Homemade cinnamon rolls were not commonplace in our house growing up. Granted, we always had them on Christmas morning (a tradition carried over from several generations back), but throughout the year I don’t have many memories of having had them. When they were made, they were an extra special treat. The whole house would fill with the warm, comforting scent of cinnamon, yeast, and butter. My mother (or grandmother) would whip together a simple cream cheese glaze, and smother the rolls with the rich, cheesy, vanilla flavored frosting. I would practically make myself sick eating much more than my fair share. These days, when I do make cinnamon rolls, it still feels luxurious and special.
With half of a batch of my grandmother Browning’s roll dough left over, I decided what better way to use it than to make a batch of cinnamon rolls, just like my grandmother used to make (with maybe a few extra touches thrown in for fun). (Store bought pizza dough would make a perfect substitution. I would simply take it out of its package, knead in a half a stick of softened butter, and then let it proof once before proceeding.) I began by rolling the dough out into a rough rectangle on a lightly floured board. I then melted one stick of butter, to which I added about a half of a cup each of light brown, and white granulated sugar, about two tablespoons of cinnamon, the zest of one orange, and a pinch of salt. I spread the cinnamon mixture evenly onto the dough, leaving a one inch border along the top. I decided to sprinkle on a few raisins (though, to be honest, I do vacillate between loving and detesting raisins in cinnamon rolls… but today, it sounded like a good idea. If I were not allergic to them, I might also add toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts, which would add a delicious flavor and texture, but alas.) I then rolled up the dough, and pinched the seam between my fingers to crimp it closed. After slicing the log into about one and a half inch slices, I placed them two inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. I covered them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until they were almost doubled in size. They bake at 400º for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and set in the middle. While they were baking I softened one stick of butter and one 8 oz package of cream cheese in the microwave, and beat them together with approximately two cups of confectioners sugar, a splash of vanilla, the zest of two oranges, and a little squeeze of fresh orange juice. When the rolls are hot out of the oven, I spoon a generous amount of the glaze over each, and let it melt into the buttery layers of dough.
These rolls are light, feathery, sweet, cheesy, and comforting. The orange and cinnamon are a perfect pairing that make these decadent breakfast treats seem all the more special. Enjoy!