family traditions: homemade cinnamon rolls

Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

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