Watch out, Pillsbury. I’m going old school.

cinnamon rolls

In the wonderful world of pastries, I have my longtime loves and forever foes. There’s the donut, in all its deep-fried, glaze-covered glory, that’s been on my no-thank-you list since I was about 10 years old. I realize most people think this is a crazy bananas food to dislike, but even the smell of donuts makes me a not-so-happy camper. Just when I start feeling like a traitor to the morning pasty, however, I remember of my old pal the cinnamon roll — and all is right in the world.

A while back, I mentioned my love, love, lovin’ of Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls. In fact, I went as far as to say that I’ve never met a homemade roll that I like better than the pop-and-bake guys. A few people sent in their favorite cinnamon roll recipes (for which I am grateful!), but I just couldn’t get myself to try them yet. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or maybe I was afraid of disappointment. Who knew baking could be so emotionally draining?

Well, a few nights ago, my little brother and I were watching Iron Chef America on Food Network (the secret ingredient was hot dogs — wowza!) At some point during the show, I Googled Alton Brown (I was curious about his newly svelte physique), and his recipe for overnight cinnamon rolls came up super high in the search, rated a five-star recipe out of 350 reviews. I took it as a sign that it was time I face my fears and try making a homemade cinnamon roll myself.

I’m sure it’s no secret to any fellow bread- or roll-makers out there that homemade cinnamon rolls are super labor intensive. Like the kind of labor intensive that involves tons o’ steps and tons o’ time. The good news is all the hard work can be done the day before, so on the morning of the good eats, all you need are 30 minutes of rising time and 30 minutes for baking. And the even better news? They taste pretty crazy delicious. I just might be a convert.


Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
From Alton Brown,

For the dough
• 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
• 1 large whole egg, at room temperature
• ¼ cup sugar
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 6 ounces buttermilk, at room temperature
• 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
• 1 package instant dry yeast, about 2 ¼ teaspoons
• 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
• canola oil or cooking spray

For the filling
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• pinch of salt
• 1 ½ tablespoons melted unsalted butter

For the icing
• ¼ cup cream cheese, softened
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of flour, yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Replace the whisk attachment with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour, and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough; it should feel soft and moist but not sticky (add more flour if needed). Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in bowl. Mix well, then set aside.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and shape it into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough (leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge), and gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls (12 rolls total). Arrange rolls cut-side down in the baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove rolls from the refrigerator, and place in an oven (turned off). Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full with boiling water, and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door, and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy, about 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack, and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk, and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls, and serve immediately.


What’s your favorite pastry (homemade or otherwise)? Has anyone else embarked on a baking journey that they never thought they’d tackle? Are there any foods you’re still hesitant to try? Let’s hear it!


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8 Comments on “Watch out, Pillsbury. I’m going old school.

  1. I LOVE cinnamon rolls but also feel they are too labor intensive to be worth it. I’m excited to give this recipe a shot! I think my husband is even more excited than I am!

  2. haha I LOVE the title!!! Mmmm Cinnamon rolls, is there really any better breakfast food?

  3. Oh man I love Alton Brown!! I especially like his show, “Good Eats”. He teaches about the history, culture, and chemistry of each of the recipes he makes. Good stuff.
    PS: those Cinnamon rolls look de-lish!

    • I love “Good Eats,” too! He totally makes me think of a grown-up version of my little brother on that show. I suppose that makes me a little biased. :)

  4. That’s awesome! Alton Brown has a way of making complicated recipes seem like a walk in the park which is always nice :)

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