Trust & Cooking

cinnamon roll dough
One of the fringe benefits of starting a food blog, I’m finding, is that people start to think you can cook. Even my mom, herself Chef Extraordinaire, asked if she could e-mail me recipes from time to time. (This is high praise, indeed.)

She told me the other day that she never expected this, me to enjoy food. My brother was the born chef; I used to hate the kitchen. She said it with pride in her voice, like she, finally, knew I was indeed her child, having inherited not just her stubbornness but her skill. She asked me to bake a cake for her friend, she sent me the recipe for a marinade. And then, one Saturday afternoon, while I was standing next to her in the kitchen, she told me to flip her burgers while she went outside. You’d have to know her to understand, but this was a Very Big Deal. Mom doesn’t entrust cooking duties to anyone. This was, essentially, the equivalent of Here are the Keys to The Mustang or Take the Pin Number to my ATM. This was trust.

fresh cinnamon rolls

Just between us—I mean, don’t tell her—but I’m no better of a cook than I ever was. I still forget things are in the oven sometimes, meaning six charred cookies land in the trash. I still cook things that even I don’t want to eat. I still have to ask a lot of questions—of myself, the Internet, friends—before I think I understand. Maybe I’m learning a little, but the burn marks on my left-hand fingers show this process is a slow one.

Sometimes there are happy accidents. Sometimes recipes are so wonderful, they make me look like I know what I’m doing. These are the ones I like. And this is one of those recipes.

cinnamon rolls inverted

Tomorrow is Saturday, and whatever your breakfast plans: change them. You want to make these cinnamon rolls—trust me. With a little work, a little patience, a little trust, you’ll find these doughy pastries completely worthy of your faith, and everyone you give them to will, too. In fact, they’re so good, your family might begin to believe you’re a grand chef (I won’t tell if you don’t).

Declared as good as Cinnabon® by my brother and mmm-good by my co-workers, these cinnamon rolls are the creation of Molly Wizenberg, author of Orangette. They appeared in her Bon Appetit column in March and convinced me they were worthy of trying.

I’m glad I did, as they garnered me this compliment: You could be a baker! (Yes, THAT good. Shh! Don’t say a word!)

good good cinnamon rolls

*Hey, by the way, if you’re wanting another cinnamon roll recipe, you have to check out the ones I made Thanksgiving morning. They have pumpkin in them, but they’re not just for fall. AMAZING.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
from Bon Appetit

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


For dough:

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze:
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

19 Comment

  1. Rachel says: Reply

    oh shanna.

    oh my goodness!! Im out of yeast. I gotta go get some!

    excuse me while I go to the store.

  2. amy says: Reply

    well, you fooled me! and i think that forgetting stuff in the oven is just what we are supposed to do sometimes 😉 these rolls look amazing!

  3. Jacqui says: Reply

    One look at those photos and the first thought that popped into my head was OOOEY GOOEY AWESOME.

    I haven’t even read the post yet and I already love it.

  4. Shannalee says: Reply

    Rae: Did you make them? Let me know what you think!

    Amy: LOL, yeah, it was pretty embarrassing to throw six BLACK cookies in the trash, but I guess it happens. Thanks for making me feel a little better.

    Jacqui: HA! My thoughts exactly! You can’t go wrong with homemade cinnamon rolls. YUM.

  5. Heidi says: Reply

    These look fantastic!

    Now I have a silly question I’m sure, but I am definately not a baker. How do you make these for breakfast when it takes almost three hours from start to finish? Do you have a very late breakfast, get up really early, or do some prep the night before?

  6. Shannalee says: Reply

    Heidi: As it turns out, your question is not silly at all. You are right; the rolls take a while, but the time is really much more siting-and-waiting time than working time. That’s why I’d (personally) only do these on a weekend morning. Start when I get up, then let them do their thing while I go get ready, do errands, etc. Do a little more something with them, then go do something else, then come back. Maybe I should take back the “breakfast” term and call them brunch, yes? 🙂

  7. trish says: Reply

    i have always been nervous about taking on cinnamon rolls. but this recipe makes it look easy! i’ll probably try it out this upcoming weekend and see how it goes!! it helps that my boyfriend doesn’t wake up till 12-1 and i wake up 8-9 🙂 i have a built in time period for rising! thanks so much!

  8. Sounds perfect, Trish! You’ll have to let me know how you like them!

  9. Lan says: Reply

    these look so great! next time my office has a breakfast thing, i just might have to make these!
    when i call my grandmother up for her recipes, i think she thinks i’m starving. sometimes she’ll cry and lament that she’s not nearby to cook for me and i have to fend for myself. nevermind that i’m 30 and i’ve always been quite ok in the kitchen. it’s both exasperating and amusing at the same time. my stepmother used to bake cakes/cater and when i mention that i’m baking a cake for a friend, they pretty much like to remind me that she’s the “real” baker in the family. it’s awesome. they just don’t know. 🙂

  10. LOL, Lan. You’ll show them! 🙂

  11. Lan says: Reply

    so i made these this weekend. SO easy! i loved it. my bff loved it. her boyfriend loved it. and so did the rest of her house guests. it was a hit. i kept it in there for the alotted 20 minutes but i think next time i’ll yank them out at around 17 minutes.

  12. Memoria says: Reply

    These llok super yummy!

    Two questions:

    1. How many rolls does this recipe yield?
    2. Can you make the dough overnight or leave it in the cold oven covered like you did with the pumpkin rolls? That way it could be eaten for breakfast instead of for a brunch.

  13. lan: Yeah! Success! 😉

    Memoria: They ARE yummy! I’m going to be of little help in regards to your questions. I cannot remember how many rolls they made for me, and I do suspect it will vary based upon how you place them and how long you let them rise, etc. Also, you’re right: I’d say you could leave them overnight, but since I haven’t tried it, I’ll have to wait to see if someone else does. If you give it a go, let me know, OK?

  14. Lan says: Reply

    memoria —
    i left the dough overnight when i made them in charlotte. i rolled them, cut them etc and then left them in the oven overnight… popped them out to warm oven and then popped them back in to bake. easy peasy.

    i’m making them again tonight and i just have the dough hanging out. i’ll roll them out and cut them in the morning, jump in the shower and half get ready. about 20 before i’m fully done, i’ll pop them in the oven to bake. i don’t think i’ll be a problem!

  15. Brilliant! Thank you, Lan!

  16. Memoria says: Reply

    Thanks, Lan!

  17. Rose says: Reply

    Shanna you know I am a true fan, I really miss these wonderful treats that are often left in the kitchen @ work for everyone to eat. You are an amazing @ what you do so well. Keep the oven going GIRLFRIEND!!!!! Your biggest fan……..

  18. Rhonda says: Reply

    I absolutely love them! I’m happy and thankful to report my recent discovery of your blog! The cinnamon rolls were the first thing I tackled, but there’s so many more things I want to try. Your stories accompanying the recipes are delightful. Thank you for sharing your world with us!

  19. Do not be so humble: you seem to cook pretty well.

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