Turn breakfast into a special occasion with these easy, no-knead, from scratch cinnamon rolls!
Soft and fluffy cinnamon rolls are always a great way to start the day but what makes these pastries extra special is a tangy and fruity apricot cardamom cream cheese frosting that pairs perfectly with the sweet cinnamon filling.
About the cinnamon rolls:
Cinnamon rolls are a sweet breakfast pastry that is made with a yeast dough. The dough is rolled out into a thin sheet, blanketed with a buttery and sweet cinnamon filling and then rolled into a log. The log is cut into several pieces that are then baked into a cluster of soft and pillowy rolls that easily pull apart.
For the recipe here I used a no-knead challah dough from the (great!) book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Instead of turning it into a braided challah bread I rolled it out thinly, spread a cinnamon/brown sugar paste on it and rolled it up to make buns.
You can use the dough the same day you prepare it or you can make it up to five days ahead and use it straight out of the fridge on the morning you want to bake the rolls. (The rolls will need to rise for 1 hour before baking, so be sure to plan for that).
About the frosting:
The frosting is the highlight of this recipe. In addition to the standard cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar I added apricot preserves and ground cardamom and those flavors were a perfect match for the sugary cinnamon filling.
Make these rolls for a special occasion breakfast, like a Holiday brunch, a birthday or simply just because! :)
How to make the dough:
A note on some of the ingredients:
- yeast – you can use any kind of granulated yeast you can find in the store (such as active dry or rapid rise). Just make sure it’s not past its expiration date.
Step 1. Add 3/4 teaspoon granulated yeast, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons honey to a large mixing bowl.
Step 2. Whisk in 7 tablespoons warm water.
Step 3. Whisk in 1 whole egg and 2 tablespoons melted and cooled* unsalted butter.
*RECIPE NOTE: It’s important to let the butter cool before using it so you don’t cook the egg or kill the yeast.
Step 4. Add 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in. (I like to use a firm plastic spatula for that but you can also use a large spoon or your hands.)
Step 5. Make sure to mix the dough well so that no pockets or clumps of flour remain, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Step 6. Transfer the dough into an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to five days.
How to make the rolls:
Step 1. Lightly flour a work surface, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it into a thin sheet* about 14 inches wide and 10 inches tall. Cut off the sides of the sheet to make it a rectangle.
*RECIPE NOTE: Note that the key to a fluffy cinnamon roll is a thinly rolled dough.
Step 2. Grab a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in it, then add 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed), 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Step 3. Cook the mix, whisking continuously, until you get a paste, then let it cool a bit.
Step 4. Spread the cinnamon filling on the dough, going all the way to the edges.
Step 5. Roll the dough up from the long side.
Step 6. Cut the log into 8 pieces of roughly equal size.
RECIPE NOTE: I recommend you use a serrated knife to cut the log to avoid squeezing the rolls.
Step 7. Grease a 9-inch pie pan, then set the rolls (spiral up) into the pan, leaving space around each one.
Step 8. Loosely cover the rolls with a sheet of plastic wrap, then set them in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour. (The rolls should be touching each other after the rise, if they aren’t, let them rise a little longer).
Step 9. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. and bake the rolls until they are starting to brown (25 to 30 min.). Let the rolls cool and make the frosting.
How to make the frosting:
Step 1. Add 4 ounces softened cream cheese*, 4 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1 tablespoon apricot preserves to a small mixing bowl.
*RECIPE NOTE: Don’t use any cream cheese products labeled as low-fat or reduced-fat. Those have a higher moisture content than full-fat cream cheese and that can affect the consistency of the frosting.
Step 2. Whip until smooth.
Step 3. Whip in 3/4 cup powdered sugar, then transfer the frosting to the fridge and keep it there until you’re ready to use it.
How to serve the rolls:
Once the rolls have cooled to room temperature, top them with frosting, then serve immediately. If you’re planning to store some of the rolls, don’t put the frosting on, instead store the rolls and the frosting separately.
How to store leftovers:
The rolls are best served fresh but you can loosely cover any unfrosted rolls with plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to a day. Keep the frosting in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
As for rolls that are already frosted, transfer those into an airtight container and keep them in the fridge. Be sure to let them come back up to room temperature before serving.
Can the dough be frozen?
Yes, after the initial two-hour rise you can transfer the dough into a freezer bag and freeze it for up to 3 weeks. When you’re ready to use the dough, thaw it in the fridge overnight.
What if it’s too cold for the dough to rise?
The ideal temperature for yeast to grow is around 75 degrees F. and depending on where you live and what time of year it is, it can be difficult to get your kitchen that warm. If your kitchen is too cold for the dough to rise, I suggest you very briefly turn on your oven to get it to 75 degrees, then turn it off and place the bowl with your dough in it. The oven will cool down again, but I find that giving the yeast a “push” like this in the beginning of the rising time is often enough to keep it going.
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No-Knead Cinnamon Rolls with Apricot Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting
For the dough:
- ¾ teaspoon granulated yeast (such as active dry or rapid rise)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 7 tablespoons warm water (around 90 degrees F.)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese**, softened
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 tablespoon apricot preserves
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
For the dough:
- Add yeast, kosher salt and honey to a large bowl.
- Pour the water into the bowl and whisk everything together.
- Whisk the egg and the butter into the mix.
- Add the flour into the bowl and fully mix it in using a firm plastic spatula or a spoon or your hands.
- Cover the bowl, set it in a warm place and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
- Transfer the dough into an airtight container and keep in the fridge until you're ready to bake the rolls.***
For the filling:
- When you're ready to bake the rolls, grease a 9-inch pie pan. Set aside.
- Lightly dust a work surface with all-purpose flour.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out thinly into a 14" by 10" rectangle. Cut off the sides of the sheet to make it a rectangle. Set aside to make the filling.
- Melt the butter in a pan.
- Add both sugars and the cinnamon and whisk until you get a uniform paste. Let the mix cool a bit.
- Using an offset spatula or a rubber spatula, spread the filling onto the dough all the way out to the edges.
- Roll up the dough (from the long end).
- Cut into 8 pieces using a serrated knife.****
- Set the rolls into the pie pan, leaving space in between each of them.
- Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap, then let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake the rolls until they are starting to brown on the edges (25 to 30 minutes).
For the frosting:
- Whip together the cream cheese, butter, cardamom and apricot preserves until fluffy.
- Whip in the powdered sugar.
- Spread the frosting onto the rolls and serve immediately.