Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Birthday Cinnamon Rolls

Birthdays are probably the single most exciting day in a child's life each year. I am a huge believer in setting traditions for my family. It allows us to recall precious memories of those special days in our lives and gives home a sense of comfort and reliability in an otherwise chaotic, unsure world.
This week was my son's 4th birthday! Over the past couple of years, I've been making cinnamon rolls (one of my kids' favorites) on birthday mornings for breakfast. It's become a nice tradition, though I wasn't able to find the perfect recipe. The recipe below, however, is a keeper. The rolls are big and fluffy and not overly sweet. The tart cream cheese icing is the ideal compliment.

Now my kids know to expect birthday cinnamon rolls on that one very special day every year. For a family of four, four days of cinnamon rolls per year is perfect, because, well... let's just say they're not the most healthy breakfast option. :-)

If you are using yeast for the first time, don't be afraid. There are two key rules to follow: 1. Make sure the liquid you are adding your yeast to is between 110F and 120F. Don't guess! Use a thermometer. 2. Make sure the date on your yeast has not expired. Yeast is finicky and you need fresh yeast to produce a rise. Follow the recipe below as written and you will have delicious homemade cinnamon rolls that you can thank me for later... :-)

Cinnamon Rolls
(Slightly adapted from: Tracey's Culinary Adventures which was adapted from the TV show, Cooks Country)

3/4 cup milk (110F - 120F)
2 1/4 t instant yeast
3 large eggs, RT
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 t salt
12 T unsalted butter, RT & cut into small chunks

Cinnamon Filling:
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 T cinnamon
1/4 t salt
4 T unsalted butter, RT

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, RT
1 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (10x)

Heat your oven to 200F and then turn it off. Line a 13x9" pan with foil and spray it with cooking spray.
Add the yeast to the warm milk and whisk. The yeast will start to foam. Add the eggs and blend together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. While the mixer is on low, drizzle the milk-yeast-egg mixture in until the dough begins to come together. Add the chunks of butter one at a time as you increase the speed of the mixer to medium. Knead this dough for about 10 minutes. A sign that the dough is well kneaded is when the dough looks smooth and doesn't stick to the side of the bowl. Once this happens, take out the dough and shape it into a ball. Place the ball of dough into a large bowl (at least 3x the size of the dough) that has been greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the warm oven (that was preheated to 200F and then turned off) for about 2 hours. The dough will have risen to 2x it's original size.
While the dough is rising, you can make your filling. Combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Add the softened butter and mix to get a homogeneous paste. Set aside until you are ready to use it.
Once the dough is risen, turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Roll the dough into an 18" square. Spread the butter and cinnamon mixture evenly all over the dough leaving about 1/2" border around the edges. Roll the dough towards you in a very tight log. Pinch the seam of the log to make a seal. Cut the roll in 1/2, then 1/2 again and repeat until you have 12 equal pieces. Put each individual piece swirl-side up in the prepared baking pan. Cover this pan with plastic wrap and leave it on your stove to proof for another hour. The rolls will have doubled in size again.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Take the plastic wrap off and bake the rolls for about 35-40 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. While the rolls are in the oven, make the cream cheese frosting. Whisk all the frosting ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Take the rolls out of the oven. At this point, you may cool them and freeze them if you want to have them at a later time. If not, spread a thin layer of frosting on them and let them cool for about half an hour. Then top with the remaining frosting, serve and enjoy! You may individually wrap and freeze the cinnamon rolls as well, after baking and icing them. They keep for up to 3 months.

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