Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head

“Our first customers arrive at six thirty and they want our Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head and I am the one who makes them. I put the dough to rise overnight and it is huge and puffy and waiting when I get there at four-thirty.”
“I [give] myself tendonitis trying to persuade stiff, surly thirty-hour-refrigerated dough that it’s time to loosen up….but I don’t mind. I love working with yeast and flour and sugar and I love the smell of bread baking.”
-Sunshine

This is the big one. The biggest baked good in the list from a metaphorical, literal, anticipatory and alliterative perspective. They started my baked good obsession and remain my favorite food to make, sweet or savory. So I really should have built up the suspense and waited a bit to make them, but I couldn’t help it. This whole blog is an homage to these delicious creations.

But make no mistake: these babies take commitment. They require kneading and rising and assembling and patience. But the feel of warm, elastic dough under your knuckles is like the first sip of cider in the fall. The smell that wafts up from a damp washcloth after the yeast underneath has been basking in the sun is a million times better than the bread aisle at the store. And crumbling dark brown sugar and cinnamon on butter-brushed dough with your fingers is just about the best activity in the history of fingers.

Seriously, cinnamon rolls are worth the effort.

I tried a lot of recipes when I was first starting out, and I ruined a lot of batches because I didn’t know much about baking. So if it doesn’t work the first, second or fifth time, don’t despair. They’re tricky. And by batch three you’ll probably produce something that’s better than store-bought, even if it’s not exactly perfect.

So without any more ado we start with the most legendary baked good of them all:

Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon almond extract

Filling
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened

Icing
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,
softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

I so rarely buy milk I did it wrong.
I so rarely buy milk I did it wrong.

Notes on the ingredients

Yeast
Use fresh yeast. The worst part of making any kind of yeast food is waiting an hour for the bread to proof and coming back to lifeless blob of dough. Old yeast is just a bunch of dead yeast-y creatures in beige form. Fresh live yeast sometimes jumps around on its own and is a little terrifying if you think about it too hard. You can pick up a bag you will never get rid of for like $4 at Costco.

Milk
Bit of a snafu on the milk here, didn’t realize it was the wrong one until after I’d taken this picture. With the benefit of hindsight, the milk is noticeably sweeter than regular milk and might have caused the cinnamon rolls to be too sweet. Will have to investigate further.

Flour
Bread flour has more protein/gluten than all-purpose flour. It makes the dough more elastic, so the bread-y insides are fluffier and more fragrant. I usually use bread flour with yeast recipes. Supposedly you can buy vital wheat gluten to add to all-purpose flour, but I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t recommend it until I have. This recipe works pretty well with all-purpose if it’s all you have on hand.

Directions

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in the butter; stir until melted. Add water and let cool until lukewarm.

Liquids

Proof the yeast in a small bowl. For active dry yeast, the water temperature should be between 105 and 110 degrees. Especially if you’ve never proofed yeast before, it’s worth using a thermometer until you can gut check the temperature. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the milk/butter liquid along with some pinches of the sugar and stir until the yeast has dissolved. In about 5-10 minutes it should be foamy on top and triple the size. 

Delightful and a bit of a relief.

If this doesn’t happen, you either have yeast that’s too old or the temperature is off. (Too cool and the yeast won’t activate. Too hot and it kills it.)

In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, yeast, white sugar, salt, eggs and 2 cups flour; stir well to combine.

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Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Dough hook time

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

IMGP9731

I used the dough hook for a few minutes to cheat a bit on the kneading (I know, I know, poor form) since the dough was a bit wet.

Wet dough

Because the dough was so wet it took roughly 3/4 cup of flour to make it manageable.

Kneaded dough

Place dough into an oiled bowl with a damp washcloth over the top. Set in a warm place for 2-3 hours to rise. For simplicity, I just stuck it back in the mixer bowl and put the bowl in the sun.

Resting dough

Rising dough

While you’re waiting, you can clean a bit, watch an episode of Downton Abbey, go to the store to buy ingredients you forgot about and/or prep the filling. The difference between two and three hours is pretty much what fits into your schedule. There will be another chance for the dough to rise, so don’t stress about the timing here too much. And for cinnamon’s sake, don’t just sit around and wait–let the little yeasties to do their thing and get on with your life.

The Filling

This is the tipping point of the recipe for me. Starting from this point onward, everything is amazing. The smell of just brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl is unbelievably intoxicating. Then you melt a tablespoon of butter in the microwave and the whole kitchen starts to smell like kitchens were always meant to smell. Utterly marvelous.

The filling is unique in that you actually have some wiggle room. In baking you need to follow the recipe exactly or you end up with something that is too big or too small or exploded (and always impossible to clean up). Since this is the filling, you can play around a bit to fit your tastes. The brown sugar cinnamon combo and ratio here is solid and classic, but you can fiddle around with the proportions or even add different spices if you prefer.

Filling

Random Aside: If I go to a friend’s place to bake (which you wouldn’t think happens all that often, but it kinda does) I might bring the odd ingredient or baking pan, but I will always bring two tools: my whisk and my spatula. Working with a stiff plastic blade or trying cleaning a teardrop bird cage in miniature is a very predictable headache. So much so that I feel a little thrill every time I use my lime green head massager-looking whisk which cleans in a few downward swipes of a sponge. Or the spatula that is so efficient it practically cleans the bowl as you use it. If you can handle being the weirdo who walks into other peoples’ kitchens with random kitchen utensils, I’d recommend making your life better and upgrading the whisk and spatula (in the pic above). Now back to the baking.

