Aug 20, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

It’s the last weekend before the craziness of school starts once again. That means it’s back to the juggling act of school, work, research projects and finding some time in there to take a breather. I’m enjoying this last weekend by doing the things that I love most: running, baking and reading. I am able to fit these in during the semester but each is much more enjoyable when I can do them without anxiously thinking about the readings or papers I have for school. Starting with baking, it is no secret that I am constantly baking something for breakfast. During the semester I stick with my quick breads or muffins that I can throw together in less than 20 minutes. I get something delicious without loosing too much time away from my work. However, even I can only eat so many quick breads. When I have a little more time on my hands I take the opportunity to make something that requires a bit more time but is completely worth the extra effort. For this weekend, I have homemade cinnamon rolls! Cinnamon alone can work some magic in your kitchen. Once you put anything with cinnamon in the oven, it takes only a few minutes for the scent to fill your kitchen and it’s an instant attraction to anyone in the nearby vicinity. The overall time it takes to put these rolls together is a little under 3 hours BUT a majority of this is rising time and will require no work from you! Take the recipe step by step and you’ll find that it isn’t as complicated as it first seems, but they will be as delicious as you were hoping!

Here is everything you will need:


(Adapted from Cooking Light. Makes 16-20 cinnamon rolls, depending on how large the rolls are cut.)


  • 1 package of dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (I used skim but you can use 1% or 2%)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour


  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

To start the dough, pour the warm water in a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Let this sit for about 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. While this sits, warm your milk in a small saucepan and add this to your yeast and water. Pour in the granulated sugar, butter, vanilla extract, salt, and the egg. Give everything a thorough mix until it is completely combined. The dough will not be completely smooth at this point but that’s ok! Add in the first three cups of flour and this will help smooth out the dough. You can then knead the dough by hand for about 8 minutes or you can use an electric mixer if you have one. Either way, have the remaining flour nearby and add a tablespoon at a time to keep the dough from getting too sticky! When kneading is complete, the dough should be slightly tacky. Coat the bowl with cooking spray and place the dough inside the bowl to allow it time to rise.

Cinnamon roll dough before rising.

Cover the bowl with a light towel and put the bowl in a warm place. Now it’s your turn to take a break from the kitchen and come back in about an hour after the dough has risen and almost doubled in size.

Cinnamon roll dough after rising.

After this first round of rising time, you can prepare the filling. In  small bowl, combine the raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon. In a small saucepan (or the microwave if you prefer) melt your butter.

Butter melted to spread on rolled out dough.

With the filling ready, take the dough and roll it out on a floured surface. You want a large rectangle and the recommended size was a 15 x 10-inch rectangle.

Cinnamon roll dough rolled out.

Brush the butter over the rolled out dough and leave a small border (about 1/2-inch). Now sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and raisin filling so that it covers the whole surface (still leaving the border untouched).

Cinnamon, sugar and raisin filling spread out.

Time to roll everything up! Start with the long side and roll the dough up, in a jelly-roll fashion. Pinch the top to form a seal but leave the ends open.

Dough filled and rolled up.

Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Once chilled, unwrap the roll and cut the dough into 16-20 slices. I have a range because each time I make these the number of rolls I can make varies by a few. I always find it easiest to start by cutting the roll in half, then quarters and then the individual rolls. This just helps me to keep the rolls as uniform in size as I can. It is best to have a baking sheet (or two) coated with cooking spray and ready to transfer the cut rolls on to. The rolls will need to be about 1-inches away from each other. With the rolls arranged on the baking sheets, cover and let them sit in a warm place for another round of rising.

Chilled dough cut into individual rolls.

This is another break for you as the rolls rise for about an hour and should once again double in size.

Cinnamon rolls after rising for a little over an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and uncover your rolls. All the rising, filling, rolling and more rising is done! Time for the oven! Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until they become a golden brown. It’s during this time that the cinnamon will travel throughout your home and lure people to the kitchen asking when those rolls will be out and ready to eat!

Cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven!

Transfer the rolls from the baking sheet to wire cooling racks (or to a plate!) and let them cool. Some may look at my rolls and note that an extremely important component is missing: the glaze! Jor and I aren’t the biggest fans of glazes or frostings on our morning baked goods but I understand that for some, a cinnamon roll is not a cinnamon roll without the glaze! If you find yourself in this group here is a great glaze to drizzle on while the rolls are still warm: combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

This particular recipe is a lighter version to a morning treat that often makes us feel guilty after eating. You can feel much better after eating these treats though and I promise you won’t find yourself feeling like you skimped on any flavor! It’s true that they require a little more time to put together but remember, a little more than 2 hours of that preparation is actually rising time, which allows you the time to do other things around the house or just relax! The other great thing about these rolls is that after a day or two, you can keep them in an airtight container in the fridge (this keeps them from going bad faster) and then just pop them in your toaster oven to warm them in the morning. Delicious and an instant upgrade to any breakfast! For now, that’s cinnamon rolls…in the shell of a nut!

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