Last week, while I was hanging out with my old friend, Erin, I definitely had sweet rolls on the brain, but they weren’t these. I had big plans for Banana Pecan Sticky Buns. The second Erin left to head back to Boston, I whipped up a batch of caramel, toasted some pecans, made a yeast dough and filled it with a cinnamon-banana filling. I let the rolls rise and baked them until golden. I inverted the pan, plated a roll for myself, and…I burnt the caramel. All that work and anticipation and I went and burnt the dang caramel. And I was fresh out of overripe bananas.
I did get one thing right with those failed sticky buns–I finally made a yeast dough that I love. I’ve liked my past attempts, but I am all about this new dough of mine. Whole milk and an extra egg yolk make it rich and flavorful, but soft and fluffy enough that eating one roll doesn’t make you feel like you’ve had a brick for breakfast. Knowing I had to get this new dough of mine on this blog ASAP, I rifled through my “special occasion” ingredients until I found a forgotten can of marzipan, an almond paste that is usually reserved for being shaped like fruit or for cake decorating. After a few minutes of debating if almond paste would actually “go” in a sweet roll, I came to my senses. Almonds and cinnamon are magnificent together. Paired with that new dough and an almond glaze, I knew I had a winner on my hands.
Yes, I just said working with yeast is easy. I know many home bakers are intimidated by it, but it’s really no trouble at all once it’s been proven. The problem is that the proofing step is what scares people away. Instant yeast, however, takes away the need for proofing, making yeast-based recipes just as easy as those made with baking powder and baking soda. Just whisk a packet of instant yeast into your dry ingredients–it’s that easy.
Another great thing about instant yeast? It eliminates the need for two long rises. Once your dough is nice and smooth, it needs just ten minutes of rest before it can be filled. Instant yeast still requires one rest, but it’s only an hour–just enough time to have that second cup of coffee, apologize to your significant other/roommate/visiting friend, make another pot, and fall into a Wikipedia hole. Before you know it, your Marzipan Cinnamon Rolls will be nice and puffy and ready to bake.
Once your rolls are golden brown, drizzle a quick glaze over the top, sprinkle on some toasted almonds, and grab a plate and eleven of your closest friends. Trust me, you’ll need them. I ate two of these while they were still warm, took a gazillion photos of them, and then put an announcement on Facebook that I was giving away Marzipan Cinnamon Rolls to anyone who asked. My neighborhood friends are used to me doing stuff like that by now, so I spent Sunday evening running around delivering cinnamon rolls. The friends that tried them immediately understood why I couldn’t keep the whole batch in the house. They’re that good.
Marzipan Cinnamon Rolls
makes 12 rolls
1 3/4-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour*
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, beaten, room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces marzipan
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
Garnish & Glaze:
1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Grease a 9×13-inch rimmed baking pan. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat whole milk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in milk mixture, followed by egg and yolk. Add more all-purpose flour until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead 5-6 minutes before forming into a ball and placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
Make the filling. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together butter and marzipan. Mash in sugar, cinnamon, salt, and optional almond extract. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 8×14-inch rectangle. Drop filling over the dough by the spoonful. Use an offset knife or spoon to spread filling mixture over the dough, using a 1/2-inch perimeter on all sides. Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. Slice dough into 12 rolls. Place rolls close together in prepared pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place covered pan in a warm, draft-free place* for 60-90 minutes, until rolls have doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375F. Uncover rolls. Bake 25-30 minutes, recovering the rolls with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly.
While rolls are baking, prepare the garnish. Place almonds in a dry skillet. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until nuts are fragrant and slightly browned, 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, salt, heavy cream, vanilla, and almond extract. Drizzle over baked rolls. Scatter toasted almonds over the top. Serve warm.
Marzipan Cinnamon Rolls are best served the day they are made, but will keep at room temperature for a day or so.
1. If you do not have or do not wish to use bread flour, you may use an equal volume of all-purpose flour. The texture will be slightly different, but your rolls will still be delicious.
2. I preheat my oven to 200F, turn it off, and slide the covered pan inside. After 60-90 minutes, my rolls are ready to bake. Works every time.