Gooey Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Did you have a good Easter?  I hope so!  See family?  Eat something delicious?  Our plan was to sneak a mini-escape to the Oregon Coast (beach, books, and relaxation).  I had the car packed, podcasts downloaded, and a thermos full of tea.  Then my husband calls from work.  “We can’t go.”  So, I unpacked the car, and home we stayed.  In the midst his work chaos and long hours, we hunkered down, skipped the family get-togethers, and took in some quiet.  We do not make a habit of hiding out or avoiding the fam.  We aren’t anti-social hermits.  In general, we do quite the opposite.  Honest!

So things looked a little bit different this year.  No big get together.  No weekend away.  It was just us and the four-legged canine kiddos.  No matter.  Regardless of the location, events, or company, there is one requirement in our Easter festivities.  Cinnamon rolls. Well, maybe there are two requirements.  Church!  (It is Easter after all.)

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But, cinnamon rolls…  You know, the kind with thick cream cheese frosting on top?  And the extra gooey cinnamon?  Yup, THOSE.  So whether it’s cinnamon rolls for two or 22, we say bring on the sticky cinnamon deliciousness.  This recipe is truly the best I have tasted due to years and years of the family’s tweaking .  The ingredients and process are very traditional, but what sets it apart is that unlike other recipes I have tried, the results are so, so consistent.  Yeast used to intimidate me, but I think all I needed was a better recipe!

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This recipe can even be refrigerated after being rolled for up to two days!! When hosting large holidays, having “prepare-ahead” items can be a lifesaver.  The morning you plan to bake, just stick them in a warm dry place to allow to rise until approximately doubled in size.  My oven can go as low as 100 degrees, which is perfect for this.  This step usually takes around 45 minutes.  Then bake for 20, invert the pan so the caramelized juices don’t settle at the bottom, frost, and dig in!!

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Gooey Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Total Time: 4-5 hours (including rising)        Active time: 1 hour
Servings: 4-8 (depending how many rolls each person eats)

Dough:

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temp
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbl. unsalted butter (plus more for greasing baking dish)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • vegetable oil for greasing bowl

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbl. light brown sugar
  • 1 tbl. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 4 tbl. unsalted butter, melted

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
  • 6 tbl. unsalted butter, room temp
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

For Dough:  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, yeast, and sugar until well combined.  Mix egg into dry ingredients until well combined.  In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter, and cinnamon until butter has melted and temperature has reached 120-140 degrees only!  Do not allow mixture to come to a simmer!!  Add milk mixture and kosher salt to flour mixture.  Mix on low speed, and once combined increase speed to medium/high and beat for approximately 3 minutes – or until mixture is very elastic and sticky.

Grease large bowl with vegetable oil.  Shape dough into a ball and place in greased bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel.  Place bowl in a warm, dry place for 2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.  For example, my oven’s temperature can go as low as 100, which is perfect for a dough rise.

Once dough has risen, prepare clean work surface with a liberal dusting of flour.  And prepare the filling.

For the filling: On the stove, melt butter over low heat.  In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients.

Assembly: Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish or glass pie plate with butter.

Punch down the risen dough.  Place dough on well floured surface.  Work dough into ball and dust with flour.  Using well dusted rolling pin, roll dough into rectangular shape that is roughly 8×10′ to 8×12′.

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Spread melted butter over top of dough leaving a 1/2 inch border at long edge.

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Generously sprinkle an even layer of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

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Starting at long edge, roll dough into a log shape.

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Slice log into rolls.  The slices should be at least 1″ thick.  You should have approximately 12 slices.

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Place slices in greased baking dish.

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Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  At this stage rolls can be refrigerated for up to two days. *See Note below.  If baking rolls immediately, return rolls to a warm dry place until doubled in volume around 45 minutes.

*NOTE: After rolls have been refrigerated you will need to complete the rising step by placing rolls in a warm dry place.  Most likely the rolls will have risen a bit in the fridge so this step will take less than the estimated 45 minutes.  Remember, you want the rolls to double from their original size. 

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and cover with foil.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake for additional 3-5  minutes or until rolls on the edge have turned slightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately invert rolls onto a serving plate.  This will keep the cinnamon mixture from settling at the bottom.

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These are delicious and gooey (sticky bun style) on their own, so not everyone will want frosting.  I think they are even more decadent with the frosting of course (frosting assembly instructions below).  We typically leave them unfrosted and place a bowl of frosting on the table so that everyone can add as much or as little as they desire!

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For the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine butter and cream cheese until well combined.  Mix in powdered sugar in two additions.  Add lemon juice and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Can be made and kept chilled up to three days ahead.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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