It was J's birthday this month, so instead of cake (or cupcakes), I followed his family's tradition and made cinnamon rolls from scratch.
From Betty Crocker's Cookbook
1/2 Sweet Roll Dough
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Sweet Roll Dough:
(I glanced at the instructions for the cinnamon rolls and actually used the whole amount for these. Oops? They still came out grandly.)
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 F)
1/2 cup lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening (or margarine or butter), softened
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 - 4 cups all-purpose flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, shortening, salt, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.)
Punch down dough. Shape, let rise, and bake as directed.
Do-ahead Tip: After kneading, dough can be covered and refrigerated in greased bowl no longer than 4 days.
The Cinnamon Roll Instructions:
Roll dough into rectangle, 15x9 inches, on lightly floured surface; brush with melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over rectangle. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices (The cookbook said 9, I got way more than that... probably because I didn't halve the dough like it said.) Place slightly apart in greased square pan, or in greased medium muffin cups. Let rise until double, about 40 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 F. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Spread rolls with Glaze while warm.
Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp. milk and 1/2 tsp. vanilla until glaze is smooth and of desired consistency.
On the dough:
I didn't have a thermometer, so I let the water cool until I stuck my finger in and the temperature felt just a little bit warmer than my mouth (since we humans all run at about 97 F anyway). I also probably put the milk in a little bit warm, but the dough still came out all right anyway. I had to put all 4 cups of flour in and then more as I was kneading it. I was indeed in a sticky situation with dough globs for hands until enough flour was added. I think this made the dough a little dense. I would have preferred for it to be a little more tender and flaky, but since this was the first time I have really done anything with a yeast dough, I wasn't too disappointed.
I made the dough two days ahead, and when I was ready, let the dough rise in a very cool oven, and that seemed to work well. I was worried it wouldn't rise.
On the cinnamon rolls:
I have a large square mat that is good for rolling out doughs as it is mostly non stick and has a grid on it for measurements. I have never been so thankful I had it until now.
I baked the rolls on a metal baking sheet, but J suggested baking them in a glass dish with all the rolls touching.
On the glaze:
It came out a bit thick with the given measurements, so J and I added more milk until it was the right consistency.
And one last note: These are definitely special day sort of baking. While it wasn't that hard, it took a lot of time and diligence, but it was worth it for a birthday, certainly. I'm taking this tradition and running with it. We'll see next year if they get any better.