My parents grew up in a small town in rural Indiana in the 30’s and 40’s. When my father was stationed in California while in the Navy, he decided that he never wanted to go through another mid-western winter. So he packed up the family and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had a terrific childhood but the one thing we missed was having extended family around us. Our grandparents would each come out once a year, alternating between summer and Christmas vacations. I waited eagerly for their visits and only wish we had lived closer so we could have spent more time with them.
When my father’s parents would visit, my grandmother Mimi would let me help her cook, teaching me the way her mother had taught her. Mimi was a wonderful cook and baked everything from scratch. She taught me how to measure ingredients, beat everything by hand, knead dough, and how to time it so that all the parts of a dinner were ready at the same time. I helped her roll out noodles, debone cooked chicken, and make French fries. Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve standing by Mimi’s side, (on a stool when I was really little) helping her cook and bake. I can still feel her warm hands guiding mine as I learned to shape dough or cut out cookies. They were rough and calloused, but always gentle.
One of our family’s favorite treats was her cinnamon rolls. We begged for them! Sometimes she used the same dough and made cinnamon twists which were my favorites because I got to help her make them. I would braid the dough, dip them in melted butter and roll them in cinnamon sugar. When we were done I had butter up to my elbows, was covered with sugar and grinning from ear to ear! Today, if there is a cinnamon roll or twist for sale, that’s what I buy. Every time I eat one I think of Mimi and smile…
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you would like to turn these into sticky buns, mix 1-1/4 cup brown sugar with 1 stick of butter until smooth. Spread on bottom of buttered baking pan. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Top with rolled and sliced dough and bake as directed below. When the rolls are done set aside for 5 minutes and then, holding a platter over the top of the pan, carefully invert them onto the platter. Don’t wait too long or the sticky topping will set and you won’t be able to get them out of the pan!
This recipe is designed to be made with a heavy-duty stand mixer. If you don’t have one you can do the kneading by hand. Place dough on a well-floured surface. Sprinkle top with more flour. Using a rocking motion, with the heels of your hands in the middle of the dough, extend your arms and push the dough away from you. Fold it over onto itself (toward you), spin it a quarter turn and repeat. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and stretchy and it doesn’t stick to your hands. Add more flour as needed. Form into a smooth ball and continue as directed below.
- 4 oz butter (1 stick)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp dry yeast
- 1 cup water
- 3 eggs
- 5 to 6 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cinnamon (preferably Vietnamese or Korintje)
- 4 oz butter (1 stick)
- 5 oz butter (1-1/4 sticks)
- 16 oz (1 lb) mascarpone cheese
- 4 cups powdered sugar, or as needed
- 1 to 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Heat butter, milk, and sugar until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm (should feel slightly warmer than normal skin temperature.)
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Combine cooled butter, yeast, water, and eggs in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Slowly add the flour mixture to the liquids. Change from paddle to dough hook. Mix for 4 to 6 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and crawls up the hook. Place dough into a lightly buttered bowl, turning to butter all sides, cover with a towel, and place in a warm, draft free spot for the first rise.
- Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour. NOTE: This can vary widely depending on the strength/age of yeast and the temperature of the room. Judge this more on increase in volume rather than timing.
- While dough is rising, make filling. Combine sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and then cut the butter in until crumbly; set aside. Butter a baking sheet; set aside.
- Transfer risen dough to a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle about 12x9-inches for 3-inch rolls. Brush off any excess flour. Top with filling mixture, leaving a clean edge around the sides. Starting at the long edge, roll tightly into a log. Using a very sharp knife, trim off the ends and cut log into 12 equal pieces for large rolls, or 24 pieces for smaller portions. Place rolls cut-side up on prepared baking sheet with edges touching. Press the top of each roll down to flatten slightly and spread the tops to partially expose the filling. Cover and set rolls aside to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- When dough has risen, bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, spinning the pan halfway through.
- Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack. Cool slightly. Place the icing ingredients in a bowl. Cream until smooth. While the rolls are still warm, drizzle glaze over the top. Pull rolls apart and serve. If you have any icing left over, pass it at the table. Your guests may want to slather extra on their rolls!
- Yield: 12 to 24 pieces, depending on size of rolls
- VARIATION: To make Cinnamon Twists, after the first rise, divide plain dough into 12 portions. Divide each portion into thirds and roll each piece into a “rope” about the same length and diameter. Lay the 3 ropes side by side and pinch the tops together. Braid them together and pinch end. (To braid: place left piece over middle piece, so that the left piece is now in the middle. Then place the right piece over the middle piece. Repeat.) Coat each twist with melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place on buttered baking sheet, cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap, and let rise. Bake as directed above.
These look so tasty and the photos are beautiful!
Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook
Thanks Keren! This is the grandmother I was talking about in Portland!