Introduction: Cinnamon-less Cinnamon Rolls
I love breakfast. I could eat it for every meal, and there is nothing better than a big, sticky, warmly spiced cinnamon roll. There’s just one problem, I am DEATHLY allergic to cinnamon. I’ve had many years and a lot of fails to come up with substitutions that taste similar. I will show you how I make my cinnamon rolls with a few different topping options too. They take a bit of time, because of proofing, but are totally worth it. I promise you won’t miss the cinnamon!
2 teaspoons/7 grams yeast
1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1 cup/240 ml milk
4 tablespoons/57 grams butter, very soft
4 1/2 - 5 cups/563 - 625 grams all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons/7 grams salt
1 tablespoon/6 grams allspice
4 tablespoons/57grams butter, melted
1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon/7 grams nutmeg, ground or grated
1 tablespoon/5 grams mace, ground
4 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cup/187 grams confectioners’ sugar
splash vanilla extract
Milk, if needed to thin out icing
Kitchen Scale or Measuring Cups/Spoons
Extra that’ll make your life easier but completely NOT necessary:
Step 1: Notes, Take ‘em or Leave ‘em...
What is proof? When you are proofing dough you are letting it rest and leaving the yeast to do it’s job. In this stage, the dough will rise and expand, The usual goal is for your dough to double in size. It isn’t exact, no need to mark the bowl. Basically, you just want the dough to be big and puffy. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours or more depending on a variety of factors. However, typically proofing, for me, takes an hour - 1.5 hours. Even the weather can affect your dough, so don’t worry if it isn’t rising quickly, just check every 30 minutes or so until it looks doubled in size.
Window Pane Stage = This is a sign you have worked the dough enough and built up the gluten. When you hold up the dough it will stretch. You should be able to stretch it thin enough to see light come through it. If the dough breaks before you get it thin enough to see the light then you need to keep kneading the dough.
Yeast = You can use whatever yeast you have. Instant, dry active, fresh etc. The biggest difference in yeast is speed. The instant yeast is going to go fast so it’ll take less time to make the rolls. However, what you make up in speed you’ll lack in flavor. Think of it like this, “You can taste the time and time tastes good.” In general, the longer it takes your dough to rise the better it will taste. This doesn’t mean you should over proof your dough (meaning letting it sit for hours), but a dough that has taken 1.5 hours to proof will have a better depth of flavor than a dough that took 30 minutes to proof; even when its the same recipe.
Spices = Don’t like nutmeg? Or you want to try to mix it up? Allspice, nutmeg, cloves, mace, cardamom and even ginger, in small amounts, will all work well. Start with the same proportions and adjust next time if needed.
Step 2: Prepare
Start by reading EVERYTHING the recipe says. Start to finish, front to back. I can’t count how many times I have started recipes only to realize I don’t have half the ingredients or that I don’t actually get to eat it for 3 days because of setting times or I was supposed to pre make certain parts. Ok, 3 days is an exaggeration, but you get the point.
Then, gather everything you will need for making the dough. When you are gathering all your ingredients measure them out. Yeah, you do end up needing to wash a few more bowls, but it will help to have things in the correct weight/measurements before you start. I find it a ton easier to weigh ingredients instead of measuring cups, but I will put both measurements down.
(Small story... I used to not pre measure, then one time I was making sticky buns and didn’t have the full amount of milk so I had to run downstairs and get a new gallon of milk. All in all, my ingredients were sitting in the mixer for probably about 5 minutes tops, but the reactions had already started. When I turned the mixer back on it exploded. I mean flour/milk on the ceiling, walls, floor. EVERYWHERE. Trust me, it’s worth a few extra dishes to have everything you need in front of you. Also, some things are time sensitive, so you won’t get the best result you could get because you take too long and the chemical reaction is already less potent.)
Step 3: Make the Dough
*I will be making this in a mixer with a dough hook. If you don’t have one, it’s fine, just use a regular bowl. You’ll be doing a little more work, but should have the exact same result.*
Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and half the milk in the bowl of the mixer for 5 minutes.
Divide the flour into two portions, no need to be exact. Take one of the portions and mix in the salt and nutmeg.
After 5 minutes the yeast should start to look frothy. Add the rest of the sugar, milk, eggs, butter, and half the flour mixed with nutmeg and salt. Using your dough hook, mix until it starts to come together, then add all but about 1/2 cup flour. Mix on medium about a minute. If the dough seems pretty sticky still then add the rest of the flour. Then keep mixing on medium for about 5 minutes. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Continue kneading the dough until it feels shining and window pane stage. You can definitely just have the mixer do all the work and knead the dough in the machine for 7-10 minutes instead, but a machine can over mix and I like feeling the dough come together, it makes me feel more in control of the results.
(For no mixer, follow the same procedure, but use your hands to make the dough come together. I wouldn’t bother with a spoon. Once the dough comes together turn it out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes depending on your strength. Once the dough feels shiny and smooth it’s ready to proof.)
Lightly grease a bowl and put your dough in to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and/or a towel and set aside. If your short on time put it in a warm spot to help it rise quicker. Leave it to double in size.
Step 4: Make the Rolls
Melt the butter. Mix the sugar and spices together.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll it to a big rectangle. Brush it with melted butter. Sprinkle it with the sugar mixture. The mixture should go over 3 of the edges of the dough. Leave about 1 inch of only butter brushed dough on one edge. This will help when sealing up the roll. Then roll up the dough, ending at the edge that has only butter. Once you have it rolled up position the seam on the bottom and lightly rock the log back and forth to seal up the seam. This helps the rolls stay together as they proof and bake.
Cut the log into 12 pieces. I trim the very ends of the log because I have never been able to get a perfect rectangle and the ends can be a bit awkward. Then, I cut the log in half. Next, cut the halves in half so I have 4 equal-ish pieces. Lastly, I cut the fourths into thirds. That’s the only way I can get them equal. There will always be some inconsistencies because the rolls on the end of the log just aren’t going to be quite as fat as the one that come from the center of the log.
Put the rolls, swirl facing up in a 9x13 baking pan. I was always told to alternate the big rolls and small rolls. So take a center cut roll and then an end cut roll, then center. Next row do the opposite. This helps so they cook evenly. Again, cover with plastic wrap and/or a towel and let them proof again. You are looking for the rolls to about double in size.
Step 5: Bake the Rolls
Once the rolls are ready, bake them at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or so. I usually check them at 30 minutes to start but they usually take 35-40 minutes.
Take them out and cool while you choose your topping.
Step 6: Toppings?
If you want, eat them as is. They’ll be delicious. But if you want a topping I have 3 options.
The first is pretty simple. Heat up some apricot jam, or another kind of jam that is clear. Brush the heated jam on the rolls and then sprinkle with pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is just a chunkier sugar, not a finely ground granulated sugar. If you can’t find pearl sugar, a raw sugar would work too, like Demerara.
The second topping is cream cheese frosting. Heat the cream cheese in the microwave for about 20 seconds to get it good and soft. Mix the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar together. Add a bit of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Mix it all together. If you like a thinner consistency then add a tiny bit of milk to thin it out. Spread in the still warm, but not hot rolls.
Last option is a glaze. This one is pretty simple too. Start with about 1 cup/125 grams of confectioners’ sugar. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time until you get a consistency that you like. A little milk goes a long way, so really add only small amounts of milk. you can add a splash of vanilla if desired. Then drizzle it on the warm, but not hot rolls.
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