group was coming by for brunch, for example. But the guilt had already set in, and there was no turning back. Soon I was fervently kneading a batch of sweet dough and slathering it with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Though it does require attention, making the sweet yeast dough for these rolls is a therapeutic
process and the results are extremely satisfying. Baking the rolls fills the house with a heady scent, and the warm, freshly glazed cinnamon rolls are amazing, and naturally delicious—they don’t contain any of the bad additives that the ones from that popular cinnamon bun chain do.
Now, let me tell you about this recipe: Over my years as editor of Chocolatier magazine, I had many interns. Most of them were great, but a few were really exceptional. One of the exceptional ones was a woman named Nicole Rees. Nicole was beautiful (in a Katherine Hepburn way), smart, perky and was—and is—a truly
gifted recipe developer. She was a go-getter who relished a challenge. I remember her saying one day that she had woken up at 5 in the morning in order to make her husband waffles before work. I had enough trouble rolling myself out of bed at 7 in order to stagger into work by 9, so this got my attention. Anyhow, after her days at Chocolatier, Nicole went on to become a successful recipe developer working for various magazines and newspapers, and she recently released her own cookbook, Baking Unplugged (Wiley, 2009). It’s a wonderful book, full of foolproof, unfussy recipes that you’ll turn to again and again. Here is Nicole’s recipe for Cinnamon Rolls, straight out of Baking Unplugged. I changed the glaze (Nicole used a cream cheese spread for hers), but the rest is vintage Nicole, perfect in every way.
Serves 9 (or 1 hungry husband)
Adapted from Baking Unplugged (Wiley, 2009) by Nicole Rees
Basic Sweet Dough:
3 cups (363 g) all-purpose flour, divided
1 (1/4-ounce) package fast-acting yeast
1 cup very warm water (115°F)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (37 g) granulated sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (108 g) packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (77 g) heavy cream
3/4 cup (86 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the Basic Sweet Dough:
1. In a medium bowl, combine half the flour with the yeast. Stir in the warm water until combined. Cover the bowl and let ferment in a warm spot for 30 minutes. Stir the melted butter, sugar and salt into the bubbly sponge. Stir in the remaining flour as best you can to make a stiff, shaggy dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and begin to knead.
2. As you knead, sprinkle only tiny amounts of extra flour onto the board to prevent the dough from sticking. Rely on your bench scraper at the beginning of kneading to fold the dough over itself, since it will be quite sticky. Do not add more than a total of 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour during the 10 minutes of kneading. Extra flour will make the finished rolls dry, tough, and seemingly stale. As you continue to knead, the dough will smooth out and become very easy to handle. Knead for as long as you can stand it—this is what will give your bread great texture. Ideally, you should be able to pinch the end of the dough and stretch it into a thin, translucent sheet. Place the dough in a lightly buttered mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.
Make the Cinnamon Rolls:
3. Gently press out excess air from the risen Basic Sweet Dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured wooden board and shape into a rectangle. Roll into a 14 x 11-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the soft butter evenly over the dough to within 1/8 inch of the edge. Combine the brown sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle the mixture evenly over the butter, spreading it with your fingers if necessary.
4. Roll up the dough lengthwise, starting to roll from the long edge. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log on the board so that it’s seam side down. With a serrated knife, gently trim ½ inch off each end. Cut the log into thirds and then cut each third into three slices. Arrange the slices evenly in a buttered 9-inch square pan, cut side down. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls for 24 to 28 minutes, until the tops and edges are browned and the rolls near the center of the pan are no longer doughy. Meanwhile, for the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the cream and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. When the rolls come out of the oven, spread or drizzle evenly with the glaze.