This is something that I had never done, so I had to go on a search for the perfect recipe. I decided against anything using yeast because I didn't want to mess with that. I wanted something I could just mix up and roll out, and hopefully pop the rolls in the fridge until I was ready to bake them.
I finally decided on a recipe from Cooking Classy. The recipe is called "45 Minute Cinnamon Rolls (from Scratch)". She adapted her version from "Fastest Cinnamon Buns" (pg. 375-376 of The Quick Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated). And I adapted mine from hers.
2 1/2 - 3 c. flour
6 TBSP. sugar (this will be divided)
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. salt, divided
8 TBSP. salted butter, melted (this will be divided)
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed firmly
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
Cream Cheese Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a 9-inch cake or pie pan with 1 TBSP. melted butter, then set aside.
In mixing bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 c. flour, 2 TBSP. sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt, then set aside.
In another mixing bowl whisk together brown sugar, remaining 1/4 c. sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Add 1 TBSP. melted butter and blend mixture together with a fork until mixture is well blended, then set aside.
Add 2 TBSP. melted butter to buttermilk. (I found it best to have the buttermilk close to room temp, otherwise, the butter just hardens the minute it hits the cold milk!)
Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until all dry ingredients have been incorporated.
Dough will be very sticky, so sprinkle a little of the remaining 1/2 c. flour onto it (and your hands), then carefully turn it out onto a floured surface (I like to use a mat.). Sprinkle a little more flour and start gently kneading the dough. Add a little more flour as needed. **Do not add more flour than absolutely needed, and do not overwork the dough!**
Dough will still be sticky "inside", but the outer surface should be floured enough for you to handle. The original recipe just used the dough without adding any extra flour. I have no idea how she managed that, LOL! There is no way I could've handled my dough without adding extra flour.
With your hands, pat the dough into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle.
Brush top of dough with 2 TBSP. melted butter,
then sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture, coming within a 1/2 inch of the border on all sides. Press the brown sugar filling into the dough as firmly as you can without squishing the dough too much.
Starting on the long side, roll dough snugly and gently to opposite end. Pinch the end seam to seal. Warning: I found this to be a little more difficult than it sounds.
Roll the log seam side down and cut dough into 8-10 equal portions.
Place 1 roll in the center of the prepared baking dish, then place remaining 7 rolls around it. Brush tops of rolls with remaining 2 TBSP. butter.
Bake in preheated oven 20 - 25 minutes until edges are golden brown.
Ice with Cream Cheese Glaze, and serve warm.
Store in an airtight container and reheat in microwave if desired.
Here's the Cream Cheese Glaze recipe - I found the original recipe to be much thinner that we like, so I adjusted the amounts a little to make the glaze thicker. You can still drizzle it, but it's a little more like icing.
Cream Cheese Glaze
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 TBSP. salted butter, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1/8 - 1/4 c. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium speed, blend together cream cheese and butter until well combined and slightly fluffy.
Add vanilla, 1/8 c. milk (don't use more yet!), and 1 c. powdered sugar, and mix until smooth and creamy.
Add more of the milk if needed. Consistency should be thin enough to drizzle, but thick enough to stay where it is drizzled. If you accidentally make glaze too thin, just add a little more powdered sugar.
Store in an airtight container.
Oh my. These cinnamon rolls are serving up some serious cinnamon-sugar goodness. The bottoms have this slightly crunchy, sticky cinnamon-sugar heaven going on - the rolls are soft & airy - and the glaze is yummy perfection.
I will say that if these are the fast version, I hate to see how much work the "regular" version requires. I know it took more than 45 minutes to make these - it was worth it - but just be aware that it may take you longer than 45 minutes. It also uses a lot of dishes, so there's a fair amount of clean-up time, too.
I'm considering trying to cut some of the fat/calories by not using so much butter, substituting reduced-fat cream cheese, and maybe even swapping some of the sugar for baking Splenda.
Note: Because I had seen other recipes that said you could successfully refrigerate or freeze the dough, I refrigerated some of the unbaked rolls, then baked them the next day. They weren't nearly as good! The dough was a bit heavy & chewy - so with this recipe, I recommend making, baking, & serving the same day.