Today, I'm working from home. We were lucky to find an affordable apartment with a small second room where we've set up a little office/sewing/business space for both of us (Mike's big on eBay these days). It's where Mike does his homework or grading, where I sit most of the days I work from home, where I sew or write or play with one of the many hobbies I've picked up over the years. There are two windows in the room: one that overlooks our neighbor's porch and grape vines, and the other looks out onto our street. It's often loud because of school traffic or yapping dogs, but sometimes the way the sun hits the mint and blue houses across the street makes me pause my work and stare. We're planning to stay in this apartment at least another year, and sometimes I find myself nostalgic for it even as we're still here. Though I sometimes complain about how cramped it feels or how you can't actually rearrange any of the rooms because of their size, this is our home and I will miss it one day when we are gone.
I remember the first time it occurred to me that cinnamon rolls could be made from scratch. My sister, newly married, had just come to our family's Christmas dinner from my brother-in-law's family's Christmas morning. "His mom makes cinnamon rolls from scratch every year," she said. Even though I'm from the south, we weren't immune to canned biscuits on Christmas morning. Homemade cinnamon rolls sounded like a special tradition.
I didn't wait for a Christmas morning with in-laws to start making cinnamon rolls. I made my first batch of homemade cinnamon rolls for a big brunch at a friend's house. Since then, any time more than four people are gathering for a weekend meal, I pull out The Weekend Baker and make a batch. When I started making these, I followed the recipe to a T, but since then I've loosened up a little and made it my own. I've also acquired a stand mixer since those early days, and these have gone from special occasion status to sweet tooth/craving status. Without having to knead it by hand, these are dangerously simple to make (though I am a little nostalgic for late nights kneading in the kitchen).
The main change I've made for these is to brown the butter that gets topped with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up. I love the caramel flavor it adds to the cinnamon rolls (not to mention the way it makes my kitchen smell).
Getting yeasted dough to rise in the height of summer is no problem (sometimes it rises too quickly), but in the dead of winter—which, let's face it, is when you need a cinnamon roll the most—it can be a little trickier. Sometimes I preheat the oven to 100 degrees F while I'm making the dough, and turn it off a few minutes before the dough needs to sit and rise. Then I place the covered (metal or heat-safe glass) bowl into the toasty oven. Make sure you turn the oven off a few minutes before you place your dough in there so it can cool off to about 80 degrees F.
I like to smear the glaze on while the rolls are still a little warm, that way it melts just a bit and drips into the crevices and edges.
Recipe after the jump. One thing: At first glance, this seems like a lot of work, and it is! There are plenty of steps and ingredients, and you can't wake up one morning and decide to have fresh cinnamon rolls an hour later. But if there's one thing I've learned from baking is to enjoy the process and appreciate each bite knowing every ingredient and bit of effort that went into the making of it. Treats like these aren't meant for everyday anyway, so I'm kind of grateful that it takes more than just a few minutes to throw together.
These are great to make ahead of time before a big gathering. At the end of the recipe there are instructions on what you can do ahead; you can let the dough rise slowly in the fridge overnight before baking and serving, or you can cook them, cool them, and freeze for later, though I've never tried this. Nor do I know anyone who, in their right mind, would bake cinnamon rolls and not devour them right then and there.