Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
12 hours 30 minutestotal time
1 cup/240 grams whole milk
1/4 cup/34 grams plus 4 cups/540 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 cup/58 grams ice-cold water
3 large eggs (150 grams), cold from the refrigerator
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) or ¾ teaspoons coarse kosher salt (such as Morton)
8 tablespoons/116 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, at cool room temperature, plus more for the bowl
4 ounces/116 grams speculoos cookies, such as Lotus brand (about 15), lightly crushed
1/2 cup/100 grams Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
12 tablespoons/170 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces/113 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup/110 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
Scald the milk: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling once or twice, until it’s steaming, small bubbles appear along the sides, a skin has formed on the surface and you see light rippling, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to heat the milk for 1 minute, making sure not to let it boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Measure ⅓ cup/80 grams of the hot milk and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
Make the tangzhong: To the saucepan with the remaining milk, add ¼ cup/34 grams of the flour, and whisk vigorously to combine and eliminate any lumps. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly and making sure to scrape along the sides, until the mixture has thickened and looks like smooth mashed potatoes, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and scrape the mixture into the stand mixer bowl.
Mix the dough: Add the cold water to the stand mixer bowl and whisk to combine, then add the eggs and whisk to break up the whites and yolks. Touch the sides of the bowl — if it’s still warm, pop the bowl in the refrigerator and chill until the mixture is room temperature. Add the yeast and remaining 4 cups/540 grams flour to the bowl and turn the mixer on low speed. Mix until you have a coarsely textured dough, about 5 minutes, then turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated and the dough is very smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, another 15 to 20 minutes. (This dough requires a long, slow mix so be patient with this step.)
Add the butter: Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter one piece at a time, waiting for the dough to absorb each piece before adding more, until you have a soft, supple dough, 10 to 15 minutes.
Let the dough rise and chill overnight: Lightly butter the inside of a clean, large bowl. Scrape the dough out of the mixer bowl onto the work surface and work it into a ball. Place the dough inside the buttered bowl, seam side down. Cover and let sit at room temperature until it has expanded in size by about 50 percent, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours and up to 24 (the dough will continue to rise in the refrigerator).
The next day, make the cinnamon filling: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cookies, Demerara sugar, cinnamon and salt, and pulse until you have very fine, dry crumbs, about 1 minute. (Make sure not to process so much that the mixture starts to look wet.) Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and add the butter, then use a flexible spatula to work the crumbs into the butter until you have a smooth paste. Set the filling aside.
Prepare the pan: Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a metal 9-by-13-inch pan with room temperature butter, then line the bottom and two longer sides with a piece of parchment paper. Smooth the parchment to eliminate air bubbles, then butter the parchment. Set the pan aside. Lightly butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the pan and set aside.
Roll out the dough: Lightly flour the work surface, then remove the dough from the refrigerator and scrape it out onto the surface. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand, pressing out some of the built-up gas and working it into a rectangular shape, then use a rolling pin to roll it out, dusting over top and underneath with more flour as needed to prevent sticking, until you have a ⅜-inch-thick rectangle measuring about 20 inches long and 12 inches wide.
Fill and roll: Dollop the filling across the surface of the dough, then use a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it in an even layer all the way to the edge closest to you, leaving a clean ½-inch border on the two shorter sides and the longer side that’s farthest away from you. Try to work reasonably quickly so the dough doesn’t soften too much at room temperature. Starting at the long end closest to you, roll the dough into a snug spiral and rest it on the seam. Starting in the middle, squeeze along the length of the dough to even out the thickness and lengthen it so it’s about 22 inches long. If the dough feels soft and slack (which may happen if your kitchen is warm), slide it onto a piece of parchment paper and then slide the parchment onto a large baking sheet. Refrigerate it until the dough is firm, 10 to 15 minutes, then return to the work surface.
Cut the buns, fill the pan and proof: Slide a piece of unflavored dental floss, fishing line or baker’s twine underneath the dough on either end and cut through the spiral, removing a 1-inch-long piece of dough from the ends. Use the floss to cut the dough crosswise into thirds, then cut each third into 5 equal pieces. Arrange the pieces cut sides up in the prepared pan in a 3-by-5 grid. Cover the pan with the foil, buttered side down, and let the buns sit at room temperature until they’re not quite doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes (peek beneath the foil to check).
Meanwhile, heat the oven: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake and cool: Make sure the pan is tightly covered with the foil, then transfer to the oven and bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Pull out the pan from the oven slightly and use tongs to remove the foil, then continue to bake until the buns are golden brown all over, another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Use a paring knife to cut down between the pan and the buns along the shorter sides to loosen them, then use the parchment paper to lift the buns out of the pan and set them on the wire rack to cool completely.
Make the icing and ice the buns: In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and work with a flexible spatula until the mixture is completely smooth. Add the butter and mix with the spatula, working it against the side of the bowl, until you have a smooth mixture, then switch to a whisk and beat until the icing is light and thick. Dollop the icing over top of the cooled buns and spread with the back of a spoon to cover the surfaces.
12 hours 30 minutestotal time