No longer is it necessary to go to the local bakery for great-tasting cinnamon rolls made from scratch. With this recipe, you can bake a sweet and buttery batch that everyone will find irresistible.
Pour the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it dissolve (about 5 minutes). In a large bowl, stir together the warm milk and sugar. Then stir in the dissolved yeast, egg, and vanilla extract.
With a wooden spoon, stir 2 cups of the flour into the liquid, then beat well for 100 strokes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the sponge (see Cook's Dictionary, below) undisturbed for 15 minutes.
Stir the salt and then the soft butter into the sponge. Add the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring well each time. When the dough balls up and becomes impossible to stir, four your hands and knead the dough right in the bowl for 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured counter and continue to knead it for about 6 or 7 more minutes, until it's smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a large, clean, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat the entire surface. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough doubles (about 1 hour). Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Stir together the brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl until well combined.
When the dough has risen, punch it down several times to deflate it. Then knead the dough again on a lightly floured surface for 1 minute. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.
Reflour your working area and, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12- by 16-inch rectangle so that a long edge is closest to you. If the dough springs back (it should stay where you've rolled it), let it rest another 2 or 3 minutes.
Spread the soft butter over the dough, leaving a 1-inch boarder along each of the long edges. Cover the butter evenly with the cinnamon-nut mixture, pressing it down gently. Lightly moisten both long edges with water.
Starting at the long edge closest to you, snugly roll up the dough like a rug. Pinch the seam together. With a sharp serrated knife, score the dough in the center, then at the center of each half. With those marks as guides, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Evenly space the rolls in the pan, brushing the outer edges with a little melted butter (to keep them from sticking together as they bake). Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise until nearly doubled, about 35 to 45 minutes. Heat the oven to 350º F near the end of the rising.
Remove the plastic and bake the rolls on the center oven rack for about 30 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Run a spatula around the pan to loosen the rolls, then invert them onto a large baking sheet. Carefully pull apart the rolls and set them right side up on a cooling rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Drizzle on the Sweet Glaze (see below). Serve warm. Makes 12 large rolls.
Sweet Glaze: This delicious glaze is perfect on the cinnamon rolls, so don't skimp. To make it, measure 1 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar into a mixing bowl. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of milk or light cream, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, and a drop or two of vanilla extract. Whisk well to blend. The icing should be smooth and flowing, but not overly runny. Add a little extra milk or cream if needed. Makes enough to glaze 12 rolls.
Cook's Dictionary: SPONGE: No, we're not referring to a popular square TV star here, but rather to the dough mixture in the early stage of bread making. While the dough is covered and resting, bubbles form and make a light, spongy batter. Then other ingredients are added.