Those of you who have followed me across platforms might remember my slight obsession with Robin McKinley’s book Sunshine, and the description of the cinnamon rolls baked therein. More about that later, but, since I’m just like you guys when it comes to food blogs (and since I’m not doing this to make money anyhow) I’m’a put the recipe first.
3/4 cup milk
1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter
3/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
6 TB sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick (8 TB) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 TB cinnamon
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 TB unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 TB milk
1. Make dough: scald the milk, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Let sit until melted and slighly cooled, then add the water, vanilla, and eggs. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl), mix the flour, yeast, and sugar. Add the milk mixture and stir until combined. Cover the bowl and let rest for 20 minites.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the dough, then knead, either by hand or by dough hook, until it starts to look smooth. If you need to, you can add more flour; the dough can be soft, but it shouldn’t be too sticky. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or don’t refrigerate, and let rise for about an hour, until puffy but not quite doubled, you early riser, you).
3. The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge, and let it come to room temp (about 2 hours). Meanwhile, mix the sugars, cinnamon, and salt for the filling.
4. Divide the dough in half, and follow this procedure for each half: Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 10″ x 16″ rectangle (approximately). Brush half the melted butter over the dough, leaving a half- inch along one shorter end for the eventual seam. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar, then roll up, starting with the short side opposite your seam side. Pinch the seam down to seal, and then cut into 12 equal pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment (note: if you like squishier, close together rolls, instead use a greased 9″ x 13″ pan).
5. Cover, and let rise for an hour, or until the rolls have expanded and gotten puffy. During the last 15 minutes or so of the rise, preheat your oven to 375° F.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they are barely browned on top. While they’re baking, you can make the icing by mixing all the ingredients (use the smaller amount of milk, and sift your confectioner’s sugar if it’s chunky) and then adding more milk or more sugar, until you’ve got a fairly thick icing (it should be more spreadable than pourable). When the rolls are done, remove them to a rack, and spread them with the icing. Then you get to eat them!
Optional Tangzhong Starter
While I was looking at cinnamon roll recipes to compare them, I found a great recipe on thr King Arthur Flour website that recommends using a Tangzhong starter (read about it here), and it really works well with this recipe. I use 7 1/2 TB each of milk and water, and 5 1/2 TB of flour. Mix those up in a saucepan, heat over medium-high while whisking constantly, until mixture thickens (don’t worry, it’s really obvious). Let cool to lukewarm, and add to your dough with the milk mixture.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how these came about. First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with Robin McKinley’s work: run, don’t walk, to the nearest library or bookstore, and put your hands on a copy of Sunshine, and The Hero and the Crown, and, well, any of her books really, but especially those two. The Hero and the Crown is high fantasy, with gods, ancient dragons, and magic swords, but not much in the way of cooking (unless you count potions of fire resistance). Sunshine is an urban fantasy, featuring vampires, nature magic, and cinnamon rolls as big as your head. The main character, Sunshine, is a baker in a cafe, and those cinnamon rolls are her specialty. Whenever I think about Sunshine, I think about cinnamon rolls, and whenever I think about cinnamon rolls, I think about Sunshine. It’s as simple as that.
There is, unfortunately, no official recipe, although there are a couple scattered LiveJournal posts by the author that contain some hints. So these are a combination of my favorite bits of several cinnamon roll recipes, incorporating those hints, and ending up with just a really delicious treat that I’m glad I don’t have to wake up at 4:00 every morning to prepare. The way I make them they aren’t quite as big as your head, but they’re otherwise exactly what I want in a cinnamon roll.