Salvation Cinnamon Rolls

Words, Recipe and Styling by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Recipe via  Sweet and Vicious –Baking with Attitude (Rizzoli, March 2014) 

When I moved to a rural coastal town in North Carolina as a young adult, I thought the town’s eight churches were quaint, actually a selling point for the community. There was one church for every thirty-six residents—God was clearly present there. My yard was just steps away from the Methodist church and the Methodist church just steps away from my garden.

When you live in the South, there are long stretches in the middle of the year when the only time you can work in your garden is in the morning before the sun gets too hot (right around the time for early-morning Sunday church service). As folks would arrive, I was oftentimes in my garden doing what I liked to think of as the Lord’s work, working the land. Sadly, the church folk didn’t seem to think the same way. Headphones on and knee-deep in cow manure, I’d wave and smile as the congregants entered the side door. Unfortunately, the congregation didn’t always see fit to reciprocate my friendly gesture. It was nearly a year before my family was invited to come to an event at the Methodist church. I learned that they were looking for a new pastor and had planned a welcoming breakfast for an especially promising candidate before he took the pulpit that morning. God didn’t make me stupid—I knew my family meant three more people to help fill the pews and impress the possible pastor. It was a door cracked open and I wasn’t about to slam it shut.

“Yes, we would love to come. What can I bring?” I asked.

“Nothing. Just bring yourselves,” said the lady from the pulpit committee.

Even though I was raised Baptist, I knew you didn’t walk into a Methodist event empty-handed. I baked a big sheet tray of these sweet and spicy rolls along with a quart- size Mason jar full of caramel cream cheese frosting. At the time, I just called them cinnamon rolls. After the prospective pastor mentioned them from the pulpit, I called them Salvation Cinnamon Rolls. 

Salvation Cinnamon Rolls
(spicy decadent rolls, caramel cream cheese frosting)
yields 12 large rolls

For the dough:
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) plus 3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing

1 cup warm milk
1⁄4 cup warm water, or more if needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (page 198)
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup sugar
5 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

For the hellfire filling:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cayenne 

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe to follow)

Make the dough: Butter the inside of a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk, water, vanilla, 1⁄2 cup butter, the yeast, eggs, salt, sugar, and flour and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, until a soft elastic dough forms. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch. If the dough is too moist, add additional flour, 1 table- spoon at a time. If the dough is too dry, add warm water,

1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix the dough for 5 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in the prepared mixing bowl, turning once to ensure that both sides are buttered, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside.

Make the hellfire filling: In a small mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 16-by- 24-inch rectangle. Use your hands to spread the remaining
3⁄4 cup butter over the top of the dough, making sure to butter all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a slightly loose, long log (rolling the dough too tightly will make the centers of the rolls pop up when baking). Pinch the seam to seal.

Using a serrated knife, cut the log into twelve equal-width rolls and place them on the prepared baking pan, spacing the rolls so they do not touch. (At this point you can cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Allow about 11⁄2 hours for the rolls to double in size once you remove them from the refrigerator.) Cover the pan and place it in a warm place for

1 hour, or until the rolls have doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Bake the rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before topping with the frosting. Serve warm.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
(crazy creamy good)

yields about 5 cups 

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and stir in the milk. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cooled caramel mixture and beat until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla paste and beat for 1 minute.

Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 10 days or frozen for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use, bring to room temperature and beat until creamy. Add a little confectioners’ sugar if needed to bring the frosting back to a creamy consistency.

If you’d like to kick up the heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the finished frosting.

Libbie’s Food Styling Props: Surface is a piece of zinc from Bastille Metal Works (used throughout the book), Cutting board is Counter Evolution, Vintage blue glass jar and bakelite handle spoon from Habersham Antiques Market