Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting or Simple Vanilla Glaze

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Yes! I’m stoked to post this recipe, finally. It took a few tries to get it right, and I think I’m finally satisfied with this one. This recipe was adapted from about 7 different recipes to find the right balance between simple and flavorful. One recipe I examined asked for instant mashed potato flakes (?!), but it had the perfect frosting. So, after examining how to make cinnamon rolls efficiently, here’s the equation I came up with.

Click here for the recipe for ‘Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting or Simple Vanilla Glaze’

I tried to find a cinnamon roll recipe that you could make in under an hour. Trust me, it’s never happening. It’s never gonna happen, especially if you want something made from scratch. Real bread needs to be made from yeast, and it kneads needs time to rise properly! I could ask you to buy those Pillsbury canned frozen cylinder things to make these, but that’d go against my code of trying to make up my own recipes. I understand that those things are quick, but sorry, dude. Trust me on this. You can make cinnamon rolls from scratch without losing precious (studying) time. (or whatever else you’re doing with your time!)

Fortunately for you, you can make this recipe without needing a bread maker. Yes, you can totally make bread by hand. Here’s a bonus: these rolls can be made in advance. You can prepare them in advance, throw them in the fridge, and pop them in the oven in the morning when you rise. Or, you can make them immediately after the dough has risen. The flexibility of this recipe should encourage you to make these. Now.

I have two adjusted recipes below, for whether you decide to use active dry yeast or instant (aka rapid-rise) yeast. I’ve screwed up way too many recipes using active dry yeast when the recipe called for instant yeast, so learn from my mistakes. The recipes also include two kinds of frosting/icing: a vanilla cream cheese frosting and vanilla glaze. They’re optional, but seriously. You sorta kinda needa make the vanilla cream cheese frosting. Also, I love raisins and nuts in cinnamon rolls, and I hope this recipe converts you. You can definitely omit the two for a more traditional cinnamon roll.

Post your results in the comments section below, or email me if you find success with this recipe!

Here’s what you need:

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All-purpose flour, milk, an egg, butter, water, salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins(optional), and walnuts(optional).

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So if you’re using active dry yeast (as opposed to instant or rapid rise yeast), dissolve sugar in some warm water. Warm means it’s just slightly warmer than luke warm, and when you touch it, you’re not screaming. We don’t want steaming hot water.

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Throw the active dry yeast in the sugary water and stir it around til the yeast dissolves. Let the bowl sit in a warm dry place for 10 minutes…

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Here’s what it looks like. How bubbly. Now, you can go ahead and dump it in a large bowl to start making the dough. Or….. if you’re using instant yeast, here’s what you gotta do:

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Instant yeast does not need to dissolve, so the recipe starts a little differently. I need you to melt some butter in some milk. Microwave it for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until the milk is warm to the touch.

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What does warm to the touch mean, you ask? Just like this. I can dip my finger in it, and it’s just warm, not hot enough to burn the living crap out of me.

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After the butter and milk mixture is all melted and warm, dump it in a bowl with an egg and some water. If you’re using the active dry yeast mixture, dump it in the bowl now with the milk and egg and go from here.

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Whisk, whisk, whisk it all around. Til it’s all mixed, ya know?

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Now add 1 cup of flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Obviously, if you’re using the active dry yeast mixture, you’re not going to be adding the instant yeast. (follow the recipes below if you’re not following me)

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This recipe is made to glorify your hands. We don’t need no bread machine here. Use your hands to whisk that all around. Til it looks like a thin pancake batter. More like a crepe batter.

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Now add 2 1/2 cups of flour and mixed it all around. It’s messy, but fun.

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If it’s too sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour to make the dough easy to handle. You don’t need to plop the dough onto the counter. Just mix it around in the bowl. This is how easy this recipe is!

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Now I want you to knead the dough for 6-8 minutes til it is smooth and elastic. This gives a slight chew to the cinnamon rolls. Like the ones you get at Cinnabon. But without the added chemicals and preservatives.

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Now form the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Go set it in a dry warm place for 2 hours and wait. Patience is a virtue, mis amigos.

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As you’re waiting, go ahead and mix up some cinnamon, chopped walnuts(or pecans), raisins, and brown sugar (light or dark works). Like I said before, nuts and raisins are optional.

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This would go pretty damn well on oatmeal.

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Now grease a large baking pan. With buttah, of course. Don’t be trying to use margarine on me.

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After two hours, here’s where it gets fun. Flour a smooth surface. Just FYI, the flour you use to flour the surface is called “bench flour.”

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Now, sucker punch the dough. It should’ve doubled in size. If it didn’t, your yeast was probably expired, or your water was too hot. I hope that does not happen for you.

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Put it on the surface and sprinkle some flour on the top.

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Roll it out to an 18 inch by 12 inch rectangle. Use a ruler please. (You still have the one you used in elementary school, don’t you?) If it’s too elastic and keeps wanting to shrink back inwards, keep trying to stretch it out without ripping the dough.

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Spread some softened butter evenly over the rectangle. Leave a 1/2 inch border unbuttered around the whole thing.

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Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the softened butter layer. Keep that 1/2 inch border free, ya hear?

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Now start pinching and rolling tightly, starting at the long edge near you.

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What do I mean by pinching, you ask? Like this. We want it to be tight and secure, so roll slowly if you must. Cram all the raisins and sugar in the log as you roll.

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Keep at it. Keep rollin’. Did you get to practice rolling when you made Vietnamese Spring Rolls?

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That’s what I’m talking about. We want THAT. A nice log for our cinnamon rolls.

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Now cut some 1-inch slices.

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You’d think we would get 18 slices since the log is technically 18 inches long, right? Wrong. The dough is pretty elastic, so you can get anywhere between 15-18 slices. Don’t worry about it.

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Now place them in the buttered baking pan. Ideally, you would place them 1/2 inch to 1 inch away from them so they are not touching. I got lazy, but this step is pretty important so that your rolls rise properly. So, take the time to place them far enough apart from each other so they don’t hinder their neighbors’ growth.

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They should double in size after about 40 minutes. Like I said, if you place them far enough apart from each other (1/2 inch to 1 inch apart), they would rise more so than in this picture.

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Now bake them for 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F, or just until the tops are nice and golden. Holy OMG, we’re almost done.

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While they’re cooling, make some frosting. Mix powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla extract together.

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Whisk that all around til you get this deliciousness.

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If you don’t have cream cheese or you want a lighter icing, make a vanilla glaze. You need powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.

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Mix til you get this decadence.

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While the rolls are still super hot, go ahead and frost it with the cream cheese frosting or vanilla glaze. (omg, are we almost done?)

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After about 5 minutes of cooling, you have my permission to devour as many rolls to your heart’s content.
If using instant or rapid-rise yeast:

If using active dry yeast:

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