In the fall of 2011, cookbook author Judith Fertig took on an ambitious assignment: Write a book of cinnamon roll recipes in 60 days.
Fertig loves cinnamon rolls, and she's written more than 20 cookbooks on everything from bread to barbecue.
Still, this was no easy task.
The expert baker holed up in her Overland Park, Kan., kitchen with colossal amounts of flour, butter and sugar. She gathered four kinds of cinnamon and started rolling it into swirls of every shape and size. Her overworked oven churned out all kinds of crave-worthy creations: carrot cake cinnamon rolls with pine- apple-cream cheese frosting. Mexican chocolate cinnamon rolls spiked with ancho chile. Moroccan- inspired crescents filled with black pepper and rose petals.
Fertig would taste each one, then hand out leftovers to neighbors, friends and relatives.
"I was very popular for a while," she said.
After two months, Fertig had lots of new friends and another cookbook: "I Love Cinnamon Rolls!" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $13.59, 112 pages).
The book's recipes range from traditional sticky buns to gluten-free rolls. The recipes are customizable, so you easily change the dough, filling, pan sauce or topping.
"I'm a mix-and-match person," Fertig said.
She said she wanted the recipes to be flexible because everyone has his or her own version of the perfect cinnamon roll.
Midwesterners like cinnamon rolls soft and feathery, with lots of gooey frosting on top. On the East Coast, people prefer sticky buns. In Colorado, it's not a cinnamon roll unless it's as big as a plate, and in the Northwest, vegan rolls are popular.
Don't even get Fertig started on all the different kinds that Europeans like.
Cinnamon rolls, simplified
Everyone loves the sweet breakfast pastry, but not everyone is willing to put in the time it takes to whip up a batch from scratch. These tips from Fertig save time and headaches.
Skip the proofing step by using instant (or bread machine) yeast instead of active dry yeast.
Invest in a Danish dough whisk. The stickiest dough won't get stuck in this $10 tool, which has two stiff metal loops.
Use a serrated knife to cut cylinders of dough into rolls without smashing their round shape.
Mix dough the night before, let it rise, then store it in the fridge until morning. "The cold makes yeast go into hibernation," Fertig explains.
Classic cinnamon rolls
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes (including rise time and starting with prepared dough)
Cook time: 17 minutes
Makes 12 large rolls
Recipe from Judith Fertig's "I Love Cinnamon Rolls!" Fertig swapped the usual cream cheese frosting for an icing flavored with coffee and maple syrup.
1 recipe traditional cinnamon roll dough (see below)
Flour for dusting
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided and softened
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
For the pan sauce, spread 4 tablespoons of the butter into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll out to a 16-by-20-inch rectangle.
For filling, combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread dough with 4 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Starting with the shorter side, roll up dough to form a tight 16-inch cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 12 rolls. Place in the prepared pan, spiral side up. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
For glaze, whisk remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Drizzle over warm rolls.
Per roll: 439 calories (29 percent from fat), 14 g total fat (9 g sat.), 72 mg chol., 73 g carb., 6 g protein, 221 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
Make 'em heart-shaped
For a Valentine's Day treat, create cinnamon roll hearts by rolling the rectangle of prepared dough from both sides until the cylinders meet in the middle. Slice and bake as directed.