As a child, I would occasionally get dropped off at school early enough to have breakfast in the cafeteria. The pure novelty made it an incredibly thrilling experience and the overwhelming sweetness of the cinnamon rolls they served was more than appealing to my 8-year-old palate.
Until recently, I was working in schools that served those same cinnamon rolls with its signature super-soft center. Amazingly enough, they haven’t seemed to change one bit after all of these years. I mentioned to a colleague that the smell of the cinnamon rolls sent me straight back to the 3rd grade, to which they responded, “You know the secret ingredient is mashed potato.” I remember being intrigued, but not convinced because even my adult mind imagined silky, decadent, savory mashed potatoes with butter, sour cream, and chives. Some years later I came across this recipe in a Better Homes & Gardens magazine (thank you mom!) and was tickled to discover that mashed potato was on the ingredient list. The mashed potato creates a dough with the perfect structure and texture while being moist and not overly chewy.
This recipe is filed under “weekend cooking projects” for me. I have even made them all the way to right before cooking, wrapped them in a kitchen towel, left them in the refrigerator overnight and baked them fresh in the morning. They always come out great (there was one time when I made them with lifeless yeast, however that was no fault of the recipe). It begins with:
4 ¼ – 4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1 cup mashed, cooked potato
1/3 cup butter, cut up
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup packed brown sugar (make your own, it is sooooo worth it)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter, softened
- Combine 1 ½ cups of the flour and the yeast and set aside.
- In a saucepan heat and mix milk, mashed potato, 1/3 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt until warm (the butter should almost melt).
- Add the mixture to the flour and yeast along with the eggs.
- Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds making sure to scrape the sides. Then mix on high for 3 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a lighted floured surface, knead in enough of the remaining flour until you achieve a soft, smooth, elastic dough (takes about 3 to 5 minutes). Shape into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl (turn the dough in the bowl to grease the entire surface).
- Cover and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size (45 to 60 min).
- Punch down dough and turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, cover and rest for 10 minutes.
- Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan and set side.
- Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon and place it to the side.
- Roll out the dough into an 18×12-inch rectangle and spread ¼ cup butter over the dough.
- Sprinkle filling over the dough and roll up the rectangle into a spiral, starting from the long side with the filling. Pinch dough to seal the seams.
- Cut the dough in 12 equal pieces (sometimes I make 8 jumbo ones) and place them cut side down in the baking pan.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place on the middle rack of your unheated oven; place a bowl of warm water on the lower rack and let rise until they are doubled in size (about 30 min).
- Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Invert pan onto wire rack and let cool.
Cream Cheese Icing**
1 package of softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon of softened butter
½ teaspoon of vanilla
1 ½ cups of powdered sugar
Mix all of the above ingredients together in the mixer adding just a tiny bit of milk at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.
**In the cinnamon rolls pictured I combined cream cheese, maple syrup, and a pat of butter together. I continued to add maple syrup until the sweetness and texture was perfect. I find that maple syrup adds depth of flavor and just the right amount of sweetness.