It’s not Christmas for the “Stack Clan” without cinnamon rolls. There’s just something about cinnamon rolls like Grandma used to make.
Grandma H’s Cinnamon Rolls
This freshly homemade, doughy-goodness cinnamon roll recipe has been passed down for three generations. It began when Grandma H used to make them, then the torch passed to my mother-in-law, Sher, and now sister-in-law, Sus, has the roll-making role.
I learned about this treasured family tradition the first year I spent the holiday with my soon-to-be-in-laws. We always enjoy them when we go “home” to Minnesota. Of course, due to current circumstances – 2020, I’m looking at you – we weren’t able to make the trek to enjoy these rolls in person.
Making the Cinnamon Rolls
My husband had the fantastic idea that we would just make them ourselves this year. From scratch. From the family recipe. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. The good idea fairy bit him in the arse and told him he should make the rolls himself. In his defense, he made Monkey Bread for Thanksgiving – without any help from moi – and it was delicious!
He emailed his sister for the recipe and set about making plans to bake them on Christmas Eve. Just in case they didn’t turn out right, he would still have time to make my shortcut (read *inferior*) method of using Rhodes frozen bread dough in time for Christmas morning.
Let’s just fast forward to Christmas Eve day when we unexpectedly spent ALL.DAY. shopping for a “few” last-minute items and picking up orders at the Depots (Home and Office Depots, to be clear). When we finally arrived home around 4ish, he was quite concerned that he would not be able to accomplish the task before bedtime. Especially since he had NEVER baked cinnamon rolls from scratch. Ever.
Ladies, you see where this is going, right?
Well, I’m happy to report that we both survived the ordeal and had two pans of Grandma H’s cinnamon rolls to celebrate with on Christmas Day! Psst – I used this frosting recipe to top them!
Get out your Kitchen Aid mixers and let’s get started!
Grandma H’s Cinnamon Rolls
- Kitchen Aid mixer with dough attachment
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Sauce pan
- Non-metal mixing bowls (2)
- Rolling Pin
- Kitchen twine or dental floss
- Kitchen thermometer
- 2 pkg yeast (active dry or instant)
- 1 cup warm water 95–105°F/35–40°C
- 1 pt milk
- 3 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2/3 cup shortening (I used butter) melted
- 9-10 cups flour
- ground cinnamon
- brown sugar
- 2-3 Tbsp *butter, softened* *this is in addition to the 2/3 shortening or butter above
- Heat up 1 cup of water to 95–105°F/35–40°C in a saucepan. Pour the warmed water into a non-metal mixing bowl and add 1 tsp of sugar and 2 yeast packages. Set aside; let the yeast and sugar get warm and cozy for 5-10 minutes.
- Prepare your kneading surface. This is a good time to get that counter cleaned off and ready for dough making. Move the random toys and mail you have accumulated on your kitchen counter and sanitize it properly.
- Turn your favorite stove burner on low and use the saucepan to warm 1 pint of milk, the remaining sugar, 3 teaspoons salt, and 2/3 cup of butter to the same temp as the water, 95–105°F/35–40°C.
- Beat 2 eggs in a separate mixing bowl.
- Add the water/sugar/yeast mixture to the milk/sugar/salt/butter mixture in your stand mixer's bowl, along with the beaten eggs.
- Add 4 cups of flour and turn your mixer on the slowest speed to prevent the flour from covering you and the surrounding area in a layer of white powder. You can increase the speed slightly as the flour is incorporated, but MIX WELL before adding more flour.
- Once that first round of flour is incorporated, add 4 more cups of flour and continue mixing slowly at first until this round is also mixed well.
- At this point, you need to watch the dough. If the dough starts to leave the sides of the mixer bowl and sticks to the dough paddle/hook, you have added enough flour. If not, add 1/2 cup of flour at a time until it does.
- Once your dough is formed and doesn't stick to the inside of the bowl, sprinkle the remaining flour (or fresh flour if you had to use all 10 cups) onto that cleaned and prepared surface from Step 2. You did read that part about cleaning the countertop, RIGHT? Gingerly roll the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured countertop.
- Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, until it springs back when you poke it with 2 fingers. It's not a bear, so yes, go ahead and poke it.
- Cover the dough bowl with a towel and place it in a warm spot to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. If you have an overachieving oven that has a "Proof" setting, do not use the towel, but lucky you! You have a magical proof box. If you have a regular oven, you can visit this Taste of Home page to get alternate proof box ideas.
- Time to grease your baking pan! You will probably need a 9×13 PLUS an 8×8 – but you won't know for sure until it's time to put the rolls into the pans just how many you will need. So take this as fair warning that you need to grease two pans now to be prepared.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down while still in the bowl (really, the dough will not be offended, so punch away). Gently tumble the dough back onto the floured surface and knead once more.
- Flour your rolling pin and the top of the dough before rolling it into a large, flat, rectangularish shaped. It's cinnamon rolls, not brain surgery, it doesn't have to be perfect. Just eyeball it.
- Remember that *extra butter* I listed in the ingredients? Yeah, I'm going to need you to cut it into 1 Tbsp increments and lay them out on your rectangularish dough. Now rub that butter onto the dough gently, like sunscreen on a baby. Cover the whole surface in a layer of buttery goodness..
- Remember that vague amount of ground cinnamon and brown sugar? I wasn't trying to be cute – this is literally where every cinnamon roll recipe I've ever seen goes wrong. You have to EYEBALL IT to get the right amount for the size of your rectangularish shape dough. Sprinkle a layer of cinnamon over the butter, then scoop (a spoonful at a time) of brown sugar out of the bag and onto the dough. Rub that in just like you did the butter.
- You're going to want to wash the buttery cinnamon sugar mixture off your hands here before we proceed.
- Back to the dough – start at the edge of the dough closest to you and start rolling it. Once you've made a log out of the dough, get out your string of choice – kitchen twine or floss – and slide the string under the dough, lifting it up gently to keep from tearing the dough.
- Criss cross the string on the top side of the dough and pull in opposite directions to sever the first roll from the log. This is much more efficient than cutting the dough with a knife, and you will impress your kids with your ability to decapitate something with a single piece of string.
- Repeat the last step every 2 inches until you have reached the end of the dough log.
- Place all your rolls into the greased baking pans, making sure to give a little room around each roll. Put them back in your proof box of choice for another 20 minutes or so – just to give them a chance to puff up a bit before baking.
- If your oven was your proof box, you'll want to take the rolls OUT of the oven before you preheat it for baking. If your rolls are rising anywhere else, you pass Go and Collect $200. Just kidding! Preheat the oven to 375*.
- Bake until golden brown, which is anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Hey, elevation, outdoor temps, and each individual oven really make this hard to give an exact time. Part of baking cinnamon rolls is the experience. Start helicoptering the oven around the 20 minute mark, and watch them for desired doneness.
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What does your family make every year for Christmas? I want to hear all about your family’s kitchen traditions!
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