This morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m. thinking about my grandma's wonderful cinnamon rolls--big, soft, yeasty pillows of goodness, not too sweet! So, I got up and made some. I watched dawn approach as I worked in my warm, cozy kitchen. Outside, it was snowing--big, fat, wet flakes. I thought about how many times my grandma had done this very same thing.
My grandma was a lovely woman--soft and sweet like the cinnamon rolls she made! She always smelled of Ponds lotion, which she kept on the sill of her kitchen window. She was an expert at making things out of not much. And, isn't that the amazing thing about so much of women's work? She took a few scraps of material and made warm, colorful quilts with delicate hand stitches. She took a few seeds, some soil and water, and created a most beautiful garden. And, she took a few simple ingredients and made platters of food for her big family. The result always was Gestalt: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Making anything with yeast is easy work, but it takes time because the dough needs to rise. It was worth it this morning. My sleepy-head kids followed their noses into the kitchen, which was warm and cinnamon-y smelling--a lot like my memories of my grandma's kitchen.
Note: if you prefer to make these the night before, I've included overnight directions at the end of the recipe. This recipe makes a lot of rolls; I suppose you could cut it in half. But, since you are making them, why not make a full recipe and freeze half for later, if you like.
Grandma D's Cinnamon Rolls
Makes about 24
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup soft butter or shortening
7 to 7 1/2 cups flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter
Glaze (if desired):
2 cups powdered sugar for glaze
2-3 teaspoons milk for glaze
Pour lukewarm water into a bowl and sprinkle yeast over. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir well.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the milk just until lukewarm (it's like when you used to prepare bottles for your baby--test on your wrist--if you can't really feel the temperature of the milk, it's perfect!) Add the 1/2 cup sugar, salt and yeast mixture.
Beat the eggs and stir into the mixture, along with the 1/2 butter or shortening. Pour into a large bowl and begin adding flour. Stir flour in with spoon and then by hand as the mixture comes together. My grandma's recipe says: "For excellent eating and keeping quality, keep dough as soft as possible." Add just enough flour so that the dough can be handled without being sticky.
At this point, you can knead the dough by hand or with your mixer's dough attachment. Knead about 5 minutes. If you have aggressions to work out, I recommend the by-hand method :)
Cover bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm spot. (I have a microwave above my oven and a light below the microwave that illuminates the stove top. I turn the light on and place the dough inside the microwave. The light's warmth rises, making this a perfect spot for letting dough rise). Let dough rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Punch dough down and place on a well-floured counter. Roll the dough into an oblong shape--about 1/2 inch or so thick. The long side of the dough should be nearest you. Spread softened butter over and then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. I keep the cinnamon and sugar pretty light, but you can add as much as you want, depending on your sweet tooth.
Beginning with the longest side opposite you, tightly roll the dough toward you, creating a log. Cut the log in half. Then cut each log into 1 inch slices, making about 12 rolls per log.
Place 12 rolls in a greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Repeat with a second greased 13 x 9 pan and the second log.
Cover each pan with a dish towel and allow to rise another hour, or until rolls have doubled in size.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
If you like, prepare a quick glaze by pouring 2-3 teaspoons of milk into the powered sugar. Drizzle glaze while rolls are still warm.
Overnight directions: Place cut cinnamon rolls into pans, as instructed above. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight or up to 16 hours. In the morning, remove from fridge, remove plastic wrap, cover with dish towels and place in warm spot until doubled. Bake as above.