Ah quarantine baking. Haven't you heard? It's all the rage. Beyond wanting to save a little money, looking for entertainment, wanting to have freshly baked goods, and enjoying small indulgences, baking can have some major mental health benefits. Baking can be a really relaxing way to work through your emotions. Plus it has the added benefit of letting you feel like you're in control of something - unless you're one of these 45 people who epically failed quarantine baking. Plus you'll get the added bonus of feeling productive! Boo yeah!
However, baking all the time can also make you gain weight, which brings on a whole other slew of issues. So, if like me you're hanging out in solitude, there is absolutely no need to make a normal sized batch of cinnamon buns - enter Small Batch Cinnamon Buns.
Don't let the cute name fool you, they are just as much time and energy for half the result, so map out your evening accordingly. It'll mean a few minutes of mixing, a few hours of waiting, followed by another few minutes of rolling and cutting, then finally you tuck those little babies in for a 12 hour slumber when you head to bed. Your future self will thank you when you wake up in the morning. Promise!
Tips - if you want to get your egg to room temp quickly, leave it in a cup of warm water for a few minutes. Dental floss is the best tool for cutting cinnamon buns. If you don't have a thermometer for the milk you'll have to guess, it's about half way to boiling. I didn't think mine was hot enough so I turned on a stove element and put my metal mixing bowl on top for a few seconds to get some heat into the milk and bowl so the yeast could have a cozy environment. I did this recipe by hand, if you want to use a stand mixer you can find instructions in the original recipe here.
Note that I left mine on the counter, wrapped up and unfrosted, for three days - they were still excellent after being warmed up in the microwave a little (15 seconds, then frost, then another 15 seconds).
Small Batch Cinnamon Rolls
For the cinnamon rolls:
1/2 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided use
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the frosting:
1 ounce of cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
splash of heavy cream
First, make the cinnamon roll dough: first, heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top to 110-degrees F.
Pour the milk into a large bowl, add 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar and all of the yeast. Stir to dissolve, and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, check to make sure the yeast is alive and foaming. If not, the yeast is dead or not properly activated and you'll have to start over - bummer! I know. This happened to me.
Next, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a small dish, and add it to the yeast mixture. Add the egg and mix to combine everything.
Finally, add the flour and salt and mix until a soft dough forms. It should take a 1-2 minutes. The dough will be soft, but it shouldn't be overly sticky when you pinch off a piece.
Flour a work surface, and dump the dough out onto it. Knead the dough with your hands for about 2 minutes until the dough comes together and feels supple and easy to work with.
Gather the dough into a ball, put back into the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles (about 2 hours). You can use the 'proof' setting on your oven, or on top of a radiator, near the stove, or in a barely warm oven. Again, I left mine on the stove, which i turned on for a few seconds every once in a while to make sure a little heat got to the bowl. The dough is done rising when you gently press it and it springs back.
Now it's time to roll out the dough. Punch the dough down and place it back on your floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 10x6" rectangle, using extra flour as you go to prevent sticking.
Take the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and soften it in the microwave so that you can easily spread it over the rectangle of dough.
Mix the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the dough.
Begin rolling the dough up starting with the longest side. Roll away from you for best results. Roll the dough tightly but do not squeeze.
Once the dough is rolled up, trim off the ends to expose the swirl.
Slice the dough into 8 equal pieces. You can use unflavored dental floss to make the cuts without smushing the dough, or just use a knife.
Line a 9" cake pan with parchment paper, and arrange the rolls in the pan. Cover it very tightly with plastic wrap--ensure the dough is not exposed to the fridge air or it will dry out and prevent rising. Place the pan in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
The next morning, remove the pan from the fridge and let the roll rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Once the rolls have puffed up and are just barely touching each other, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F.
While the oven preheats, make the cream cheese frosting: beat together all of the frosting ingredients, adding more cream to make it a smooth, spreadable consistency.
Bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the rolls start to turn golden brown.
Frost the rolls while they're still warm and serve.