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Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

I made two batches of these overnight cinnamon rolls for my colleagues at work the other day and was impressed with how quickly the rolls disappeared.  Several of my coworkers mentioned that they'd always wanted to make cinnamon rolls but thought it would be too hard.  It did take me a while to learn the secrets of making really good cinnamon rolls; however, once I finally understood a few of the most critical steps, it's really not as hard as it seems -- and choosing to do overnight cinnamon rolls ensures that these buns are ready in the morning when you want them.  The three most important tips I've learned for buns that rise nicely and are not dry when baked are:

  • Don't add too much flour to the dough when mixing. The dough should have a soft elasticity toward the end of kneading. If the dough seems super thick and firm, there's too much flour. I've actually added a tiny bit more water or shortening when this has happened and the rolls still came out fine.  So, start with the lesser amount of flour and only add more if the dough appears gooey/sticky.
  • Use a stand mixer to knead the dough. I absolutely love my Kitchenaid for easy kneading!
  • Place the dough in a warm place to rise and give it enough time to double.  I've had to let it rise longer when my house was too cold.  My new oven has a "proofing" setting that is perfect for rising dough, but in the past I used to turn the oven on for 15 minutes at 170 degrees F, and then turned the oven off and put the bowl of dough in the slightly warm oven (with tightly fitted foil over the top of the bowl to retain its moisture).

Just thinking about these rolls is making my tummy rumble.  Mmmm...I may just have to go make a batch after I post this.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Dough Ingredients
1/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (I use the microwave to scald it)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening
3 1/2 cups flour (a little more can be added if, after mixing well, dough is gooey/sticky)

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add 1/4 tsp. sugar to get the yeast to activate better.  Set the bowl aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast is nice and foamy.

Place lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening, yeast mixture, and half the flour into the stand mixer bowl and stir to combine, scraping the sides well with a rubber spatula.  Using the stand mixer's dough hook, begin with the slowest setting and increase speed slowly.  Allow the stand mixer to knead for 3-4 minutes, until the dough has a very smooth and puffy texture and nice elasticity.  (A little more flour can be added if the dough is too gooey; be sure to mix for several minutes more if you had to add flour.)

Place the dough into a bowl that has been fully greased with shortening.  Tightly fit foil over the top of the bowl and place in a warm spot for 90 minutes, or until dough rises to double in size.

Punch down dough and then roll it into a large rectangle about 9x13 inches in size. I don't use flour to roll it out - it doesn't seem to stick on the bottom.  Using your hands, spread 2 tablespoons of softened (not melted) butter over the surface.

Mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Sprinkle the mixture over the dough.

Carefully roll the dough up from the wide side.  Once rolled, use a sharp knife to slice the roll in half.  Slice each half into 6 equal pieces, ending with a total of 12 rolls.

Spray canola oil cooking spray into a regular sized 12-cup muffin tin, and then place the rolls into the tin.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

The next morning, take the muffin tin out and allow the dough to rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and then bake the rolls for about 20 minutes.  When done, cool for about 2 minutes before carefully lifting each roll out onto a cooling rack or plate. (I lift them out using 2 forks.)  Frost with icing while the rolls are still warm. To make icing, mix about 3 cups of confectioners' sugar into a bowl with a little bit of cream (about 2 tsp.).  Start with a very small amount of cream and slowly add a tiny bit more until you reach the thickness you like. Enjoy!