Picking apart fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls on a cold Saturday morning is pure, sticky joy. A joy that is far too often, and perhaps unknowingly, stifled by the use of overly sweet, vacuum-sealed variations. But when you roll them by hand? That, friends, will redefine your definition of bliss.
To help set the intimidation factor aside (we get it, it’s bread, and bread can be scary), Jane Hornby, author of the newly released What to Bake & How to Bake It, walks us through her delectable Maple-Pecan Cinnamon Rolls. The rolls appear in her new book along with 49 additional recipes that leave nothing to chance thanks to extremely detailed visual step-by-steps.
Maple-Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Richly spiced and nutty, this version of my favorite sticky cinnamon rolls is just the right side of sweet, thanks to a layer of cream cheese hidden inside. The cardamom will bring the wonderful scent of Scandinavian baking to your kitchen. —Jane Hornby
For the dough:
- ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, plus extra for greasing
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 eggs
- 3½ cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
- 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- ¼ cup sugar, preferably superfine
- 1 teaspoon salt
For filling and to finish:
- 1½ cups pecans
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1–2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to your taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 9oz full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1. Melt the butter in a small pan, then using a fork, beat in the milk, followed by the eggs. Sift all the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the center.
2. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then mix with a wooden spoon to make a rough and fairly sticky dough. Leave for 5 minutes.
3. Dust the work surface with flour, then turn the dough out onto it. Start kneading, flouring the dough and your hands if you need to, but avoid adding too much. If the dough sticks a lot, scrape away any bits with a knife, wash and dry your hands and start again, dusting the work surface, the dough and your hands with more flour. After 5–10 minutes, when the dough feels very smooth and springy, put it in an oiled food storage bag or bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
4. Make the filling while you wait. Finely chop the pecans (use a food processor if you have one). Bash the cardamom pods to release their seeds, discard the husks, then grind the seeds finely with a mortar and pestle. Mix the nuts, spices, sugar, and ¼ cup maple syrup.
5. Flour the work surface again, then turn the risen dough out onto it. Sprinkle with a little flour, then press it out to a rectangle, about 10 x 12 inches. Spread the cream cheese all over it, going right to the edges. Scatter with the pecan mixture, then roll into a tight sausage, starting from a long edge for 12 rolls, or a short edge for 8 rolls. If it looks a bit uneven, pat the dough to straighten things up.
6. Cut the sausage into 8 or 12 slices with a large non-serrated knife dusted with flour (the flour helps stop the dough sticking).
7. Generously grease a 9-inch round springform cake pan or a 9 x 13- inch baking pan with butter, then tuck the slices into it. Keep the seam of each spiral facing inwards. If the spirals have squashed a bit during slicing, pat them into shape before they go into the pan.
8. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap or a food storage bag, then let proof in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until risen. Poke the dough lightly; once ready, it will not spring back. Preheat the oven to 400F.
9. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and bake for another 20–25 minutes (depending on the size of your rolls), or until they have risen, are golden all over, and cooked right through. If you’re unsure, carefully turn the rolls upside down out of their pan and tap sharply in the middle of the dough. It should give a hollow sound, and also be a good golden brown color.
10. Brush the rolls with more maple syrup and enjoy the same day.
Hot Cross Buns or Teacakes
Add 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice to the flour and use scant ½ cup sugar. Knead in 1 cup dried fruit at the end of step 3 and let rise. Omit the filling. Shape into 12 balls, let proof, then slash each roll with a cross shape, brush with beaten egg, and bake. Brush with a little corn or golden syrup once out of the oven. Serve split, toasted, and buttered.