Cinnamon Rolls Three Ways

Is there anyone who doesn’t love a warm cinnamon roll? Right when it’s fresh from the oven and the cinnamon sugar and butter mixture is piping hot and extra fragrant…and the cream cheese frosting is *just* starting to melt into every little curve of the roll?

For me, that’s a taste of happiness. And selfishly, I adore making rolls in the morning to fill my kitchen with a homey, cozy, sweet smell.

Cinnamon rolls, and sweet rolls in general, are easy to make and even easier to make the night before. If you’ve had any hiccups while making cinna rolls before, I bet it was because of the dough, right? Maybe it didn’t rise a whole lot or baked up too hard? I’ve been there…and since I’ve been there, I want to make sure you don’t end up there while you’re on this baking venture.

This dough recipe is so versatile, and today you’ll see not one, not two, but three cinnamon roll variations; traditional, peanut butter chocolate rolls, and brown butter maple pecan rolls.

The hardest part is on you now…which will you make first?

For the dough

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 water, warm
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle 2 tsp. sugar on top of the warmwater. Stir to combine, then sprinkle the yeast on top.

2. Allow the yeast to bloom – it takes about 5 – 7 minutes, you will see the mixture grow and begin to smell just like a bakery.

3. In a large bow use a wooden spoon to combine the melted butter, milk, remaining sugar, and egg.

4. Add the bloomed yeast mixture and mix for 1 minute until combined.

5. Slowly add salt and 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough begins to form into a ball. Once it comes together, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes, until the dough begins to form a tight skin.

6. Cover the inside of a large bowl with a bit of vegetable or canola oil, place the ball of kneaded dough in it, gently rolling it in the bowl to evenly coat with the oil.

7. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a draft free place to rise for 1.5 – 2 hours, until it doubles in size.

8. Liberally grease a 9”x13” baking tray (or 9×9 for 12 big rolls) with 1 tbsp. of softened butter.

9. Place the risen dough on a floured counter, and roll into a 12×18 shape rectangle – or as close as you can get to it! NOTE: If you’d like to make smaller rolls, divide the dough into two portions at this step. Then, roll our each half into 12×12 square.

10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

11. At this point, you may gather the filling ingredients for whichever type of roll you’re making.

12. Spread the butter across the rolled dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the sides. Sprinkle or spread the filling mixture on top and use your hands to press the mixture into the dough.

13. Starting with the longer side nearest you, begin rolling the dough into a tight log. Cut the log into 12 even pieces, and place them into the greased baking pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

14. Bake rolls for 30 – 35 minutes, until the rolls are just starting to brown.

15. While the rolls bake, use a mixer to combine the ingredients for the frosting.

16. Remove rolls from oven and let cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before covering (generously) with the cream cheese frosting.

17. Store in an airtight container for up to two days.

To make ahead: After placing the cut rolls into the greased pan, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight for up to two days. When ready to bake, let the rolls sit in a warm place for at least 2 hours OR place the rolls in the oven (turned off) and place a bowl of boiling hot water underneath the pan. Let rise for 30 minutes – This will create a warm environment and allow the rolls to proof faster.

Traditional Cinnamon Rolls

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 – 2 tbsp. heavy cream

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Rolls

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (not the natural stuff, I used JIF) combined with 1/4 cup melted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped peanu

Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup chocolate ganache (made by heating up 1/2 cup heavy cream and pouring over 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and whisking until smooth)

Brown Butter Maple Pecan Rolls

1/2 cup brown butter, room temperature (I browned 8 tbsp. of butter and used what was made)

  • To make brown butter, place 1 stick of unsalted butter in a small saucepan and melt over low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes. The color of the melted butter should turn a light amber, and you will notice a strong, nutty fragrance and little brown bits forming (these are milk solids becoming extra-delicious). You can read more about brown butter here.

2 tbsp. maple syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2-3 tbsp. maple syrup