I’ve mentioned before how bread challenged I am. And it’s true. I’ve been attempting to make bread of many forms since first getting my Kitchen-Aid mixer in the summer of 2010, so 3-1/2 years now. I’ve tried: doughnuts- okay, pizza dough- not bad/ not great, dinner rolls- total failure almost every time, and cinnamon rolls- a 5-time failure…until now. Perhaps it’s practice, perhaps it’s the recipes I have chosen, perhaps it’s all of the instructional videos and bread baking segments on TV that I’ve watched in the hopes they will teach me something. Whatever the reason, I finally got it.
The recipe: Cook’s Country’s “Ultimate Cinnamon Buns.” I highly recommend purchasing The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook. So far, I’ve loved the four recipes I have tried, but I almost always love everything from the Cook’s Illustrated family.
The recipe and directions below are not exactly the same as in the cookbook. I didn’t change the basic dough (a basic brioche recipe) or the filling; however, I adapted the glaze (slightly different ingredients) and the methods (a little less fussy in some ways and more so in others) to suit my tastes. If you want to get the actual recipe and instructions, you’ll have to buy or borrow the book, subscribe to the website, or find the TV episode. Otherwise, please understand that my version isn’t exactly what you’ll see on TV or get in the book.
And while I can’t speak for the exact recipe and method in the book– what I did here finally (cue the angelic music) worked for me.
recipe and instructions adapted from The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook “Ultimate Cinnamon Buns” recipe (282-83)
Because the recipe has so many steps, I opted to include the ingredients lists in each of the steps below. Not my usual way of doing things, but it was easiest for me in this instance. If you choose to make this, just make sure to read through the recipe a few times first.
Make the Dough:
1 ½ tsp. table salt
4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp.) rapid rise yeast
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
3 large eggs, room temperature
12 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
Add the salt, flour, cornstarch, yeast, and sugar (in that order- salt retards the yeast, sugar is good for it) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix them together on low-speed with a dough hook until it’s just combined. Carefully, add the warm milk and mix it until the dough comes together. Add the eggs one at a time. Raising the speed to medium, add the butter a piece at a time until each is incorporated into the dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Cook’s Country says 10 minutes, and that’s how long mine took. They also say if the dough is still wet and sticky, you should add up to ¼ cup flour 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough lets go of the bowl. I didn’t have to, but that could be because it’s winter (cold with little humidity) right now.
Put dough onto the counter and knead to form a smooth, round ball. I sprayed my countertop first, so the dough didn’t stick.
Having so many cinnamon roll failures under my belt, I didn’t intend to share this recipe at all; therefore, I didn’t take many pictures to begin with. In fact, I only took this photo and the following one as a reference for how much the dough had risen– I didn’t have my kitchen ruler handy, so I used the thermometer that happened to be in the drawer next to me.
Put the dough to a medium-sized oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let it rise until the dough has doubled in size (about 2 hours—mine took 1 hour 45 minutes). I let it rise in the oven. Turn it on to 170; when it comes to temp, then turn the oven off. I’ve found this to be an excellent technique to use in the winter. Cook’s Country uses a very different method for rising involving a pan of water. I don’t know what the difference is, but since the dough was brioche and Martha Stewart says brioche should rise in an environment free of humidity (at least, that’s what I remember her saying in her Brioche episode of Martha Bakes), I chose this route instead of CC’s.
Make the Filling:
1 ½ cups packed (10 ½ oz.) light brown sugar
1 ½ tbsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. softened unsalted butter
Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a small bowl. Remove the dough from the oven, and turn it out onto a lightly floured counter.
Roll it into an 20 x 24 inch rectangle.
Spread the dough with butter up to ¼-inch from the edges. Spread the sugar mixture evenly over the softened butter. It’s messy and delicious, but don’t lick your fingers until you’re done spreading, please. And then wash your hands!
Roll the dough into a tightly (start from the long side for more rolls, the short side start for bigger rolls) seam-side down. Cook’s Country says to cut the rolls into 8 pieces. I cut it into 14, 2 of which were the end pieces (trimmed and still baked, but think they could be cut into more pieces. These were really big cinnamon rolls.
Transfer the pieces to 2 9-inch cake pans that have been double lined with aluminum foil and greased with butter.
Cover with plastic
and let rise in the oven until doubled—about 1 hour. Use the same method as above for letting the dough rise. Mine took 45 minutes. You can see the two end pieces in there (the ones that have less cinnamon-sugar filling).
Remove the pan from the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 35 to 45 minutes until they are brown and the filling is melted. While the rolls are baking make the glaze.
Make the Glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. vanilla bean seeds
In a small bowl, add the confectioner’s sugar ¼ cup at a time to the softened cream cheese. Stir in the cream, and then the vanilla seeds. The original recipe calls for milk and vanilla extract.
Remove the baked rolls from the oven and top with ¼ of the glaze (a total of half the glaze) over each pan of rolls. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.
Lift the rolls in the foil from the pan and top with the remaining glaze. Serve them warm. They’re so soft, and just…perfect.
My cinnamon rolls have always ended up rock hard and nothing at all like what I wanted. These were exactly right. The glaze gooey and drippy.
And look at how huge they are! I can’t even begin to imagine how big these would have been had I only cut them into 8 rolls instead of 14.
As it is, I’m thinking about making them even smaller!
The cinnamon was warming.
And the rolls are perfect for peeling apart. Do you do that, too? The very center is my favorite part.
You always eat your cinnamon rolls with pinecones on the table, don’t you?
Serve these warm from the oven, or if reheating you can pop them in the microwave on high- 12 seconds for half a roll and 20 seconds for a full roll.
These were best the day of, pretty good the next day, and merely okay the next. They didn’t last much after that.
Yield: 8-14 rolls, depending on how you slice it