Today marks the first day of school…once again. This year I sent not only one, but two of my sweet boys off to their big school full of bright-eyed students. Today marks the first time I ever watched two of my little guys go off to school for the entire day…a full 7 hours. The morning was a bittersweet one for me. The sweet part is that by next week (probably sooner), I’ll be happily back into the fall routine. No more loud, rambunctious noise every
minute second of the day. Yet it’s somewhat sad. Because despite how crazy my kids can drive me, I still wish they could stay small just a little bit longer.
One has to have a celebratory little send-off for such milestone mornings. I’m not talking sentimental photos in front of the school and surprise lunchbox notes. I do those, too 😉 But what I’m referring to here is breakfast. Something that’s in the category of “special” in our house. Fresh baked cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting. Mmmm. Special indeed.
It’s not every day we get homemade cinnamon rolls. The usual Mon-Fri breakfast around here? Well, weekday mornings are quite rushed, getting five people to where they need to be. That’s my real-life disclaimer. A typical weekday breakfast consists of some kind of health-nut cereal, which my kids munch dry, alongside a glass of milk. Clearly, hot cinnamon rolls are totally a treat.
The kids loved these amazing cinnamon rolls straight up out of the oven – bready soft, warm, and just sweet enough. They didn’t wait or even bother to ask me to top these with cream cheese frosting, and I didn’t mind. The frosting is awesome, but you could choose to go without it IF you really want to, because these rolls are just that good.
I wouldn’t call “toppingless” cinnamon rolls a deprivation. Sure doesn’t look like it, does it? I should explain why my rolls look a little like wheat rolls. I ran out of regular flour halfway through measuring – imagine that – and subbed almost half of it with whole wheat flour. I was slightly nervous the dough wouldn’t rise as well, but it rose beautifully. I accidentally made these yummy cinnamon rolls healthy… okay, healthier 😉 They came out amazing – softer and more tender than many other cinnamon rolls we’ve eaten. I decided I’ll always make these partly whole wheat from now on.
True, the kids happily scarfed down their warm cinnamon rolls sans toppings. But here are some rolls that are all dressed up for you. This cream cheese frosting is unbelievably scrumptious. It’s definitely not the thin, runny coating some of us are used to. Not this. This one is a rich, decadent icing that spotlights pure cream cheese. The frosting marries perfectly with the warm rolls. I habitually lessen the amount of sugar in almost everything I make, so I used less sugar than what the recipe calls for. You can use however much you like. It will be dee-licious no matter what. A little smearing of this cream cheese frosting on a warm cinnamon roll will leave you joyfully speechless.
My favorite thing about these cinnamon rolls is that they can be prepared the night before and taken out to bake the morning of! How great is that?! You just need to take it out to rise about 30 minutes in the morning, and it’s ready to be baked. I am the sort of “morning person” that makes it my goal to have as many things as possible done the night before. Mornings are just not my shiniest time of day. If you’re not into the idea of waking up at 4am to make fresh cinnamon rolls, you’ll love the fact that these can be prepped the night before.
It goes without saying that these wonderful cinnamon rolls must be eaten immediately, while still warm.
P.S. The boys had a super duper great first day of school. No leftover cinnamon rolls for them because someone (?) ate what was remaining. But there were plenty of big hugs and kisses to go around.
RECIPE (makes 12)
For the dough:
1/2 cup milk
1 stick regular butter
1/2 cup warm water, 110F
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg + 2 more egg yolks
1 tsp fine salt
4 – 4.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I subbed almost half of it for whole wheat flour)
For the cinnamon filling:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 TB good quality ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp fine salt
For the icing/frosting:
8 oz real cream cheese, softened but cool
1 tsp corn syrup
2 TB heavy cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (I use less)
1 tsp good vanilla extract
pinch fine salt
For the dough:
Heat milk and butter in microwave or saucepan until about 100F. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle, mix water, yeast, sugar, egg, yolks at low speed until mixed through. Add salt, warm milk mixture, and 2 cups flour. Mix at medium until blended, about 1 minute. Switch to dough hook, add 2 more cups of flour, and knead at medium until dough is smooth and clears sides of bowl, adding 1 TB flour at a time (up to 1/4 cup), only as needed. Do not add too much; just until dough comes together and is smooth and soft. Knead 10 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk. About 2 hours, but depends on room temp.
For the icing/frosting (can be made ahead of time):
Combine all frosting ingredients and blend together at low speed in standing mixer for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and mix until frosting is smooth and free of lumps, about 2 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cinnamon filling: Mix together the three filling ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
After dough has doubled, press/punch it down and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out to a rectangle, roughly 16×12, with the lengthier side facing you. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a half inch border at the far edge. Roll the dough, starting with the long edge closest to you. Roll tightly but carefully until you reach the far edge. Moisten far edge with water and seal the roll well. Press on roll gently if needed, to make a uniform cylinder.
Grease a 13×9 baking dish (I had to include another 8×8 dish). Cut roll into 12 equal pieces using sharp knife, lightly oiled if needed. Place rolls evenly in baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
If baking the same day, place in warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk (approx. 2 hours). Preheat oven to 350F when dough is nearly doubled.
If baking the next morning, do not let rolls do their second rise yet. Put dish of rolls in fridge to sit overnight (bottom of rolls may grow a bit wet, but don’t worry about it.) The next morning, place the dish of rolls, still covered, in cool oven. With oven still off, place a large pan of boiling water on the rack below. Let rolls gradually rise for about 30 minutes or until they look fluffy and almost doubled. Take rolls and pan of water out of oven. Preheat oven to 350F while rolls finish rising on the counter.
When rolls have doubled in bulk, bake at 350F for about 20-25 min or just until golden brown on top. Watch carefully to be sure they don’t over bake. I start watching a few minutes early. When done, invert rolls onto wire rack and cool 5-10 min. Transfer to serving plate and spread on thin layer of icing or drizzle on with piping bag (I just use ziploc bag with tiny hole cut at end.) Serve immediately, while still warm.
By chewoutloud, adapted from Baking Illustrated