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A few weeks ago I woke up one morning and just had to have a cinnamon roll.  It was bad.  And while I sadly didn’t get one that day, I decided that I’d make them for the following morning.  I’ve made and shared a few cinnamon roll-ish things before, but I’d never made classic, straight up cinnamon rolls.  In my opinion, Peter Reinhardt is the authority on all things bread, so I turned to him for what I knew would be a fool-proof recipe.

And it was!  While this is a time-consuming recipe if you look at the total time, the vast majority is inactive time - refrigerate overnight, allowing the dough to rest, proofing the shaped rolls… I would say there is less than 30 minutes of active prep time involved.

This is the second time I have used a Reinhardt recipe (the first was when I madeCheese Danish), and it is probably my favorite dough.  It is so soft, silky, and smooth.  And it rolls out so easily and beautifully.  You have the option to add raisins and/or nuts to the filling, but I opted to K.I.S.S. (The Office, anyone?) and just go with a classic cinnamon-sugar filling.

Since I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before, I can’t compare these to other popular recipes (Alton Brown, Pioneer Woman, Cook’s Illustrated…) but I can say that they were pretty darn delicious.  Soft and sweet, with just the right amount of spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg, and the cream cheese frosting definitely  added the perfect touch.  Now that I have a great base recipe, I can’t wait to try countless variations for add-ins and flavorings.

This recipe makes 24 rolls, and while I briefly considered halving or even quartering the recipe, I ended up making the whole thing and freezing about half.  Now I can have an (almost) fresh cinnamon anytime the craving strikes!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
barely adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s Artisan Breads Every Day
makes 24 cinnamon rolls

Dough

  • 6 1/4 cups (28 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 6 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 5 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 cups + 2 Tbs lukewarm milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (unsalted)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

Filling

  • 3 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • up to 4 Tbs melted butter, for brushing

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbs heavy cream (more or less depending on how thick you want your icing)
  • pinch of salt

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer.  Whisk the yeast into the milk until dissolved, then pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, along with the butter and lemon zest.  Use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients on the lowest speed for about 1 minutes, or until the dough starts to form a soft, shaggy ball.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for about 4 minutes, adding more flour or milk as needed to create a smooth, soft, slightly sticky ball of dough.

Increase the speed to medium and mix for an additional 2 minutes, or until the dough is very soft, supple, and tacky, but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, then form it into a ball.  Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.

On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours before you plan to bake.  Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap or a lint-free kitchen towel, and allow to rest for about 20 minutes.

On a well-floured work surface, foll each ball of dough into a 12x15 inch rectangle.  To form a rectangle, roll from the center to the corners, then out to the sides.  If the dough starts to resist or is shrinking back, let it rest for 1 minute then continue rolling.  The dough should be between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick.

Make the cinnamon-sugar mixture by whisking the cinnamon and nutmeg into the sugar.  Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter over the dough, and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the surface, leaving a 1/4-inch border.

Roll up the dough like a rug, rolling from the long-side of the rectangle to form a tight log.  Use your hands to compress/shape the log into a 12-inch long log, and use a sharp knife or (unflavored) dental floss to cut into 1-inch slices.  Place the rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or in 2 round cake pans), spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Repeat the rolling, topping, and shaping with the other ball of dough.

Mist the tops with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the dough swells noticeably and the buns begin to expand into each other.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 5 to 15 minutes, or until the buns are golden-brown.

Meanwhile, make the topping.  Combine the cream cheese, butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Stir vigorously for 2-4 minutes, or until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated and smooth.  Add the vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream and mix to incorporate.  Add additional heavy cream, about 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  I wanted to pipe the frosting vs spreading it, so I wanted mine a bit thinner, so I added more heavy cream.

Allow the buns to cool for 5 minutes, then top with the glaze. 

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