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Big Sky Bites: The Absolute Best Cinnamon Rolls

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If you’ve visited the grocery store recently, or ordered groceries for delivery, you’re probably aware of the war zone that is the baking aisle. Finding a bag of flour that isn’t the size of a small toddler or a single packet of yeast is a pilgrimage to rival the search for the holy grail, proof that people are using their stay-at-home orders to channel their inner Betty Crocker. Baker’s yeast is an ingredient that converts sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol, making the dough light and fluffy and is used in breads and pastries.

The Absolute Best Cinnamon Rolls require baker’s yeast, which is what makes them melt in your mouth (the cream cheese helps with this as well). They also require a level of patience. If you have a hankering for delicious cinnamon and frosting smothered pastries right now, you may want to add that air-compressed roll of Pillsbury brand rolls to your cart instead. If you go the homemade route however, you will not regret it.

Dough Ingredients

1 cup warm milk

1 tablespoon instant dry yeast

2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons salted butter softened

1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients

1/2 cup salted butter melted

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Glaze Ingredients

4 ounces cream cheese softened

1/4 cup salted butter softened

1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Oven temp: 325 F

Prep time: 3 hours

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Instructions—First, the dough.

  1. Warm the milk in a small bowl for about a minute in the microwave (you want it to be warm to the touch, but not hot or it will kill the yeast before it has a chance to rise). Add the sugar to the milk, carefully sprinkle the yeast in and let sit for a few minutes. The yeast should start to bubble.
  2. Into a large bowl, measure the flour, salt, butter and egg, then slowly pour the milk and yeast mixture on top. Mix on low (or in a Kitchen Aid with dough hook) until combined. Once incorporated, move the dough to a flat, flour-covered surface and knead for a few minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not stick to your hands.
  3. You’ll want to create a warm, but not hot, environment for your dough to rise. This is where the yeast gets to work, feeding off of the sugars in the dough. I usually preheat the oven to 200 F, then turn it back off. Place the dough into a clean, lightly greased bowl that is big enough for the dough to double in size, cover with a clean towel, and place in the warm, but turned off, oven. Leave it alone to rise for at least an hour.

Now, the filling.

  1. In a medium bowl, melt a half-cup of butter, then add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined.
  2. Remove the dough from the oven—it should have doubled in size—and knead a few times on a large flour-covered surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large rectangle until it is about ¼ inch thick (approximately 12 inches by 18 inches) and brush the cinnamon filling evenly on top.
  3. Roll the dough lengthwise into a single, cinnamon-stuffed, log and cut into even cinnamon rolls—you should end up with about eight, 1.5-inch rolls.
  4. Arrange the rolls in a greased, glass 8-by-8 inch pan and cover with a towel. Let the rolls rise for another half hour. Your patience will pay off soon.

Finally, baking and frosting.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Remove the towel form the rolls and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the tops are slightly browned.
  2. While the cinnamon rolls are baking, make the cream cheese glaze. With a hand mixer, whip together cream cheese and butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Whip in powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add milk until you reach the consistency of frosting.
  3. Frost and serve rolls warm.

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