Soft, sweet, no-knead cinnamon rolls with a decadent vanilla cream cheese icing makes for an easy yet unforgettable breakfast!
Welcome to the weekend. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.
How was your week? It was a busy one for me. I had a job interview, I met some lovely ladies in person for the first time that I had previously only known through Instagram, I tested lots of new recipes, went to Pure Barre a bunch, got coffee with a dear friend, and received SO MUCH positive feedback from you all about this little blog that my heart can barely stand it. Thank you. You don’t know how much every little comment means to me!
It’s so strange to work for so long by yourself on a project like this, and then to suddenly put it out there to the whole world and have people read it and react to it. I had been keeping this site private for so long because I was waiting for it to be perfect before putting it out there – but I realized that just like everything that is human, it will never be perfect, and it will always be changing, and that’s what’s great about it. So, this space isn’t just mine anymore – it’s yours too. And that is both weird and cool at the same time.
What can also be yours in less time than you’d think: these unbelievably soft, sweet, decadent cinnamon rolls.
Do yeast-based doughs scare you as much as they scare me? I always seem to shy away from them because I’m nervous that anything and everything will go wrong – I’ll over-knead it, the yeast will die because the water is too hot, I’ll let it rise for too long and everything will collapse and wind up in the trash can with my failed hopes. I’m not dramatic in the least.
Well, I’ve decided I need to just get over it and start trying, because when things like these cinnamon rolls exist, it’s worth it to push through your fear. This recipe is really not intimidating for a yeast-based dough, so it’s a good place to start. No mixer. No kneading. No bread flour. A very pliable dough that doesn’t stick to everything it touches. And the end result is HEAVENLY. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s do this!!
I love how simple this recipe is. All you need is a large pot (I used the second love of my life aka my Dutch oven) and a wooden spoon. Delicious baked goods do NOT have to be intimidating. The only thing you really need with these rolls is time and patience, because they will smell amazing long before you can sink your teeth into them.
See the pictures above for the basic steps.
First step: we heat milk, a neutral oil of your choice like canola or olive oil, and sugar together until just under a boil. Why do this annoying extra step? Because we’re scalding the milk to denature the whey proteins and allow for better gluten development and moisture absorption in the dough. It’s science! Can you just use warmed milk and skip this step? Yes, but the results won’t be quite as good.
Second step: let the milk mixture cool until it’s just warm to the touch (about 105-110 degrees F – I checked this with a digital thermometer but you can just stick your finger in there to judge too).
Third step: mix in the first 4 cups of flour and let it rise, covered, sitting on your stove until doubled in size. This should take about an hour depending on the temperature in your kitchen. I just put the lid on my Dutch oven and let it sit on the back of the stove – if your kitchen is cold, turn the oven on for some ambient heat!
Fourth step: once the dough has done its first rise and is nice and puffy, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, until a cohesive dough forms. The dough should not be insanely sticky – if it is, place it in the refrigerator for an hour. That will help calm down the gluten and allow the flour to absorb more moisture.
Fifth step: here’s the fun part.
Roll out half your dough to a rectangle shape, about 12 inches long, and spread it VERY liberally with melted butter. This is not a time to worry about calories. Sprinkle on brown sugar, then cinnamon.
Sixth step: roll it up starting with the long edge furthest from you, and cut it into 8 evenly sized rolls with a very sharp knife. Arrange in a pie plate (my favorite vehicle for cinnamon rolls) or 9-inch round cake pan.
Seventh step: do the same thing with the other half of the dough, wait for a torturous 15-20 minutes while they rise again, and an even more torturous 20 minutes while they bake in the oven. Distract yourself from the smell by putting together the cream cheese icing while they bake.
LAST STEP and the best part. Take these babies out of the oven and marvel at your accomplishment.
Would you look at those swirls??? Sadly we’re going to cover them all up with cream cheese, but it’s worth it.
Spread that icing generously over all the rolls, and serve warm to people you love. You’ll be their favorite person of the year. These rolls are soft, sweet, cinnamon-y, and the vanilla cream cheese glaze over the top is just outrageous enough to be repeated again and again. Good luck keeping these around longer than 24 hours.
Have the best weekend!
Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
For the Cinnamon Rolls:
- 2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
- 1/2 cup canola oil (or another neutral oil)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (see below)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar, not packed
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon (or more to taste)
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup milk of choice (or more if necessary)
For the Cinnamon Rolls:
- Combine the milk, oil, and sugar in a large pot (I used a Dutch oven) and place over medium heat until just before boiling. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool until just warm to the touch, about 105-110 degrees F.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the milk mixture and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Add 4 cups of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until an evenly combined dough has formed.
- Cover and let sit on the stove (with the oven on if your kitchen is cold) to rise for about 1 hour. Check after 30 minutes to make sure it is rising. By the end of the hour, it should have doubled in size and smell yeasty.
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour along with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir until completely combined. The dough should be easy to handle and not sticky. If it is sticky, place the dough in the fridge for an hour, and it should be much more pliable.
- Divide the dough in half and roll one half out on a WELL floured surface to about a 12×8 inch rectangle. It helps to dust flour over the dough and your rolling pin before you roll it out to ensure it doesn't stick. Spread half the melted butter evenly over the dough, then sprinkle half the brown sugar over top, followed by half the cinnamon.
- Starting with the long edge farthest from you, roll the dough towards you, moving your fingers evenly back and forth along the dough, until it is tightly coiled with seam down. Cut into 8 even rolls with a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss, and place in a greased pie plate or 9-inch round cake pan.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the second half of the dough.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Let the rolls rest on top of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until slightly risen. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown. Make the cream cheese icing while the rolls are baking.
For the Cream Cheese Icing:
- Whisk together cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until completely combined and smooth. Add vanilla and salt and whisk again. Whisk in powdered sugar until fully blended. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture reaches a pourable, but still thick, consistency.
- Pour and spread the icing evenly over the warm cinnamon rolls in the pan, making sure the tops of the rolls are completely covered. Serve warm with coffee and watch people’s eyes light up with unadulterated joy!
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I guess yeast isn’t so bad 🙂