UPDATED: Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Dec 21 2011

Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
(or – Cinnamon Rolls That Are Actually Possible to Make When You Have Five Kids)
**updated with directions for freezing and baking from frozen — see below**

Homemade cinnamon rolls are one of our Christmas morning traditions. They also take hours and hours to make. Once upon a less-than-five-kids time, that was dandy, even blissful. An afternoon in a freshly scrubbed kitchen working with dough? Yes, please! But these days I’m lucky if I can grab an hour, and I’m even luckier if I can find a clean work surface.

That’s why I buckled down and found the world’s fastest way to make homemade yeast-dough cinnamon rolls. Because if I can keep a tradition alive with a little modification, then, by golly, that’s what I’m gonna do.

This recipe, which I concisely titled Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls – (I know; I’m the Queen of Brevity) – takes 1 hour and 15 minutes from gathering ingredients to serving my kids piping hot rolls. And, by kids, I mean mostly Greg and me. But whatever.

Christmas 2013 UPDATE: Many thanks to reader Christin McIntyre who has made this recipe EVEN FASTER. Thanks to Christin, I now combine Steps 2-4 of this recipe. That’s right. You can just dump all of these things STRAIGHT INTO the mixer, in order of ingredients, without doing the separate water/honey/yeast/waiting steps. Just make sure your bowl is warm(ish – I rinse mine in hot water first), dump everything together and mix it all up; then follow directions from Step 5 on. IT WORKS JUST FINE. 

Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast (yeah – that’s a lot – guess why it rises so fast?)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour

Dough, Step One: Remove Spiderman from the mixing bowl.

You want to know who this sort of thing doesn’t happen to? The Pioneer Woman. That’s who. She does not find Spiderman stickers in her mixer. That’s one of one hundred reasons why I love her, and one of one thousand why I stopped trying to be like her. When Step One of making cinnamon rolls = “remove Spiderman from the mixing bowl,” it’s time to face the music. This isn’t that blog. This will never be that blog. And here’s a link to the Pioneer Woman’s GORGEOUS cinnamon roll instructions if you need to stop reading now. Do what you need to do; I understand. I really do.

Dough, Step Two: Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey into 2 cups of warm water.

Yes, I know I’m supposed to tell you what warm water means. Most people do it by degrees, but, honest to God, I’ve never used a water temperature thermometer while baking. I’m more of a “Hail, Mary” baker myself. There’s just no time in an hour and 15 minutes to be precisely measuring water temperature, folks. But I won’t leave you high and dry. Here’s how you figure out if the water’s warm-enough-but-not-too-warm: if you would stick a baby in it, it’s good.

Now stir together honey and water ’til the honey is dissolved. I’d show you a picture of how to stir, but I’m on a timeline, folks.

Dough, Step Three: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast on top of your honey water and let it sit there for 5 minutes ’til it gets foamy on top, like this:

It also gets pretty stinky. Bring a kid over to smell it. When they go “EW!” you’re probably about done. Even if the yeast isn’t all dissolved and foamy, I pretend I’m done ’cause 5 minutes is all I’m willing to invest in this step. That’s 3 minutes longer than I gave myself to go to the bathroom today, so I feel pretty good about it.

Dough, Step Four: Into your Spiderman-free mixer equipped with a bread hook*, dump 5 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoon of softened butter and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.

(*Note: If you’re absent a mixer and a bread hook, you can bypass steps 4 and 5 in favor of dumping everything into a giant bowl and mixing it together with your Spiderman-free hands. It’s WAY messier, and WAY more fun. Don’t let the absence of overly-involved kitchen equipment deter you.)

Dough, Step Five: With your mixer turned on low, add the yeast and honey-water mixture to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

You guys, please listen closely: This is not an approved ingredient-mixing method, and I’m quite certain that it’s terribly WRONG. I’ve never heard of starting with the dry ingredients and adding the liquid, and better bakers than me can probably tell us exactly why.

But here’s the thing: I used to create giant nuclear cloud plumes of flour in my kitchen when I started with the liquid and added the dry by the cupful. We ran family emergency baking preparedness drills, and my kids learned to hide under the kitchen table and never look directly at the mushroom cloud. It was a dark and scary time.

We do everything else in our house backwards, so I’m not sure why baking should be any different. Starting with all of the flour in the mixer and damping it down with liquid – kind of like spraying a dusty road with water in the summer time – not only saves me mess and hassle, it significantly cuts down on TIME. What can I say? I’m a sucker for easy time-savers.

Dough, Step Six: Knead the dough. I’m almost positive you’re supposed to do this on a well-floured surface with your hands, but I let my mixer do the work. I just keep that bread hook going ’til everything’s combined, sticky, and pulls like this:

Dough, Step Seven: Dump the dough into a buttered bowl, stick a kitchen towel on top of it and let it rise in the warmest part of the kitchen (for me, that’s on top of two or more wrestling children, but I’ve found that neither the dough nor the bowl hold up well in that environment, so now I stick it on top of my stove) for 20 minutes.

