Gone are the days of cinnamon rolls being a prep-ahead/only for a holiday/enough to feed a crowd/“what am I going to to with all these leftovers?” treat. Or they are in my house anyway, now that I can make just two cinnamon rolls at the drop of a hat.
To that end, if I can whip up two muffin-sized cinnamon rolls in forty minutes, what’s stopping me from taking over the world?! Well, aside from a general distaste for telling people what to do, lack of ambition to do so, and keeping up with Oscar season…not a whole lot. It’s a feeling of power that is unmatched.
Truly, the fact that I can slap together a dough from the most basic kitchen ingredients in tiny amounts, roll it up with sweet cinnamon filling and have two fully-formed rolls to show for it in less than an hour is…well, it should be a special skill on my résumé. And maybe soon, yours.
Now, with a forty minute turn-around time, you’ve probably guessed that these breakfast buns don’t have yeast in them, but that doesn’t mean we’re sacrificing flavor or texture. Ohhh no, we will not be doing that. This dough is leavened with a combination of baking powder and baking soda, and made tender and flavorful thanks to a little DIY buttermilk and a pat of butter. Oh, and it’s egg-free, which seems like a perk at the moment.
Everything is mixed up in just a couple of minutes before getting rolled out, filled with a paste of cinnamon-sugar and butter, sliced lengthwise, and rolled back up into two portions. Since these cinnamon rolls don’t have a rise time or other rolls in the pan to help them maintain their shape, I like to bake them in a buttered muffin tin. This works for shaping and aesthetics, and frankly, muffin-shaped foods are just cuter than other foods. Period, end of story.
Add the cut rolls to the muffin tin cut-side-up for the best swirl, and give them a gentle smush to adhere to the bottom—this will encourage them to rise up instead of trying to tip over. I always have one that is a little wonky, but a tilted cinnamon roll is still a cinnamon roll.
These buns bake up in about 16 minutes, which is just enough time to wash the dishes and the counter top and stir together a cream cheese icing. It takes me all weekend to convince myself to pick up a pile of clothes off my floor, but when there are cinnamon rolls at stake, it’s all “executive dysfunction who?” As with all cinnamon rolls, you may eat these at whatever temperature you like, but I think they’re always best warm with two layers of icing—one to melt into the swirl, one to sit on top. Rarely have my weekend mornings known such luxury.
This recipe makes enough to share if you’d like, but I personally like to have one roll now and another later. Somewhere in between, I might figure out what’s stopping me from taking over the world. It’s probably all the time I spend thinking about, making, and eating cinnamon rolls. That’s fine by me.
Just Two Cinnamon Rolls
makes just 2 cinnamon rolls
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons milk of choice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into cubes
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
small pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 ounces (1/4 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon milk of choice
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional, but recommended)
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 2 cups in a standard muffin tin well with butter. Fill the remaining unused cups halfway with water to keep the pan from warping.
Make the dough. Combine vinegar, milk and butter a small microwave-safe bowl or liquid measuring cup. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until butter has melted. Stir and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add milk mixture and stir until a dough forms. Let rest 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough onto the surface and roll into an 8x4-inch rectangle. Use the back of a spoon to spread filling over the top.
Use a bench scraper or large, sharp chef’s knife to slice rectangle in half lengthwise so that you have 2 8x2-inch rectangles. Starting at a narrow end, roll each up tightly into a cinnamon roll shape.
Place both rolls cut-sides-up in the prepared muffin cups. Press down on the tops to help the bottoms adhere to the pans. Don’t worry if they look a little smushed, as they will rise up while baking. Bake rolls 15-16 minutes.
While the rolls are baking, make the icing. In a small mixing bowl, use a spoon to help loosen up cream cheese. Mix in confectioner’s sugar, followed by milk and vanilla.
Once baked, let rolls cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing to a plate. Top each with 1/4 of the frosting. Let sit for 3-5 minutes so that the icing melts into the spiral. Top with remaining frosting as desired.
Serve rolls warm or at room temperature. Leftovers will keep covered for a day or so.