#35 cinnamon rolls

Who doesn’t love these?  Ever since the commercially available brands started selling the overly sweet treat, we’ve sort of forgotten about the yummy homemade variety.  It certainly doesn’t get better than Cinnabon, though!  Their fluffiness, their glazes, YUM!  But since we are limited in the fantastic food department here in Leipzig, I am never too shy on venturing into the DIY-variety of all our favorite snacks.

Making cinnamon roll buns is nothing new to me.  My mom prepared them ever so often, and I can always remember loving them.  Made with the most basic ingredients: flour, cinnamon, sugar, & butter; they come together magically, when prepared right!  I’ve had some bad experiences with yeast here in Germany unfortunately.  German products come with package instructions that always vary from the American recipes I follow, and this time was no different, but more on that ahead.  Since Germans are famous for their yummy pastries, we were delighted one day to find a lovely glazed cinnamon roll in one of our day trips to nearby Weimar, and my daughter did not hesitate in ordering it!  It was such a bad & sad first bite, though.  Not only was it as hard as a pretzel, but the filling was less cinnamon and more poppy seed!  We knew at that moment never to order the Mohnzimtschnecke ever again!

For the Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 cup (200g) of packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) of butter
  • 1/4 cup (85g) of honey
  • 1 cup (125g) of pecans
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100g) of additional packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Butter a 12-inch baking pan.  Bring the dark brown sugar, the butter, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and stir in the pecans.  Pour the hot syrup into the baking pan and spread it evenly.  Set aside.

For the Dough

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) of lukewarm water
  • 1 package of 2-1/4 teaspoons (7g) of active dry yeast
  • 2-3/4 cups (935g) of all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (70g) of sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) of milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) of butter, very soft

Yeast coffee cakes have a variety of recipes around the world, and the basic yeasted coffee cake dough can be used to prepare a number of baking breads and sweet cakes.  The dough prepared for cinnamon rolls is a simple and popular multipurpose one.  Combine the water and yeast in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved.  Make sure the water isn’t too warm, yeast is a very picky ingredient.  Also, be sure that the yeast has activated: it’ll become foamy at some point if it’s good.  Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, the sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, & salt and mix by hand until blended.  Gradually stir in the rest of the flour and mix for about a minute until the dough comes together.  Knead by hand for about 10 more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands.

Add the butter and vigorously knead until completely incorporated and the dough is once again smooth.  Place the dough in a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place (I placed it above the heater, set at about 85°F/30°C) until doubled in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.  Punch down the dough, knead briefly, and cover until doubled again, about 2 hours.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a 16 x 12-inch rectangle.  Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with dark brown sugar & ground cinnamon.  Starting from a long side, roll up the dough into a cylinder, making sure to keep it compact.  Cut crosswise into 8 to 10 slices.  Arrange the slices cut side down in the prepared pan, spacing them evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.

I want to make a little parenthesis here: yeast is a tricky ingredient.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone even knows what they’re doing when it comes to yeast.  Seems like a science experiment with unknown reaction results, every single time!  I combined my yeast with lukewarm water and waited around 6 minutes, as the recipe instructions said.  Nothing happened, but I continued with my recipe and added the rest of the ingredients.  As I kneaded the dough, I noticed that there was no sign of the yeast having had reacted.  Nonetheless, I left the dough to rise for an hour and a half.  Enough, right?  It rose about 20-30%, not kidding.  I was already getting upset, as it usually happens when German ingredient versions mess up my all-American recipes, but I decided to keep on going.  I read up a bit on how to ‘save’ dough that didn’t rise, and I took some hints to set it on the warm heater, covered with a damp cloth, etc.  Still, nothing happened.  I finally admitted to myself I might have killed my yeast culture with overly warm water (which I knew deep inside, was not the reason).

I rolled out the dough and it seemed malleable enough, so I knew I hadn’t over-kneaded it.  I spread it out and followed the instructions, setting my individual rolls on the baking dish.  I once again left them to rise over the heater, and they rose only about 10-20%, which I took as a hint that maybe the butter had slowed the rising process, and that there was nothing that could be done at this point.  So I gave them an extra hour rising time in order to maximize them, but our Sunday coffee time was quickly approaching and my cinnamon rolls were nowhere close to being done!

Continuing with the recipe, though: once the cinnamon rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).  Bake until the buns are golden brown and the syrup is bubbling hot, about 30 minutes.  After finally putting them in the oven, surprise surprise!  Not 5 minutes had past before they were fluffy and puffed up.  Oh, the joy!  They smelled delicious and after reading and re-reading the instructions on the back of the German dry-yeast packaging, I came to terms that this particular product has to be mixed with the dry ingredients and will do its own damn thing in the oven.  No stress for next time!

Let the buns cool in the pan for some time and drizzle with the cream cheese glaze listed next:

For the Glaze

  • 1/4 cup (60g) of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (30g) of powdered sugar

Mix the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until pasty and even. Spread rustically over warm cinnamon rolls and let cool.


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