What is more romantic than some homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze for breakfast on Valentine’s day? Cinnamon rolls and I, we go way back. We have a history together, so to say that I love cinnamon rolls would be an understatement. It is my comfort zone, my happy place. The smell of bread baking in the oven and cinnamon sugar melting, bubbling in the middle soothes my soul.
I started working at a cinnamon roll shop during my senior year in high school. And that was the beginning of my baking experience. We made everything by hand, in house, all the dough, the cream cheese frosting, rolling them out, baking them right there. I practiced and perfected my rolling skill, it was the most fun I’ve ever had working at a job. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard work. The opening shift was 2 hours before any other shop opens and the closing shift was an hour after all the other shops closed. You’re on your feet all day, and you smell like butter and sugar (not that it’s a bad thing, is it?? Getting minimum wage was…). But I’m sure it wasn’t anywhere near difficult as working at a large bakery where you have to start at the wee hours in the morning, since we only had one product.
After one year of working at the shop, smelling like sweat and cinnamon sugar, devouring countless rolls and gaining not even 1 pound (ah… the luxury of youth!), I left for bigger and better things, diamonds! Well, just 3 shops down the aisle, I traded my rolling pin in for a key to the diamond case. You know how it is, young heart is fickle. After that I stopped eating cinnamon rolls for years, I couldn’t stand that sugary sweet smell, until just after I finished college. And just like old friends, we picked back up right where we left off without any awkward feeling.
Since then, I’ve been trying to recreate that perfect cinnamon roll with yeasted dough, no eggs, and a cream cheese frosting. For this version, I decided to make a cream cheese glaze instead; I wanted to skip the butter in the frosting. These rolls are a mish mash version of Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls and Alton Brown’s cinnamon rolls. They are also a smaller batch, just 8 small rolls or you can make them into 4 large rolls. If you want to make larger rolls, roll the dough out to about 10”x18” rectangle instead and make the log 10” long. So roll the shorter edge instead of the longer edge. The recipe could easily be halved or doubled if you wish.
So enjoy and have a sweet Valentine’s! (can you tell I ran out of milk for the photo…)
- 1 cup of milk (I used 2%)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 rounded teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 oz unsalted butter – soften at room temperature
- 2 oz of cream cheese – soften at room temperature
- 1 – 2 tablespoon of milk (I used 2%, room temperature)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup of powder sugar
- Add milk, butter and sugar to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer, allowing all the butter to melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium mixing bowl and let the mixture cool to approximately 110°F.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the milk mixture, and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes until the yeast expands.
- Combine flour and salt in a small mixing bowl, add this to the liquid mixture and knead with the dough hook on speed 2 until a dough forms. You could also mix with a wooden spoon.
- The dough will be somewhat wet, scrape it out of the bowl onto a well-floured board. Flour the top of the dough and knead a few times with the heel of your hand. Shape into a ball.
- Oil a glass bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 – 2 hours.
- Flour your working surface, a large board or your counter top, turn the dough out with the smooth side on top, or flour the dough and knead a few times to smooth out the dough and shape it into a disk. Only use as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking, at this point it shouldn’t be that sticky.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 12” x 15” with the longer edge facing you, checking the bottom of the dough often to make sure it is not sticking to your working surface, flour as necessary.
- Spread the 1 oz soften butter evenly on the surface of the dough rectangle with a small silicone spatula, leaving about 1/2” border along the edge closest to you.
- Thoroughly mix brown sugar with cinnamon in a small bowl, spread the mixture on top of the buttered dough surface evenly with your hand.
- Roll the dough from the top long edge down toward you, starting in the middle working toward the sides, roll and tuck, until you get to the end. You could pinch the edge to seal the roll, or just roll the log over so the seam is sitting at the bottom.
- Cut the log into 8 equal size rolls.
- Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper, place the rolls in the dish, far enough apart, approximately 3/4” – 1”, to allow them to rise before baking.
- Cover the baking dish with a kitchen towel or plastic, and let the rolls rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, until they are poofy.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. You could set the baking dish on top of the oven and allow the rising heat from the oven help with the proofing of the rolls.
- Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly while you prepare the glaze.
- Allow both the cream cheese and milk come to room temperature.
- Cream the cream cheese in your stand mixer with a whisk, add the milk and beat to combine. Slowly add the sugar with the mixer on low speed, mix until thoroughly combined and a soft glaze forms.
- For less sweet glaze, start with 1 tablespoon of milk and 1/2 cup of powder sugar. Increase the amount of sugar and milk if you desire sweeter glaze.
- Use a serrated knife to separate the rolls, slather glaze over the warm rolls and serve.