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Tiny Cinnamon Rolls

2012 January 31
by Aurora

So I was feeling pretty good about my challah-bread-making prowess, and decided to take on cinnamon rolls as my next bread project. They use yeast, so they count, and they are delicious, which is high on my list of requirements.

starting to roll up close up

starting to roll it up

Also, other people will want to eat them, providing me with many guinea pigs.

Dougal the guinea pig

Dougal the guinea pig

picture credit

Warning: I still basically have no idea what I’m doing, baking-wise. When I get it right, I only kind of know why. Same with when it’s wrong. But it’s fun! So maybe look at this as more of a ‘what she’s doing’ than a ‘how-to’.

I started out two weeks ago with a cinnamon roll recipe I found online. Having no concept of what a ‘good’ cinnamon roll recipe consisted of I took a shot in the dark. I figured if it sucked I’d do something different, with a different recipe, the next time.

Well, they didn’t suck, but they weren’t perfect.

Comments I got:

    1. Too small.
    2. Not very sweet (this was a good thing!)
    3. Good flavor.
    4. Too dry.
    5. Too hard.

So, this recipe wasn’t all bad. In fact, the only real complaint I had was that the dough didn’t rise as advertised and thus the rolls were not fluffy and soft, but dry and kind of hard (although somehow not particularly crumbly). I can consistently get my challah bread dough to rise like crazy, so I don’t know what went wrong with this attempt. Maybe it was me; maybe it was the recipe; maybe both!

Today I set out on Cinnamon Rolls #2. I used a recipe from my favorite cookbook, Georgia Entertains, by Margaret Wayt DeBolt, for “Bartow Pecan Rolls.” I omitted the pecans, so see my various comments about the effect this had.

supposedly makes about 20 (mine made 24 rolls)


1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mlk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sifted flour, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided – 1 stick soft, 1/2 stick melted
1 cup chopped pecans

First I mixed the yeast and water in a medium-sized bowl. I used a small whisk at this stage to get things blended. Then I added the salt, cinnamon, milk, egg, and 1/4 cup sugar, whisking between each addition. I do like whisking! Whisk, whisk.

Then I added the flour. Flour is always a tricky subject for me. How much to add? How much of the amount called for in the recipe is flexible? (the add-as-needed part). Well, this recipe called for using 2 cups of the 2 1/2 cups of flour and then it completely ignored the remaining 1/2 cup, so I used it as the dough needed. This means I added the 2 cups and the dough was still completely sticky and gooey, so I added little by little the 1/2 cup, and perhaps a tiny bit more, until the dough was almost sticking to my hands, but not quite.

Ok, so this isn’t a recipe where you knead the dough a whole bunch. I didn’t realize that when I started the recipe. It’s more of a folding than a kneading. Pastry versus bread?

I used my rolling pin on my kitchen table to roll out the dough until it was about 15″ by 12″, or about 1/4 inch thick. I had to use a bit of flour to keep it from sticking to the table. I put the dough in landscape orientation on the table. At this point I got the soft butter.

I divided the dough into imaginary thirds, longwise. With a butter knife, I put 4 dabs of butter, about 1 Tbsp each, along the middle third of the dough, then folded the bottom third up over the middle third. I then put 4 more Tbsp along the middle part (which was now the bottom part), and folded the top part down over. It looked like a pain to roll out while still so long, so I folded the left and right sides in over the middle, making a neat little rectangular package of dough and butter. Mmmmm drool.

Now came the tricky part of rolling out the dough again. I had little pockets of butter that wanted to escape. What worked for me turned out to be to roll gently enough that the dough stretched and the butter was worked in. It still burst out here and there but I used flour to keep it from sticking. I added butter and folded and rolled it out two more times (three total). The dough was now very butterlicious.

rolled out with butter

dough rolled out spread with melted butter

I used a little brush to spread the melted butter over the entire surface of the dough. I had some butter left over. I ate it on toast. At this point, if I were using pecans in the recipe, I should have mixed them with the remaining sugar in preparation. I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

I spread the sugar mixture (for me, just sugar) over the buttered dough, pressing so it stuck to the butter. Then I cut the dough across the middle longwise, giving me two strips that were about 6″ by 15″. Now for rolling it up!

two long skinny rolls

long skinny rolls

I started at the bottom of the bottom strip, rolling up as tightly as possible, and repeated for the second strip. I now had two rolls! I followed the recipe and cut the rolls into 1 1/2″ pieces and put them cut-side down in a shallow pan. They probably could have been a little taller. I pinched the end of each roll to its side so it wouldn’t unroll in the pan, which worked pretty well as the dough was so buttery.

pinched roll in hand

pinch the little rolls

I covered the pan with cling-wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. At this point, in addition to wishing the rolls were taller, I was wishing I’d put something — e.g. pecans — in with the sugar so the rolls would be a bit bigger and fatter. Bigger, fatter, and longer.

ready to rise first time

ready to rise

At the end of the 30 minutes, I took the pan out of the fridge and let it rest for 5 minutes. The recipe told me to spread the remaining sugar on my work surface, but I thought about cleaning up all the spilled sugar that would entail and put it in a pie plate instead. It was pretty easy to roll the rolls around and coat them with sugar.

sugared rolls back in pan

sugaring the rolls

I had a lot of sugar left. Yes, I totally put it back in the bag of sugar. Perfectly good!

rolls ready to rise second time

lots of sugar left over

I do not currently own a cookie sheet so I continued to use the same pan and put the rolls back in the pan to rise for the second time, this time in the oven, covered, with the oven off, for 45 minutes.

When the rolls were done with the second rise, I preheated the oven for 375°F, and baked for about 20 minutes, until the tops were golden brown.

deliciously done


The recipe is credited to Mrs. James H. Lynch, Jr. Well, Mrs. James, I salute you. They are still not as big as I wanted (probably entirely due to my not including pecans, which would have bulked them up), but they are soft and fluffy, and have nice layers from all the dough-folding. They are perhaps a bit sweeter than I prefer, but they are delicious.

For next time: try adding nuts or dates to the sugar mixture, and try cutting at 2 – 2.5 inches height so the rolls are overall bigger. Happy baking!

One Response Post a comment
  1. Alice permalink*
    February 1, 2012

    I wish I could have tried Version 2.0! I’m looking forward to the endpoint of this experiment. Remember watching at Cinnabon in the mall? So much butter…

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