This didn’t start with me.
I can still smell the warmth of the kitchen on a brisk December afternoon. We would arrive, bundled in our coats, stomping snow from our boots. The layers of hats, gloves, and scarves would peel off as we climbed the stairs to say hello.
Though she was busy at work, bustling in front of the stove, scurrying to put dinner on the table, she always had time to greet the family, especially her grandchildren. After all, we were the ones she was baking for.
The love and affection she poured into her baking were as essential to the recipe as the flour she kneaded in effortlessly, needing no precise measurements. She was making her famous rolls – Grandmom’s special rolls.
Cinnamon Rolls for a Crowd
Makes 24 generous cinnamon rolls
Now that I have children of my own, I am really connecting to the idea of family recipes. I find myself poring over old cookbooks that have been passed down, as well as developing new recipes that are becoming our own family favorites. These cinnamon rolls are a combination of the two.
These cinnamon rolls are my twist on my grandmother’s special dinner rolls. They were a family favorite, making an appearance at almost every family gathering. I’ve shared the recipe in the past (slightly updated, and never quite the same as when she made them for us), in case you’re interested in the original.
For the dough:
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 4 ½ teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 ½ cups bread flour
- 4 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided
For the filling:
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 – 2 tablespoons whole milk
- Dash vanilla extract
To make the dough, combine the milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl (or liquid measuring cup). Microwave on high for about 90 seconds, until the milk is warm to the touch and the butter is soft (not necessarily melted).
Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). Add the sugar, eggs, yeast, and sea salt. Add the bread flour and beat vigorously (using the paddle attachment, if using a mixer) for 2 – 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth.
Gradually add the all purpose flour, stirring until a firm dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth. The dough should be soft and moist, but not tacky or sticky. (If using a stand mixer, start with 4 cups of flour using the dough hook. Add the remaining ½ cup as necessary.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume and the imprint of two fingers remains. Punch down the dough, shape into a ball, cover, and let rise a second time.
When ready to bake the rolls, preheat the oven to 375F. Dip a pastry brush into the melted butter for the filling and grease two 9 by 13-inch pans. Set aside.
Stir together the sugar and cinnamon for the filling in a small bowl.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Generously brush half of the remaining melted butter onto the dough. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the long edge of the dough tightly to make a log. Cut cross sections of the log into 12 rolls. Place each roll cut-side down in one of the prepared pans.
Repeat with the remaining half of the dough, remaining butter, and remaining cinnamon sugar.
Cover the rolls loosely and let them rise until puffy (for about 20 minutes).
Bake the rolls for approximately 20 minutes, until golden.
Let the rolls cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and a dash of vanilla to make a thick glaze. Pour over the rolls before serving (warm or at room temperature).
Many thanks to Cheryl Sternman Rule for the writing prompt (over a year ago!) that inspired this blog post.