Sooo let’s be honest. We made these cinnamon rolls a good two and a half months ago and I am only now posting about them. But since there is an epic story that goes with them, let’s go back in time and pretend it’s January and freezing cold outside a.k.a. perfect cinnamon roll weather! Wait, what am I even saying? It’s always perfect cinnamon roll weather.
Anyway, it was Saturday and Angela and I had tons of homework and studying to do and also direly needed to hit the gym. We also wanted to make cinnamon rolls, one of the most time-consuming baked goods ever. So what did we do? We made the cinnamon rolls. Sometimes we are bad students and put baking above school. And sleep. Whatever. But WAIT FOR IT. We also managed to finish all of our homework and work out. You could call it a Mission Impossible.
It went a little something like this. If you’re wondering why our day started so late, it’s because we’re college students and wake up no earlier than 12:30 on weekends.
2:00 to 3:00 – We made the dough and let it rise for 2 hours.
3:30 to 4:30 – While the dough was rising we went to the rec center and worked our little hearts out. Exercising means you get to eat more cinnamon rolls, right?
4:30 to 5:30 – The dough was still rising so we studied for an hour like there was no tomorrow! That may have been the most productive hour of my life.
5:30 to 6:30 – We kneaded the dough and folded cream cheese into it, and rolled it up with butter and cinnamon brown sugary magic. Then they needed to rise for 2 more hours.
6: 30 to 8:30 – Dinner time! We went to The Cellar, a restaurant in the student union. I love going there when I want a healthy dinner (salmon, brown rice, and roasted veggies!), but they are notorious for taking about 95645 minutes to serve you your food. We anticipated this and brought our laptops and homework.
8:30 to 9:00 – We baked the cinnamon rolls! They were beautiful and golden brown. At this time, Angela’s RA staff was leaving to play a crazy game called Mission Impossible. They were all trying to convince me to play but it was really cold outside (in the 20’s!).
9:30 to 11:00 – We met up with Angela’s staff to play. I didn’t really have a choice because I realized I had locked myself out of my room. I’m glad I went because turns out it was really fun. I couldn’t feel my fingers, but it was fun. Not to mention a good workout. If you’ve never played Mission Impossible before, I will have you know that it involves a lot of sprinting, ducking, jumping, and sometimes, minor injuries (like Angela’s bloody lip when we collided head on…woops) Add below freezing temperatures and you have some crazy shenanigans right there.
11:00 – Went back to Angela’s dorm to warm up. We drizzled the cinnamon rolls with icing and enjoyed them with milk. We shared them with Angela’s staff, even thought we would have been perfectly happy keeping them all to ourselves. Although that would have totally canceled out our trip to the gym. They were SO GOOD. Soft, sweet, and cinnamon-y.
Tim McGraw is our baking jam.
Spreading cream cheese into the dough makes it extra soft. It helps that there’s a lot of butter too.
All folded up so the dough is filled with layers and layers of cream cheese.
Look at all that cinnamon sugar and raisins! One of Angela’s staff members commented that she didn’t like raisins because they remind her of wrinkly old people. If that’s the case, wrinkly old people must be juicy and delicious!
Before baking. The already look good enough to eat!
All baked! Mission Impossible complete.
Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 8 big, fluffy cinnamon rolls
For the Dough:
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp, plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
3/4 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
For the Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Icing:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
Making the Dough:
In the bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.
Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Add the flour and salt and stir until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
Add the butter and continue to knead for about 10 more minutes. The dough will the wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well-floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. The dough still might be a little sticky. Set the dough to rest in a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon and salt and stir to combine. When the dough has doubled in size, dump if from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1 or 2 minutes. Once it’s no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 x 10-inch square. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it’s smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square. Fold the square into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.
Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll it into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. You make find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Be as gently as possible with the dough, but continue to work it until you reach the size you need.
Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. You’re going to roll from the short sides of the dough. Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. We’ll use the rest of the butter after the rolls are baked.
Pour all the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch boarder at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.
Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices. Nestle the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a butter 9 x 13-inch (light colored) metal baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate rolls overnight.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Make the icing:
While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth.
Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with remaining butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Most of the changes we made to this recipe were because we didn’t have the ingredients, but the original recipe had nuts, maple syrup, and extra spices. We also mixed everything by hand (muscle power!), but you can definitely use a stand mixer with the dough hook.
Make these cinnamon rolls–you won’t regret it. And Happy Easter! (My friends and I are making a fancy dorm-style Easter feast right now!)