Midwesterners love their cinnamon rolls. Far from having the sweet, fragrant treats only at breakfast or for a coffee break, they will serve them and eat them just about anytime. Homestyle chicken dinner emporiums, throughout the Heartland serve the rolls warm and tender in a basket to accompany your feast. The rolls are a must at school and church suppers, potlucks, and “chili feeds.” A friend or family member in need of a little TLC will perk up immediately when you bring homemade cinnamon rolls and say, “Let’s put on the coffee.” Make extra batches, if you like, and freeze them after they are baked.
Variation: To make sticky buns, omit the glaze and replace it in the following manner. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan, add 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (and, if you like, 1/2 cup chopped pecans), stir until the mixture is evenly blended, and spread on the baking sheet before you roll out the dough. Place the cinnamon rolls directly on this mixture, then let rise and bake as below. When you remove the baked cinnamon rolls from the oven, immediately invert the baking sheet on aluminum foil and let the cinnamon rolls cool with the sticky glaze on top.
1Prepare the dough: Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water in a small bowl; do not stir. Set aside to proof to a foamy consistency. Heat the sour cream in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sour cream is lukewarm, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, and, using and electric mixer, blend in the egg and the yeast mixture. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time; you will have a sticky and somewhat thick dough. Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead it for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, and let the dough rise for 10 minutes.
2Prepare the filling: Combine the sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Divide the dough in half, and transfer one of the halves to a floured board. Roll out the dough into a 13-by-10-inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Brush half of the melted butter over the surface of the dough and sprinkle it with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll up the dough in jelly-roll fashion, starting with the long side that is least even; you will end up with a roll about 13 inches long. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Cut the roll into 1-inch lengths and place each piece, with a spiral side facing up, on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Cover the cinnamon rolls with a tea towel, and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they have about doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3Bake the cinnamon rolls for 15 minutes, or until they are puffed and browned. While the rolls bake, make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the milk in a bowl. When the mixture is smooth, whisk in the vanilla.
4Remove the rolls from the oven, and, while they are still hot, drizzle them, with the glaze. Let them cool slightly on their sheet or on racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.