A winter tradition when I was growing up was my mother’s warm and yeasty cinnamon rolls. Prepared ahead of time but baked in the morning, they had a way of enticing people out of bed. My brothers anticipated them eagerly and devoured them instantly.
I love her recipe and use it, too, especially when we have overnight guests, since these rolls are so easy to make ahead and bake in a few minutes. The recipe makes two dozen rolls, and I like to make a full batch but freeze half of them for impromptu brunches.
I do add my own twists; I like to go beyond cinnamon and add a few extra spices for aroma and taste. Star anise, cardamom, coriander – they add a little something special.
These cinnamon rolls are sweet, spicy and decadent, and they can satisfy those who want a crunchy sugar glaze on the bottom and creamy icing on top. All it takes (all it ever takes, really) is a little extra butter and sugar. These are not a breakfast for those on a diet and you wouldn’t want them every weekend. But in my opinion, when you’re making cinnamon rolls, it’s best to go all out. They’re a generous treat for family mornings, a tradition from my family to yours.
Faith Durand is executive editor of TheKitchn.com, a website for food and home cooking.
Spicy Sticky Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup milk, lightly warmed
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 to 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 star anise pod (optional)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods or ground cardamom
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
4 ounces cream cheese, very soft
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more as desired
SPRINKLE the yeast over the warmed milk in a large bowl and set aside for 5 minutes until slightly bubbly. With a whisk or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, beat in the sugar, softened butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time, until the dough is very thick.
KNEAD on lightly floured surface until smooth and warm, or switch to the dough hook and knead in the stand mixer. Knead for about 5 minutes in the mixer or 7 minutes by hand, until the dough is taut and smooth.
WIPE out the bowl and spray lightly with vegetable oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place in greased bowl, turning it to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.
GRIND any whole spices until fine. Mix ground spices with brown sugar. Beat the butter with the spices and sugar until light and fluffy.
GREASE 2 (9-inch) cake pans or a 13-by-9-inch pan. On a floured surface roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 14 inches by 24 inches. When the dough is rolled out, slather it thickly with the creamed butter and sugar, spreading nearly to the edges. Roll up along the long side, stretching and pulling the dough into a taut, tight roll. Cut into 24 rolls. Divide among the prepared pans and let rise in a warm place until the rolls double in size, about 45 minutes.
PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Bake about 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
BEAT the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and sugar, adding more powdered sugar if needed to get the consistency you prefer. Drizzle over hot rolls with a fork. Serve warm.
MAKE AHEAD: Follow the recipe up until baking. Bake rolls for 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then freeze them in their pans or in freezer bags. To finish baking, thaw in refrigerator overnight, then bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Frost and serve warm.
Yield: 24 rolls.