Divide the dough into two pieces. For regular cinnamon rolls. you roll out each piece into a 12×9 inch rectangle. For As Big As Your Head Cinnamon Rolls, we want a fatter roll, so roll a narrower, longer rectangle for chubbsy rolls chock full of cinnamon sugar.

Regular vs As Big As Your Head

Spread each piece with half of the butter using a pastry brush or an infinitely useful silicone spatula. Here comes yet another really good part. Dig clean and dry fingers into a just-mixed bowl of cinnamon brown sugar. Sprinkle the fragrant mixture onto the buttery surface that’s still warm from the sun. Be liberal with the sugar. If you need more you can always reach into the bag to pull more out. Make sure you get the edges–those are going to be individual rolls so make sure they get their fair share of gooey cinnamon goodness.

Butter and Sugar
Leave an inch of dough unbuttered at the end so you have something to hold a seal.

Roll up dough, using a little water to seal the seam.

Rolling

Even sharp knives make a squashed, sugary mess. Circumvent the problem by using something with significantly less drag–dental floss. Slide it under the log, wrap around, cross, and pull. Minimal squashage.

Cutting Rolls

Place the rolls in a lined pan or on a baking sheet and set in a warm place for another hour. I know at this point you’re looking at your flour and sugar covered counter in dismay and desperate to eat the smell that’s permeated everything from your dining room to your hair follicles. I know. I’m sorry. Hang on just a little longer. This last bit is absolutely necessary and (gratifyingly) dramatic. Just watch.

These are the As Big As Your Head rolls just after they were cut.
These are the As Big As Your Head rolls just after they were cut.

 

After forty minutes in the sun.
After just forty minutes in the sun. Look at those fatty rolls!

 

Right before the oven
Right before the oven

 

Seriously, these are ridiculously large. And they rise even MORE in the oven.
Seriously, these are ridiculously large. And they rise even more in the oven.

 

Depending on your oven, preheat it about half an hour before the cinnamon rolls are done rising. If you want to be an organized overachiever, you can prep the icing materials.

Frosting Materials

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes on the middle rack until golden brown.

You cannot image how good everything smells
You cannot imagine how good everything smells

 

When you have 10 minutes to go, start making the frosting.There are two schools of thought here. The purists will go with icing. The non-purists who we shall call…the flavornauts will go with frosting. In this case since icing is basically frosting minus the cream cheese, I went with frosting, but it is heavier and has its own distinct flavor. If you’re a purist that flavor is distracting; if you’re a flavornaut it’s complimentary. After I tried the cinnamon rolls with the cream cheese frosting (and remembering that the cinnamon rolls go into white bakery bags) I’m leaning towards icing.

Either way, I made the frosting, so here’s how you do it. Melt the butter and soften the cream cheese by microwaving it on low for a few seconds. I forgot the latter step and ended with small flecks of solid cream cheese. Some of that will break down under vicious  stirring, but it’s easy to avoid. Combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add milk gradually until frosting reaches a spreading consistency.

Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Spread over warm (but not hot) cinnamon rolls. Like these.

Fresh from the Oven
Didn’t I tell you they would get bigger in the oven? They’re like small mountains now. Gorgeous, edible mountains.

 

Frosted Goodness
I’m not sure how well it comes through in the pictures, but these are enormous. There are wedding cakes smaller than these things. They might be approaching Bigger Than Your Head territory.

 

I ate two and felt extremely ill almost immediately afterwards. (When else are you going to have cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven?)

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

 

Happy eating, Sunshine readers.

Giant Frosted Mountains

Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon almond extract
12″ dental floss

Filling
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Icing
2 cups powedered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk

Frosting (Icing Alternative)
Icing + 8 oz. cream cheese

Directions

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in the butter; stir until melted. Add water and let cool until lukewarm.
  2. Proof the yeast in a small bowl. For active dry yeast, the water temperature should be between 105 and 110 degrees. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the milk/butter liquid along with some pinches of the sugar and stir until the yeast has dissolved. In about 5-10 minutes it should be foamy on top and triple the size.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture, vanilla and almond extracts, yeast, white sugar, salt, eggs and 2 cups flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  4. Place dough into an oiled bowl with a damp washcloth over the top. Set in a warm place for 2-3 hours to rise.
  5. In a bowl, stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Melt butter.
  6. Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into a 16×7 inch rectangle. Spread each piece with half of the butter, leave an inch on one end for the seam. Spread half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough, using a little water to seal the seam.
  7. Cut each roll into 12 slices using dental floss. Place rolls onto two 9×13 inch greased baking pans. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Make icing; combine powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Add milk gradually until icing reaches the consistency of glaze. Drizzle over warm (but not hot) cinnamon rolls.

BIg as Your Head

4 thoughts on “Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head

  1. Just found your blog – a kindred spirit! I have been spending the whole weekend obsessing about Killer Zebras (tried 2 more recipes) and your blog showed up when I was googling different Sunshine goodies. I am afraid that at twice your age, I am not up to the pace that you have achieved so I really look forward to your recipes! Good luck with the project!

    1. Aw, thanks! If you find the perfect Killer Zebra recipe, let me know! I’ve got a very clear picture in my head as to what they’re supposed to look and taste like, but the nuances of different butter cookies are, well, clearly you know what they are. I found a few other Sunshine baking blogs through your site–who knew there were so many of us? 🙂

    1. Blurgh, I did forget to mention that, didn’t I? Thanks for the catch! You add it in when you’re mixing the wet and dry together–so when you’re combining the milk mixture with the eggs and flour. There’s actually a dark dribble left-ish of center in that photo where I added it, (then promptly forgot to mention it).

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