Ruby Red Cinnamon Rolls

No matter what form they’re in, cinnamon rolls are pretty much my kryptonite. Before I learned to bake, Shane and I would buy the ones that came in the tube and eat them not as breakfast, but as a Sunday afternoon snack while we watched football. It’s almost more dangerous now that I can make them myself any time I want. There are always treats sitting around our house, at least for a day until I can send them off to work with one of our parents, or Shane, and as a general rule, it’s not hard to resist them. That is so not the case with cinnamon rolls. I am powerless against the aroma of a freshly baked cinnamon roll. It’s pure torture walking around Ikea if I happen to be there early in the day 🙂 That fresh from the oven light, fluffy texture – don’t even get me started. Needless to say, I only allow myself to make them a few times a year now.

Ruby Red Cinnamon Rolls

I fell in love with the idea of these cinnamon rolls even before I recently became obsessed with grapefruit. It was one of the first recipes that caught my eye as I flipped through The Homesick Texan cookbook after opening it on Christmas day. I was intrigued by the addition of not only grapefruit zest, but also lots of juice to the dough. While the filling included the traditional cinnamon and sugar combo, there was also grapefruit zest. And to really drive home the point, more grapefruit juice and zest in the icing. I didn’t know if I’d like it, but my curiosity won out. Sweet and salty works, why not sweet cinnamon and tart/tangy citrus?

After nearly 3 months of waiting, I finally gave in and made these, and I’m so glad I did. They’re not unlike the other cinnamon rolls recipes I’ve loved – the rolls were really tender, with a gooey filling and sweet icing on top. But there was also a little something extra too. Sometimes when you taste something you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know there’s something else, something unexpected in the recipe. That’s exactly how I felt upon trying one of these cinnamon rolls. If someone else had baked these, I don’t think I’d have guessed that something was the tanginess of the grapefruit. I even managed to restrain myself and only have two before sharing the pan of them with someone else, so I’d say it was a win all around!

Ruby Red Cinnamon Rolls
barely adapted from The Homesick Texan

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 F)
1 1/2 teaspoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
1/2 cup Ruby Red grapefruit juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ruby Red grapefruit zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup Ruby Red grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons Ruby Red grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the rolls: In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the yeast, water, grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice, sugar, salt, egg, butter and 1 cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until a lump batter comes together. Add the remaining flour and mix (still by hand) until a soft dough comes together – it may be sticky, that’s fine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook, and attach the bowl. Knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. The dough will probably stick to the bottom of the bowl, but should clear the sides as it is kneaded (if necessary, you can add a little more flour). Turn the dough out onto your work surface and shape it into a ball. Place in a bowl that’s been sprayed with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and zest together for the filling. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into roughly a 9×13-inch rectangle. Spread the butter evenly over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the top. With a long side facing you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, pinching the ends to seal. Cut 14 or 15 1-inch slices from the cylinder and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover the pan and let the rolls rise for an hour.

While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. While the rolls are in the oven, make the icing by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar, butter, grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, vanilla and salt. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and while the rolls are still warm, spread the icing over them. The rolls are best shortly after they’re made, but you can pop them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds the following day to refresh them.

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