• 1/4c warm water
  • 1/2c + 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 1/2c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 medium-large egg yolks
  • 1c milk, warm
  • 1 1/2c firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2c light corn syrup (or simple syrup, recipe in disclaimers above the first photo)
  • 2 heaping tsps cinnamon
  • large pinch cloves
  • large pinch cardamom
  • 1/2c roughly chopped raw walnuts
  • zest of 1 orange

Hampshire College’s graduation ceremony took place this past Saturday, marking an entire year since I received my degree and became “a real person.” And while I’m very proud of everyone who received their diploma, something about this weekend didn’t feel so right. A year after graduating, I am doing the best I can. I don’t have a big girl job, I still can’t afford to pay my own phone bill, and most of my friends have moved away. But I do my best, just like anyone else. And when these feelings of being un(der)accomplished or lonely hit, I have to refocus my energies towards something that makes me happy. Something that I know I am good at–something that warms my insides and puts a smile on my face.

Baking.

After an unreasonable amount of tears on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday ready to do something pleasant. And what better way to improve a Sunday than with a breakfast so delicious and sinfully good that it could easily be a dessert ?! I’ve figured it out, people. There is no better way to squash post-grad blues (or perhaps a life crisis, break-up, or even a bad hair day) than making cinnamon rolls. I used a recipe from my William Sonoma Baking book as a base line, changing things up and adding in all my favorite treats–I wanted this to be mine, and I wanted it to be everything I could imagine in a cinnamon roll. Best of all ? Cinnamon rolls use a yeasted dough, which meant hours of my morning were devoted to this bready, gooey, sticky treat, rather than to my less-than-cheery thoughts. By the time they were baking in the oven, filling my house with the most amazing smell, I had completely forgotten why I was so sad in the first place. So that’s it–I have made magical, mood-changing cinnamon rolls, and I encourage you to try them, no matter how you feel.

A FEW DISCLAIMERS:
1. If you want these as soon as you wake up, I HIGHLY recommend you make them the night before and then pop them in the oven at 300 for 10-15 minutes in the morning. They take about 3 hours to make from start to finish, so plan accordingly.
2. These are not good for you. Don’t worry about it, just don’t eat 6 of them in one day. They’re supposed to be indulgent. I know corn syrup is technically the devil, but that’s okay. If you have an allergy or really don’t want to use it, you can mix 1c of sugar with a 1/4 of water (combine over medium heat on the stove, let it come to a boil, then remove from the heat)–then take a 1/2c of that and use it instead of the corn syrup. The leftovers will keep in your fridge for a few weeks.
3. You will end up with leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture. Put it in a tupperware and save it for late-night cinnamon toast or another batch of rolls !
4. I’m pretty sure this is all subconsciously happening because of Alex’s delicious-looking breakfast buns.

Orange Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

Preheat your oven to “warm” or 200 degrees. Once it gets there, shut the oven off and leave the door closed to trap the heat. This is where your dough will rise when the time comes.

Combine the warm water and 1 tsp of granulated sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for 2 minutes. Swirl the bowl around, then let stand for 5 more minutes, or until foamy.

Take the 1 TBSP of butter and rub it on the bottom and halfway up the sides of a large bowl. Be generous. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine 3 1/2c of flour, the remaining 1/2c of granulated sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center–pour the yeast concoction, egg yolks, and warm milk in there. Mix together slowly and gently until the dough can be formed into a ball–it’s okay if it’s shaggy for now. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding no more than 1/2c more flour to keep it from sticking. The recipe said knead it for 10 minutes “until smooth and elastic,” but mine only took about 3-4 minutes of kneading until it was at that point. Over-kneaded bread is the worst thing ever, so I quit while I was ahead.

Form the dough into a smooth ball, then place in the buttered bowl and roll it around until it’s coated in delicious butter. Cover the bowl with a dish towel (a clean one, plz), and place in your pre-warmed oven with the door ajar until it’s doubled in sized–about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, mix together 3/4c of your brown sugar, 2 TBSP of melted butter, and the corn (or sugar) syrup until it forms a uniform, goopy paste. Using a spatula, spoon it equally into two 9″ round pans and spread it evenly over the bottom of each pan. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the brown sugar with the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.

Once risen, gently press your fist into the dough a few times to release excess air. This is technically called punching the dough, but what did it ever do to you ? Nothing. So be nice to it.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a 10 by 18 inch rectangle, making sure the dough is a uniform thickness. Coat with 2 TBSPs of melted butter–don’t forget the edges ! Sprinkle the walnuts evenly on top, using your palms to gently press them into the dough. Then grate the orange zest on top. (At this point you should preheat your oven to 200 and turn it off again to prepare for the next rise).

Now take your sugar and spice mixture. At this point I put half of it in a tupperware and set it aside for future use. Sprinkle the rest on top of the dough. How much you choose to use depends on your sweet tooth, but use at least enough to coat the entire rectangle.

Starting with the longest side of the rectangle facing you, roll the dough into a tight tube. Williams Sonoma recommends cutting off the raggedy edges and throwing them away, but I put them in their own little pan and baked them up–just because they’re ugly doesn’t mean they’re not delicious !

Cut the roll into 14 equal sliced rounds–floss is the best tool for cutting them nicely, but a sharp knife will do the trick. Place 1 round in the middle of each 9 inch pan, and place the remaining slices around them. Cover each pan with a towel and put them back in your open, warm oven for another hour.

Once risen, brush the rolls with the rest of the melted butter. Preheat the oven to 350, and bake them for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the goo at the bottom is bubbling. Once the pans are cool enough to touch, place a wire rack over each pan and flip so the rolls are inverted and out of the pan. Let them cool just until they are bearable to touch, then eat !!

It’s all about the little things that make you happy.

-K