My husband was badgering me to make cinnamon rolls and actually, that sounded like a pretty good idea. But I have tried recipes that did not turn out well before, so I was reluctant to put the time and effort in for nothing. Finally I put my trust in Jane and Michael Stern’s Coast-to-Coast Cookbook: Real American Food and tried Mary’s Cafe Cinnamon Rolls recipe (Mary’s Cafe in Casey, Iowa). They were sublime. I substituted butter for lard, but otherwise I pretty much followed the recipe.
MARY’S CAFE CINNAMON ROLLS
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Scald the milk with the butter, salt, and sugar. (That means heat them together until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Stir occasionally so the sugar dissolves and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. ) Let cool to tepid, then mix in the egg and vanilla.
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1/4 cup 110-degree water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Proof the yeast in the water and sugar.
Measure three cups flour into a bowl. (I used half unbleached and half whole wheat, but use all unbleached if you like.) Pour in the yeast mixture, then the milk mixture, and stir to form a soft, sticky dough.
Scrape dough out onto a floured board and knead about ten minutes, adding flour as necessary. A dough scraper could be helpful here.
Wash the bowl, dry it, and oil it with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil all over the inside. Plop the kneaded dough into the bowl, turn it over so it is coated with oil, and cover with a double layer of plastic wrap.
Put the bowl in a warm-not-hot place for about an hour. It should be doubled.
Punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured board. Roll it into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. If it looks more like a map of Minnesota than a rectangle, that’s okay. Do the best you can.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter and distribute over the rectangle. Then sprinkle with 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cinnamon rolls) and about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon. If you like raisins, nuts, dates, etc., feel free to add them before rolling the dough up.
Now, starting from the side away from you, roll up the dough. You will need to work on one place, then another, rather than try to roll the whole thing up like a rug.
Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half, then each half in half, and those halves in half again until you have cinnamon rolls.
You can oil a cookie sheet, though I like to line the sheet with parchment paper (cleanup is easier). Carefully transfer the rolls to the cookie sheet.
At this point you can cover them with a towel and let rise, or you can cover them with plastic wrap and a towel, and put them in the refrigerator to bake later. If you put them in the fridge, take them out about two hours before you want to bake them. Let them rise until puffy.
Preheat oven to 325. Bake rolls about 20 to 25 minutes. Check the bottoms to make sure they don’t burn.
Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 3 to 4 tablespoons milk to make a frosting.(It may look hopeless at first, but trust me, this will all work out – just keep mixing.) Frost rolls while they are still warm.
Remove from cookie sheet. Eat right away or let cool and freeze.