Twisty Cinnamon Rolls

close up of twisty cinnamon rolls in pan
So.  Ok.  Yeah.  This...this Twisty Cinnamon Rolls bake is unreal.  Un-freakin'-real, people.

Like right now you're thinking a. this is not real and b. there's not a single chance in hell I can copy that.  Both those are false.

Long have I been a'-search for The Perfect Cinnamon Roll and so many recipes, sigh, do not live up.  I'm such a snob.  But ask Mike too even, he's a bigger cinnamon roll snob than I.

It's like chasing that perfect yellow cake recipe; it's seemingly impossible to find.

Recently I a'-tumbled over this here recipe from Smitten Kitchen and holy bajeebus, I think my search might well be over.

view of baked twisty cinnamon rolls from above
Yeah, for real, this is real.  Seriously.
Here's the thing about this recipe...well, there are a lot of things about this recipe actually.  It solves many a dilemma.

One, it's a big ol' pan of 'em so you can most certainly feed a crowd.  Or, ahem, just two.  Or you.  No judgment. 

Two, Mike, heh, he's an odd duck -- if I make a pan of cinnamon rolls, ya know, the normal way where you roll individual buns, he'll cut into the pan like it's a cake, blatantly ignoring bun borders.  I know, I feel your anxiety peaking. 

So these Twisty Cinnamon Rolls are not exactly individual buns, rather, rows so it's intended to be sliced.  Anxiety released.

Three, this thing is freakin' gorgeous.  You do not have to be any kind of advanced baker to achieve this gorgeousness, I swear and promise.

view from side of slided roll
I mean.....come. on.
Ok, I don't know why I like to list things off.  I'll move along from the list format.

This recipe is a piece of cake (ahhh....haha, baking pun).  It's practically foolproof and I've simplified some steps even further.

The filling is adaptable and flexible too.  Bake this up as-written once first but after that feel free to add some nuts or nutmeg or other spices, or other things that interest you. 

Don't go hog wild though.  This well-tested and well-developed recipe is squarely on that razor fine line of perfection therefore a light breeze could send it haywire.

Speaking of well-tested, well-developed, this sure is without a doubt one recipe I wish I had figured out.  It's not often that sense washes over me, but this one is so that-good, I feel serious baker envy.

This bakes up so tender, so delicious, so exacting, so just everything right, and bonus, it lasts several days without drying out.  Personally, I think it's better the day after baking than the day-of.

There's an icing for this but, and this was a jaw dropper because Mike is extremely pro-icing, like don't ever leave it off, but he stated, with eye popping eyes of baking appreciation, that this does not need icing at all.  And he is absolutely right.  So in my personal opinion, skip the icing entirely.

You will have a very difficult time of not eating the entire pan in one sitting.

view of twisty cinnamon rolls in pan
I know, they hardly look real they're so....so everything.
What else can I tell you?  Hm.  Bake this.  Just bake it.  Bake it and see.

This does have an extended schedule to it so plan accordingly, but the time is mostly in rising/resting than hands on.

Get out the instant yeast, yeah, instant (I'm not an instant/rapid rise yeast person, more of an active dry but instant aids in the foolproof-y-ness here), toss it in your mixer* bowl with sugar and warm milk and then just keep going.

getting started with yeast, eggs, and butter
Add some eggs, toss in a bit of flour, give a mix around.

Add the rest of the flour, dash in the salt, and a stick of cubed cold butter...I mean, see?  See how simple this is?  Cold.  You don't even have to room temp the butter.
adding remaining ingredients into mixer bowl
A nice knead in the machine and let that carb-tastic pile rise baby rise.

mixed and kneaded dough in mixer bowl
After that first rise, time to chill.  You can chill it for an hour or if you want, chill it overnight or up to forty eight hours before baking.
dough before and after rise
Got this 8 cup Anchor Hocking measuring cup* to mix up that fresh homemade buttermilk in recently and man, whooo, why did I not buy it sooner.  Such a handy vessel.
Ok!  Time to roll!  Flour up your surface well as it's a sticky number, this dough.  Not unmanageable, but keep the flour flowing.
collage of rolling out the dough and rolling it up
Left, look at those air bubbles!  Top, that's half the dough (see explanation below), and then bottom, I am way jumping ahead of myself rolling up the roll. 
Now, if you've got the counter space, go for the full roll* out of twelve inches by thirty plus inches.  Eventually you're gonna stretch the roll out to thirty six.  A tape measure* or yard stick is going to be very helpful here so track one down.

