Fun fact: I have four brothers. Sometimes when I’m getting to know people I’ll mention this, and they’re like “Oh my gosh, four brothers, that’s so many siblings, crazy crazy crazy.” And I’ll be like, “I know!” And so sometimes I don’t tell them I also have four sisters. One of my friends didn’t find that out for months after first meeting me. Whoops, sorry.
So, I’m the oldest, and I was 15 when the youngest was born. A 15-year span is rather long. Family traditions that were totally followed and amazing when I was a kid are not things that my youngest siblings have grown up with, and vice versa. Sometimes I’ll wax nostalgic about a fond childhood memory, and some of the “little kids” have no idea what I’m talking about.
A few things have stuck around, which makes me very happy. One that’s been a tradition since I was a kid is having cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Sometimes they’ve been from a can (so fun to pop!) and sometimes they’re homemade. That tradition inspired me to make this bread.
It’s not as gooey as a normal cinnamon roll, but the bread is very soft and delicate, and it does fall apart a bit around the filling. It tastes amazing, like a cinnamon roll machine started up in your mouth, and it is a little tidier to eat than a sticky bun.
It can be made the night before, right up to the second rise, and then put in the fridge overnight. The directions for overnight are included below.
Cinnamon Roll Bread
dough adapted from Overnight Rolls, Joy of Cooking, p. 612
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
2 tablespoons warm water (105˚ to 115˚; warm tap water)*
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
5 cups all-purpose flour
* If the water or milk mix is too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread will not rise.
In a small pan, heat the milk and shortening together over low heat until the shortening melts. Remove from the heat and put in the fridge to cool slightly*.
In a large bowl, stir together the warm water, the yeast, and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Let this stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast is dissolved. (If the yeast does not make small bubbles and/or “puff” up, it is probably dead.)
Stir the milk mixture into the yeast. Stir in the additional 1/2 cup sugar, and the eggs, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamom. Gradually stir in the flour. Using your Hulk muscles or an electric mixer, beat the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough is very soft and sticky, so I recommend the beater blade instead of the dough hook.
Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray, or coat with oil. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl tightly. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume. This will take about an hour, but the increase in volume is more important than the time. If you have a very cold or drafty apartment, turn on your oven for one minute, then turn it off. Use this as a “proofing box” to rise your dough in. I use an 8-cup measuring cup for this step, which makes it really easy to see when the dough has doubled in volume.
Once the dough has doubled, follow the instructions below.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
In a small pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium-low heat while stirring. Once the butter has melted, let cook for two to three more minutes, until the sauce begin to thicken and the spoon can make tracks in the sauce that take a moment to fill in. Add the cinnamon and cook for 30 more seconds.
Flour well a clean counter or a board. Punch down the dough, turn it out of the bowl, and roll into a 9″ by 18″ rectangle. You’ll probably need extra flour to help roll, as the dough is rather sticky. Spread the sugar-butter mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2″ gap around the edges. Sprinkle the raisins evenly over the butter. Starting from one of the 9″ edges, roll the dough into a roll. To get started, fold the dough immediately over to make a little lip. Use a dough scraper or flat long knife to help the dough along if it sticks to the counter
Grease a 9″ x 5″ pan thoroughly. (Use a pan with a lip if you can, as the dough rises a lot and the lip will help prevent spillover.) Transfer the dough roll to the pan, making sure the top seam is tucked into the side of the pan. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let rise four about 45 minutes, or cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
Optional fancy-topping: Right before baking, spread 1 tablespoon very soft butter over the top of the dough. Mix 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together and sprinkle over the bread.
If baking the same day: Preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚. Bake the bread until golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before serving.
You can also use a thermometer stuck in the middle to see when the bread is done. Pull it out when it hits around 200˚/93˚. Just makes sure that the probe isn’t sitting in a raisin pocket.
If refrigerating overnight: In the morning, remove the pan from the fridge. Make your coffee, and preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚. Bake the bread until golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before serving.
Makes one 9 x 5 loaf.