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Soft and Sweet Cinnamon Rolls

Serves: Makes 10 rolls

Ingredients:

Dough:
  • 1¼ cups warm milk (no hotter than 120°F)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2¼ teaspoons quick-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted


Egg wash:
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon water


Filling:
  • 1½ cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg


Icing:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, or a little more if needed
  • 1½ tablespoons water


Procedures:

Warm, tender cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven, make a delectable treat any time of day. Freshly glazed, chock-full of cinnamon with a sticky, sweet topping, these spiral buns will leave your stomach cheering for more.

    To make the dough, pour ¼ cup of the warm milk in a small bowl. Add the yeast and granulated sugar and stir to dissolve. Set the bowl aside for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture looks foamy. If the yeast isn't foamy after 15 minutes, start with a new package.

    Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Make a well in the center, and pour the yeasted milk into the well. Then add the remaining 1 cup warm milk and melted butter. Stir together the ingredients until you get big, shaggy clumps of dough that start to stick together.

    Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface. You can always add more later, so don't sprinkle too much. Dump the dough clumps out of the bowl onto your work surface. Dip your hands in flour and start kneading the dough. Using the heel of both hands, firmly push the top of the mound away from you. Fold the far side of the dough toward you, then rotate the mound of dough a quarter turn and push again. Keep kneading until you get a smooth, springy dough. It usually takes 8 to 10 minutes. To know if you have kneaded enough, press your hand into the dough and remove it quickly. Your handprint should bounce back and disappear quickly. If it doesn't, keep kneading.

    Lightly flour your hands and the surface if the dough starts sticking. It should feel tacky, like tape, but not sticky and gooey. A bench scraper is handy for scraping up any bits of dough stuck to the table and to help you move the dough around.

    Rub the inside of a large bowl with a thin layer of vegetable oil or coat with pan spray. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in the bowl. Lightly rub or spray the top of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside and let the dough rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until it is twice as big.

    While the bread dough finishes rising, make the filling. Put the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl and whisk together until well blended. Smash any brown sugar lumps to break them up. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork until blended.

    To roll out the dough, sprinkle 3 tablespoons flour on the work surface. Turn the risen dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface and shape it into a rough rectangle. Sprinkle another tablespoon of flour on top. Starting from the edge closest to you, roll gently but firmly to the edge opposite you and then back again twice. Be careful not to roll the pin off the edge of the dough, or the dough will stick to the surface. Turn the dough a quarter turn, and roll up and back again twice. When you turn the dough, it should move easily. If it doesn't, gently lift the area of stuck dough, loosening it with the small metal spatula, and sprinkle some more flour underneath. Repeat the rolling up and back and turning of the dough until you have a 15 by 12-inch rectangle.

    Brush any excess flour from the top and bottom of the dough with the large brush, and clean up any extra flour from around the dough with the bench scraper. Position the rectangle so you are facing a long side. Mix the egg yolk with the water and then, using a small pastry brush, brush a thin coating of the egg mixture all over the top of the dough. (You won't need all of it.) Use your fingers to scrape the filling onto the dough and spread it evenly over the surface, leaving a 1-inchwide border uncovered along the long side opposite you. Starting at the long side closest to you, roll up the dough into a log, keeping it fairly tight as you go. When you reach the opposite side, roll the dough right on top of the uncovered border. Roll the log backward, so the seam is on top, and pinch all along the seam to seal it.

    Lightly butter a 10 by 2-inch cake pan, or spray with pan spray. Using a serrated knife, cut the log crosswise into 10 rolls, each about 1½ inches wide. Use a gentle sawing motion when you cut so you don't flatten the log. Arrange the rolls in the prepared cake pan evenly, spacing 8 rolls around the edge of the pan and putting 2 rolls in the center.

    Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set in a warm place. Let the rolls rise for about 1 hour, or until they are nearly twice as big and fill almost all of the open spaces in the pan. After the rolls have risen for about 30 minutes, position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. That way the oven will be ready when you are ready to bake.

    Bake the rolls for 30 to 35 minutes, until they are golden and the sugar is bubbling around the edges. Using oven mitts, transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

    To make the icing, put 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Add the water and whisk until well blended and completely smooth. The icing should be thick, because it thins out when it hits the warm rolls. If it is thin and runny, add a little more sugar. Using the spoon, drizzle the icing over the tops of the warm rolls in any pattern you like. Eat them while they are warm.


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