This recipe is for the sugarholics who bite into a cinnamon roll and wonder if it wouldn’t taste just a little better if it was sweeter and goo-ier. Not for the faint of heart, this homemade caramel cinnamon rolls recipe will use up most of the sugar and butter contents of your pantry. But, it will be worth it.
A Short History of Caramel
We can trace the origin of the word caramel to France (“caramel”), from there to Spain (“caramello”), and from there to Arab (“”kurat al milh” or “ball of sweet salt.”). The domestication and processing of sugar cane seems to have been achieved first in India, in 2500 BCE. From there, the technique spread to Persia, onward to the Arab world. Muslim forces invading Spain in the 8th century brought with them processed sugar and, perhaps even caramel, along with the tradition of ending a meal with sweets.
The Science of Caramel
To make caramel is, a baker simply heats sugar to 340 F. As the sugar is heated, the molecules break down and form a new compound with a rich, deep, dark brown color. Bakers add dairy products (butter, cream) and salt to the sugar to vary the texture and flavor.
Sticky Buns vs. Cinnamon Rolls
What is the difference between a sticky bun and a cinnamon roll? Both are are based on a yeast dough rolled with a cinnamon filling. But the name says it all. The sticky factor. We create the sticky factor by pouring a caramel sauce into the bottom of the pan. Once baked, the baker flips the pan and sticky cinnamon rolls covered with a decadent caramel sauce emerge. We prefer this self-saucing technique to the more traditional cream cheese frosting that tops cinnamon rolls.
More Cinnamon Treats
Enough about caramel! Looking for more cinnamon treats? Look no further!
Useful Tools for Making this Homemade Caramel Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Homemade Caramel Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
- stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- 9-inch round cake pan
- parchment paper
- offset spatula
- serrated knife
For the dough
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups of flour
For the cinnamon brown sugar filling
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
For the homemade caramel sauce
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tbsp corn syrup
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans optional
For the dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water. Mix and let sit for 15 minutes until foamy.
- Add the oil and salt. Stir with a spatula.
- Attach the dough hook and add half the flour. Start the mixer and knead to absorb the flour.
- Gradually add more flour, a little bit at a time, until the dough is less sticky and pulls away from the sides of the mixer. When you touch the dough, it should bounce back slightly.
- Continue kneading for 5 minutes, once the correct consistency is achieved.
- Grease a large bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place dough it in the bottom of the large greased bowl. Cover with a clean cloth and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Once doubled, punch down the dough. Re-grease the bowl and let the dough double again, an additional 45 minutes.
Make the caramel sauce
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
- Grease a 9-inch round pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- Pour a thin layer of caramel sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle pecans over the top, if using.
For the cinnamon brown sugar mixture
- In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Prepare the cinnamon rolls
- Once the dough has doubled a second time, use a rolling pin to roll dough into a rectangle roughly 9 x 5 inches on a well-floured surface. Spread the cinnamon mixture over the entire rectangle.
- Gently roll the dough up on the long side into a long log. Using a serrated knife or a piece of dental floss, cut the dough into 8 pieces, each roughly 1-inch wide. Place rolls in the pan, on top of the caramel sauce, and press down slightly so that the cinnamon sugar is visible at the top.
- Cover the pans with a clean dishtowel and let rise again, roughly 30 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bake 20 minutes until the rolls are golden brown on top.
- Cool on counter for 5 minutes to ensure the caramel has time to set. If you remove the rolls too early, the caramel will ooze everywhere.
- Flip the pans onto a serving platter. Remove the parchment paper. Serve warm.
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