ul⋅ti⋅mate   [uhl-tuh-mit]
1. last; furthest or farthest; ending a process or series: the ultimate point in a journey
2. maximum; decisive; conclusive: the ultimate authority; the ultimate weapon.
3. basic; fundamental; representing a limit beyond which further progress, as in investigation or analysis is impossible
4. not to be improved upon or surpassed; greatest; unsurpassed: the ultimate recipe; the ultimate cinnamon roll.

In every aspect of the word, ultimate is the right descriptor for this recipe. It was the first recipe I have tried for cinnamon rolls and it will likely be the last. I could not imagine wanting anything more out of a cinnamon roll. This perfect bun satisfied each sense: fragrance in through the nose, the variant warm colors, the squish of the fork, the warmth of the soft roll, the sweet cinnamon-y flavor and the sound of silence as you take a moment to revel in its perfection.

I found this recipe here and was drawn in by its flexibility. You can freeze the unbaked rolls or prepare them the night before and bake them fresh in the morning. There are notes for making these in a stand mixer, a Cuisinart and even a bread machine! In addition to all these options, you know that cream cheese frosting gets me every time!

Harvest Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup milk (heated approximately 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature and beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional, I did not use it)*
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
Cinnamon Filling (see recipe below)
Butter Frosting (see recipe below)
* The Vital Wheat Gluten helps the sweet bread dough rise better, be more elastic, and easier to roll out

1/2 cup butter, melted or softened
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

(find photos and instructions for using a bread maker here)
In a Standup Mixer: In a large bowl or in the bowl of a 5 quart stand mixer, combine all the ingredients in the order given except the Cinnamon Filling and the Butter Frosting. Using a dough hook, mix everything together until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (you can spray the counter with cooking spray, you just don’t want to add a lot more flour if it is sticky), and knead until elastic, approximately 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Butter a 9x13x2-inch baking pan; set aside. After dough has rested, roll and stretch the dough into approximately a 15×24-inch rectangle. Brush the softened butter over the top of the dough with a rubber spatula. Combine the cinnamon and sugar well in a separate bowl. Sprinkle the cinnamon filling over the butter. Starting with long edge, roll up dough; pinch seams to seal.

With a knife, lightly mark roll into 1 1/2-inch section. Use a sharp knife (I like to use a serrated knife and saw very gently) or slide a 12-inch piece of dental floss or heavy thread underneath. By bringing the ends of the floss up and criss-crossing them at the top of each mark, you can cut through the roll by pulling the strings in opposite directions. Place cut side up in prepared pan, flattening them only slightly. The unbaked cinnamon rolls should not touch each other before rising and baking. Do not pack the unbaked cinnamon rolls together.

To bake immediately: cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size (after rising, rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. for regular oven or 325 degrees F. for a convection oven. Bake in a regular oven approximately 20 to 25 or until they are a light golden brown. Bake in a convection oven approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

To bake the next morning: Put them in the refrigerator covered. They will rise slowly overnight. Put them into the oven the next morning and follow above cooking instructions.

To freeze: Wrap in plastic wrap. Take them out the night before baking and leave out of the fridge. Allow them to thaw and rise before baking.

Once baked, spread the warm rolls with Butter Frosting. Mmmmm

BUTTER FROSTING: (If you love a ton of frosting or want to serve with extra, double this!)
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract or oil (optional, I did not use it.)


In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract or oil until well mixed and creamy. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use and then bring to room temperature before spreading.