Everyone likes a good cinnamon roll. With their cinnamon sugar filling and creamy vanilla glaze, they make a good argument for having cake for breakfast. However, I’ve always taken for granted how they’re made. Baking them on my own taught me a few things: yeast is a tricky ingredient, this recipe requires some wait time and cinnamon rolls are absolutely irresistible served warm at any time of day. These cinnamon rolls are great to give to guests or to get yourself going on those cold Chicago winter mornings.

Advanced Course

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

Servings: 12


½ cup milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) dry active yeast
½ cup water that measures 110°F
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 ¼ – 3 ¾ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Milk for brushing
½ cup chopped nuts of choice (I used pecans)
1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.

2. Cool to about 110°F. A precise temperature is necessary for the yeast. I use a candy thermometer to measure liquid temperatures.

3. In  large bowl, pour in the 110°F water and sprinkle yeast on top.

4. Beat in sugar and eggs and mix at a low speed to blend.

5. Add salt, lukewarm milk mixture and 2 cups flour. Mix at medium speed for about 1 minute until thoroughly blended.

6. Switch to dough hook attachment. Add 1 ¼ cup flour, and knead at medium-low speed, adding more flour sparingly if dough sticks to the sides of the bowl. Mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of the bowl, for about 10 minutes.

7. Place dough onto work surface. Squeeze dough with a clean, dry hand. If dough is sticky, knead in up to ½ additional cup of flour to form a smooth, soft, elastic dough.

8. Transfer dough to a large, very lightly oiled plastic container or bowl. Cover top of container with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 2 to 2 ½ hours. (Ideal rising temperature is 75°F, so I warmed up an oven to 200°F, then turned it off and put the bowl of dough inside).

9. After rise, punch down center of dough once. Make sure not to fold or misshape dough. Turn it onto un-floured work surface; let dough rest about 10 minutes.


10. Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

11. Roll dough with rolling pin into an evenly shaped 12 x 16 in. rectangle. I used a plastic mat to make this job easier.

12. Brush dough liberally with milk and sprinkle with an even layer of cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving a ½ inch border along one of the long sides.

13. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the cinnamon mixture. Roll, beginning with the long side of the rectangle. Use both hands to pinch dough with fingertips as you go, sealing edges firmly to form a seal (do not seal ends).


Photo by Susanna Tuan

14. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half, cut each half in half again, and then cut each piece into 3 rolls for a total of 12 rolls. Space rolls evenly in greased baking pan, leaving some space between them.


Photo by Susanna Tuan

15. Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise until double in size (rolls will touch), about 1 hour. When rolls are almost fully risen, adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350°F.

16. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Make sure to check the rolls periodically so that they don’t brown.


Photo by Susanna Tuan

17. Whisk sugar, milk and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. When rolls have cooled to room temperature, drizzle icing over rolls. Enjoy!


Photo by Susanna Tuan