Want to do something truly special this weekend? Clear off the kitchen counter, get out the flour – we’re about to make something magical! Of all the hundreds of recipes I’ve made through during the years, this recipe for cinnamon rolls is far and above one of my favorites.
We’ve all had our share of unmemorable cinnamon rolls. Many are large blocks of flavorless dough with thick, goopy frosting. Most get so hard after they’ve cooled you could build an addition to your house with them. But not these. They’re delicate, with sweet dough and the spice of cinnamon, the crunch of toasted pecans and subtle bits of currants bursting in your mouth with every bite. Topped with a drizzle of sweet, vanilla scented icing.
There’s a trick with this dough, one not expected but providing the vehicle to keep these rolls soft and tender for days after baking. Mashed potatoes. One simple cup of plain mashed potatoes in the dough transforms these cinnamon rolls into a delicacy worth the time it takes to create them. And best of all, you can actually eat them again the next day.
Some tips…a stand mixer makes quick work of the dough. You’ll also want to have an instant read thermometer on hand for checking water and milk temperature. Yeast can be temperamental, needs to be warm enough to “proof” the yeast but not so hot as to kill it. You can buy the thermometer at most kitchen stores and many food markets, All-Clad makes a great one. I also like baking in clear glass baking dishes, easier to check and see if the rolls are golden on the bottom. (I still use my Mom’s Pyrex baking dishes!)
If this is your first round working with yeast dough, some detail on yeast and proofing. It’s simply a process where the dry yeast is hydrated with a warm liquid, 110-115 degrees. If the yeast is active it will start to foam up or proof. (My Mom used to say this “proves” your yeast is good.) Adding a bit of sugar “feeds” the yeast helping it to grow.
This recipe makes over two dozen rolls, so you can cut the recipe in half or line up some friends. As with any yeast bread these take a bit of time but with fast-rising yeast you can knock these out in an afternoon. Trust me, they are worth every minute.
2 packages dry yeast
½ cup warm water, 110-115 degrees
1 teaspoon sugar
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed as smooth as possible; measure out 1 cup
2 cups scalded milk (heated until steaming and foamy, just below boiling)
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the yeast, the warm water and the sugar; set aside to proof, about 5-10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl pour the scalded milk over the shortening, mix on low using the heat from the milk to dissolve the shortening. Cool to lukewarm, about 110-115 degrees. Slowing stir in 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup sugar, the mashed potatoes, eggs, salt and dissolved yeast. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time mixing well after each addition.
Place the dough in a large bowl, lightly greased, turning the dough once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise until doubled.
½ cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup currants
In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and the cinnamon.
Divide the dough in half, using a floured rolling pin roll out half on a floured surface into a rectangle about 16” x 24” x ¼” thick. Brush with the melted butter, completely covering to the edge. Spread the brown sugar and cinnamon, covering thoroughly. (Don’t skimp on this step, these are cinnamon rolls!) Then spread ½ cup pecans and ½ cup currants evenly across the dough.
Starting at the top, roll as tightly and evenly as possible. Once you have the dough in a roll, take a sharp knife and cut into 1” slices. Carefully place rolls into baking pans, touching but with a bit of room to rise. Repeat with the remaining dough. At this point you can cover the pan with plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake them or cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. (You can refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Allow to cool slightly while you make the icing.
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons half-n-half, adding more or less to your desired consistency
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, half-n-half and vanilla blending until smooth. Drizzle across the cinnamon rolls.