UPDATED: Easy-Peasy FAST Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

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

……….

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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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
67 comments
  1. Beth, I love your style of writing and I have been enjoying reading about your experiences for some time.
    Now to my main point, I butchered this recipe in so many ways. From start to finish, it took me over two hours to prep and mix the dough (I was trying to multitask). The vanilla didn’t incorporate fully. The yeast/water concontion was left on the counter for a long time. The mixing was done sporadically. The sugar had gone hard. My rolls were all lopsided when I cut them. All this to say that the final product tasted amazing! I was making them “healthy” for my one-year old so they could definitely have used a more generous amount of sugar than my two stingy handfuls but everyone approved. I am so impressed that all those ingredients did not go to waste!
    Thank you so much for giving me a recipe that worked and the confidence to forge ahead and see what happens–if you didn’t let a sticker throw you off, I knew I had to follow through 🙂

  2. […] We had a lovely Christmas. Truly magical. Really rad. Totally awesome. We baked. We wrapped. We cleaned. We unwrapped. We made majestic messes. We were kind to each other just as […]

  3. Thank you! Made these for Xmas morning (frozen). So yummy. I just made them to freeze for NYE too!

    We love the scone recipe as well…actually my hubby makes the scones!!!! Seriously?!?! All he cooks is burnt pancakes and undercooked bacon…but he makes your scones!!!!! And they are yummy!!!!

    Can you please post more recipes…cause they rock!.

    Thank you!

  4. I don´t know what I love most about this post: the spiderman sticker? the neighbours kids coming over with gingerbread? The mom´s dozen? I will try these rolls and then let you know. They might beat all the other options! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Just tried this recipe but got stuck on step one! Solved this by deciding that a Princess Aurora sticker would do in place of Spiderman (no boys, just girly girls in this house). It’s a fantastic recipe. I’ve been a bit naughty and used caramel in place of the cinnamon and brown sugar though. I highly recommend being a bit naughty!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. OMG…I’ve been coming back to this recipe again and again. Beth, you rock! I am just making a batch to take over to my friend’s house. She has been working all day and is owed a treat! I’m going to take them over and bake them in her over! Mmmmmm….the smell!

  7. Oh my word. These are in the freezer right now, to be baked tomorrow morning, and the SECOND batch of 2 ingredient fudge is in the fridge.

    This is a cooking blog. Who knew?

    1. Oh my God. It turns out my kids don’t like cinnamon rolls. Which means I GET TO EAT THEM ALL.

  8. […] gave my dad homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas because I’m a kind and loving […]

  9. I did it! I, the detail oriented perfectionist, resisted the urge to click on your link to follow the Pioneer Women’s directions and tried it your way instead (hey, even just three kids has me searching for shortcuts). The size of a pillow? Two handfuls? Shudder. But I did it! Made, baked, (photographed), devoured. Thanks so much!

  10. Thank you! You made me laugh so hard with your writing style. Oh, I plan on making these too!

    “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.”

  11. I love your idea of the “Mama’s Dozen.” In my house, my kids are well-acquainted with the “Mom Tax” – when I lay claim to the first bite/drink of whatever deliciousness they’re about to consume. (Think: coveted chocolate milk at McD’s, the first M&M out of the bag, etc.) Of course, they think it’s called the “Mom Attacks.” I’ve never bothered to correct them. 😉

  12. To make it EVEN FASTER I use Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough, sprinkle on the sugar stuff, add 1 mini marshmallow and roll the dough over the marshmallow.

  13. I think the very best thing to do with those uneven ends you chop off would be to eat ’em.

    1. I was a little startled to hear there was any other solution to this “problem!”

  14. One of my fondest memories as a child was waking up to my mom’s cinnamon rolls. She would spend hours in the kitchen making them and with 4 small kids that was quite the feat. I found your recipe in the summer of 2012 and showed it to her and made her some. She raved about how good they were, how fast they were to make and said they were way better then hers. She passed away October of 2012 and I have made them a few times since then but every time I do I remember us sitting and reading your post and her giggling about the Spider-Man sticker in the bowl. So thank you for the delishous recipe and the making that memory possible.

  15. I can’t wait to make these. They will celebrate the fact that in a few weeks we will, Lord willing, be a family of five, too. Let’s hope that I can be like you in both ways — have five kids AND make awesome cinnamon rolls. My question is, what’s your favorite icing recipe to top these beauties with?

  16. Mine are in thee oven as we speak! I can’t wait to try them! The pictures are definitely a reassurance that I did it right. Thank you!

  17. Someone shared this post on Facebook and I made the mistake of reading some of it out loud to my husband when he asked what was so funny. He’s been begging me for cinnamon rolls ever since! The recipe was easy and fun and the rolls are in the oven right now! Thank you for sharing and for your very fun blog. 😀

  18. Dump it all in the bread machine on dough setting. Then roll out, fill and bake. Very nice!

    1. I use the bread machine for most doughs too. I can just put the stuff in and ignore it until it beeps at me. With 6 kids I am not up for babysitting dough. One of us will usually hear it beep, and it’s usually the one who is “starving” cause mom ran out of bread.

      But these only take an hour total, these will be great for when I’m running behind.

      Since my husband has banned stickers from the house and car can I skip step one?

  19. I read many “easy” recipies….yours was truly easy-peasy! I have some challenges when it comes to baking/cooking (physically) and this was by far easier than making biscuits for me! Thank you. Thank you!!

  20. My dough is rising right now….but I am a little worried. I didn’t have a spiderman sticker in my mixing bowl and I do not have any cute neighbor kids. Though, I did drop the yeast packet in my water……twice! Fingers crossed that will make up for the lack of sticker and neighbor kids.

  21. A friend and I made these for the first time last night, each in our own kitchens. We had a “bake-off” and messaged each other our progress. She was faster than me, but we both got great results. Thank you!

    1. This is AWESOME! Love it. Thanks for sharing, Mara.

  22. Oh my goodness.. reading this post seems like hearing myself talking.
    I’m always on a roll of how to make things faster quicker easier this time around.
    And i only have 4 kids.. hahah.
    Thank you.

  23. Thank you! It worked! You have cured me of years of inability to bake anything involving yeast! (aside from Rhodes frozen rolls) My family thanks you too! Now I have the perfect bribe to get my kids to clean up the family rooms on Saturday mornings!

  24. Thank you for this! We made the dough on Christmas Eve day to have it fresh from the oven Christmas morning. Yum! I think this may become a regular part of our holidays.

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