Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Sweet New Year's Treat for You.

Here we go. Tomorrow is New Year's Day, the day we all resolve to be better, smarter, thinner, more organized, more energetic, more compassionate, kinder. 

But what if we started the New Year by being kinder to ourselves?

What if, instead of forcing ourselves to eat an apple for breakfast tomorrow--even though we're dying to carb-load due to our foggy, champagne-laden brains--what if we treated ourselves, celebrating the New Year with a bit of decadence, with a sugar-load of happiness?

Would we spontaneously combust?

Would we ruin the rest of 2014 by enjoying one sinful, delicious, happy breakfast? Or would we savor it, licking our fingers, lounging in our PJs, sipping a great cappuccino (if that's your thing), and spending a restful, lazy New Year's morning with those we love?

I vote for the latter, minus the cappuccino, since I'm not a coffee girl.

So for you, my wonderful friends, I'm giving you a gift. It's a recipe, yes, but it's also permission to ignore the date, to realize that one more seasonal overindulgence will not ruin your goals for 2014.

But it might make the start of your New Year a little sweeter.

cinnamon rolls, http://growingdays.blogspot.com
Now, this isn't my recipe. In fact, it's a pretty famous recipe. When I posted photos of my holiday baking extravaganza, several friends knew right away where this recipe originated.

The Pioneer Woman.

Yep, I was a huge fan of her blog when I first started my own, and of course I bought her first cookbook as soon as it hit Barnes and Noble. Her cinnamon rolls are a holiday tradition in our house now. Actually, they've surpassed just the holidays. They're not only great for sharing with neighbors and friends during the festive season, but they're fabulous for bake sales, school functions, teacher breakfasts, whatever requires a decadent dish for many people.

It's such a happy recipe.

However, I've found that I need to tweak it a bit. Granted, I'm not a master baker, but somehow the dough always ends up too moist for me to work with it, so my version uses a little more flour. And I'm definitely not a fan of coffee and maple, so I've changed the icing to strictly vanilla flavor, plus I've increased the amount of icing. I find that I have a heavy hand when pouring icing, and I end up without enough for all of the rolls using the original recipe. If you like a light glaze of icing, then cut back--but I think yummy, thick icing makes them even more heavenly. If you'd like to see the original recipe, though, here it is. Obviously, The Pioneer Woman is brilliant. I'm just sharing what works best for me.

I can guarantee one thing, though--she's right. You'll become incredibly popular when you deliver these during the holidays, or anytime of the year. (I've actually had two people ask if I would make them if they paid me. Ummm...no. This is strictly a labor of love.)

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls (with a few adaptations by yours truly)
1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast (4-1/2 teaspoons)
10 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. salt

3 cups melted butter
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar

3 lbs. powdered sugar
12  tbsp. melted butter (1-1/2 stick)
1-1/2 cups whole milk, depending on the consistency you prefer
dash of salt
2 tbsp. vanilla extract (note: use the good stuff. I also like to scrape a vanilla bean for extra flavor)

