Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

Time passes way too quickly. It's almost the end of 2012! My parents have always told me that time is precious, but as an 8 year old, the concept of time only went to the extent of "I want to stay up later!". I used to want to be an adult really badly so I could get a cool job, stay up later, but mostly drive a car. Isn't that why most kids want to be an adult?

I think it's funny how as a child, I was consumed by thoughts of wanting to do things that only adults could do but now as I approach adulthood, I want to remain a carefree (well, carefree in the context of not worrying about weird adulty stuff) child. In about half a year, I will be graduating from high school. Me? I still struggle to fathom the idea that I am in grade 12. I don't think it has fully hit me yet that next year, I'll possibly be going to university. I won't be going to my high school and seeing the same (lovely) people every day. I still have so much I want to do in high school. I guess I'll have to get it all done these next few months.

I've been talking about wanting cinnamon rolls for weeks as if I expected them to magically fall down from a tree. When I'm on YouTube, I nearly always have to watch videos of people making cinnamon rolls. I'm addicted. I decided to stop being lazy and make myself some cinnamon rolls for a rainy Saturday (then again, almost every Saturday is rainy here... sigh).

I'm quite picky when it comes to certain things and cinnamon rolls happen to be one of those things. I think cinnamon rolls should only be baked in a square or rectangular pan because I feel like circular cinnamon rolls are ugly. Brown sugar should only be used in the filling and not some combination of brown sugar and white sugar. The cinnamon should be mixed with the sugar for the filling and not carelessly just dumped on after the sugar. There needs to be a significant amount of ground cinnamon, not just a wimpy teaspoon of it. Finally, there needs to be a glaze, not a frosting! I think that's all. I'm a needy person sometimes. Or all the time.

I was a bit apprehensive about making cinnamon rolls because it requires yeast. Yeast slightly scares me. Too hot, it dies. Too cold, it doesn't rise quick enough, and how much kneading is enough? My friend assured me that cinnamon rolls are one of the easiest things to make. Ever. With that in mind, I began my cinnamon roll adventure.

The dough was so easy to make. It was so smooth! Waiting for the dough to rise was painfully boring. I tried putting it under my table lamp to create a "warm draft-free environment." Pffthahaha, yeah right. Two hours later, I rolled out the dough and smeared on the butter. Sometimes I feel like Paula Deen because of my disgusting love of butter. One Christmas many years ago, I remember putting butter on a baked potato... and more butter... and more. Yeah.

All the nice layers of a cinnamon roll make me happy. I rolled the dough quite tightly because I didn't want loosey goosey layers with the cinnamon sugar layer falling everywhere as I attempted to transfer them to my square baking pan (not circular!).

Yes, this was a project worthy of measuring tape. I used to be a crazy perfectionist but thankfully it has toned down considerably from the days where I obsessed about having to draw perfectly straight lines for homework assignments. I rolled my dough out a bit more than I should have, which didn't even really matter that much because they turned out fine. I tried somewhat to make the rolls the same size.

As I anxiously waited for my cinnamon rolls to poof up from the second rising, I realized that there was nearly no progress after an hour. I thought something was wrong with the yeast... Because I was super impatient and I really wanted cinnamon rolls, I stuck the baking pan on my stove top as my oven preheated, hoping that the heat from the oven would help the cinnamon rolls rise. It was probably my best idea that day (other than making these cinnamon rolls). They rose so much in a short amount of time!

When they came out of the oven, I nearly died. They looked amazing! So fluffy! The entire house smelled like cinnamon rolls. I poured on the glaze and dug in. I ate four of them myself... Oops, hehe. It was everything I wanted a cinnamon roll to be and more. And look at the swirl! Aaaaaaaaah!

The swirl makes me so happy. It's like a kid being amused by a pinwheel... big kids included. Pinwheels also make me happy. The cinnamon sugar filling is my favourite part (although there's really no other part people can like...). And yes, I am one of those people who takes apart a cinnamon roll by unwinding it.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
From Bon Appétit, March 2008

Yield: 18 buns*

For the dough:
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 envelope) instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

For the glaze:
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk

Using a microwave or stove, heat the milk and butter up until the butter melts and the mixture reaches about 120° F or 130° F (which is comfortably warm). In a large bowl, combine the milk and butter mixture, 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, salt, and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Add the rest of the flour and mix until a sticky dough forms. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary, about 8 minutes. If you have a stand mixer (lucky you), you can just use that. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. To test if the dough is ready, stick your finger in about 1/4-inch. If the indent stays, you're ready to move on. If not, cover and let rise for a longer amount of time.

For the filling, mix together the brown sugar and the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Punch (or lightly press) down the dough. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a 15 x 11-inch rectangle. Spread the butter evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the longer end (the side that is 15 inches). Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough. Starting on the longer side, start rolling the dough into a log. At the end of the roll, dab a bit of water so that the dough will seal. Pinch together the seams at the end. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 18 equal (hah, good luck with that) pieces.

Lightly grease two square 8-inch or 9-inch pans (or even a 9-inch round cake pan). Divide the rolls evenly between the pans, cut side up. Cover the baking pans with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in volume, at least an hour (original recipe said 45ish minutes, but mine took nearly 30 minutes longer).

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375° F. Bake rolls until the tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately invert onto a cooling rack. Turn the rolls right-side up.

To make the glaze, combine the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Slowly add the milk until a runny consistency is achieved. Pour the glaze over the cinnamon rolls, and spread around. Serve immediately.

I halved the recipe because I only wanted 9 buns. If that is the case, simply halve all the ingredients. If you're wondering how to halve 1 large egg, either use a small egg, or just whisk a large egg and use half of it. Well, that's what I did. It will require the same amount of rising time. When rolling out the dough, roll it out to about 7.5 x 11-inches. Then roll it up starting on the shorter side.