But!  If you don't have that kind of real estate, no problem.  Slice the dough ball in half, roll each half to twelve by fifteen one at a time.  Problem solved.

Spread* on the melted butter, all of it, evenly over the whole thing, or in the half-sies case, two tablespoons per half.  Go all the way to the edges.  Yes, all the way.

brushing dough with butter and sprinkling filling
Butter to the edges, top, then add the filling.
Sprinkle the cinnamon dark brown sugar mix evenly over the whole thing or half per half and again, go all the way to the edges.

Now roll. 

Once you're rolled up, stretch the roll out to thirty six inches long, or in the half-sies case, eighteen per half.  Divide the big roll in half, then those halves in half so you have four pieces at nine inches long each.  In the case of the half rolls, cut each in half so again, you've got four pieces at nine inches long each.

stretching dough log and cutting in half
I'm a little over 18" here but that's ok.
On a baking sheet* that fits into your freezer (and check first, trust me), lay each roll out and freeze for fifteen minutes.

four dough logs on baking sheet
You can line the sheet with parchment paper* or wax paper if you'd like though I found it unnecessary.
Now, ok, the pretty part.  Grab a serrated knife* and slice one of the rolls down the middle the long way.  I like to spin one half around 180° so that once twisted, there's not one small end and one larger. 

Set the halves facing cut side up next to each other, hold the ends together with one hand then grab one and flop it over the other to start the twist.  The layers will try to unfurl and lazily protest but keep going, you can fix this later.  Now pull the underside piece up and over the first flop, then keep twisting to the end. 
cutting and twisting one dough log demonstration
Twist snugly but not too tight, and no need to twist the daylights out of it; a mere three or four twists is enough.

twisted log of dough with cut centers facing up
You'll need to do some tucking, some pinching, some forming, maybe some gentle encouragement, but it's not a big deal.

Ok, plop that twisted cinnamon roll length into a greased pan, finish the remainder, and give them a brief rest.

all four dough logs twisted and resting in baking pan
Because the cut ends are up, it'll be hard to truly tell if this is baked through by visuals alone.  You can, but it'll be more definitive with a thermometer* which are inexpensive enough these days, it's a must-buy.

freshly baked twisty cinnamon rolls in pan
#foodporn
Wow.  Just wow.

Wow. 

Ok, try to let that cool a bit and have at it.  Slice as desired. 

side view of sliced twisty cinnamon roll on a plate
I'm including the icing portion in the recipe, but again, you don't even remotely need it.

close up view of twisty cinnamon rolls in pan
So yeah.  Twisty Cinnamon Rolls.  It's absurdly good.  Like it should be illegal how good.  Best go bake it right now that good.  And I mean right now.  Go.  Bye!

Twisty Cinnamon Rolls

Twisty Cinnamon Rolls

Yield
12 servings
Prep time
30 Min
Cook time
35 Min
Inactive time
2 H & 30 M
Total time
3 H & 34 M
This Twisted Cinnamon Roll Bake is the absolute answer to every one of your cinnamon roll dreams, easy to bake, all in one pan.

