Friday, November 18, 2011

The smell of success

We're not really a cinnamon bun kind of family. Thatboy grew up with pancakes for special occasion breakfasts and I grew up with blueberry muffins. I know that for many people, cinnamon buns are one of those Christmas morning breakfasts, but the inlaws never do anything quite as fun. I've actually offered to make Christmas morning cinnamon buns and been shot down - because they'd rather stick with the usual fare. Know what the inlaws do for breakfast Christmas morning? Cold cereal. Merry Christmas one and all!

And yet, here I am recommending a cinnamon bun recipe to all of y'all. So something must be up, right? Well these rolls have a very easy explanation. They smell good.

I think it's a fairly common housewarming trip. one that certainly has been co-opted by realtors over the year, that baking cinnamon imparts a warm, welcoming, and lasting scent throughout any home. And so, when we were preparing for Thatbaby's open house, when Thatboy turned to me and said "I wish it smelled like something was baking in here," I knew exactly what had to be done.

Sure, I could have taken the easy way out and just stuck some cinnamon sticks in the oven. That would impart the warm fragrance with minimal work on my part. But roasting cinnamon sticks doesn't give you something to eat for breakfast for a full week. I had seen a copy-cat recipe for Cinnabon's Cinnamon Rolls a couple months ago in Food Network Magazine, and thought they would make a much better alternative.

See - I have this thing about Cinnabon. It's one of my secret guilty pleasures. Problem is, I very rarely get to indulge. Mostly because - have you seen the size of those things? I could never finish one in a sitting and I can't stand throwing a good portion away. So I've only ever gotten them if I can rope Thatboy into sharing one with me. When we were first dating, I could usually convince him anytime we were in an airport. But the San Diego Airport doesn't have a Cinnabon, so really it's been years. And if I was going to make cinnamon rolls - there is no other recipe I'd rather call upon, and making them myself I could make them smaller.

The recipe below originally said it made 6 cinnamon buns. But when I saw the uncut cylinder I knew that would make them far too big, so I decided to cut the roll into 8 pieces. Frankly, those were still a little large for my taste - but you make the decision for yourself.

As for the results? As the guests arrived they all commented on how good it smelled. Which was the purpose after all. And then of course, there was the secondary benefit. Thatboy had one of these babies every day for breakfast before his first week of work. Usually as he ate, he commented to either Thatbaby or Thatdog about how "mom sure makes a delicious cinnamon roll." And when they were gone, he was sad. He mused about it a couple of days later as we sat watching television one night. Seemingly out of nowhere he turned to me and stated that those cinnamon rolls I made were really good. This year we're spending Christmas just us, no inlaws. I think I know what's going to be on the table Christmas Morning, and though it probably will be served with milk, it's a far cry from cereal.

Almost Famous Cinnamon Buns (From
1 cup milk
1 packet yeast
3/4 cup plus 1/4 tspn granulated sugar
8 Tbsp melted butter
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 tablespoons butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
  1. Make the dough: Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until it reaches about 100. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar (don't stir). Set aside until foamy, 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in 4 Tbsp melted butter, egg yolk, and vanilla.
  3. Whisk the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until thick and slightly sticky.
  5. Knead on medium speed until the dough gathers around the hook, 6 minutes.
  6. Remove the dough and shape into a ball. Grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free location until doubled, 1 hour 15 minutes.
  7. Roll out the dough into a 12-by-14-inch rectangle with the longer side facing you.
  8. Spread the room temperature butter over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.
  9. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the butter.
  10. Brush the far edge with water. Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder and press on the long edge to seal.
  11. Cut the cylinder into 8 pieces. Spray a large baking pan with baking spray and place the buns cut-side down in the pan, leaving space between each. Cover and place back in that warm, draft free space and let rise until doubled, 40 minutes.
  12. Preheat the oven to 325. Bake the buns until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan 15 minutes.
  13. While buns are cooling, sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl, then whisk in the cream and remaining 4 Tbsp melted butter.
  14. Transfer the buns to a rack and spoon the glaze on top while still warm.


  1. We were an eggs for holiday breakfast family and honestly...I would have rather had cinnamon rolls. I might be spending Christmas with you guys!

  2. I have never had Cinnabon. Sad, right? These look really good. Husband has been wanting me to make cinnamon rolls so I may have to try these.