Deathly afraid of raised doughs (I’d been a yeast murderer and the punishment was brick-like bread), I sighed at the impossibility of it all and went on my way with a cinnamon roll – for research purposes – and determined that, scientifically, it was clearly a success. The fact that it was delicious and sticky wasn’t lost on me either.
Previous experience with cinnamon rolls involved whacking a cylinder on the kitchen counter and waiting for the cardboard's seam to explode open after peeling the label counter-clockwise (or was it clockwise). Then there was the attempt to pry the lid off the much-too-stingy container of frosting with a butter knife. That was the extent of my family's cinnamon roll experience. They had never had a cinnamon roll without that lovely processed-dough taste. I have redeemed myself since then.
Aware of my apprehension about all things yeast, my son Jeffrey came to me one evening with a revelation. He’d found a highly-rated cinnamon roll recipe that uses frozen bread dough (thawed, of course) on the Food Network’s website. It actually originated from Sandra Lee (who knew?!) but despite our skepticism for semi-homemade recipes, we went ahead anyway, adapted it big time -- she uses much more butter and adds instant coffee granules, which we didn't want to do. We added a Cinnabon-like lemon cream cheese frosting. It was incredibly good! Our own unoriginal original cinnamon roll was born!
Easy Cinnamon Rolls
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
4 tbsp. butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
Let dough thaw completely in refrigerator over night. On floured surface, spread dough into a rectangle about the size of a shoe box top (so scientific I am) and then roll with a rolling pin to get the dough about 1/4-inch thick, as much a rectangle shape as possible. You don't have to be too precise with the measurements.
With an icing spatula or the back of a spoon, spread dough with softened butter to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Evenly cover with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style into a log about a foot long. Pinch edges together to seal as best you can. Trim 1/2 inch off each end of the "log." Using a good, sharp knife, cut into twelve 1-inch slices. (I cut it in fourths and cut each fourth into 3 equal slices to get a dozen.) Another option is to use thread or unflavored dental floss to cut the dough but I've never done that.
Place rolls in individual muffin cups that have been sprayed with non-cook spray. Let rise until they have puffed a bit and just about fill the cups, usually a half hour or so depending on room temperature. Once risen, place muffin tins on cookie sheets (to prevent bubbling sugar mixture from spilling over) and bake at 375 degrees F for about 20-22 minutes or until the tops are nicely golden (see photo).
Immediately upon removing from oven frost with cream cheese frosting using about a generous teaspoon for each roll. After it melts a bit go back and spread it some more with the back of a spoon. Let cool completely before removing from pan (yeah, right).
Cream Cheese frosting:
2 ounces softened cream cheese
2 tbsp. softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
Splash of milk - maybe 2 tsp.. Add more, a few drops at a time, if necessary to get a nice, creamy frosting.
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until well blended. Add confectioners slowly until all ingredients are incorporated and then mix very well until completely smooth.Add milk as needed to get to a creamy consistency.
Once the rolls have cooled and the frosting has set, enjoy! Oh, one more thing, don’t worry about storing these – there won’t be any leftovers.
Updated: 3/4/14 - ADK Baker