1. Heat the milk, oil, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat--don't boil. Cool to lukewarm.
2. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk mixture. Let it rest for a minute to activate. 
3. Add 8 cups of the flour, a few cups at a time (unless you want your kitchen to look like a winter wonderland. Not that I've ever done that.) I love my KitchenAid mixer so much. Although, it's really not mine. I bought it for my bread-making husband many years ago. Selfish present, wasn't it?! Oh, sorry, back to the recipe!
4. Take a look at the dough after you mix it. Does it look really sticky? If so, then add another cup of flour, mix, and cover with a kitchen towel.  Mine always is a little too sticky, but check your dough before you blindly throw in the extra cup of  flour. Let the dough rise for an hour.
Note: My last batch of dough REALLY rose...over the side of the bowl and onto the counter. So, take a look periodically at your dough during that hour. (I waited a little too long.)
5.  Remove the towel, add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and another cup of flour. Mix to ensure everything is well combined. Now, check your consistency once again. Does it stick to your hands in a gloppy glue? Add that extra flour and mix.
The Pioneer Woman says you can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to three days, but I always use mine right away. If you store it, just check to make sure it doesn't rise all over your refrigerator--punch it down when it starts growing toward the top of the bowl.
6. Flour your work space and rolling pin. Remove half of the dough and roll into a long rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Now, you're ready to add the yumminess.
7. For the filling, melt the butter and pour at least 1 cup of it onto the dough, spreading it evenly. I use a pastry brush, but The Pioneer Woman uses her fingers. 
8. Now, sprinkle 1/4 cup cinnamon over the buttery dough. Honestly, I adore cinnamon, so I really just take the container and generously sprinkle the divine spice all over the dough. Adjust to your taste, of course. (My kids are not big cinnamon fans. Silly kids.)
9. So, we have butter. We have cinnamon. Now, it's time to add the sugar. I use about 1-1/2 cups of sugar, distributed evenly over the dough. The goal is a delicious, gooey filling, and I've found that this ratio of butter and sugar does the trick. 
10. Ready? It's time to test your dexterity. Honestly, I find this next step to be the most challenging. It's time to roll. Start on the long side farthest from you, and tightly roll the dough toward you. It's not that this step is necessarily difficult--it's just messy. If you're like me, you'll wind up with a nice flour-butter-sugar-coated sweater during this process. Try to keep the roll tight and even. If the dough is sticking to your work surface, I find that I can lift the dough slightly with one hand and slide a bit of flour underneath, which seems to help. As you near the end of rolling, take the side nearest you, lift it slightly over the roll and pinch it closed. Now, you have a beautiful roll of sugary deliciousness-to-be.
11. Make certain your surface is safe for cutting (or transfer dough to a cutting board), and slice the rolled dough into 1-1/2 inch segments using a sharp knife.
12. Drizzle a bit of butter into your pans, coating the bottom and sides. Place the sliced rolls into the pans, spacing evenly without overlapping. (For events with large crowds, like a school function, I use 9 x 12 pans, but for individual gifts, I use round 9" cake pans.)
13. Cover the pans/rolls with a kitchen towel and allow them to rise for about 20 minutes--which gives you enough time to roll out and fill the remaining dough. Preheat your oven now, too--375 degrees.
14. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 13 to 17 minutes, depending on your oven. The goal is a lovely, light golden brown roll. Keep you eyes on them, because they just aren't as tasty when they're too brown. (Not that I would know, of course.) ;-)
15. And now, while those babies are baking in the toasty oven, it's time for more sugar...it's time to make the icing. Mmmm! (Do this when your kids aren't around, otherwise they'll want to lick the bowl--and you deserve to lick it yourself after all of this work!) Combine the powdered sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Of course, you need to sample it a few times and add whatever makes you happy--a little more milk to smooth the consistency? Sure. A splash more vanilla? Why not? Adjust to make the icing just as you like it. I don't like it too thin, but I do like it to pour easily over the rolls. It makes icing a cinch.
16. After the rolls are removed from the oven and still warm, pour the icing over the top, allowing it to drizzle all over the rolls. My personal goal with icing the cinnamon rolls is that no portion of the roll should be naked. But that's just me. You can use a lighter hand if you prefer.

And that, my friends, is my New Year's gift to you...a big, scrumptious, delicious smelling and tasting cinnamon roll for New Year's Day breakfast. No Slim Fast. No grapefruit. Be kind to yourself and go make them, right now, before your begin your celebration tonight.

Better yet, if you're having guests over--have them help you bake while you drink champagne, and send them home with a pan of cinnamon rolls. 

You will be happy tomorrow morning. I promise.

Happy, happy New Year's to you! May all of your wishes come true!

(And be safe tonight.)





  1. Now you did it, Julie! Guess how I'm spending my New Year's Eve? I should have mine in the oven by 9 pm if I'm lucky. I called my kids and invited them over for a New Year's brunch, so there will be sweet treats at my house in the morning! I don't do PW's recipe, as it makes too many for us (my freezer is full) and, like you, I prefer plain vanilla icing.

  2. We bought Cinnabons at Costco so we'll be having those, but we also bought yeast because I want to make potato rusks very soon. I'm bookmarking this blog post because it's a big package of yeast and these look yummy! Happy New Year, Julie!