Cinnamon raisin spice rolls

I have been craving cinnamon rolls for years. YEARS. And I resisted up until now. Why, I have no idea — I’m just silly like that sometimes.  I finally made them over the holidays, in one of my, “Damn it, James, I’m not going to work this morning” moods.  They were our Christmas morning breakfast, post-hike lunch, pre-dinner snack, and …

Hey, don’t judge me.

This recipe (or formula, if you’re as pretentious as Peter Reinhart occasionally is, which I fully forgive every time I make another one of his recipes) makes light, warm, and not-too-sweet cinnamon rolls, with a little bit inspirational filling from their slightly stickier relation and a slight nod toward the warm spiciness of hot cross buns.  If there’s one thing I’d change, it’s probably the glaze. I really wanted cream cheese frosting on these, but I’m indulgent like that, so you might disagree.  The icing isn’t bad — after all, we scraped it off the plate once the cinnamon rolls were gone, like rabid, sugar-crazed fiends — but it wasn’t oh-my-god-I-need-MORE good.  Next time, I intend to do better.

Recipe after the jump.

Cinnamon raisin spice rolls

Adapted from Crust and Crumb. Makes 12 small cinnamon rolls.

Cost: Cheap. Butter is probably the most expensive ingredient.

Difficulty: Easy, as long as you’re patient.

Time: ~4 hours, mostly inactive.

I use a scale to weigh out flour, sugar, and most liquid ingredients, just because it’s easy and somewhat more reliable than using volume measuring cups.  In fact, I’d probably weigh everything out if I had a better scale, but I think I’ll stick with my $5 diet scale special from Walgreens for now.

I also made the vanilla rum I used in this recipe with super-cheap vanilla beans soaked in rum for about a week. It’s basically a cheap and easy homemade vanilla extract —  all you need is brown rum and a few vanilla bean pods.  You bend the vanilla pods, shove them in the rum, and let ’em soak. The best bit is you can top up the bottle with rum, as needed, and have perfectly good vanilla extract for far less than it costs to buy the good stuff at the grocery store.


  • 3-1/2 c. (16 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. (2 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 T. instant yeast
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. (8 oz) milk
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 t. pumpkin pie spice or 3/4 t. cinnamon and 1/4 t. nutmeg (I have a mix I need to use up, so I cheated.)


  • 1/2 c. raisins soaked in 1/4 c. vanilla rum (see above) or warm water overnight
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 4 t. granulated sugar


  • 1 c. sifted powdered (icing) sugar
  • 2 T. hot water
  • dash of vanilla extract

Hour 1:

Mix all dough ingredients together. When the dough comes together and can actually be handled, knead on a lightly floured surface for 12 or so minutes, until the dough is nice, soft, smooth, and just a little bit sticky (or use an electric mixer on slow for ~1 minute and medium for ~8 minutes, if you like that sort of thing).  Place in a clean bowl, oil the dough (or the bowl) lightly, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.

Hour 2:

Place the dough in the fridge for an hour.  (Or overnight. I haven’t tried this, but I think it will work for this dough.)

Hour 3:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Role out until it’s square (or rectangular — seriously, it doesn’t matter), and about 1/4″ or a little over 1/2 cm. thick.  Sprinkle the raisins over the surface of the dough, and mix a few tablespoons of the vanilla rum with the cinnamon and sugar (or just mix together the cinnamon and sugar — don’t bother with the water, if that’s what you use).  Distribute this mixture over the interior of the dough.

Roll up the dough around the filling ingredients, until it looks like a long, kind of slimy jelly roll. Cut the dough into ~1″ (~2.5 cm) slices, so you can see the swirly filling.  In a large, greased pan, evenly distribute the slices so they have about 1″ leeway on all sides. This will let them rise, and keep the center from popping out of your cinnamon roll when it’s time to bake them. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and let them rise for ~1 hour.

Hour 4:

Preheat your oven to 350ºF / 175 ºC.  When the rolls are finished rising, and your oven is preheated, remove the plastic wrap and place them in the oven.  Let bake for ~30 minutes, until they are a golden brown color and your house smells bloody AMAZING.

In the meantime, mix together your icing ingredients. That’s it — just pop them in a bowl and whisk them until smooth. Aside from the slight possibility that you’ll need a bit of extra liquid, that’s all you need to do. Set it aside.

When the rolls are finished, take them out and let cool for 5 minutes.  Drizzle the icing over the rolls (I like flicking it, so it makes pretty, Pollock-like designs), and see how long it takes you to eat them all.


Filed under baking, breakfast, holiday, raisins

3 responses to “Cinnamon raisin spice rolls

  1. Ummm, I never tire of cinnamon buns or rolls.

  2. I’d like to make cinnamon rolls someday…it would be heaven to have warm homemade ones some morning, but I can never seem to get around the fact that if I start them when i wake up on the weekend, it will be mid afternoon by the the time they’re done.

  3. liz

    Peter — Same here! I think it’s impossible to tire of them, especially when they’re fresh out of the oven. 🙂

    Julia — That’s probably half the reason it took me so long to make these. They reheat pretty well in a toaster oven, at least. One of these days, I’d like to try the final rise in the fridge overnight and see if they can just be baked first thing in the morning. It _should_ work — I just haven’t tried it… If I do, I’ll let you know!

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