I took a couple pans of cinnamon rolls up to the cabin over Memorial Day weekend. I figured that I’d try to contribute something to the vast array of food that follows Sue and the gaggle of women that come up every Mem. Day. When I took some to Jen’s superbowl shindig they got an astoundingly positive reception. I was going to try Peabody’s Honey Peanut Brittle cupcakes but decided to be cheap since I’m out of cake flour and have no clue where to buy creamed honey. That led me to one of the least expensive to make desserts that I could think of that still gets oohs and ahhs, Cinnamon Rolls. One thing that I’ve identified as the main issue with Cinnabon (the low bar that everyone seems to measure cinnamon rolls against) is that they use way too little sugar and way too much cinnamon in the filling. WAY TOO MUCH CINNAMON. It makes them harsh and dry inside. Then they use a frosting made mostly of sugar to make up for the shortcomings in their filling and it overpowers the flavor of the dough. Bad form, but since Americans don’t seems to make baked goods often enough for them to know the difference, those monstrosities pass as cinnamon rolls.
My mom got this cookbook somewhere around her high school years when the mother of a friend of hers died and they were getting rid of her stuff. They’re still friends. I’ve been enamored with it for as long as I can remember, and I basically forced her to give it to me when I moved out. It’s a first edition Betty Crocker cookbook published in 1961. In addition to a multitude of classic Americana recipes, it also has meal planning suggestions, diagrams teaching you how to cut onions, mushrooms, etc, and types of table services explained. It basically teaches you how to be the hostess with the mostest.
As this is my most commonly used recipe in the book, when I flip the book open, it automatically settles on the page with the Sweet Roll Dough. I make Betty’s basic sweet roll dough, but usually improvise with the filling. I find that just using butter, sugar, and cinnamon provides a fine filling, but it’s nothing special. The two times that I’ve gotten universally glowing reviews is when I’ve made a caramel of sorts. It’s very easy as well, don’t be concerned about the process, it’s not as scary as it sounds. I just get a few cups of brown sugar (I don’t measure) and a little water, just enough to dissolve the sugar and heat it up on medium heat until it hits about 230-240. It will hang for quite a while at 212-215 while the water is boiling off. It’ll stick at this temperature until all the water is gone, don’t turn the heat up at this point unless you want burned caramel. Be aware that any undissolved sugar crystals could cause your sugar mixture to turn into a rock once the water evaporates. I’ve had it happen multiple times. The best way to deal with this is to add a little more water, dissolve everything again, and simply swirl it in the pan, don’t use instruments if you can’t keep them free of crystals. My grandmother’s trick was to have a tall glass of hot water next to the stove that she stored her mixing spoon (I use a silicone spatula) and candy thermometer in which would dissolve anything that hung on. Anyway, once the mixture is bubbling and at the right temperature range, pull it off the heat, throw in a few pinches of salt (I use kosher because it’s easier to grab with my fingers), maybe a teaspoon or two of vanilal (it’ll make crazy hissing noises) and 1/3 of a cube (or so) of soft butter. Then I just pour it out onto the already rolled out dough, sprinkle with a little cinnamon, and roll it up.
This is the recipe exactly as it appears in the Betty Crocker cookbook (1961 version, they changed it in the 70s, god knows why). I’ll give you the “small recipe” which should be enough to fill a 9×13″ pan, I usually make the large recipe (just the small one doubled) and if I’m not feeding an army, freeze the rolls(before the final rise and baking) separately and pull them out periodically to impress people with a home baked dessert.
Sweet Roll Dough