Everyone thinks their mom is the best cook in the world, but in reality that title belongs to MY mom. ;-) I’ve shared several of her recipes on my blog over the past few years, and it is really rewarding when I hear from readers who end up loving her recipes as much as I do! My mom has been making many of the same recipes for as long as I can remember, and a few of them have become the stuff of family legend.
Related: My Mom’s Amazing Sour Cream Cookies
Take, for instance, my mom’s cinnamon rolls. Everyone in the family, Dad included, was over the moon every time Mom would make them for us. (It’s an old school recipe that takes a bit of time and effort, so she usually reserved them for special occasions.) But this once-in-a-while cinnamon roll schedule was simply not enough for my older brother Kevin. When we were teenagers, he had our mom teach him how to make cinnamon rolls so he could have them whenever he liked. (He was your typical teenage boy who had little interest in cooking or baking otherwise. These cinnamon rolls are just THAT good!)
Since my mom’s cinnamon rolls are tied to special occasions in my mind, I always crave them around the holidays. And cinnamon rolls do make a delicious Christmas morning treat! So today I thought I’d share them with you! But before we get to the recipe, I want to share a couple of tips to help you through the tricker parts of the cinnamon roll-making process.
2 Helpful Tips For Cinnamon Roll Success
Tip #1 – Use A Silpat
Putting the cinnamon filling on the dough is easy enough, but rolling the dough up can be tricky! So to make it easier, I roll my dough out on a silpat-type flexible baking mat. Then once I have the filling in place, I’m able to use the flexible mat to roll the whole thing evenly.
Just lift up one of the long sides of the baking mat and give the dough a little nudge until it starts to fold over on itself. Continue lifting and let the dough do the rest of the work. When you reach the other end, roll the whole “log” over a few more inches so the seam is underneath against the mat. You should end up with the perfectly shaped “log,” perfect for cutting.
Much easier than doing it a little at a time with just your hands! (Just make sure you have enough flour on your mat so the dough doesn’t stick while you’re rolling.)
Tip #2 – Use Dental Floss
Another tricky phase when making cinnamon rolls is cutting the rolled dough into individual pieces. Even the sharpest kitchen knife can end up smashing your roll instead of cutting it. The easiest way I know to cut cinnamon rolls is by using a piece of dental floss!
Take the two ends of floss and make like you are going to tie a knot and then in one fluid movement, pull the two ends of the floss tight. The floss slices through the roll all the way around with even pressure, so your pieces end up looking picture perfect. :-)
Okay, now that you know a few of the keys to success, let’s get to that recipe!
My Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 packages (4 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups milk
- 8 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp shortening
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
(Note: this dough recipe is what my Mom uses for homemade dinner rolls as well.)
- 1/2 – 1 cup melted butter
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
Step 1 – Make The Dough
The first step is to “bloom” or activate the yeast. Add the yeast to 1 cup of warm (not hot!) water, along with a pinch of sugar. Stir and set aside. Do this in a separate small bowl or measuring cup. That way if your yeast won’t cooperate, you can try again without starting a whole new dough.
While the yeast is doing its thing, use a small saucepan to scald the milk. You want to heat it until steam is rising from the surface, and you see small bubbles forming around the edge of the milk. Then remove the milk from heat. (Why scald the milk? Scalding kills some of the proteins in milk that can inhibit the rising process, so you’ll end up with cinnamon rolls that are extra light and fluffy.)
To your scalded milk, add the sugar, salt, and shortening. Stir well, and allow the mixture to cool off until it’s warm rather than hot. (If your milk mixture is too hot, you risk scrambling the eggs and killing the yeast in the next step. So be patient!)
When the milk mixture is cool enough, pour it into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture, then turn your mixer on low. Add the flour a little bit at a time to form your dough.
Step 2 – Let It Rise
Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set the bowl aside (preferably in a warm place) so the dough can rise. You want it to double in size, which usually takes around an hour and a half.
Step 3 – Assemble
Punch the dough down, remove it from the bowl, and divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a large rectangle. (There’s no need to knead, so dust your surface with just enough flour to ensure that nothing sticks.)
Brush the dough with half of the melted butter, then sprinkle on half of the brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins (if desired). Roll the dough lengthwise, then use a piece of dental floss to cut it into 2″ wide sections. Place your sliced rolls in a greased baking pan.
Repeat the process with the other half of your dough, adding the remaining butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.
Step 4 – Let It Rise (Again)
When your rolls are all formed and ready to go, set them in a warm place to rise a second time. You want the rolls to approximately double in size.
Step 5 – Bake
Then it’s time to bake! Bake the rolls at 350° for 20-30 minutes. The cinnamon rolls are done with the tops are golden brown and they’re cooked throughout. Remove your rolls from the oven and allow them to cool before frosting and serving.
Bonus Recipe: My Mom’s Cinnamon Roll Frosting
- 4 Tbsp butter, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Stir the ingredients to make the icing. (You may need to add a bit more milk or powdered sugar to reach your desired consistency.) Generously apply the finished frosting to your cinnamon rolls, and enjoy! :-)
Too Sweet For You? Here’s Something Savory
A warm pan of cinnamon rolls makes the perfect breakfast treat on Christmas morning! But if you prefer savory breakfasts to sweet ones (or if you’d like to offer both,) I’ve got you covered there, too! Here are a couple of savory breakfast options for your Christmas morning festivities. (I highly recommend the Breakfast Casserole! It’s so easy, and it’s a family favorite too.)