Dough, Step Eight: Roll into a giant rectangle on a well-floured surface.

I roll it to the full size of my cutting board, which is about as big as a bed pillow. While you’re doing that, try not to think about how much you’d like for it to BE a bed pillow. Then try not to fantasize about getting more sleep in your life. Then try not to think about thousands of nights of lost sleep and how desperately you need a nap. Then try to not think about all those people who tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps” (HA!) and the horrific things you’d like to do to them. And good luck with all that, because even though this is the easiest dough I’ve ever rolled out, the rest of this step’s a doozy.

Congratulations! The dough is done! Now it’s time to fill it, roll it, and bake it.

Here’s what you’ll need for the filling:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter
  • 2 handfuls of brown sugar (if you can borrow someone with huge hands, it makes this recipe 10x yummier)
  • a sprinkling of cinnamon

Filling, Step One: Using your hands, smear that stick of softened butter all over the rolled-out dough.

Filling, Step Two: Using your hands, spread at least two handfuls of brown sugar all over the dough, thusly:

Filling, Step Three: Sprinkle cinnamon all over the brown sugar. Then sprinkle some more. Mmmmm.

Rolling, Step One: Starting with the long side, loosely roll up your dough ’til you have a long, skinny tube.

(Psst… It’s OK if the roll is uneven; I just cut off those uneven ends and toss ’em in a bowl – I chop them into pieces later, add more butter and sugar, and bake them as Monkey Bread. But that’s a message for another time.)

Rolling, Step Two: Cut the long tube o’ dough into four equal pieces, and then cut those four pieces into three pieces each. 4 x 3 = 12 total.

Baking, Step One: Place your rolls in a 9×13 buttered baking dish and cover with a kitchen towel.

Let rise for 10 minutes while preheating your oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking, Step Two: AND THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP… stop everything while the most adorable, blond neighbor children come a-knocking on the back door with plates of freshly decorated, personalized, gingerbread people.

If you miss this step, the cinnamon rolls will be ruined.

But, seriously – how cute are these?

That rather wide lady on the left is yours truly. The guy with the stunning glasses is Greg. And I’ll bet you can tell who’s on the right due to the very fine handwriting (someone has a serious cake-decorating future, I tell you). They were the sweetest!

Baking, Step Three: Bake your pan of rolls at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes ’til golden brown and bubbling.

Baking, Step Four: Flip the rolls out of the pan upside down onto a cutting board so the sugar drips delightfully through the rolls… and sneak a hot one before your kids can catch you. My kids think that a dozen rolls looks like this:

It’s kind of like a baker’s dozen (13), except it’s a mama’s dozen (11). What they don’t know can’t hurt ’em, eh?

I swear it took longer to read this post than it will to make the rolls.

Coat these babies with icing… if they last that long… otherwise, just eat ’em while they’re hot, and…

Merry Christmas!
Beth

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Easy-peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Ingredients and Directions: The Concise, Boring Version

Dough:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 5 cups flour

Dough Directions:

  1. Dissolve honey in water. New, improved 2013 directions: Pour warm water and honey into mixing bowl. Stir.
  2. Sprinkle yeast on top of honey-water and let sit for 5 minutes ’til yeast is foaming. Sprinkle yeast on the honey water. No need to wait ’til the yeast foams.
  3. Dump remaining ingredients in a mixer. Add wet ingredients. Mix with a dough hook ’til everything is combined and sticky.
  4. Dump (dumping’s really key to this recipe) sticky dough into buttered bowl. Cover. Let rise 20 minutes.
  5. Roll dough with a rolling pin into a huge rectangle on a well-floured surface.

Filling:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of softened butter
  • 2 handfuls of brown sugar or lots more
  • a sprinkling of cinnamon

Filling and Baking Directions:

  • Spread softened butter, then brown sugar, then cinnamon on your rectangle of dough
  • Cut into 12 equal pieces and put them into a buttered 9×13 pan
  • Cover and let rise for 10 minutes
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes ’til golden and bubbling
  • Flip rolls upside down, out of the pan, onto a cutting board
  • Ice them or just eat ’em hot!

……….

NOW UPDATED with FREEZER DIRECTIONS: Did you know you can make these ahead of time and freeze them? You can!

Simply make these through the step that reads “cut into 12 equal pieces and put them into a buttered 9×13 pan.” Next, cover and FREEZE. That’s less than an hour of work time.

To bake, pop your FROZEN 9×13 pan of rolls into a COLD oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Allow oven to preheat with frozen rolls in the oven… this accomplishes both thawing and the second rise. Once the oven is heated to 400 degrees, set your timer for 20 minutes and bake as directed. VOILA!

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