After months of busy weekends, Luke and I finally got a quiet weekend to ourselves. Since he has been working almost every Saturday morning for the past six months, I wanted to make him something special for breakfast. He loves cinnamon rolls, but after reading the nutritional information on the sickly-sweet canned cinnamon rolls at the grocery store, I wasn’t about to purchase them.
Determined to make my own, I began searching for a recipe. Scanning the list of ingredients, my hopes fell. Half a cup of butter and several tablespoons of shortening in the dough alone? Plus more in the filling and icing? No thanks. I’d all but given up on cinnamon rolls when I found this lighter recipe. I’m not going to pretend that these cinnamon rolls are in any way healthy, but compared to most cinnamon roll recipes, and certainly the canned ones, these are very light. The texture is much more cake-like than traditional flaky cinnamon rolls, which I prefer. There’s much less butter and sugar without losing the cinnamon roll flavor you know and love. And cream cheese frosting- lots of cream cheese frosting.
These cinnamon rolls took less than 30 minutes to prep, and rose overnight in the fridge. All I had to do was stick them in the oven in the morning, and we had delicious, husband-approved cinnamon rolls in 25 minutes. Yum.
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- ⅓ cup lukewarm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- *Not a fan of whole wheat? You may use white flour instead. However, consider trying white whole wheat flour- all the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, but with a lighter color and milder taste. Learn more about white whole wheat flour (yup, it’s a thing) here.
- ⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (skip if using salted butter)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter, room temperature
- ¾ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar into lukewarm water in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes, or until mixture is foaming.
- Add remaining sugar and other ingredients and mix until smooth. If you are using a stand mixer (with the dough hook attachment) like me, you can put all the ingredients in at once and let your mixer do the work. If you are mixing the old fashioned way, alternate adding milk and flour. Stir until well combined.
- Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth (stand mixer friends- 5 minutes on medium speed).
- Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
- While your dough is resting, mix brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. Break up large chunks of sugar with a fork or whisk. Usually most cinnamon rolls contain only cinnamon (duh), but as my husband will attest to, I add nutmeg to everything, and this is no exception. I love the flavor of nutmeg and think it goes nicely with these cinnamon rolls and the nutty flavor of the whole wheat.
- When the dough is ready, roll into a 9 x 15 inch rectangle using a floured rolling pin (I love my French rolling pin- works great for doing large pieces of dough like this). Trim the edges as necessary.
- Brush dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Leave a ½ inch border on one of the 9 inch sides- this will be the outer edge of your cinnamon roll. As you may be able to see from the photo, I misread the directions and left a border around the entire rectangle, which left the cinnamon rolls at the end with less filling. Don’t do that :].
- Roll the dough lengthwise, starting on the opposite end from your border. Use your fingers to pinch the dough and roll tightly. The dough will not stick very well to dough coated in sugar, so it has the tendency to roll loosely. The tighter you roll, the better! Remember that uncoated border? Once you reach the end, that sticky dough will help keep your roll together.
- Press down on the seam to seal, and place your cinnamon roll log seam side down.
- Cut dough into 12 equal pieces using a sharp knife (I ended up with 13- no big deal).
- Place cinnamon rolls in a greased pie pan or baking pan.
- Cover and stick in the fridge overnight. If you are using wheat flour, this step is very important. Allowing the dough to rest overnight helps the bran breakdown, resulting in a more desirable texture.
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Uncover your cinnamon rolls and bake 20-25 minutes, or until slightly browned (or golden brown if you are using white flour).
- Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
- While cinnamon rolls are cooling, prepare your icing. I used my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, which is a thin frosting. If it is too thick for your liking, add a little milk.
- Cream butter and cream cheese until well mixed.
- Add vanilla, lemon juice and powdered sugar, and beat until smooth. Spoon over hot cinnamon rolls, and enjoy with a glass of milk!
Adapted from Handle the Heat.