In my opinion, if you’re going to eat an indulgent breakfast, you can’t do much better than freshly baked cinnamon buns. Rich, tender dough baked until golden brown with a sweet, gooey brown sugar and cinnamon filling and, as if that weren’t decadent enough, a thick cream cheese glaze to top it all off. I’ve rarely been disappointed by a cinnamon bun recipe (and I’ve tried quite a few) and these were no exception. A few months ago I saw this recipe on an episode of Cook’s Country and made a mental note to try them the next time we were entertaining. That occasion happened to be our Mother’s Day brunch, and it worked out perfectly. You can do all of the prep the day before and let the rolls proof overnight in the fridge. The following morning just bake and top with the glaze before guests arrive. I love that it leaves me plenty of time for all of the other tasks I always seem to put off until the last minute when entertaining.
These rolls are called “ultimate” and I have to think it refers mostly to their size. The recipe suggested dividing the dough into 8 rolls, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I went with 12 and still thought they were enormous! These are also probably the most calorie-rich cinnamon rolls I’ve ever baked (a special occasion dish for sure) so making them a tad smaller assuaged the guilt a bit. No huge surprise, we loved them – they’re beyond tender and I could have eaten the glaze with a spoon it was so delicious. I squeezed all 12 rolls into a 13×9 pan but I would probably use 2 pans next time instead. Things got pretty tight with 12 and I think the rolls in the center suffered slightly – they were still on the gooey side when the other rolls were baked to perfection. Shane and I had no problem sharing the gooey bits, but I wouldn’t have wanted to serve them to company.
Ultimate Cinnamon Buns
slightly adapted from Cook’s Country
3/4 cup warm whole milk (about 110 F)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 200 F. When the oven reaches temp, turn it off. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess to hang over edges. Spray the foil with cooking spray. (You may want to split the rolls up into 2 pans if you divide the dough into 12 pieces versus 8.)
Combine the milk and yeast in a measuring cup; whisk to dissolve the yeast. Add the eggs to the measuring cup and whisk to incorporate. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Mix briefly to combine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the milk mixture to the bowl in a steady stream then continue mixing until a rough dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl. (If the dough is still wet and sticky after 10 minutes, add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.) Turn the dough out onto your work surface and shape into a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to a large bowl that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the warm oven. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
To make the filling: Whisk the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and roll into an 18-inch square. Spread the softened butter evenly over the dough, leaving a small border around the edges. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and press gently. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the end to seal. Cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces (or 8 if you want really, really big rolls) and transfer the pieces to the prepared pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, before letting the cut rolls rise, transfer the pan to the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for an hour before proceeding with the recipe below.)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the rolls for 35-40 minutes, or until they are golden brown and cooked through. Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking the cream cheese, milk, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and top the rolls with 1/2 cup of the glaze. Let cool for 30 minutes then top with remaining glaze (optional) and serve.