Cinnamon Rolls: Buttery Happiness in Swirls

In the olden days, people thought that cinnamon was an aphrodisiac; I think butter is my choice in terms of the way to foodgasms.  However, since people always make fun of me for loving cinnamon on my yogurt, granola, salmon, cupcakes, bread, and steak, a combination of the these two amazing ingredients in a cinnamon roll sounded like a good idea on a snowy afternoon.  This is the perfect treat to pair with a steaming mug of French Vanilla coffee; the acidity cuts the creaminess of the cinnamon roll.

Cinnamon rolls are examples of enriched breads.  I used brioche dough: make sure at least two egg yolks are used, as well as European unsalted, cold but softened butter (for reasons, see my previous article on bread-making tips).   Let the dough relax for about fifteen minutes before manipulating.  The dough consists of flour, water, eggs, sugar, dry yeast, and butter.  The condiment ingredients include dried fruit, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Roll out the dough into a eight-by-eight inch square.  When rolling, do not exceed the edge of the dough by at least an inch; if you go off the square, you get an icky, tapered end that doesn’t allow for the bread to have equal width throughout, which is the only surefire way to guarantee equal cooking.  Uniform thickness can be achieved by turning the dough a quarter to the left each roll-out.

What every roll needs is more butter.  Cover the surface of the square with a thin layer of European-style butter, except for about an inch to an inch and a half on the bottom.  Do not put too much butter on, or else your roll won’t hold together; the butter is to permit the cinnamon to stick, but too much will cause your roll to splinter and roll out even after it bakes.


Spread a thin layer of brown sugar (unprocessed cane sugar) and cinnamon mixture onto the butter; be careful not to put on too much, because otherwise it’ll leak out of the top and the bottom of the roll and form a caramelized base; it’s not the worst possible scenario, but it makes clean-up a mess and a sad democracy in terms of caramelized and non-caramelized rolls.  I like my bread uniform, although rolls exploding with cinnamon (as it did my first time) isn’t a bad idea sometimes.  Also, tweak the proportions; I like more cinnamon with a dash of paprika for spiciness, but many people that I know just like a hint of cinnamon and mostly caramelized sugar.

Add raisins if desired.  Soak them in liquid – water, liquor, juice – beforehand so that they won’t be tempted to suck the moisture out of your bread once the heat of the oven hits.  Apricots and apples work well, too, as do strawberries.  I’ve also added walnuts before, but unless you want your rolls exploding like mine did on my first try, don’t add too much extra fruit and nuts!

I roll my cinnamon rolls typewriter-style.  Roll and press from the left to the right, permitting tighter rolls.  Cut them in one- to one and a half-inch rolls, using the first roll as a measurement tool for the others; one 8-inch roll usually yields somewhere between four and six rolls, but you want them all the same so that they’d bake properly at the same time.

Wrap the unbuttered ends around the bottom of the rolls, brush on a tiny bit of eggwash, and send it to the oven for fourteen minutes! This recipe will allow a decent amount of crusting to occur, but leave the center soft and chewy.  The bread is ready when it has stopped expanding, the crust is a light golden color, and sounds hollow when tapped on the sides.

Remember that this bread can also be transformed into a savory snack.  One of my favorites is using olive oil or salted butter with parsley, cilantro, or dill, and rolling in some capers and smoked salmon.

These rolls are the embodiment of buttery foodgasms with every bite.  The tartness of the raisins cut the richness of the butter, while the floating notes of the unprocessed brown sugar sweetness render a rounded finish to the soft interior of a crusty, crunchy shell.  Mmm.

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Yvonne Hsiao


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