Ingredients

Dough
  • 2 large eggs, room temp (or slightly cool is fine)
  • 1 cup (237 ml) milk, any type, slightly warmed
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g, 1 packet) instant/rapid rise yeast
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g) cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 g) kosher salt (2 teaspoons or 5 g if Diamond brand)
Filling
  • 3 tablespoons (43 grams) salted or unsalted butter, melted
  • Pinch or two of salt (if butter is unsalted)
  • 1 cup (190 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) ground cinnamon
Icing (optional)
  • 1 8-ounce (225 g) block cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (80 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 (15 to 30 ml) tablespoons milk or cream

Instructions

The dough
  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add the 2 large eggs and whisk lightly.  Next add the warmed milk, yeast, sugar, and 1 cup (120 g) of flour, stirring to slightly combine. 
  2. Add the cubed butter and the remainder of the flour.  Place the dough hook onto the mixer then switch it onto low speed.  With the mixer running, add in the salt.
  3. Let the mixer run for about 5 minutes to knead the dough and incorporate the butter.  The dough will be quite sticky.
  4. Lightly spray a bowl with cooking spray then add the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or close to doubled.  Most likely it will hit this point near 1 1/2 hours after which place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. The dough can be used after 1 hour or can stay in the refrigerator up to 2 days and can be used any point between.
The filling and assembly
  1. Melt the 3 tablespoons (43 g) of butter and set aside. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. 
  2. Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with cooking or baking spray or otherwise grease and set aside.  Set out a baking sheet that will fit inside the freezer.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pour out onto a well-floured surface.  If counter space is short, slice the dough ball in half otherwise keep the dough ball whole.
  4. Flour a rolling pin and while continuously adjusting flour to avoid sticking, roll the dough out to about 12"x30" (or 12"x15" if rolling in half pieces).  If the dough pulls back, let it rest for a few moments and try again.  Try to square the corners as best as possible.
  5. Brush the butter evenly edge to edge (or half of the butter on one half of the dough) and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly edge to edge atop (or half of the brown sugar mix on half of the dough).
  6. From the 30" edge (or the 15" edge), roll the dough into a giant log.  Shape the rolled log so it's generally even, stretch the log out to 36" (or 18" for a half), and square up the ends with your palms.
  7. Slice the 36" log in half then slice each half into halves (for the half piece, slice it in half).  You'll end up with four 9" long pieces.  Set the pieces on the baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  8. Begin preheating the oven to 375° F (190° C).
To shape and bake
  1. Take the baking sheet out of the freezer and place one 9" piece on the counter.  With a serrated knife, slice the log in half down the long way and let the halves fall to the sides, cut sides up.  Spin one half around 180° keeping the cut side up.
  2. To shape, with one hand, hold the two ends together and with the other hand, bring one half over the top of the other to begin the twist.  Pull the piece underneath up and around to continue twisting, and continue to twist for about 3-4 total or not too tight.  Tuck and shape as necessary then place in the greased baking dish with the cut ends facing up.
  3. Repeat with the remaining pieces then let the filled pan rest for 15 minutes.
  4. To bake, set the pan in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  The logs will have risen, look golden brown, and will reach an internal temperature of 190° F (88° C).
  5. Remove the pain from the oven and let cool before serving.  To serve, slice as desired.
The icing (optional)
  1. Combine all of the icing ingredients in a food processor or whisk together by hand.  It will be thick so add more milk to reach a thinner consistency as desired. 
  2. Serve on the side for dipping.

Notes:

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Nutrition Facts

Calories

215.94

Fat (grams)

11.61

Sat. Fat (grams)

6.97

Carbs (grams)

26.75

Fiber (grams)

0.09

Net carbs

26.66

Sugar (grams)

25.14

Protein (grams)

2.29

Sodium (milligrams)

216.81

Cholesterol (grams)

60.92

Please see the "info" section for nutrition details and information about gram weights.

cinnamon roll, sweet roll
recipes
American


*The stand mixers, 8 cup glass measuring cup, rolling pins, tape measures, pastry brushes, baking sheets, parchment paper, serrated knives, and thermometers are Amazon affiliate links.  Happy baking, thanks!  Please see the "info" tab for more, well, info.

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