Who can resist a soft, gooey cinnamon roll? And the better question is, do you really want to resist one? Cinnamon rolls are one of the most delicious breakfast options out there. They’re sweet, satisfying and very indulgent – not to mention fairly time consuming to make. They’re a great brunch item to make when you have some extra time on a weekend, but they’re not usually the top choice for an easy weekday indulgence. In the past, I’ve gotten around this by baking Cinnamon Bun Bread, a one-dish, no-rise yeast bread that comes out tasting just like cinnamon rolls even though they don’t look like them. With this recipe for Lighter Everyday Cinnamon Rolls, you will end up with light, soft, sweet cinnamon rolls in less than half the time of a traditional recipe – and you’ll still get those lovely, individual rolls.
This recipe comes from the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, the newest book from ATK. The book focuses on lighter, healthier versions of favorite dishes and they managed to lighten up cinnamon rolls, as well. These rolls don’t call for yeast. Instead they use a soft, biscuit-like dough as the base for the rolls. The dough is slightly sweet and flavored with melted butter and buttermilk. It contains some whole wheat flour to add fiber (I used white whole wheat and would recommend it, as it has a lighter flavor) and a slightly nutty, whole grain flavor. This soft dough is rolled around a filling of sugar, brown sugar and spices, then sliced into individual rolls and baked.
The baking is the ingenious part of this recipe. Most lower fat baked goods – especially things like cinnamon buns – dry out or get too hard when they’re baked. These rolls are baked covered with aluminum foil for the first half of the baking time. This actually steams the rolls and ensures that they will be soft and moist, though they will still rise up nicely. They are baked uncovered for the remaining baking time, which gives them plenty of time to come to a nice, golden brown color. The buns should be eaten while still warm, but they reheat very well in the microwave the next day (store in an airtight container or bag), so there is no pressure to eat the whole batch in one go. They’re just sweet enough with a great cinnamon flavor and a hint of whole wheat.
You end up with fluffy cinnamon rolls that have just 290 calories and 7 grams of fat each – which isn’t bad considering that each Cinnabon has about 730 calories and 24 grams of fat, and that these rolls come with the ability to infuse your kitchen with the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls on any given morning, even a weekday one, because these take less than an hour start-to-finish.
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (4 1/8 oz) whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled, divided
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 oz light cream cheese
1 tbsp buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
Prepare the filling. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all purpose flour, whole what flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Add in buttermilk and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter and mix until dough starts to come together into a shaggy ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes, until dough begins to look smooth and can be handled easily. This can also be done by kneading for about 1 minute with a paddle attachment or dough hook, and adding a tablespoon or two of flour to a mixer bowl.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and press or roll out into a 9×12-inch rectangle with the long side facing you. Take remaining tablespoon of melted butter and brush over dough rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with filling mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border around each edge.
Using a bench scraper to help you (or a large, flat spatula if you don’t have one), roll the dough up into a tight spiral. Pinch seam to seal.
Use a serrated knife to cut dough into 9 even pieces. Gently flatten each of the rolls before placing them in the prepared pan, to even them out if they were misshaped when sliced.
Cover pan with aluminum foil.
Bake for 12 minutes covered, then uncover the rolls and bake for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown.
Use the foil to life the rolls out of the baking pan and place them on a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk all glaze ingredients together with a hand mixer until very smooth. Drizzle over slightly cooled rolls and serve.
Store leftovers in an airtight container after they have completely cooled.
Makes 9 cinnamon rolls.