Yesterday, I promised to share this recipe with you, but I’ll be honest here. I wasn’t sure I SHOULD share this recipe. It is a very special recipe. It is the secret to my cinnamon roll success. These amazing cinnamon rolls make me very popular. I plan to barter these in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse. Cinnamon rolls for protection. I may not have an insane food supply, but you’d better believe that I have enough food stored to make millions of these babies! Yes. They’re that good. Even my husband, a cinnamon roll connoisseur, said last night, “These are really good. As good as Cinnabon, just not as chewy. And I like a chewy cinnamon roll.” Not me. I like enough chew that they feel substantial, but not so much that they feel tough. I want them to melt in my mouth. YUM!
How did I find this unbelievably awesome recipe? It goes way back, 30 years back to be precise. As a young 12-year old gal, I had an amazing youth leader, Heidi Gifford. She was (and is) beautiful, smart, crazy-fun, and just all around fantastic. She made the best cinnamon rolls. They were so good that she sold them. This was before the days of Cinnabon, so buying cinnamon rolls wasn’t a typical thing, well at least not fresh homemade cinnamon rolls rather than the ones from a Pillsbury can. She graciously shared this recipe with us and taught us exactly how to make them.
Fast forward several years, I was a young married gal and wanted to make cinnamon rolls. I pulled out the Betty Crocker cookbook and some. They were okay, but nothing to write home about. Over a couple of decades (that was scary to write!), I’d make them occasionally, but I longed for an awesome recipe. About a year or so ago, I asked my Facebook friends to share their favorite “to die for” cinnamon roll recipes. They were kind enough to do so, but the most promising one called for potato. Being the lazy gal I am, I just didn’t want to make potatoes to have cinnamon rolls.
Then, I remembered the family cookbook my sister gave as a gift a couple Christmases before. I wondered if the amazing “Heidi Gifford” cinnamon rolls were in there. They were! I was sure they weren’t as amazing as I remembered, but I didn’t have to make potatoes to have them, so I made a batch.
BOY OH BOY! They were AH-MAZ-ING! I hesitated to mess with the recipe, because it was so good, but, over time, I made a couple of small tweaks, just tiny adjustments for personal taste. I will share this with you, but I need you to take the cinnamon roll oath first. REALLY!
Put your hand in the air and repeat after me, “I promise that I will not use these cinnamon rolls to unduly influence people or to force them to serve or follow me. I will only use these cinnamon rolls to benefit society and humankind. I further promise to give all credit to Laurie for any and all kudos received.” (Okay, maybe Heidi deserves the credit. I guess you can substitute her name instead.)
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: the recipe. But I’m warning you. You will want to write this down or print it out in case of a real zombie apocalypse or blackout or Internet outage. If there is no electricity or Internet, you will seriously cry that you don’t have these cinnamon rolls to comfort you (or to distract the zombies with).
To Die For Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Gifford, youth leader extraordinaire.
2 cups scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco shortening, butter flavored
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons yeast
6 cups of flour (best with 3 cups bread flour, 3 cups all-purpose)
1 stick of salted butter, melted
Cinnamon, good quality
2/3 cup sugar
5-6 handfuls of brown sugar
1 stick of salted butter, softened
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
Proof yeast by adding a little of the sugar to the lukewarm water, then add the yeast and stir. Pour the remaining sugar into a mixing bowl along with the milk, shortening, and salt. Mix to combine, but don’t worry if it’s not mixed well. Add the eggs, 4 cups of flour, and the proofed yeast mixture to the bowl and mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix until well combined. Then cover with a dish towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until double (about an hour).
Dump dough onto a well floured surface (dough will be gooey), and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle. Brush off excess flour. Spread 1/2 of melted butter (or softened if you prefer) to cover the entire surface, all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with lots of cinnamon. (I use Saigon cinnamon.) Spread 2-3 handfuls of brown sugar and 1/3 cup sugar evenly across the dough. Roll up loosely and cut into 1-inch rounds. Place on a greased pan so they will touch once they rise and cook. (I prefer a pan with higher sides, but you can use a cookie sheet.) Repeat with the other half of the dough. Let rise until puffy (about 10-20 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-17 minutes or until golden brown.
While baking, make the frosting. Mix together softened butter and cream cheese until combined. Add powdered sugar and mix. The frosting will be thick. Add vanilla and about 1 tablespoon of milk and mix well. The frosting should be a little on the runny side. Add more milk, if necessary.
Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven when golden brown, and frost while still hot. Serve and enjoy! Makes 24-36 rolls. (24 if you roll the dough in one big batch, 36 if you roll it out in two batches.)
Easy, right? Here’s a photo step-by-step to help you out.