Friday, July 10, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

July in America is all about patriotism, popsicles, and pastries. A difficult month for one trying to cut back on dessert-type-things. But wait! What if your stomach demands cinnamon rolls? What if your significant other does, too?

Sort-of-Diet Cinnamon Rolls to the rescue. Thank you, CooksIllustrated. These are somehow way healthier than regular cinnamon rolls, but... I don't know if I believe that. The only difference between these and their regular cinnamon rolls is half a stick of butter. When you need an emergency infusion of cinnamon rolls...

Photographs by Rebecca

Sort-of-Diet Cinnamon Rolls (Serves 9; each roll contains 280 calories)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) packed dark brown sugar (or 1/3 cup light brown sugar + 1 tbs molasses, if you have it)
1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, and more for dusting the work surface
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tbs cream cheese (or light cream cheese, if you must, but it's nasty stuff), AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! Otherwise, this won't mix later.
2 tbs buttermilk
3/4 cup (3 oz) confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and spray an 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray. This step is key! Preheating is important. Spray is important!

2. Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl. Use your hands if you need to! This is the best part of making cinnamon rolls. It looks like dirt!




3. Whisk together the 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and 2 tbs of the melted butter. Stir together the buttermilk and flour mixtures JUST until the liquid is absorbed - the dough will look shaggy.

4. Transfer the dough to a *lightly* floured work surface - I use waxed paper, because I don't trust my counters. Knead for 30 seconds. The dough should be smooth.

5. Now comes the tough part. You're going to pat this dough down, but you'll need to pry it up later, and the dough tends to stick. SO! What to do?

First, I get a new, cleaned work surface. That means a new piece of waxed or parchment paper - or, if using the counter, clean it. Then gently flour the surface again. LIGHTLY pat out the dough with your hands into a 12 by 9 inch rectangle. That's about an inch longer than a standard piece of paper. Gently is the key here; you have to peel this and roll it in a minute.

6. Sprinkle the dough rectangle evenly with the filling, leaving a half inch of plain dough on all sides. Gently press the filling into the dough.

7. Now, roll up the long side, carefully prying up the bottom with a spatula as you do so. Roll tightly. Go slowly, making sure not to tear your dough if you can help it.

You're going to end up with a long, thick cylinder of delicious dough. Try not to eat it yet. Roll it so the seam side is down.

8. Now, if you have plain, unwaxed floss, you can use that to cut this puppy. If not, use a sharp knife, and know that your rolls will inevitably be as squished as mine. Cut the dough log into thirds (I used a tape measure, because I'm a nerd), and then cut those thirds into thirds.

9. Arrange the rolls in the baking dish, 3 by 3. As you add them to the pan, gently press to slightly flatten and seal the rolls.

10. Cover the pan with foil, slide into the oven, and bake for 12 minutes. When you take it out, they'll look like so!

11. Take off the foil, slide them back into the oven, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. YUM.

12. This part will be tough. You want to get these onto a baking rack to let them cool, if you have one. Place the rack over a cookie sheet and spray the baking rack with cooking spray. Slide the rolls onto the rack and turn them over. Try not to eat them yet! They need to cool a few minutes before you can glaze them.


14. Whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk together in a small bowl until smooth. "Sift" the confectioner's sugar over the mixture - otherwise, you'll have lumps. I don't have a sifter. I had lumps. Really, who cares? It's still tasty.

Gently spoon the glaze over the slightly cooled rolls. Serve warm.

Robert's take: YUM. These are one of my favorite things ever. Ever-ever. Cinnamon rolls are the best, and these are tops. I know that the recipe implies that they're diet, but... they really aren't. They're just a little better than the alternative. I love them.

Rebecca's take: I agree. I'm really glad I demanded them - they were great to have around for a few days! Cinnamon rolls can cure nearly any problem. Oh, and sorry about the strange array of lighting in the pictures - it's very difficult to get a good shot in our poorly-lit kitchen, so I do what I can to improve the quality later...


  1. They look delicious! I'm saving the recipe and as soon as things cool down I'm making them... (three digit heat and no central air at home) :)

  2. oh my god... can you please send me some of these? i'd even eat the dough! my mouth is watering. you have such great recipes and photos!

  3. I think we should do some kind of local cinnamon roll giveaway the next time we make them. Nine is overwhelming!

  4. yum! Cinnamon Rolls are one of my fav things ever!!


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