With everything going on, is it frivolous to spend a morning cooking or baking when the world seems to be falling apart? Not one bit. One of my favorite things about cooking is its ability to ground us — to home, to people around us, to ourselves, to gratitude, to our senses. It gets us away from the computer and into the kitchen. It quiets our minds, even for a bit.
Normally, cinnamon buns in our house are reserved for holidays or birthdays. But these days, I’m looking for every excuse to celebrate. A couple of weeks ago, we made Thanksgiving dinner just for fun (and of course to eat leftovers throughout the week). I knew cinnamon rolls for breakfast would be the perfect way to kick things off. Starting the day with a batch of these beauties is sure to turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary one.
Variations to consider if you want to get creative: Sometimes I poke a hole in the dough before baking and fill them with spiced pastry cream, or add finely chopped almonds or pecans to the filling to add more texture. I would suggest making the dough and shaping them the night before you want to bake them. Then all you have to do is wake up in the morning and throw them in the oven.
Makes 12 rolls; total time: 3 hours
For the rolls:
¾ cup milk, warmed
2¼ teaspoons active yeast (1/4-ounce package yeast)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
¼ cup butter, melted
3 cup flour
For the filling:
2/3 cup brown sugar
1½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter, softened
For the cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
4 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Make the dough: Add milk to the bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. The yeast will begin to foam in around five minutes. Add sugar, egg, egg yolk and butter. Mix well. Add flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form. On a floured surface, knead the dough with your hands for 8-10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a buttered bowl, cover with a kitchen towel. Rise for one hour.
While dough is rising make the filling: Mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Reserve.
Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the maple syrup, vanilla and pinch of salt. Beat for 2 minutes. You can also make this by hand with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease.
Shape and bake the rolls: Transfer dough to a well-floured clean surface and roll out into a 14-by-9-inch rectangle. Spread filling on dough, leaving a ¼-inch border. Tightly roll dough up, starting from the long side and place the seam side down. Cut into 2-inch slices with a sharp knife. You should yield 12 rolls. Line a large cast iron pan or 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Place rolls in the dish and cover with plastic wrap and let rise again for 30 minutes. (At this point you could also put them in the fridge overnight and then pull out the next day 30 minutes before baking.) Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until just slightly golden but cooked through. Allow buns to cool for around five minutes before frosting.