There is something so warm cozy and welcoming about a cinnamon roll, cinnamon rolls just want to love you, cinnamon rolls understand. There are many versions of this beautiful pastry, but these are BY FAR the best I’ve ever tasted. I was introduced to them from our sister Kristin who learned about them from our other sister Courtney who got the recipe from her husband Greg’s Grandma Ruth. I never had the honor of meeting Grandma Ruth, but based on all accounts she was a character with a talent for cute one liners and cinnamon roll perfection. The thing that makes these the most magical is….well, all of the things. The dough is soft, but bouncy, not too sweet, and the filling has no strange flavors, it’s brown sugar and cinnamon, but perhaps the very most special ingredient is the really unique icing. I’ve never met an icing like this one and PLEASE take the time to make it instead of wussing out on some easy sleazy pow sug and milk silliness. You thicken it on the stove with sugar and flour then add the powdered sugar later. It harden’s as it cools so it kind of closes in on your roll making it stay fresh longer, plus it allows you to easily freeze them individually and as Grandma Ruth used to say “zip ’em in the microphone for 20” to have a cinnamon that tastes like it just came out of the oven for weeks after the effort. I have made a few adjustments, such as tripling the icing because a cinnamon roll without enough icing is truly tragic and I would never treat these sweet buns that way. This is not the easiest thing on the planet to make but it’s not a finicky recipe, have fun with it, get your kids involved and don’t stress out. They will turn out amazing and make for a magnificent morning guaranteed!
2 cups milk
2 rounded teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (cut up for easy melting)
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
6 1/2-8 cups flour (enough to make your dough curl and handle easily – I usually use about 8)
5 tablespoons butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
6-7 cups powdered sugar
1. Scald the milk, either on the stove or I usually just warm in up in a large (4 cup capacity) pyrex for 3 minutes so it’s really hot. Add salt, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter to the milk and let stand until sugar and butter are dissolved and milk is no longer hot but just warm, -give this a mix before adding to your yeast mixture.
2. In a separate bowl (I do this in a stand mixer) put your yeast into the 1/2 cup warm water and let sit with the extra teaspoon sugar until dissolved and starting to puff. Add the two beaten eggs. Next add milk mixture. Combine and slowly add flour starting a few cups at a time but once you get to 6 cups slow down and watch how it curls and handles. When your dough is ready it will start to pull off the sides of the bowl and stick more to itself than it does to your fingers. It will still be a bit tacky, you don’t want it dry, just to the point where you can handle it. It does not require a long knead, I just kneaded with the dough hook for about 4-5 minutes until all incorporated.
3. Work dough into a ball and put into a lightly greased bowl covered for about an hour – until doubled. Punch down once doubled and let them come back again about 15 minutes. Divide dough into two and roll on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Try to even up your corners as best you can.
4. For the cinnamon filling melt the butter and use half for each half of dough – about 2 and a half tablespoons butter for each. Spread out on your rectangle evenly then mix up your brown sugar and cinnamon and use half of this mixture over the butter reaching almost to the ends all over the dough. Starting on a short side roll your dough rectangle into a nice tight rope and do your best to seal it at the end by pinching the dough into itself. With a nice sharp knife cut rolls from your rope in about 1 1/2 inch sections and place them on a cookie sheet with either a silpat baking mat, parchment, or greased with butter or oil. I just cut as many as my recipe makes instead of trying to do a set amount. In my last batch I was able to make 30 total rolls. Repeat step 4 with the other half of the dough.
5. Preheat oven to 350. Let the rolls rise under tea towels or plastic wrap for a good 20-30 minutes until nice and puffy. Bake one cookie sheet at time for about 12-14 minutes. Mine were done at 13. You want them lightly browned and gorgeously puffed up.
6. Make frosting – please don’t be lazy and do an easier frosting, the frosting for these is so unique and spectacular – it’s what makes them so super special! In a large saucepan put evaporated milk, sugar, salt and flour. Mix on medium heat until mixture is bubbling and thick. Stirring constantly add butter vanilla and powdered sugar. You might add a bit more powdered sugar to get desired consistency, but this magical icing hardens as it cools so don’t stress out about it. Once it’s done, I pour it through a strainer and push it with a rubber spatula to get all the lumps out so it’s nice and pretty smooth. You can also sift your powdered sugar as you add it, but this is too messy for me. You could also just leave the lumps in, they taste fine, but are somewhat unsightly and won’t do if you’re a dessert blogger like me. When they are hot out of the oven put icing on each bun generously, there should be enough to cover all your rolls easily. You might have a little extra which is in my opinion better than not enough – if you don’t insist on gobs of frosting you can cut this in half, but I like to have plenty.
7. We always freeze what we don’t eat the first day in individual sandwich bags then heat them for 25 seconds and they taste incredible. This magic icing doesn’t stick to plastic so they are easy to freeze.