Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing says Christmas like the smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. How good are homemade cinnamon rolls piping hot from the oven?! Melt in your mouth tender bites of dough filled with warm spices of cinnamon and sugar - YUM!

Lobster and I have started our own Christmas tradition and begin our morning of present opening with these bad boys. I tried a new recipe this year and warning: they are decadent, heavenly and oh so yummy and make you wish every day was Christmas!
The dough is rich and moist and each bite has you yearning for more. I still can't decide whether I prefer them over my old ye faithful cinnamon rolls - I hope they'll forgive me for my infidelity - but perhaps I'll have to do a taste comparison in the future.

I served these to my family and instantly won them over - they couldn't believe they were made from scratch. Since it's the holidays, it was nice to spread a little Christmas glee and see the joy on everyone's face as they ate these babies. It's a good thing there were a lot of people around since I could have literally eaten the entire batch. I found myself attacking the center part of each roll - everyone knows that's the best part - then serving the outer scraps to everyone else. Haha - I wish! In all fairness, I only did that to Lobster and mine....okay and maybe my mom's. :D I think it was well deserved, I did slave away in the kitchen and make them after all. Enjoy!

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker - recipe from Saveur Magazine

Makes 16 rolls

1 1⁄4-oz. package active dry yeast
1⁄2 tsp. plus 1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3⁄4 cups flour, sifted, plus
more for kneading
3⁄4 tsp. fine salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room
temperature, plus more for the pan

1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
1⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tbsp. maple syrup
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1⁄4 cup milk

1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook, combine yeast, 1⁄2 tsp. of the sugar, and 1⁄4 cup water heated to 115°. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Turn mixer off and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until the dough just comes together. Turn mixer speed to high and knead dough for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1 1⁄2–2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

2. Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl; stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set filling aside.

3. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a heavily floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary, about 1 minute. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10" x 10" square. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until it's smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square; then fold square into thirds as you would fold a letter to fit it into an envelope. Take the open ends of the resulting rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll into a 10" x 20" rectangle.

4. Turn the dough so the long end is facing you. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Drizzle the reserved filling over the dough, leaving a 1" border at the edge farthest away from you. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder, seam side down, on a cutting board and, using a thin, sharp knife, trim off the ends; cut cylinder crosswise into 16 equal-size slices. (I find it MUCH easier to cut the rolls with dental floss) Nestle the slices, cut sides up into a buttered 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. (Alternatively, the rolls may be refrigerated overnight to rise in the fridge.)

5. Heat oven to 375°. Uncover the rolls. (If refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the rolls comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

6. Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth.

7. Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle all over the rolls. Serve immediately.