Super Soft Cinnamon Rolls
I never wanted to be a baker.
I wanted to be an astronaut.
Not that I’m a baker now. Or, um, I guess I am a baker. I just don’t get paid for it. With a family of ten I bake daily.
In fact, there’s a good chance I have more experience at baking than actual, professional bakers.
I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging, because I never really aspired to this, but I’ve been told by multiple people I should open a bakery. And every time we have a family get together or a friend potluck — I’m asked to bring rolls or cinnamon rolls or some sort of yeasty goodness.
When friends tell me I should start a bakery, my response is, “No way, no how!” That’s how much I enjoy baking. And that’s why this is not a baking blog. But I do blog about frugal living, and this cinnamon roll recipe is SO easy and SO frugal and SO yummy that I feel compelled to share it with you.
So here goes.
I promise you that even if you feel intimidated by yeast, even if you don’t own a bread mixer, even if you’ve never baked before — you can make these cinnamon rolls. They’re that easy!
I don’t even measure ingredients, nor do I sift flour nor knead my dough, nor do I always let the dough raise and they still always turn out great. That’s how easy they are.
(But if this is your first time making them, please measure!)
Let’s get started!
Cinnamon Roll Dough Ingredients:
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp. sugar (for yeast mixture)
- 2 Tbsp. dry yeast
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 eggs
Cinnamon Roll Filling Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
Cinnamon Roll Icing Ingredients:
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
- 3 Tbsp. milk
- pinch of salt
Cinnamon Roll Instructions:
Make the Cinnamon Roll Dough:
1. Heat 3 c. whole milk and 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted. You only want to warm this mixture to about bath temperature for a baby. If you overheat it, no problem. Just let it cool before adding it to your flour mixture, so it doesn’t kill your yeast.
2. While the milk is heating, fill a mug with 1/4 cup warm (bath temperature) water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. dry yeast. Stir and set this aside. Yeast likes warm water and a little sugar. If the water is too cold or too hot, the yeast is less likely to activate.
3. In a very large bowl, combine 8 cups all-purpose flour, 2 Tbsp. salt, and 1 c. granulated sugar. Make a well in the middle of the flour (like a crater) and crack 6 eggs into the well. Beat the eggs with a fork, avoiding the flour on the sides. No worries if some flour gets mixed in, though. Add the warmed milk and melted butter to the well (as long as the mixture is about bath temperature) along with the yeast mixture from the mug. The yeast should look frothy and like it has expanded. Once everything is in the large bowl, roll up your sleeves, wash your hands, and plunge them in to thoroughly mix the ingredients. There’s no secret to it. It’s kind of fun.
4. This step is the hardest to get right. I live in semi-arid Utah, so my dough will use less flour than someone in a more humid climate. This is absolutely not rocket science (I actually studied rocket science in college!) and you can totally get it right with a little patience. When I’ve gotten to this point, my dough is still a little wet. It’s easier to mix that way. I then add flour, 1 cup at a time, to achieve the right texture. Sweet roll dough should be very soft and pillowy, so you want to add just barely enough flour for the dough to pull away from your hands. The perfect dough will just begin to clean all the dough off my hands as I knead it in my bowl. If it’s still sticky, I add more flour. When I turn the finished dough out onto my countertop, it shouldn’t stick. But if you add too much flour, your cinnamon rolls won’t be as gooey and soft as they could. You’ll get it, I’m sure!
5. You don’t really need to knead this dough very much. I just get mine to the right texture and then I cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it aside until it doubles in size.
Cinnamon Roll Filling:
6. While your dough is rising, make the filling by melting 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. When melted, stir in 4 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 cup sugar
7. Once your dough has risen sufficiently (sometimes I skip this step! It doesn’t hurt the taste, but if you don’t let your dough rise this first time your rolls will take a little longer to raise before you bake them) punch it down, then divide the dough into two equal portions. Roll one portion into a rectangle and spread half the filling evenly over the top. Roll up your rectangle and pinch the seam tightly closed. Slice your roll into inch-thick segments and place them in a greased baking dish. I like to use a 9 x 13 glass dish with sides so the rolls raise up nice and tall.
Let the cinnamon rolls rise, then bake them:
8. Place your baking dishes in the oven and set your oven to proof or warm. Your oven temperature and other variables will determine how fast your rolls raise, so you just have to keep an eye on them. Mine usually take about 45 minutes, but I’ve had them take as long as 2 hours before. Once they raise to double their size, turn your oven to bake at 350 degrees Farenheit. Set your timer for 20 minutes, but keep an eye on your rolls. They’re done when they are golden brown on the top, sides and bottom.
9. This is my secret for keeping my cinnamon rolls pillowy soft. Immediately after removing your rolls from the oven, brush them with a sugar/water mixture. I heat 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup sugar in the microwave until the sugar is dissolved, and I brush it over the rolls with a pastry brush.
Ice the cinnamon rolls:
10. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a saucepan. When melted and slightly cooled, add 3 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or almond extract is good) a pinch of salt and 2 cups confectioners sugar. Mix thoroughly and drizzle over the rolls. If you like a thicker icing, add another 1/2 c. of confectioners sugar. If you like it thinner, add another Tablespoon of milk.
11. Cover leftover rolls tightly and store for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 5 days in the fridge.
Cinnamon Roll Tips
1. I mix everything in one very large bowl, with my hands. You may use a mixer if you’d prefer — either works great. I do own a Bosch bread mixer, I just prefer to use my hands because I usually make a batch three times the size of this one, and it doesn’t fit in my Bosch.
2. Orange Roll Variation: Make the recipe exactly the same as above, but add the zest from 3 oranges to the filling (just mix it into the butter with the cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg. Replace the milk in the icing with the juice from those 3 oranges (at least 3 Tbsp.) and use almond extract rather than vanilla extract.
3. If you accidentally add too much flour and your dough feels too stiff, just knead in a Tbsp of warm water at a time until it softens up. You want the dough to be just barely beyond sticky.
4. Don’t overbake if you like soft, pillowy cinnamon rolls. And don’t forget to baste them with sugar/water to retain the softness!
The very best thing about these rolls is the taste. They are amazing! And the second best thing about them is the price — these cinnamon rolls are cheap to make!
confectioners sugar $0.50
Total cost: $4.79 for 24 huge cinnamon rolls or less than 20 cents per cinnamon roll
Pin these yummy cinnamon rolls for later!
Do you consider cinnamon rolls to be a breakfast pastry or a dessert? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!