I am just going to go ahead and say it. Some things make you feel like a Hero. Like you've won at life. Like your family and friends should just get up and give you a standing ovation. Homemade Soft Cinnamon Rolls are right up there. I will be honest and say that I used to be so intimidated by them although I took everyone's recipe who offered me one I never made them. That changed at some point last year and I cycled through some recipes, and this combination is my favorite.
The Cinnamon is nice and strong, but not to the point where it gets that anti septic taste, the cardamom is optional but it adds that lovely roundness to the filling in the same way it does in my Apple Snack Cake. The Cream Cheese Frosting is the PERFECT amount for covering the rolls and having some left for that little extra on each roll. Nothing worse than an under frosted roll am I right?
Okay so let's break it down here and explain how to make these rolls.
Cinnamon Roll Dough: a little Yeast 101
Yeast is a living thing. Weird, but true. It's usually made by fermenting something sweet and once you bring it back to life (more on that in a second) it basically 'grows' your dough. Kinda like magic. Even if you don't think the process is magical the smell definitely is.
For yeast to do it's job well it needs three things to ferment it back to life
- Warm liquid (milk)
- Sugar (accelerates the process)
- A warm environment
The process is simple. Pour your warm liquids in a bowl, mix in the sugar, sprinkle your yeast over top. Give it 5-10 minutes depend on the yeast you are using and it'll transform into a foamy substance and then you're ready to move on.
Why You Should ALWAYS Proof Your Yeast First
Now if you are using Active Dry or Instant Yeast you can typically skip this and mix everything together, but I DO NOT recommend that. Here's why: 'stale' yeast will not work, if your milk is boiling hot it'll kill your yeast. You won't know if either of those two things is going to be an issue unless you ferment it first.
What's Next? A little more Proofing talk
After you've kneaded your dough, by hand or in your stand mixer, you put it in a warm place to rise. I like to preheat my oven for 5 minutes, turn it off then put my bowl in there for the dough to rise. Instant Yeast will double in an hour, traditional can take 2-3 depending on a variety of factors. Then you roll it out, smother it in that cinnamon-y sweet butter, roll it up and slice it for another round of proofing. You will end up with the fluffiest beauties and a short bake later your kitchen will smell positively heavenly.
Steps for Making Soft Cinnamon Rolls:-
1.) Proof your Yeast
2.) Mix and Knead Dough
3.) Rise One
4.) Make Filling
5.) Roll out your dough and make your rolls
6.) Rise Two
7.) Make Cream Cheese Frosting
8.) Bake Rolls
9.) Smother and Devour
- 1 cup very warm milk (hot to touch but not boiling)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp instant/active dry/ traditional yeast
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 3.5 cups all purpose flour
- grating of nutmeg (optional)
- 5 tbsp melted butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar (packed, dark brown works best)
- 2.5 tbsp cinnamon (if you're a cinnamon fan then you can go up to 3)
- 2 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- 1 cup icing sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp milk
Mix your warm milk and sugar in a large bowl, scatter over the yeast and let it stand for 5-10 minutes or until very foamy (it'll smell like you're baking bread)
Add in your egg (whisked) and melted butter
Stir in your remaining dough ingredients to make a craggy dough
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it for 5-8 minutes until smooth and form into a ball. You can also do this with a dough hook in a stand mixer.
Place the ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Put it somewhere warm to rise - I like to preheat my oven for a few minutes (just to 250F) and then turn it off and put it in there
For instant or active dry yeast your dough will double in an hour and if you press it gently it will bounce back. Traditional yeast can easily take two.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Roll it out in to roughly an 14*18 inch rectangle - the shape doesn't have to be perfect but if yours is very uneven then simply trim the edges
Spread the cinnamon filling over top - it will be a thin layer
Roll the dough into a tight spiral starting from the 18 inch side and then cut into 12 even pieces
Place them in a lightly greased 13*9 pan and leave covered in a warm place to double - mine usually takes half an hour
Bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes or until golden
Mix 4 oz cream cheese and 1.5 tbsp room temperatue with an electric mixer till smooth
On low speed add in 1 cup icing sugar, ½ tsp vanilla, and 2 tbsp milk until well combined.
Let the rolls cool for a few minutes then slather with cream cheese frosting, you should get a generous layer on top