Thursday, November 1, 2012

Baker's Corner- Cinnamon Rolls

When I was on holiday in the US between Nov 2007 to Jan 2008, one of my favorite haunts was Cinnabon. Whenever I would pass by their chain of kiosks, the heavenly smells of cinnamon and butter emanating from their baked goods would take on the form of a powerful lasso to rope me in (quite like how is depicted in cartoons!). And their cinnamon rolls are absolutely to die for. I always associate cinnamon rolls with the wonderful time I spent in the US. Guess who was grinning from ear to ear when she heard that Cinnabon would be coming to Singapore sometime next year! :D

I am obsessed with cinnamon and that is a serious statement. Ever since I began baking apple pies as a teenager, this aromatic spice has won over my palette and heart. I never miss an opportunity to add cinnamon in my cooking either as a tempered spice in savory rice dishes/curries, as a flavoring agent in oatmeal and pancakes, in desserts like rice pudding, fruit pies, sweets, baked goods and also in drinks like coffee (ask Starbucks!), milkshakes, hot chocolate and masala chai. For me, the exotic sweet, earthy and warm taste of cinnamon is reason enough to catapult it to the top spot of my favourite spices.

I have always wanted to bake cinnamon rolls at home. Since I already had success with baking buns, I thought I would try my hand at baking these bad boys. I poured through the internet and found many many many recipes (enough to make my head spin!). I was looking for a roll that was soft, perfumed with the flavour of cinnamon and have a simple and light glaze. I saw recipes that boasted a short-cut version without yeast but I didn't think those would be very good. I feel that if you compromise on the recipe ingredients and time, then you compromise on the taste too and I was not willing to take that gamble on my cinnamon roll debut! I won't lie to you - these rolls take a considerable time to make but the results are totally worth the wait. I started making them at about 10am and was done by about 2pm. But the good thing is that the procedure for these rolls does not require your constant attention (because a large chunk of the time is devoted to the dough rising). As I prepped for these cinnamon rolls, I also made breakfast, loaded the dishwasher, tidied up the kitchen, did a load of laundry, watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother and chatted with my mum on the phone for about an hour!

I'm not happy with how the photographs turned out though mainly because of the lighting. When I awoke that day, the sun was shining gloriously which signaled great prospects for food photography. However, by the time I finished baking the cinnamon rolls, the skies were overcast with thick black clouds and the cheery sunshine was replaced by dark, gloomy shadows. I was so dejected! Since I baked only half of the cinnamon rolls, I thought I would have better luck with the second batch the next day but alas, the next day saw rain, rain and more rain (damn you Singapore rain!). Oh well....I managed to do the best that I could :(

Preparation time: 2 – 4 hrs
Baking time: 14 - 15 mins
Makes: 12 large rolls
Recipe Source: Adapted from here


For the dough:
1 1/3 cups whole milk 
1/3 cup flavourless oil
1/3 cup sugar 
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp active dried yeast
2 2/3 cups bread flour + approx 3/4 cup extra bread flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-4 tbsp softened unsalted butter 

For the filling:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
A handful of sultanas, Optional

For the glaze:
2 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
A few drops of lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder, Optional
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder, Optional

Mix these ingredients with 2 tbsp milk. Adjust with milk to get your desired consistency. 


1. Mix the milk, oil and sugar together in a saucepan, and heat over a medium-high heat until it reaches boiling point. Then turn off the heat and let it cool down to luke-warm temperature. I didn't have the patience to wait for the temperature to go down on its own so I immersed the saucepan in a water bath until the desired temperature was reached. 
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk mixture and leave closed for 5 - 15 mins or so, until foamy.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift in the 2 2/3 cups flour, then add the milk and yeast mixture, stirring the whole thing together until it forms a craggy mass. Note that the mixture will be wet at this stage. Lightly dampen a tea towel, drape it over the bowl and then put the bowl in a warm place to double in size. This may take anywhere between 1 - 11/2 hours.

4. Once risen, add an extra 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. At this stage, give the dough a small knead, only about 5 – 7 mins by hand (grease your palms with oil first), or 4 mins on the dough hook. The dough will still be quite sticky at this stage so don't worry too much. Place the dough back in the bowl. You can use the dough immediately, or pop it in the fridge for up to three days until it’s ready to use.
5. When you’re ready to make the rolls, roll the dough out into a long rectangle on a well floured surface about 5mm-1cm thick. I assumed that this would be very tricky but I thought I managed ok. A warning though - expect a huge mess at the end!
6. Soften the butter in the microwave, and brush the butter all over the rectangular dough evenly. Mix the cinnamon powder and nutmeg powder into the brown sugar and sprinkle the mixture over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with sultanas if desired. I was a bit stingy with the cinnamon-sugar mix because I didn't want the rolls turning too sweet. 
7. Once you’ve covered the whole rectangle in the cinnamon sugar mix, roll tightly from the side furthest away from you. Try to keep it in a neat line, and don’t roll loosely. Once you have a long tube/slug shape, seal the end by pinching the dough and use either dental floss or a sharp serrated knife and cut into 12 rolls measuring approx 3.5 cm. 

8. Place the rolls on a greased baking tray, leaving a little space between them, but not enough so they wont be touching when they rise. Cover with a dampened tea towel, and let sit for another 30 mins while you preheat the oven to 180 deg C. 
I baked only 6 of the rolls and kept the remaining 6 dough rolls in an air-tight container in the fridge (which I subsequently baked the next day and took them to work for my colleagues) 
9. Bake the rolls in the oven for 14-15 mins , until golden brown and smelling heavenly!

10. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze using the ingredients mentioned above. Adjust the consistency the glaze with milk. If you want a pure white gaze, then you can omit adding the cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and vanilla essence. 
11. Pour the glaze over the warm rolls and serve immediately!

This was the first ever time I baked cinnamon rolls and the results were wonderful so I will be sticking to this recipe for sure. The bread was tender and feathery, the filling gooey and the icing sweet and smooth. Serve it for breakfast or along with coffee as an evening snack.

  • I modified the glaze that was in the original recipe because after tasting it, I found it too sweet and one-dimensional. I added a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice to counterbalance the sweetness. I also added in a little cinnamon powder and nutmeg for added flavour.
  • I love sultanas and so I incorporated it in this recipe. You can also add nuts if you like. 
  • Adding a little mashed potato into the cinnamon roll dough results in even more moist and soft rolls. I will try this out the next time I make rolls.
  • The most convenient way to make these rolls is to make the dough rolls in advance, let them rise for atleast half an hour and then pop them in the fridge. When you need to bake them, just arrange them in a greased dish, place in a pre-heated oven and 15 mins later, you are done! 


  1. Very good recipe with pics. Enjoyed reading through your story also:) I love cinnabons too, though I dont have much patience to bake them on my own:( Kudos to you!

  2. Thanks Suchi :) They tasted really good but I still want to improve on the appearance. Next time maybe....will see if I can send some for u :D

  3. Lovely cinnamon buns... i too have fallen in love with cinnamon of late! Pics are not bad for a gloomy day...

  4. Those cinnamon rolls look amazing! Definitely as good as cinnabon's :) I think your photographs are lovely too! Wish I could take photos as good as those.


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