Finding the perfect dough for cinnamon rolls, or any rolls, is hard. You want gooey, but you also want fluffy and it feels impossible to get both. After experimenting and trying different tips and tricks, I think I have found the balance that I'm looking for in a roll. Soft and gooey, but also light and airy. The secret is in the warm cream poured over the rolls just before baking. You don't absolutely HAVE to do it, but I think it keeps them moist and soft.
When I came up with these, summer was just fading into fall. I wanted something fresh in flavour, but amped up a little. I started knowing that I wanted citrusy notes and thought the sharp ginger would compliment the citrus well. A hint of cardamom and vanilla bring some depth and warmth to the rolls and topping them with the gooey, vanilla cream cheese frosting is, literally, the icing on the cake.
Personally, I always found yeast doughs a little intimidating. My mom never really made anything with yeast, though she is an AMAZING baker, so I guess I just was a bit hesitant to try it. But now I can tell you, it's really not that hard at all! You'll know if the yeast is working before you mix it into all your other ingredients so if it doesn't proof in the first step, scratch it and try again. The water may have been too hot, or not warm enough, or the yeast could be dead. Be sure you're baking with fresh yeast to avoid this. The water should be just above body temperature so just a bit warm on your finger, don't go for bath water temp, that'll be too hot. Once the yeast gets nice and foamy, you'll know you're on track! Just ensure that the butter, milk and cream aren't hotter than that water as you add them in the following steps so that it doesn't kill the yeast through the baking process.
These can also be made ahead, the night before or way ahead and frozen. See the notes below on how to do just that.
There's isn't many things more satisfying than getting your hands into a beautiful soft dough, kneading it and working it until it's just right. Then filling it with aromatic citrus ginger sugar and baking... filling the kitchen with the warm smell of fresh bread and lemony goodness.
Enjoy these rolls with a perfect cup of tea in the morning, afternoon or evening. Be sure to tag @crushfoodandwine if you give them a try!
Citrus Ginger Rolls with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 rolls
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast (one packet)
1/4 cup warm water (just above body temp)
1/3 cup white sugar + 1 teaspoon
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup 2% or whole milk, slightly warmed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream, slightly warmed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3-4 tablespoons mixed citrus zest (orange, lime + lemon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
Pinch of salt
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
In a glass measuring cup, add yeast and one teaspoon sugar to warm water and set aside to let yeast proof, approximately five to ten minutes.
In bowl of stand mixer or large bowl, add butter, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add two cups of flour, proofed yeast mixture and warmed milk. Mix while adding an additional cup to a cup and a half of flour, until the dough comes together. Switch out paddle for dough hook if you're using a stand up mixer and knead for 4-6 minutes. Otherwise, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead with your hands for 7-9 minutes. Note - I love doing this, despite the stand mixer. Get your hands in the dough and enjoy the process!
Turn oven onto low for just two minutes, just to warm the over very slightly and then turn off the oven (it can't be hot!). Place kneaded dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Place bowl in the warm oven and allow down to rise 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, combine sugar, citrus zest, grated ginger, cardamom and salt in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down to deflate the dough. Turn the dough out onto a freshly floured surface and roll into a 15" x 24" rectangle, the dough will be about a 1/4 inch thick but this doesn't have to be perfect.
Spread the softened butter gently across the entire dough rectangle. Sprinkle citrus + sugar filling mixture evenly across the buttered dough.
Roll the long end of the dough onto itself tightly and then cut the dough into 12 even rolls. Place rolls into a greased 9" x 13" pan. Cover again with the clean towel and place pan in the oven for the second rise. Again, they should double in size, about 45 minutes.
Once doubled in size, remove pan from the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour warmed cream over the rolls and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the rolls are beautifully golden brown.
Allow rolls to cool in the pan on a cooling rack at least one hour. Meanwhile, mix up the frosting. In a medium sized bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Sift in icing sugar to avoid lumps and mix until completely smooth. Mix in vanilla and lemon zest until combined.
Top the cooled citrus ginger rolls with the frosting and enjoy!
If you want to make these the night before and bake them the next morning, follow the steps until just before the second rise, cover them in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight. They will likely rise slowly overnight. If they do, set them on the counter for 30-40 minutes before baking, just to take the chill off, then add cream and bake. If they didn't rise, allow them to do so on the counter before baking.
You can also freeze the rolls at this step if you like. Place rolls on a sheet pan and freeze for 2 hours. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Allow rolls to thaw in the fridge overnight and allow them to complete their second rise on the counter just before baking, then bake as normal.
Be sure to tag @crushfoodandwine if you try this recipe!