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better late

March 16 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Breakfast,Recipe » 25 comments


I am fanatical about time.  Promptness, I was raised to believe, is next to godliness.  Cleanliness is fine and dandy, but you should really, really be on time.  So you could say that my college experience got off on the wrong foot, to put it mildly, when I showed up late for my orientation.  An entire day late.


I had signed up for the orientation backpacking trip the school offered for incoming freshman.  I had a new backpack and hiking boots and I had staunchly refused to watch the Blair Witch Project all summer: I was ready.  The day before I was set to leave for Chicago, between a couple last-minute errands and packing, I got a phone call.  It was Ben, the student leader of the trip calling to find out when I planned to arrive.  Tomorrow, I told him, probably before noon.




The buses were loaded and they were heading out in a couple hours, he explained.  “The trip leaves today,” he said, and that’s when I nearly passed out.  Thankfully, my mom took over and snapped into action.  We packed up, said a hurried goodbye to my little sister and drove through the night to Battle Creek, Michigan, where Ben and my mother—both consulting an atlas—had figured out we could intercept the buses.  The plan came off without a hitch and I boarded the bus, blushing a brilliant shade of red and blinking back tears.


The first couple days of the trip were tough: the packs were heavy, the seven us of freshman were awkward and I had blisters the size of silver dollars on both heels.  But around the third day, we started to fall into rituals, growing comfortable with the woods and becoming familiar with each other.  Each morning, we’d unfold the camp stoves issued by the school and flick them into life.  On top of the flame would go a battered skillet or pot and we’d all huddle around as oatmeal bubbled away or as pancakes cooked slowly, one by one.


The best breakfast of that week, by far, involved a tube of pre-packaged cinnamon rolls.  We popped open the tube, tucked the rolls into a skillet and set the skillet over the camp stove.  As you can imagine, a whimpy camp stove does not an oven make and the results were less than picture-perfect.  But drizzled with some squeeze-packet glaze and eaten on the shore of Lake Superior, I could think of nothing more delicious.


As it turned out, the trip was one of the best things I’ve ever done: one of my fellow freshman that week in Michigan was Patty, who would go on to become one of my closest friends and we both led the trip as counselors for the next three years.  It also unearthed in me an outdoorswoman I had no idea was in there.  Two summers later, I would spend four weeks backpacking through Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains on a NOLS program.  Shortly after that, I went on my third trip through the school, my second as a counselor, and on that trip I spent quite a bit of time with a guy named Kevin, who I married six years later.  So, yes, making it to the trip—even a day late—was a good thing.


To this day, cinnamon rolls—especially when drizzled with a creamy glaze—make me think of this long, winding story: about Ben and his phone call, about Patty and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about whisper-lite stoves and the blissful breakfasts they can yield, about Kevin.  But I don’t have the heart to buy the tube variety (fun as it is to pop! those tubes open).  And, to be honest, I don’t usually have the patience or foresight to make cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Or I didn’t, I should say, because this weekend I discovered a recipe that requires little patience and almost no foresight: these rolls can be made—start to finish—in under an hour.  (They’re yeast-free, a bonus for the yeast-phobes out there!)


This recipe also yields a superior cinnamon roll specimen: a fat, burnished swirl, oozing with a cinnamon-sugar mixture that’s gone caramely in the oven.  The very center of the swirl—once you unfurl your way to it—is incredibly tender and just barely baked through and the whole thing is capped with a cream cheese-buttermilk glaze.  I’m kicking myself for not trying this recipe sooner.  But, as I’ve learned, some things are better late than never.


For the recipe for Cook’s Illustrated’s Fasted Cinnamon Buns (via Leite’s Culinaria): click here.

25 comments so far. »
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  1. holler says on March 16 2009 at 4:15 pm:

    That is a lovely story and the cinnamon rolls look great. I loved following the step-by-step photos as the story went on :)

  2. Whitney Merritt says on March 16 2009 at 4:55 pm:

    What an amazing story. We had a similar type program called Frog Camp for freshman which I STUPIDLY didn’t do as a freshmen but later went back as an upper-class facilitator. So much fun!

    I have never backpacked, but I bet it is something that I would like.

    Thanks for sharing the cinnamon rolls, they look wonderful.

  3. MommyAmy says on March 16 2009 at 5:01 pm:

    I did something a bit like that in college, but unfortunately the group I went with never really did work well together as a team. Too many leaders, not enough followers I think. Oh well! I had lots of other great college memories.

    Awesome looking cinnamon rolls by the way! Nothing beats homemade that’s for sure! I made a big batch of them myself around Christmas and they were a big hit with my family and neighbors.

  4. Diane says on March 16 2009 at 5:28 pm:

    These look as good as grandma’s and yes, I remember each moment of that weekend.That was such a memorable few days and then we got Kevin! Love, MOM

  5. Grapeful says on March 16 2009 at 6:27 pm:

    What an anecdote! I’m glad everything worked out for you. I can only imagine the panic you initially felt. And kudos to your mother for being able to intercept the bus!

  6. Marianne says on March 16 2009 at 6:56 pm:

    There is definitely something to be said for a fresh baked, glazed cinnamon roll. I haven’t had one in ages. Those look divine.

