Cinnamon Rolls & a Fresh Start

Cinnamon Roll

I keep my instant yeast in the freezer. Probably because I’m afraid of it. Well, that’s a bit much. Let’s say I’m apprehensive when it comes to yeast. It’s true. I’m seeing a therapist about it.

Last night I realized it was time to bite the bullet, conquer my fears, throw caution to the wind…well, I think you get the picture. It was time for cinnamon rolls! But cinnamon rolls need yeast.

I approached the freezer slowly…

I’m not sure why I went with Alton Brown’s recipe for cinnamon rolls. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mr. Brown, but I’ve been eyeing The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for quite some time. It all happened so fast.

What I love about this recipe is that you can make the dough the night before. Come morning the rolls are all set. You let them rise for thirty minutes, pop them in the oven, then bango-fresh cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls on Plate

That’s not to say that I didn’t have, ahem, issues. Be sure to watch them closely. My rolls were done way before the 26min mark. Also, I think I may have added a little too much flour during the last step. And if the recipe tells you to use a 9 x 13 pan, just do it. I went rogue and used a 9 x 9. As a result, a few of my rolls tried to escape.

Cinnamon Rolls in Pan

All in all, the cinnamon rolls were a hit. After the shoot, the d-man inhaled two in record time. Yeast isn’t that scary, right? Maybe now I can quit therapy? Yeah…like that’ll ever happen.

Check out the d-man’s lighting technique after the recipe.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
  • Dough:
  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 2 ounces sugar, approximately ¼ cup
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2¼ teaspoons
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray
  • Filling:
  • 8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • ¾-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1½ tablespoons
  • Icing:
  • 2½ ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately ¼ cup
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 5½ ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1½ cups
  1. For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but ¾ cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2½ hours.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the ¾-ounce of melted butter, leaving ½-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a ¾-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1½-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.
  4. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan ⅔-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.
  7. While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.


Cinnamon Rolls Photo Notes

This may look like it was photographed with natural light, but it was shot in the studio.  I love the way food looks in natural window light, but pretty window light isn’t always easy to come by.  To simulate a window, I bounced a monolight into a white V-Flat and then put up a 4’x6′ light panel to further diffuse the light.  This created a very soft and even light that gracefully scraped across the top of the cinnamon rolls. To reduce contrast, I simply added a small white board on the opposite side of the light source to fill the shadows.


Behind the Scenes:

Cinnamon Rolls photo shoot

Tech Notes:

Lighting: White Lightning X1600 monolight bounced through Calumet light panel
Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Tripod: Manfrotto with trigger grip
Aperture: f/14
Shutter: 1/200

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  1. 2

    I just had a big dinner, but after seeing the above goodies that look like they just came out of the oven, I’m ready for breakfast, on second thought, two breakfasts.

  2. 4

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