Who doesn’t love cinnamon buns? There’s nothing quite like the warm, inviting scent of cinnamon rolls baking away in the oven. Their rich, gooey goodness has a way of drawing people together, making them the perfect treat for Easter morning or Mother’s Day brunch. The rich butter layered with maple, cinnamon, sugar, and pecans is simply irresistible. This recipe takes some time to come together, but the cozy comfort these fragrant treats bring is well worth the effort.
1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
¼ cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 ½ to 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil, for greasing
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Make the Dough:
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and set it aside for 10 minutes to grow.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk to just before boiling; Turn off the heat: add the butter, sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Let cool to lukewarm. (You can test by dipping in your finger – if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot for the yeast. If you can just barely feel the heat, it is ready to combine with the yeast.)
Add the milk mixture to the bowl with the yeast. Add 3 cups of the flour and the eggs, mixing well with a wooden spoon or a handheld mixer fitted with a dough hook. Keep adding the flour, cup by cup, until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Test it by pressing in two fingers; if the indentation immediately fills, it is ready.
Place in a bowl lightly greased with oil, turning once to coat the dough with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap (to keep the dough moist and warm) and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.
Make the Filling:
While the dough is rising, in a small bowl, stir together maple syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide it in half. Cover and let rest again for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a 15 x 7-inch rectangle, about ½ inch thick. Rub with the softened butter and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon-sugar mixture (reserving a few tablespoons) and the pecan pieces.
Beginning with one long side, roll up each rectangle. Seal the edge by pressing the dough together. Cut each rolled up rectangle into 1 inch pieces and place them swirl side up in a greased muffin tin.
Let everything rise again until almost doubled in volume (about 45 minutes). Just before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the rolls with more softened butter and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on a rack before serving.
Make the icing, if desired:
While the rolls are cooling, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, milk, and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the warm cinnamon buns.
Makes about 12 rolls