Illustration of a wine bottle rolling out dough with holes in it.

“Impossible to mess up” Cinnamon Rolls

Only true if the recipe is honey-proof


When a blogger posted that her cinnamon rolls were impossible to mess up, I decided to take that challenge! If a recipe is Honey-proof, then it truly deserves the label “impossible to mess up.”

Now, normally, I would never consider attempting something that involves living microorganisms. Just the thought of working with yeast leaves me feeling nervous and slightly queasy. But in order for rolls to rise, you’ve got to have yeast. So the very first thing I did was attempt to proof the yeast.

Proofing yeast

After looking at several websites and reading the directions a number of times, I felt that I could do this.

I heated the milk and followed one website’s recommendation to test it “with a clean finger” (it specified that as if I would consider using a dirty one). Placing my finger into the milk, I’m supposed to determine if it is a comfortable temperature. If it is, then it should be good to go. But, if it felt uncomfortably hot, then I knew I would need to wait for it to cool a little before adding yeast.

The finger testing didn’t work. Even at the “right” temperature, the yeast just stuck together in lumpy pools. No reaction, no bubbling.

After further reading, I heated the milk to 120 degrees (testing it with a candy thermometer* to make sure) and then added the yeast along with a teaspoon of sugar. Then, I slowly stirred it until the sugar dissolved.

This time, something happened. It did bubble a little. Not in a vigorous way, but I thought it could be enough. I added it to my flour mixture. Then, using a dough hook** attached to the blender, I blended it all together.

Covered in dough

After mixing it, I tried to transfer the dough to another bowl to rise. I say “tried” because the dough wouldn’t let go of my fingers. It was so sticky and gooey that it just adhered to my hands. I had dough hands.

Now, with my limited knowledge, derived mainly from baking chocolate chip cookies, I knew I should add more flour to get the consistency the dough needed. That way, I could handle it without it sticking to my fingers. Did I do that? No. Why not? I have no idea! I know this basic baking rule, yet I didn’t think of it at this crucial moment.

Open palm, plant face.

Only a third of the way through the recipe, I already have two potentially disastrous problems.

Regardless, I took my sticky dough upstairs to the warmest room in the house to rise. As per the recipe, I used instant rise yeast, which—according to the directions—meant it should rise within the hour.

Well, I checked after an hour, and it had not doubled in size. Thankfully, I did the right thing and waited for another hour and a half.

By then, it had risen to the top of the bowl. Double the original size. Success!

Rolling the dough

With the dough at the proper size, I was ready and eager to roll it out. But we don’t have a rolling pin, so I used a nice, narrow, tall, clean wine bottle instead.

A wine bottle rolling pin seemed like such a sensible idea until I started rolling it over the dough. It kept wanting to veer right, which caused the dough on the left to be thicker than the dough on the right. It looked like I drank the bottle of wine, and I should be ticketed for rolling dough while under the influence.

Fortunately for me, there is no baking police. If there were, I would have received a cease and desist order many years ago. The dinner rolls of 2004 alone would have been enough to suspend me from operating an oven for the rest of my natural life.

A wine bottle rolling pin seemed like such a sensible idea until I started rolling it over the dough. It kept wanting to veer right…It looked like I drank the bottle of wine, and I should be ticketed for rolling dough while under the influence.

Even though it was hard rolling the dough into a smooth and even shape, I know I got the dimensions correct. If it was weird that I was using a tape measure to measure my dough, Handsome didn’t say anything. I think he deliberately left the room at that point, probably because, after pulling it out of my toolbox, I forgot to wipe it down with sanitizer. Oops.

No worries. It never actually touched the dough.

Next, I added the filling and started rolling up the dough, stretching the dough just a little on each roll.

I learned that when dough consistency is wrong at the beginning, it doesn’t get better. Even with additional flour, the dough stuck to the counter. I had to peel it off as I rolled the dough. That was a bit messy, with cinnamon and sugar splurting out of the holes as I tried to clog it up with the surrounding dough.

The slightly malformed log of dough was easy to cut without any problems (a sharp knife helps). Then, I laid each cinnamon roll into the parchment-covered pan. Next, the recipe instructs that I leave it alone to rise.

Now, Handsome enjoys cinnamon rolls in the morning for breakfast. With that in mind, I decided to go ahead and leave the rolls in the refrigerator to rise. The ideal rising temperature is from 80-90 degrees; however, the dough will continue to rise very, very slowly in cooler temperatures. At least, that is what my research told me. I took them out in the morning, and they rose just a little. Not ideal.

In hindsight, I could have left it out to rise more and then placed it in the refrigerator when it grew to the size I wanted. Note to self for future cinnamon roll-making endeavors.


The great news is that even with all my slips and blunders, they turned out really well. Granted, they weren’t the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had. But they were good. Good enough to share, which is great quality assurance for a recipe. If I am willing to share with other people — people I like and don’t want to poison in any way — then I know it is good.

In the end, this recipe definitely passed the Honey test. Impossible to mess up cinnamon rolls, approved!

* Yes, the thermometer belongs to Handsome.
** Also belongs to Handsome.

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