Perhaps a warm, gooey cinnamon roll, caramelized on the bottom with a cream cheese frosting sliding down the sides, isn’t exactly what you want to see in January. Sorry. I shamelessly love rich breakfast treats. Pastries, danishes, doughnuts, etc. all are decadent ways to start the day. I don’t really make them often though. Usually the process eclipses the actual time of breakfast. Enter: quick versions of beloved classics.
I love a good complicated recipe, but sometimes I just want something speedy. Traditional cinnamon rolls are yeasted and delicious, but that same yeast makes them decidedly not quick. These rolls forego the yeast and instead use a unique dough. The dough is biscuity when baked but the method (add buttermilk and melted butter to dry ingredients) is more like quickbreads (e.g., muffins).The result? Sweetly spiced (cinnamon and cloves), buttery, tender cinnamon rolls. January indulgence.
These are fast cinnamon rolls, but I’m not promising “quick ‘n easy.” Delicious things are a labor of love. This is a mini labor of love; they do require a little (just a little!) bit of time, but they are totally worth it.
Devilish suggestion: brown butter it.
For the cinnamon rolls
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used Vietnamese cinnamon for a more cinnamon-y flavor)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
For the glaze
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
Make the rolls
1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush a round 9-inch nonstick cake pan with 1 tablespoon butter. If you want, spray a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with a fork or fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set the filling mixture aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk together the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons butter in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed (the dough will look shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy, about 30 seconds.
4. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the brown sugar filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Press the filling firmly into the dough. Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, gently loosen the dough from the work surface. Starting at a long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log seam-side down and cut it evenly into 8 pieces. (Cut the roll in half, then each cut each half in half, then cut each fourth in half to make eighths…if that makes any sense.) Turn the pieces over on their flat sides, and with your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place. Place 1 roll in the center of the prepared pan and then place the remaining 7 rolls around the perimeter of the pan. Brush the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
5. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use an offset metal spatula to loosen the rolls from the pan. Wearing oven mitts, place a large plate over the pan and invert the rolls onto the plate. Place the greased cooling rack over the plate and invert the rolls onto the rack. Cool about 5 minutes before glazing.
Make glaze and finish rolls
While the rolls are cooling, either line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) or reuse the cutting board used previously; set the rack with the rolls on the baking sheet or cutting board. Whisk the cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until thick and smooth (the mixture will look grainy at first). Add the powdered sugar and whisk until a smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon the glaze evenly over the rolls; serve immediately.