Demo Kitchen Recipes: Cinnamon Rolls
The “pastriarchy” reigns supreme in the beer world these days. Whether that is good or bad is strictly a matter of opinion. Brewers are crafting beers, loaded with adjuncts, to taste like anything and everything you might find in a bakery’s display case and fans are drinking them down with abandon. They can be quite good, nailing the flavor profile while somehow retaining a semblance of balance or they can have old school beer drinkers running for the shelter of a perfectly crafted all-malt brew.
The current situation certainly isn’t the first time that new trends have run afoul of imbibers with a traditional point of view. Fifty years ago, lovers of Britain’s traditional cask conditioned ales banded together to form CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) to preserve British beer culture and provide a bullwork against the encroachment of and eventual take over by lagers and indeed any beer dispensed with CO2 or nitrogen. The good news for everyone is that CO2 and nitrogen systems have thrived, but CAMRA was also so successful that even today one can still get a hand pulled pint at many English pubs and cask conditioned beer has a place in American beer culture that simply didn’t exist in the early 1970s.
So, wherever you stand on pastry beers there is hope that the best and most thoughtful versions will survive side by side with long established classics from around the world. To that very point, we believe that great breweries with well-established brewing chops are best positioned to brew good beer in general. Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing certainly meets that standard, so it is with pleasure, albeit tinged with guilt, that we greet the arrival of Boulevard Cinnamon Bun Ale, a 9.5% abv Imperial Brown Ale brewed with cinnamon and vanilla.
While breweries seem to randomly churn out beer based on every dessert-like flavor profile one can think of, cinnamon bun is no random choice for a brewery from Kansas City. Even though Boulevard is some 250 miles southeast of Lebanon, KS, the geographical center of the lower 48, the Demo Kitchen argues that K.C. is the epicenter of cinnamon bun culture in the U.S. of A.
The Demo Kitchen first made note of this 21 years ago (making this story old enough to have a drink) while exploring BBQ, of course, and any other notable food and drink in K.C. Interspersed with superhuman attempts to sample all of the BBQ of note we had a truly remarkable time at Boulevard (a story for another time) and squeezed in a visit to the original Stroud’s Roadhouse1. We were there for their famous pan fried chicken2, which is excellent, but the other star of the show was the cinnamon rolls3. Although diners are always asked if they would like their rolls with their meal or for dessert, the question is largely rhetorical with the vast majority opting to chow down on these deliciously sweet rolls alongside their chicken dinner. After that we soon realized that you couldn’t turn around in K.C. without running into yet another cinnamon roll. There is even a deeply rooted tradition of serving cinnamon rolls with chili that we are still trying to wrap our heads around.
So, Boulevard came by Cinnamon Bun Ale honestly and the Demo Kitchen honestly believes that to truly appreciate such a beer one must understand the flavor profile of its inspiration. To that end we have decided to share the recipe that the Demo Kitchen learned, many moons ago, at our mother’s knee. We don’t suspect that there are many out there in Bin-Landia who haven’t experienced the joy of a cinnamon roll from somewhere like Chicago’s legendary Ann Sather, but we also think there is no kitchen experience more gratifying than working with yeast doughs by hand. So, we encourage you to take this one on. You won’t be sorry.
One last note: The Demo Kitchen was strongly considering sharing our Mardi Gras king cake recipe to accompany the Rum Alexander Rex cocktail that our resident mixologist whipped up this week. As luck would have it, the flavor profiles and recipes for cinnamon rolls and king cake have so much in common that you could turn these rolls into individual king cakes. Just hide a baby figurine in the layers of a random roll and finish them off with a sprinkle of sanding sugar in the traditional green, gold and purple colors.
- 1 cup milk, warmed to 110°F
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cake fresh yeast or ¼ oz. package of active dry yeast
- 3 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
- 6 cups ap flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup soft butter
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. salt
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- a little milk or cream to thin (if needed)
- green, gold and purple sanding sugars
- Heat milk and melt butter. Set butter aside to cool slightly. Add milk to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer along with sugar and yeast.
- When the butter drops to 110°F stir it into the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir in eggs.
- Sift together flour and salt then stir into wet ingredients.
- Knead dough by hand for 8-10 minutes or knead using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, on medium speed for 8 minutes.
- Form dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl (butter the inside of the bowl). Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft free spot for 1½ to 2 hours until dough doubles in size.
- Mix sugar, cinnamon and salt for the filling together thoroughly.
- Butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.
- When dough has doubled, punch it down (dough will collapse and release CO2). On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into a large rectangle (15”x24”).
- With the long side of the dough facing you, spread the filling butter over the surface of the rectangle leaving a ½" strip of dough on the far side unbuttered. Evenly sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture over the butter. If using a baby figurine, hide it between the layers of a random roll, now.
- Starting on the side directly in front of you roll the rectangle of dough into a 24” long cylinder. Do not roll too tightly, the dough needs a little room to rise. If it is too tight the centers will pop out when baked.
- Using a very sharp knife slice the cylinder into sixteen 1½" rolls.
- Place rolls in the buttered pan, cut side down. Do not crowd. Rolls should not be touching so they have room to rise. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. At this point rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan. You could also choose to cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight, making this a great breakfast or brunch option that you can prep a day ahead and still have fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning.
- Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and baked through.
- While rolls are baking, make the frosting by whipping cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and salt, whip until creamy. Frosting can be used this way if you like it extra thick. Some like a thinner style, if that’s you, thin with a little milk or cream.
- Let the rolls cool slightly then slather the tops with frosting. If using colored sugar, sprinkle it over the frosting in whatever fashion you find pleasing.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Now gone but there are new locations that still serve their famous cinnamon rolls.
- Although many think of southern fried chicken, there is a huge cast iron skillet fried chicken culture across the Plains States.
- These are more like a Parker House roll slathered in butter then coated with cinnamon sugar than the spiral rolls that this recipe typifies.