Few things can compare to freshly baked cinnamon rolls. They smell great, are deeply satisfying and is based on one of the best spices ever, cinnamon.
½ cup warm milk
½ cup warm water
2 ¼ tsp. yeast (we used instant, but active dried yeast will do too)
4 tbsp. sugar
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. melted butter (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla essence (for the dough)
1 ½ tsp. oil (for rubbing on bowl)
1/3 cup softened butter
2/3 cup brown sugar (1/2 cup if you want it less sweet)
2 tbsp. cinnamon powder
1 tsp. oil (for greasing pan)
1 tbsp. flour (for greasing pan)
1 1/3 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp. cheese spread
1 tsp. vanilla essence (for the icing)
4 tbsp. milk (for the icing)
Add the milk and water to a bowl and mix it together. Insert a clean finger into the mixture to check the temperature. It should feel barely warm. If it’s too hot you could kill the yeast and if it’s too cold the yeast might not get activated. Add the sugar and yeast, mix to combine and leave it for around 5 minutes or until the mixture forms bubbles and you get a yeasty smell. If you don’t get the bubbles, it means the yeast is dead and you’ll have to start over with some fresher yeast.
Sift 2 ¼ cups of flour and salt into a large bowl and set aside. You’ll be using the remaining quarter cup of flour for kneading and rolling.
Combine the butter, egg and vanilla essence in another bowl and then pour it into the yeast mixture when the yeast mixture has formed bubbles.
Make a well in the flour mixture and then pour the yeast and egg mixture into it.
Use a large spoon to mix until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl and comes together in the middle of the bowl; it’s still going to be sticky though.
Use a little from your quarter cup of extra flour to dust a surface. Place the dough on it, sprinkle some more flour on top and start kneading. To knead, keep folding the dough onto itself. When things get too sticky, add some more of your flour but remember to keep some to use while rolling. Knead the dough for around 6 minutes or until it’s smooth and nice.
Now we are going to let the dough rise. Rub oil on the bottom and sides of a large bowl and place the dough in it. Turn the dough around so that it gets a little oil coating. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and keep it in a warm dark place until the dough almost doubles in size. We kept ours for an hour.
Add the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to a bowl and mix them well so that you get a spreadable consistency. Set it aside.
Prepare the baking pan or pans depending on the size of your oven. First rub oil on the sides and bottom. Then sprinkle flour on top so that you get an even coating. Alternatively you can line the pan with baking paper.
When the dough is almost double the size, dust a clean surface with the remaining flour and place the dough on it. Punch it down to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough too. And then using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a roughly 14 by 16 inch rectangle. Try to get the edges as straight as possible, you can even use the edge of a knife or something else that’s straight to straighten the edges.
Spread the cinnamon, sugar and butter mixture as evenly as possible on the rolled out dough. Make sure you go right up to the edges.
Carefully start rolling the dough. If you do this from the longer side you’ll get more rolls and if you do this from the shorter side you’ll get more swirls in your rolls. We prefer more swirls. Roll the dough gently and tightly. And when you reach the edge, let the weight of the roll seal it. Gently tap the sides of the roll to even it out.
Cut the roll into equal portions. We were able to get 12 rolls, about 1 ½ inch thick. You can use a knife for this, but using unflavoured dental floss would give you a better shape.
Place the rolls, cut side up in the pan you prepared before. Leave a gap of around an inch between the rolls and then cover the pan with a clean cloth. Leave them to rise again for around 20 minutes or until the rolls double in size and when you poke them the indentation springs back slowly.
Preheat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius. You’ll have to do this at least 10 minutes before baking.
Once the rolls have risen for the second time, place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake until the tops are golden. For us this took 30 minutes, but oven temperatures can vary, so keep an eye on it. If you are not going to bake all the rolls at once, you can keep the other pans covered in the fridge until you can bake them so that the rolls don’t over rise.
While the rolls are baking start making the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and adding the cheese spread, vanilla essence and milk (add milk according to how thick you want it to be). Mix until it’s all smooth.
When the rolls are baked, take the pan out of the oven and leave them for around 5 minutes. Then pour the icing over the rolls. The warmth from the rolls is going to let the icing seep into them.