Cinnamon rolls are the perfect breakfast treat. Straightforward yeast dough filled to the brim with sugar and cinnamon and topped with your favorite icing!Jump to Recipe
Homemade cinnamon rolls are hands down my favorite breakfast food. My mom used to only make them for special occasions, like Christmas, and I would anticipate them for weeks. I love these cinnamon rolls plain, warm, with icing, a few days old, any which way. The basic sweet dough that makes these delicious lovelies also makes a fantastic clover dinner roll.
Does it matter what kind of yeast I use?
I personally prefer to use instant yeast but it doesn’t matter if you use instant or active dry yeast. Whichever you are more comfortable with is fine.
What’s the difference between the two?
Active dry yeast is yeast that needs to be “proofed” before using. Proofing just means to wake up the yeast by placing them in a small amount of warm water for several minutes prior to including it in your bread recipe. Why? According to Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, it is because, “active dry yeast is grown on larger grains of nutrient that have to be dissolved in warm water.”
Instant yeast can be added directly to a bread recipe. There is no need to proof the yeast. Why? Again, according to Peter Reinhart, “Instant yeast comes on such small grains that it instantly hydrates when the dough hydrates so can be added directly to the flour.” It is often called quick rise yeast or bread machine yeast. Because of the way it is processed, you need to use slightly less instant yeast than active dry yeast in a recipe, about 25 percent less.
It is best to keep both kinds of dried yeast in the refrigerator or freezer after the jar has been opened to maintain freshness. If your recipe calls for a packet of yeast, and you typically purchase your yeast in a jar, the conversion is 2 1/4 teaspoons per packet of yeast the the recipe calls for.
How do you now when the cinnamon rolls are done rising?
For the first rise: when the dough has doubled in size and when you gently poke the dough it leaves a dent and doesn’t immediately pop back. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
For the second rise: when the rolls have grown close to each other and when you gently poke the dough and it leaves a bit of a dent. This should take about 45 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
Tips for success:
- Don’t add too much flour to the dough-the first dough should be pretty sticky. You incorporate more flour when you do the second knead/shaping of the dough. At that point, the dough should be tacky but not sticky.
- Leave enough space between cinnamon rolls for them to rise-the dough is going to rise either way, so if there isn’t space between the cinnamon rolls, it’s going to go up. Then your rolls sort of “pop” out of their roll form. Just as good, maybe not as pretty.
- Don’t have a kitchen that is too warm or too cold-about 70 degrees is perfect. If your kitchen is colder than that, turn your oven on for 30 seconds, shut it off, then put your covered dough in the oven. It will act like a proofing box. If your kitchen is too warm, just keep an eye on your dough, it will take much less time to rise.
- Don’t use old yeast-old yeast won’t rise. Your yeast will last MUCH longer if you store it in the fridge.
What kind of frosting should I use?
My mom always made these with a simple frosting of 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. However, regular American buttercream is really nice drizzled on top and cream cheese buttercream is also an excellent choice. I like to drizzle my frosting on when the cinnamon rolls are still warm so that it sort of melts into the cinnamon roll, but waiting until they’re cool is also fine.
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- 2 packages active dry yeast or 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs large
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- In a large, microwave safe bowl, microwave the butter and milk until butter is melted. Add water and eggs to the mixture and stir. Feel the bowl, if it is only lukewarm, add the yeast. If the bowl feels hot to the touch, allow to cool for a few minutes before adding the yeast. Stir in the rest of ingredients in, taking care to use the flour sparingly. Knead for a few minutes and allow to rise until doubled.
- Once the first proof is over, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few minutes and then roll dough out into a rectangle.
- Melt some 1/4 cup butter. Brush melted butter onto the dough.
- Sprinkle the buttered dough generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. I use a mixture that is a little heavier on the sugar than cinnamon.
- Roll the dough up and slice into rolls of desired thickness. Honestly, these rolls are best a bit on the thin side. I have tried making them fat, but the ratio of dough to filling was not as tasty.
- Place the rolls on a 9×13" cake pan or 2 9×9" cake pans. Above I used a square cake pan, which makes the rolls nice an soft. My mother always used a cookie sheet, which is very good, but makes for crustier outsides.
- Allow rolls to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the rolls for 25 minutes or so.
- Ice as desired. My mother’s icing was just a simple combination of powdered sugar, milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Use as much milk as you would like to make the icing as thin as you like.
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