Sunday, November 14, 2010

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnabon. I have a real problem with Cinnabon. First of all, you can smell that shop from the farthest end of every mall or airport in America...that insipid syrupy sweetness permeates everything. Combine it with the greasy stench of McDonald's and nausea will certainly ensue. Secondly, they make my hands sticky just thinking about them. Finally, Cinnabon cinnamon rolls could feed a family of four for three days. No one needs that much cinnamon roll in one sitting.

Okay, enough of my hormonal soapbox. The reason for my rant is that I have discovered yet another one of my mother's recipes that achieves perfection simply by being simple: the Christmas Cinnamon roll. Made from the same dough that makes her famous Dinner Rolls, the roll consists of bread, cinnamon, sugar, and butter, but mostly bread. A soft buttery dough with subtle hints of cinnamon, rather than oozing stickiness everywhere. These are not your typical cinnamon rolls but when I was growing up, these were the definitive. At some point in the past 39 years, cinnamon rolls became very sinful in my opinion. I'm going back to basics.

The Dinner Rolls should come first. My mother's recipe produces a nice buttery dough that is both light and rich. She makes these pretty often and sometimes fails, but mostly succeeds in making them perfect every time. If I can find success on my first try, they must not be that difficult!

Dinner Rolls Recipe
1 cup milk
1/3 cup + 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (or 1 stick margarine)
1 pkg dry yeast
2 eggs
4 cups flour

Heat milk, sugar, salt, and shortening until shortening melts. Cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 Tbsp warm water. Stir in 1 tsp sugar and set aside. Beat eggs and add to the cooled milk mixture. Stir in yeast mixture. Mix in flour using a dough hook on low speed mixer. When dough comes together (is moist and somewhat sticky) place in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth for about 2 hours until the dough doubles in size. At this point, you can refrigerate overnight; then make into rolls and let rise 1 1/2 hours before baking. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the roll, until lightly brown on top.

Mom makes the cinnamon rolls every Christmas and brings them out arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree after we open presents on Christmas morning. You can eat two or three and not feel like you're going to explode. And you don't need to take a shower afterwards to get the sticky off. Perfect and simple. Delicious and festive. Try them anytime of year.

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
Roll out the Dinner Rolls dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter and sprinkle with generous amounts of cinnamon and sugar. Roll up the dough and then slice into 1 inch thick rolls. Lay them flat on a buttered baking sheet and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours before baking at 375 for about 20 minutes, until they are puffed and the cinnamon sugar starts to caramelize.

Additions: add raisins and/or pecans to the inside, and maybe drizzle with icing

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