What’s there to decide about Cinnamon Rolls?

Posted on February 14, 2012


I made a decision earlier this year. A new year’s resolution in fact: to learn how to work with yeast. So far, I have made pizza dough, naan, and these here cinnamon rolls. I’m doing pretty good!

I realized though the decision to follow through on such a resolution has required me to make a whole string of additional choices.

Which recipe should I follow? Should I use brown sugar or white sugar in the filling? Should I add raisins? (This is a frequent question in my kitchen, naturally.) Should I make them today or tomorrow? Should I let them rise overnight? Should I shape them into hearts for my Valentine?  Should I freeze some for another day?

It kind of reminds me of going to the neighborhood diner with my husband. He decides on ordering one of the specials of the day, closes the menu, and thinks that’s it. Then the waitress says, souporsalad; crackersorbreadwiththat; whatkindofdressing; whatkindofpotato; whatboutyourvegetable; howdoyouwantthatcooked; whatboutsomethingtodrinkhun? By the end of the exchange, he is completely flushed and bewildered, and wonders to me, “Why do they have to ask so many questions?!”

Oh, my poor, darling little Valentine.

But he is right. Making food decisions, in a culture where the diner mentality rules, is complicated.

I started thinking about this after learning about the Food and Drug Administration Risk Communication Advisory Committee. This committee advises the FDA on how to communicate about the risks and benefits of products they oversee so that the public is empowered to make informed decisions.

A psychologist specializing in the study of decision making was recently named chair of this committee. I thought about her as I read this blog post about what kind of milk to drink and then later, as I stood in front of the refrigerated milk section. I ended up buying almond milk. What a job she has.

So what kind of decisions did you make today? Flowers, chocolate, diamond ring? I chose cinnamon rolls inspired by this post (found via Pinterest), using the recipe link in the comments (after reading, comparing, and gleaning tips from several others!).

I cut only eight instead of nine rolls as the original recipe suggests. I also chose to go with a brown sugar cinnamon filling, shaped like hearts for my Valentine of course, which I let rise in the fridge overnight, but I only baked half the recipe this morning. The other log of rolled up dough and the remaining vanilla glaze is in the freezer for another day.

I may try baking that next batch in muffin cups so that they turn out like in this post! Hope my Valentine likes those just as much!

Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Heather at Poppies at Play

For the dough:
1  (.25 oz) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup almond milk, scalded then cooled to lukewarm
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour

For the cinnamon filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon

For the vanilla glaze:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons almond milk, warmed

Begin by making the dough. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for minute or two, then stir in warm milk, softened butter, sugar,  eggs, salt, and 2 cups flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix until combined. Work in another 1 cup flour until dough holds together.

Place 1/2 cup flour in a mound on work surface. Turn dough out onto work surface.

Knead and work in flour, sprinkling work surface with an addition 1/2 cup flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning to coat.

Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch dough down, then cover with an inverted bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare cinnamon filling. Combine softened butter (softened to a point where it is not quite melted, but easy to stir), brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

After dough has completed the rest time, split it into two even balls. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each ball into an approximate 9×15 inch rectangle with a rolling pin.

Divide cinnamon mixture evenly between two rectangles, then spread evenly into a thin layer.

Roll up each rectangle, beginning at the 9 inch side into a tight log. To shape hearts, roll from both sides into the middle, until dough touches.

(If desired, wrap and freeze one or both logs at this point. I used two layers of plastic wrap and one of foil. Allow to thaw before cutting into rolls and proceeding to second rise time.)

Cut  each log into eight or nine rolls. Form point of the heart by pinching the bottom of each cut roll.

Grease a small baking pan, and arrange cut rolls in the pan. Cover, and let rise for forty minutes, or place in the refrigerator and allow rolls to rise over night (about 12 hours), removing from fridge 10 minutes before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare vanilla glaze. Beat together softened butter and vanilla, then gradually add powdered sugar alternating with tablespoons of warm milk. Stir until smooth.

(If desired, freeze half of the glaze in a ziplock bag if reserving rolls for later baking.)

Drizzle vanilla glaze over rolls. Serve warm with love. Makes 16-18 rolls.