This Bark is Worth More Than a Bite


Cinnamon has played a significant part in many of this blog’s features, most (but not all!) of them sweet,  but this is its first leading role. The limelight flatters it, and brings out its wonderful flavor, comforting and soothing, but with tantalizing traces of spiciness.  That element is particularly intriguing when coupled with brown sugar, as it is in the cinnamon rolls you see here.

Much as cinnamon is its namesake rolls’ indispensable ingredient (really, you figure?), the frosting is what elevates things to a whole new level.  It gets a double dose of creaminess from the butter and from the cream cheese, all of which oozes rich sweetness into every nook and cranny when applied to the fresh rolls still warm from the oven.  This is a perfect cold-weather treat; it nearly makes up for winter’s last gasp pushing back spring’s arrival for a week or two.  Yes, nearly.

Of course, when I first spied this recipe on a site called add a pinch spring was little more than a distant hope, so comfort food’s warm glow definitely had an appeal.  The  key to cinnamon’s magic, I think, is in its power to transport us to a happy place.  Maybe it reminds us of home.  Simpler yet, maybe it’s just delicious.  No matter why cinnamon is so good, whenever it shows up in baking you know the end result will be comforting.

We’ll test this claim tomorrow, when these cinnamon rolls make their way to the office.  With any luck, they’ll help some people forget, at least for a few minutes, that it’s Monday morning.  Not bad for tree bark.

*****

Cinnamon Rolls

For the dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk (*1)
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (*2)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more for handling

For the cinnamon filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese (*3)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm milk in a large bowl.  Stir gently to combine and set in a warm place until the yeast proofs (i.e., begins to bubble), about twenty minutes.  Stir in the melted butter, salt, eggs and flour gently until well-combined.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead for ten to twelve minutes.  Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly-buttered (or greased) bowl.  Cover loosely with a tea towel and place the bowl in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 45 minutes.

Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface and roll it to about 1/4-inch thick and formed into a rectangle about one foot by two.  Spread one of the softened 1/2-cups of butter (*4) on top of the dough.

Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle generously all over the buttered dough.  Beginning at the long edge, tightly roll the dough until a log has been formed.  Cut the dough into 3/4-inch slices (*5) and place on a sheet pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Before placing the rolls in the oven, allow them to rise on the baking sheet for about thirty more minutes.  Bake the rolls in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, cream together the butter, confectioner’s sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and salt.  Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.  While the rolls are still warm, add a dollop of frosting to each.

*****

NOTES:

1 – Warm the milk to just above room temperature, say, lukewarm.  Even bathwater-warm is a bit too hot, and could kill the yeast.

2 – 1/2 cup of butter works out to one stick.

3 – 1/4 cup of cream cheese is about a third of a bar.

4 – I didn’t need to use the entire 1/2-cup of butter for this, and things turned out well.  There’s enough butter elsewhere in this recipe, so might as well save a bit on calories.

5 – This was fine for my purposes and produced 25 rolls.  However, if you’re making these for a smaller group (or even just for yourself!), you may want to cut 1 and 1/2-inch or 2-inch slices, as that’ll yield more substantive rolls.

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