Then along came my Cooks Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes cookbook, which grabbed me by the collar of my bathrobe, shook me and said "behold, the answer to your problems is here." Well, figuratively of course.
Not only are these make-ahead cinnamon rolls that taste fresh as fresh can be, but they cook STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Yes, from the freezer. You heard me right my friends. So you can make these whenever you find yourself with the time to wait around for dough to rise, and then cook them whenever you wake up and decide you'd like some delicious fresh pastry for breakfast.
Trust me, you want to make these.
Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes
For the Basic Sweet Dough:
3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (about 100 degrees)
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt
For the Cinnamon Roll Filling:
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (plus more for the pan)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Pinch of salt
For the Icing:
1 1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbs. buttermilk or whole milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
For the dough, whisk together the buttermilk, butter and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup; set aside. Mix 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.
Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (after five minutes, if the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, butter a 13 by 9 inch baking dish; set aside. Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. Brush dough with butter then sprinkle the dough with filling, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge.
Roll the dough into a long, tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Roll the cylinder so it is seam side down. Gently stretch the cylinder until it is 18 inches in length, with an even diameter. Pat the ends of the cylinder to even them. Slice the dough into 12 evenly sized rolls using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls, cut side down, in the prepared baking dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size and are touching each other, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.
For the icing, whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk together in a large bowl until thick and smooth. Add confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds for each addition.
To bake rolls, preheat oven to 350. Unwrap the dish and cover with foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake, uncovered until rolls are puffed and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Flip the rolls out onto a wire rack and drizzle with icing.