Nothing fills the house with a better scent than baking cinnamon rolls, but scratch cinnamon rolls present a timing challenge as breakfast fare. Standard recipes call for a first rise of an hour in a cool kitchen, with the second rise and subsequent baking requiring at least another two hours. Who gets up three hours before breakfast? Not me. The “easy” solution to this problem, baking books say, is to retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then remove the rolls three hours before baking for the second rise.
Wait a second–how is this easier or more convenient? Okay, it requires no real work on the second day, other than removing from the fridge and subsequently baking the rolls. But, again, who gets up three hours before breakfast? Worst of all, retarding in the fridge can yield crappy results: the lovely batch in the photo ended up in the trash, thanks to that overnight rest. The recipe called for a simple cinnamon-sugar filling mixture. During the resting period, the sugar attracted moisture, seeped out of the rolls and spread across the bottom of the pan–creating a syrupy bottom layer beneath the rolls that burned to a crisp long before the rolls were done!
Ruining a pan of yeast rolls always feels like a special failure: hours of work, down the drain, with no way to quickly replace the burned items. From this failure, I’ve learned that a filling mixed with a little fat (like butter) is a better choice when the rolls are destined for an overnight rest, as the fat-sugar-cinnamon mixture won’t seep out of the rolls during the rest. Somehow the knowledge I gained isn’t as satisfying as the hot cinnamon rolls would have been.