Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls


Anyone living in the eastern half the U.S. knows it's been a tough start to the new year at school.  Personally, between four "cold days," holidays, other school events, and flu season I don't feel like I've seen much of my students.  On our last weather-related day off I finally felt pretty bored and frustrated with it all.  I was anxious that my students weren't gaining traction with their learning, which made me feel helpless because I'm sort of, like, responsible for that.  So, I had to take up some sort of extensive and time-consuming project to bide my time.  Last Tuesday I made a dozen chocolate cinnamon rolls.  Wednesday night they were gone.

I'm not a baker - I don't have the time or patience for that.  But, I am always up for a good challenge.  Turns out, there's nothing actually challenging about cinnamon rolls (but, they are time-consuming).  I always assumed any baked good that contained a layer of something between layers of pastry required lots of precision and technique, and I'm sure a flakier pastry certainly does.  These cinnamon rolls are a perfect way to show off something homemade without going to pastry school to pull it off.  How one would actually make these to serve fresh out of the oven in the morning is a complete mystery to me (as the process takes about 2 hours), but they were perfectly delicious reheated in the next day.  For a snow day, however, they make a perfectly good mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

While I decided to make mine chocolate cinnamon because why not, it would be easy to keep this a traditional cinnamon roll by leaving out the cocoa.  Or, you could easily add chopped nuts, a nut extract, or even dried fruit to the filling mixture to tailor the buns to your liking. 

Ingredients for dough (makes 12 rolls):
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs + 1 additional for wash
  • 4 cups flour
Ingredients for filling:
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
 Ingredients for Icing:
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
To make the dough, begin by melting the butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, milk, and salt together over low heat.  You'll need to let this cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the teaspoon of sugar, yeast, and warm water.  Let this sit at least 5 minutes to get frothy and activate the yeast.
Once the wet mixture is cool and the yeast has bloomed, mix the two together in a large bowl,  and whisk in the 2 eggs.  Add the flour slowly to make a sticky dough.  Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a damp towel, until it rises to twice its size (I waited approx. 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, you can prepare the filling by mixing the brown sugar, cocoa, and spices.  Melt the butter, but keep it aside.
Once risen, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 14x18 inches.  I did this on parchment paper 15" wide as an easy guide.  Brush the melted butter across the surface, leaving about an inch along the longer sides.  Sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture.
Roll the dough evenly to get a 14" long cylinder.  Tuck in the dough around both ends to make it easy to cut them off.  Once trimmed, cut the cylinder into 12 slices.
Tuck the slices into a lightly buttered or sprayed spring-form pan (or you can use a standard cake pan).  Cover again with a damp towel, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.  When ready, brush with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.
While warm, whisk the confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla to drizzle over the top. Serve immediately.


  1. I should not have clicked on your blog before lunchtime. I am officially starving and all I want are these cinnamon rolls.

    Oh an I wanted to say thank you for the link love- it brought me to your beautiful site and I am so happy to have found it! I always love meeting other foodie travelers :)

    1. ha! sorry to have put you in starvation mode!
      love the new look you've got going on over there at half full. i've been toying around with ideas for scones lately, and your latest post is very motivating!

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