Classic Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Homemade rolls are a welcome treat: Make a batch this weekend with our step-by-step instructions and save time with optional frozen bread dough. They’ll be delicious either way.
Classic Cinnamon Rolls

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

It’s hard to beat the deliciously comforting aroma of cinnamon. And the weekend is a perfect time to make a batch of rolls with this recipe by Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell (who created it for Real Food) that walks you through with step-by-step instructions. You can use her classic roll dough recipe or save time by starting with frozen dough.

These have the perfect combination of tender, buttery dough and brown sugar-cinnamon swirl plus a sweet vanilla glaze to top it off. You can bake them in a 9×13-inch baking dish for pull-apart rolls, or on a half sheet pan so they stay separate. And you can fill them with raisins, as Asbell did, or opt for your favorite nuts. Either way, she assures, the scent of these rolls as they come out of the oven will bring everyone to the kitchen.

Classic Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12

1 Classic Roll Dough (see recipe below)

For the Filling
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup raisins (or chopped walnuts or pecans)

For the Glaze Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons whole or 2% milk

  1. Make the dough using the Classic Roll Dough recipe (see recipe below) or, you can use prepared frozen dough (see Cook’s Note below).
  2. While the dough is rising, line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  3. Prepare the filling: Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt and stir to mix, then stir in the melted butter to make a thick paste. Reserve.
  4. After the dough has risen, prepare the rolls. On a floured counter, pat or roll the dough to make a 12×18-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving 1 inch bare on the edge across from you. Use your fingers to spread the paste evenly. Sprinkle evenly with raisins (or nuts).
  5. Roll up the dough, jellyroll style (see tips below), and pinch the seam to seal. Place seam side down and use a sharp serrated knife to cut in four even cylinders, then divide each into three slices, to make 12.
  6. Transfer to the prepared pan, spacing the rolls evenly. Cover the rolls with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until puffed. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a roll registers 190°F, or until the buns are golden around the edges. The rolls in the baking pan will take 5 minutes longer. Let cool.
  8. Make the glaze frosting: Combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and melted butter and stir, then drizzle in the milk, stirring to make a pourable glaze. Make sure the rolls are cool. If you glaze the rolls while warm, it will melt into the rolls, and if you wait until the rolls are completely cooled, you can drizzle it decoratively over the rolls. These will keep, tightly covered, for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Cook’s Note: For the dough, you could use 2 pounds frozen sweet dough, thawed. Follow package instructions to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed to roll out as in step 4.

Rolling cinnamon rolls jellyroll style

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Jellyroll Style Tips

To fill and roll your dough, shape the dough into a rectangle, then pat or roll to the dimensions in the recipe. The longer side should be parallel to the edge of the counter. Sprinkle or spread the filling over the dough as evenly as possible, leaving 1 inch of the edge of the dough farthest from you bare.

Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you over the filling, to form a cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, then place, seam side down, on the counter to cut into rolls. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut in the number of rolls directed in the recipe, holding the dough cylinder in place with your other hand.

Classic Roll Dough

Makes 12 Rolls

Use this basic dough to make the Classic Cinnamon Rolls.

5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced in pats
2 large eggs

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt and stir to mix. Insert dough hook if using the stand mixer.
  2. In a small pot, combine milk, water, and butter pats and place over medium heat. Stir, taking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer often, until butter is melted and mixture is 120-130°F.
  3. Turn the mixer on low and pour in the milk mixture, then add the eggs. Mix until combined, then knead for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap, and put in a warm spot to rise for 1½ hours or more until doubled in size.
  5. When the dough has doubled in size, punch down with your fist. Then, pull the sides into the center and gently press into a loose ball.
  6. Return to recipe instructions for Classic Cinnamon Rolls (step 4) and proceed.

Nutrition information Classic Cinnamon Rolls (per serving): Calories: 550, Fat: 19g (Sat: 11g), Cholesterol: 75mg, Sodium: 250mg, Carb: 89g, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 45g, Protein: 8g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.