Occasionally I stumble across an amazing idea online and say to myself, “This is brilliant! I will totally cook/craft/bake/clean that soon.” Then I make a mental note, and carry on with my normal life without incorporating the awesome idea. This is exactly what I feared would happen when I saw the Minimalist Baker recipe for easy cinnamon rolls. I am solidly novice baker with grand aspirations; unfortunately the time and desire for baking does not often coincide. However, this easy cinnamon roll recipe promised that once I had the desire to bake, I would only need 2 1/2 hours from start to finish (I added an additional 30 minutes to the recipe because I know myself, and also- baby care).
This would not be the first time I attempted cinnamon rolls. John and I spent the better part of a Saturday last year (aka pre-baby), slaving over the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. We were super novice bakers back then; as in I think this was the first time I remember using yeast, and our first try was a failure. Even with her amazingly detailed, step-by-step instructions, and John’s compulsive perfectionism, the rolls baked into sad, flat, cinnamony cracker-cookies. So while cinnamon rolls had proved beyond our proficiency once, I was a lot more confident with my burgeoning baking skills and this condensed recipe.
One recent Friday afternoon, I was seriously craving something sweet and carby. I decided that afternoon nap (90 minutes, if I’m lucky) would be the perfect time to change my life with some awesome cinnamon rolls. Right off the bat, I made a change to the recipe, after reading several comments, and used coconut milk instead of almond. I also left out the butter in the dough because of the high fat content in coconut milk. As I added the flour, I started to get nervous because my dough was super sticky. When I kneaded it and had to scrape off about a 1/2 cup of dough clinging to my fingers, I added about a 1/4 cup more flour. I finally managed to form it into a ball-like mass, and plopped into a bowl to rise. I really wanted to add more flour, but also acknowledged my tendency to over-flour baked goods, so I suppressed the urge. Since it was a fairly cold winter day, and our apartment is all marble and windows, I preheated the oven to 200 degrees for about 10 minutes and then turned it off to form a warm, dark, rising habitat for my dough.
When the dough had risen, I heavily dusted my countertop with flour; I still harbored insecurities about the dough’s stickiness. It actually rolled much better than I expected, and I mentally congratulated myself on my flour discretion. For the first time in my short baking career, I actually understood what recipes meant when they say the dough should feel “soft”. The dough was smooth, pliable, and almost silky as I rolled it.
At this point, a nagging voice in my head questioned if these would be too healthy. The instructions said to use 1/4 cup of sugar for TEN cinnamon rolls, and that just seemed scant. If I am going to eat a cinnamon roll, then I want it to be decadent, sugary, and sinful. Not that I ever eat only one serving when I bake. I gave into the voice in my head and went back to the beginning, the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. She suggested using a cup of sugar for a totally different serving size, so I decided not to mess with math and just generously sprinkled sugar all over the dough. Rolling and cutting the dough was actually much easier than anticipated – I credit my heavy use of flour on the countertop for that. When things did get a bit sticky, I used a spatula to pry up the dough and kept rolling.
The rolls required almost no impatient waiting time for me, which was a big win. They only baked in oven for 15 minutes, because my oven runs super hot and also I am still unsure of what setting to use. The rolls smelled heavenly, like grandma’s house on Christmas or something else cozy, delicious, and sweet. I loved the Pioneer Woman’s idea of a maple glaze so I combined: 1 Tbsp of maple syrup and 1 Tbsp of milk with a pinch of instant coffee and enough sugar to get the perfect consistency. John and I enjoyed setting up a evening photo shoot, because that’s a fun Friday night when you have a baby, and of course, devouring just the right amount of rolls until we barely felt sick. We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning, and also for afternoon snack. The rolls and my sweet tooth were gone by 3pm. And this is why I cannot be trusted with a whole dish of dessert.