Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
If you have a big soft spot in your heart for ooey gooey breakfast pastries, then you will no doubt fall in love with these at first bite. And if you don’t have that big soft spot, take one bite of these and I guarantee you will be a convert. Cream cheese is rolled into the pastry dough (much like laminated dough) and creates a soft and flaky dough. That, combined with the incredible filling, makes for the most flavorful cinnamon rolls that I have ever tasted. While these require you to set aside some time and involve multiple steps, they are not difficult and without a doubt absolutely worth it. If you have overnight guests and they wake up to these fresh from the oven, you will score some serious points and may have to start turning house guests away. Everyone will want to stay over!
I saw these a couple of weeks ago and immediately couldn’t wait to make them. They sounded fabulous and looked even better. I have made cinnamon rolls before, but they were a pretty “standard” recipe. These rolls really caught my eye for two reasons: (1) there is cream cheese rolled right into the dough, and (2) the filling was much more complex and sounded infinitely more flavorful than the standard cinnamon and sugar filling. These are, hands down, the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had. They put the ultra-popular mall types to shame.
Need more evidence? My 89-year old grandma adores cinnamon rolls – they might be her most favorite thing in the world. Sadly, she doesn’t eat much anymore – she just really picks at her food when someone fixes her a plate. I went to visit her and brought these cinnamon rolls figuring she would enjoy them. She polished one off within 15 minutes. And these are HUGE. What more proof do you need that something is fabulous?
Notes on the recipe:
♦ Rolling the cream cheese into the dough is much like laminating pastry dough with butter, except that all of the refrigerating and re-rolling steps aren’t needed here. The result, however, is much the same – a light and flaky pastry dough that melts in your mouth.
♦ When rolling up the dough, try to keep it as tight as possible. I had some trouble doing this, and as you can tell, mine don’t “swirl” as much as I would have liked. Still tasted fabulous though, of course!
♦ Use the quantities for the icing as a guide – some people like it thinner, some thicker. And drizzle on as much as you want – again, totally up to you!
Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
- ½ teaspoons, plus ¼ cup sugar, divided
- ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the Filling
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ dark brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
For Laminating the Dough
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
For Brushing the Cinnamon Rolls
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Icing
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- To Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115°F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.
- Add the butter and continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. The dough still might be a little sticky, which is ok. Set the dough to rest in a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Make the Filling: While the dough rises, combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, salt and cloves in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.
- When the dough has doubled in size, dump it from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1 or 2 minutes. Once it’s no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out.
- Laminate the Dough: Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 x 10-inch square.
- In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it’s smooth and spreadable.
- Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square. Fold the square into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.
- Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll it into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. You may find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Be as gentle as possible with the dough, but continue to work it until you reach the size you need.
- Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you.
- Assemble the Cinnamon Rolls: Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter.
- Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch boarder at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough.
- Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.
- Cut the cylinder into 8 equal slices. Nestle the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a butter 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate rolls overnight.
- Bake the Cinnamon Rolls: Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Make the Icing: Whisk together the sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth, adding more sugar or milk to reach your desired consistency. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.