a minute and half. Be careful not to let it scald! Pour your milk into a mixing bowl and add your yeast, stirring to dissolve.
To the bowl of your stand mixer, add your softened butter and sugar, stir to combine. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, then salt, then finally the sifted flour. Once everything is well combined, add the warm milk and yeast mixture, and stir a little more. (Make sure you’re using the dough hook attachment!)
Your dough has come together! Transfer it into a large, well-oiled bowl. Cover with a clean dishtowel and leave it to rise in a warm place for an hour, until the dough doubles in size. I sat mine in my oven and tried to distract myself by doing some laundry.
After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out of the bowl onto a clean, dry, lightly floured countertop. Roll the dough out into the shape of a rectangle that’s about a quarter of an inch thick. Mine ended up being about a foot wide by a foot and a half long.
In a separate bowl, make your filling by combining the three ingredients (soft butter, cinnamon, and light brown sugar). Spread the delicious mixture over your rectangle of dough. I used my hands, then licked my fingers, then licked the bowl. I’m a mess.
Now the most important step of cinnamon rolls- the rolling! Carefully grab one of the longer sides of the dough rectangle, and roll it (carefully!) until you have one long cinnamon roll.
Cut the dough down the middle. Then cut each half in half. Continue on cutting the halves in half until you have about twelve equally sized rolls, about two inches tall. Place them in a lightly (very lightly) greased baking pan, about an inch or so apart. Cover with your dishtowel again, and let them rise for thirty minutes in the baking pan. They’ll need to double in size, again. Patience!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolls in the oven and let bake for thirty minutes, or until a lovely light golden brown. At this point, your home (and possibly your entire neighborhood), will smell like the Cinnabon shop at the mall. You’re in business.
While the rolls are baking, toss all the ingredients for the icing in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, and combine on low to medium speed until light and fluffy. Take your beautiful rolls out of the oven and allow to cool for maybe three minutes before slathering with the icing. Let them cool for another ten before removing one. Then enjoy the cinnamon-y sugary, soft, luscious, cinnamon roll glory. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.
A Few Tips:
- Set aside some time for this recipe. I started my batch at around eleven in the morning, and didn’t bite into a cinnamon roll until around three. Patience is key with this recipe! Don’t rush the process, the end result is worth it.
- Use a very sharp knife, twine, or flavorless floss to cut the rolls. If you use a dull knife, the rolls won’t look as pretty as they have the potential to! Keep it cute.
- These rolls reheat amazingly in the oven. If you don’t eat all twelve rolls in one sitting, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you’re ready for more, just place them in an oven at 250 degrees F and allow them to gently reheat.