This is absolutely impossible. My oldest child turns 15 years old today. I am not old enough to be the mom of a fifteen-year-old, and he absolutely was not allowed to grow up so fast. He’s at least 5 inches taller than me, handsome as all get out, and really coming into his own as a man. Ben is creative and smart and he has overcome so much. I couldn’t be prouder of him. And if you know me, you know that I do holidays big. So, when I asked him what he wanted as a birthday treat for his seminary class, he said apple pie cinnamon rolls. Ask and ye shall receive.
Growing up, one of my favorite treats when I’d go to the mall was the Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. It was huge and it made my teeth hurt it was so sweet, but it was so worth it. And of course, the best part… that ooey-gooey center. I’d always order a little cup of extra frosting too. As an adult I moved around the country and couldn’t get to a Cinnabon very often. This is a good thing or I wouldn’t have weighed 280 pounds, I would have weighed 380 pounds.
But as a treat, my family would ask for a cinnamon roll, and I’m not going to make just any cinnamon roll. I had to make one that had all the best parts of a Cinnabon… and more. And so I set out on a mission to make the perfect cinnamon roll.
The Cinnamon Roll Dough
I have a few requirement when I eat cinnamon rolls. The first is the bread must be pillowy soft. Nothing hard or crunchy. That’s just not right. And while the flavor of the filling and the frosting stands out the most, you are mostly getting bread, so it has to be awesome.
The dough of a cinnamon roll is referred to as an enriched dough. It isn’t just typical flour, water, salt and yeast. Enriched doughs contain egg, sugar, oil and sometimes other enriching elements. Enriched doughs take longer to rise but have a different texture when baked. After much research and trial and error, I determined that the secret is to add Vanilla pudding to your dough, along with the butter, sugar, and eggs. It adds a silkiness to the dough and after the bread is baked, it remains fluffy and soft.
Cinnabon is famous for using Makara Cinnamon. This is a brand name for what is closest to Korintje cinnamon. Most of the cinnamon you get at your local megamart grocery store is cassia cinnamon, which in my opinion is not flavorful enough. Buy the good stuff in small amounts and use it quickly. Spices tend to lose their flavor after about 2 to 3 years. Recently I’ve actually come across a spice blend from Penzey’s spices called Apple Pie Spice. It has 2 very flavorful cinnamons and a few others. I used that today in my cinnamon rolls.
But, I didn’t want to just use cinnamon and spices. I wanted something that would add a bit of texture and a slightly different flavor. I chose apples. Cinnamon and apples and brown sugar (the other main ingredient in Cinnabon filling) goes so well together. So, I make a apple filling and using a light touch, add a little of that to the rolls as well.
I love Cinnabon frosting on hot freshly baked cinnamon rolls. This was my must have. After trying a lot of copycat recipes, I settled on a very heavy cream cheese frosting, but I add a zing of almond to make it more complex. And I always make more than I need. I like extra frosting on my Cinnabon after all.
Happy Birthday Ben
So, here it is 11:52 PM after a long work day and I’m waiting on the last batch of dough to rise so I can roll out the last batch of cinnamon rolls. They will rest, covered in the fridge overnight and bright and early in the morning, I”ll bake them off. I’m making 40 today. Well, really 60, cuz I made some for my husband to take to work, but 40 is my minimum. But this labor of love is something I’m so glad to do. Much like the labor of love that I did 15 years ago when Ben came into this world 6 weeks early. He was tiny, he had mild medical issues, but in a moment he filled my life with so much love and joy and happiness and it has never gone away.
And no matter how old you get, you will always be my baby. I love you so much.