  7. Amanda B says on March 16 2009 at 7:32 pm:

    If I bring the cinnamon buns, can we go hiking sometime in the fall? I’ve always wanted to embrace my inner mountain woman. What better way to spend a couple of days, as long as you have a guide, some cinnamon buns, and gorgeous weather.

  8. Andrea says on March 16 2009 at 8:25 pm:

    What a lovely post! And these rolls look delicious. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Amy says on March 16 2009 at 9:30 pm:

    These look delicious. The only problem is that they aren’t here with me right now!

  10. rachel says on March 16 2009 at 11:57 pm:

    This post is as charming and delicious as those cinnamon rolls, perfect really, the story rolled into the recipe as nicely as the sugar and cinnamon is rolled into the dough.

  11. noble pig says on March 17 2009 at 12:39 am:

    Absolutely beautiful. And I loved the story too. I guarantee it was your destiny to meet your hubby that way!

  12. sue bette says on March 17 2009 at 2:53 am:

    what a great story! I can imagine the panic when you realized you figured out you were a day late – eek!
    So I have actually never had a cinnamon roll, and writing this I can’t believe it. I think it is all those “cinnabuns” at airports and highway rest centers that have scared me off. I think i will have to give these a try – they look like a perfect treat to start off a March morning.

  13. Amy says on March 17 2009 at 5:33 am:

    What a great story! Yikes, I would have also been completely mortified…I hate being late for anything, and getting on a bus while everyone stares at me? I’d want to drop into the floor!

    I love the picture of them all snuggled up in a pan together. :)

  14. Tabitha (From Single to Married) says on March 17 2009 at 9:17 am:

    Wow! You backpacked through Alaska? I’m not sure whether to be more amazed at that or at these rolls. Both are equally impressive.

  15. Amanda says on March 17 2009 at 2:08 pm:

    These really are fast! Those pictures looked so delicious, I went downstairs and started cooking. From start to finish (and with a baby on my hip) it took about an hour and twenty minutes. And, the pictures don’t lie, they are delicious.

  16. Kevin says on March 17 2009 at 5:28 pm:

    Those cinnamon buns look so good!

  17. GS says on March 18 2009 at 7:47 am:

    HELP! I made these cinnamon buns last night and everything went well until I tried to roll my dough. My dough looked “wetter” than yours and it was very sticky. This meant it stuck to my counter top and I couldn’t roll it tightly. Consequently, a lot of my filling melted into my baking dish. Any tips? Please?

  18. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on March 18 2009 at 10:16 am:

    holler: Thanks!

    whitney: I hadn’t backpacked before that and it was certainly an adventure!

    MommyAnn: These would be perfect for the holidays. Fast enough to make with lots of people around and special.

    Mom: As good as Grandma’s?!?! I’ll take it!

    Grapeful: She was on a mission, my mom.

    Marianne: A lot to be said, indeed. Mostly: mmmmm.

    Amanda: Deal!

    Andrea: Thanks!

    Amy: They could be in an hour!

    rachel: Thank you!

    noble pig: You know, I think so too.

    sue bette: I hope you give them a try!

    Amy: They were almost too cute to pull apart. Almost.

    Tabitha: Well, there were guides and everything was pretty well set up for us, which is more than I can say for these rolls. : )

    Amanda: Thanks for the instant feedback! So glad to hear they worked out well! (And so impressed you are baking with a baby on your hip!)

    Kevin: Thanks!

    GS: Sorry to hear it! If you try again, be sure to add enough additional flour while you’re kneading so that it’s not tacky. The dough should feel a bit like pizza dough. It should be dry enough that you can easily pat it out and roll it up.

  19. ingrid says on March 18 2009 at 11:23 am:

    Oh, geez! My mouth is watering. Your photos do these justice!

    I am following the link ASAP and will NOT be waiting more than an hour tonight to eat cinnamon rolls! Thx!

  20. GS says on March 18 2009 at 1:33 pm:

    Additional flour!! *light goes on over head* Thank you so much! I will give it another try! I have a huge problem with many doughs for bread and buns and I have NEVER thought to simply add more flour. Never fear, I scraped the gooey goodness from the baking dish and smeared it onto the buns!!!!

  21. anya says on March 18 2009 at 1:59 pm:

    So beautifully written!!

    Also, I wish I had one of those cinnamon rolls in my vicinity NOW. :)

  22. Geneil says on March 19 2009 at 5:16 pm:

    These look great and great story. I have a really good cinnamon roll recipe but it takes all day so I never make it. I must try these. My kids will thank you forever.

  23. maggie (p&c) says on March 25 2009 at 12:17 pm:

    I have a huge bookmarked folder of cinnamon bun recipes that I’ve been wanting to make, but these look the best yet! Thanks!

  24. Christelle says on April 21 2009 at 3:10 pm:

    Oh gosh yes please!
    Great article, and I’m drooling in front of the rolls ;0
    Great photography too

  25. Gillian says on July 16 2009 at 12:47 pm:

    I am a new convert to your blog, and oh my gosh…I’ve never been so impressed with a food blog! I’ve made about 5 of your recipes in the past week and they have all turned out fabulous. I also had a bit of trouble with the dough being quite sticky, and I did add extra flour while kneading, but I felt if I added any more, they would end up being too hard. Any suggestions? When have you added too much flour? And also, do you think that I could refrigerate the rolled-up dough overnight and just cut them and stick them in the oven in the morning? Thanks!

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