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Video: Mmm! Holiday cinnamon rolls

TODAY recipes
updated 12/8/2010 9:58:58 PM ET 2010-12-09T02:58:58

Recipe: Cinnamon rolls

Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons total) active dry yeast
  • 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 heaping tablespoon salt
  • Filling
  • 2 cups melted butter, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup ground cinnamon for sprinkling
  • 2 cups sugar, plus more as needed
  • Maple icing
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, more if needed for thinning
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring or maple extract
Preparation

This is without a doubt one of my most treasured recipes — something I've been enjoying my entire life, thanks to my mom, who became legendary in our hometown for delivering these disturbingly delicious cinnamon rolls to folks at Christmastime. I became spoiled on these heavenly treats at a very early age, and as a result, no cinnamon roll anywhere has ever measured up.

I find that, generally speaking, cinnamon rolls — especially those bought in bakeries or stores — are way too bready, with way too little gooey topping. These rolls of my mother's are the perfect antidote: they're almost equal parts bread and icing, which is poured liberally over the warm, just-baked rolls. The rolls are perfect eaten immediately or later in the day, after they've been allowed to cool and settle into their almost obscene gooeyness. If you begin making these for your friends and family during the holidays, I promise you this: You'll become famous. And, on a less positive note, people will forget everything else you've ever accomplished in your life. From that moment on, you'll be known — and loved — only for your cinnamon rolls. But don't worry. You'll get used to it!

The dough is very easy to make; you simply scald milk, add oil, sugar, yeast, and the dry ingredients in alternating batches, then allow the dough to rise until you're ready to make the rolls. I've been known to make the dough a couple of days in advance and allow it to stay covered in the fridge. Of course, I sometimes forget to punch it down, which makes for an interesting sight in the morning when I open the fridge to retrieve the orange juice. But that's a story for another time. I often use seven disposable aluminum pie plates so that I can deliver them to friends, but you may also use glass or ceramic pie plates, rectangular baking dishes, or rimmed baking sheets.

For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat; do not allow the mixture to boil. Set aside and cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour.

Add additional 1 cup flour, along with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine and use dough immediately or refrigerate, covered, overnight.

To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches.

To make the filling, pour 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly.

Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don't be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Because the way I see it, if a little butter and sugar is good, more is better. That's my motto in pretty much all areas of my life.

Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly toward you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don't worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine.

When you reach the end, pinch the seam together. When you're finished, you'll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.

Transfer to a cutting board and with a sharp knife, make 1½-inch slices. One log will produce 20 to 25 rolls.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of melted butter into the desired pie pans or baking dishes and swirl to coat.

Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd.

Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Cover the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 13 to 17 minutes, until golden brown. Don't allow the rolls to become overly brown. While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing!

In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt.

Splash in the maple flavoring.

Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be thick but still pourable.

When the rolls come out of the oven, notice the gooey filling inside. Mmmm. At this point, your kitchen is by far the best smelling place on earth. You could sell tickets.

While the rolls are still warm, generously drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top.

As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing's moisture and flavor. They only get better with time ... not that they last for more than a few seconds! Make them for a friend today! It'll seal the relationship for life. I promise.

Tips

Cinnamon rolls can be frozen in the pan, unbaked. Just cover them tightly with foil after you place them in the pan but before they rise. Then, when you're ready to bake, allow them to thaw and rise before baking. Ice as directed. An easier method is simply to freeze the baked, iced cinnamon rolls after they've cooled slightly. Then just pull them out of the freezer and warm them in a 250º F oven for 15 minutes. I stock up my freezer with cinnamon rolls before the holidays begin, and I'm always so glad I do.

Variations

Add finely chopped pecans to the rolls after sprinkling on the cinnamon and sugar.

Substitute 8 tablespoons of orange marmalade and 1 cup brown sugar (per half batch of dough) for the cinnamon and white sugar, then substitute orange juice for the maple and coffee in the icing.

Serving Size

40 to 50 cinnamon rolls

Recipe: Huevos Hyacinth

Ingredients
  • Butter for the ramekins
  • Thinly sliced ham, turkey, or any deli meat
  • Tomato slices or picante sauce
  • Large eggs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Crumbled or grated Monterey Jack, Mexican Cotija, goat cheese, or other cheese
Preparation

My good friend Hyacinth and I like to cook together and try to figure out new and interesting ways to get food into our mouths. Plus, she does all the dishes, which makes me love her all the more. One day right after Easter, I lamented that I'd up and forgotten to dye Easter eggs with my children, after having bought three dozen eggs. Nice mothering, eh? Anyway, after scolding me for an hour or so, Hyacinth suddenly remembered an egg dish she'd enjoyed while visiting a bed and breakfast with her husband, our district court judge, whom I have a really hard time addressing as "your honor," but I still try.

After a little experimentation, we came up with Huevos Hyacinth, a single-serving dish prepared in individual ramekins. The basic recipe can be used as a launching pad for your own interpretations: instead of sliced ham, use smoked turkey or salmon. Instead of goat cheese, use Pepper Jack, Mexican Cotija, or even Boursin, if you're feeling especially French that day. However you prepare it, Huevos Hyacinth is perfect for one or several guests.

Butter individual ramekins, and in each one place a piece of thinly sliced ham. Top the ham with tomato slices.

Or, if you're feeling spicy, a couple of tablespoons of picante sauce instead.

Gently crack an egg over the top of each ramekin. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Top each ramekin with ¼ cup grated cheese. Monterey Jack works nicely . . . But crumbly cheeses such as Cotija or goat cheese are my personal faves.

Broil for 2 to 4 minutes, removing when the yellow of the egg is still soft but not overly runny.

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