Back when I read The Year of Living Danishly, I desperately wanted cinnamon rolls. Well, sort of. I wanted kanelsnegles, the pastries the author ate on the regular, even though I had never even seen one let alone tasted one. Minor details. She kept talking about cinnamon snails and I kept wanting them but not having any.
Lacking a Danish bakery and the funds to go straight to the source (someday, Denmark, someday…) I did what all desperate DIYers do: I turned to Pinterest.
After finding a handful of recipes that looked promising, I did a little Frankensteining and pieced together my own version. I’m extremely please with how it turned out. Several people have told me they’re the best cinnamon rolls they’ve ever had, which is a MASSIVE compliment for someone who has a terrible track record with yeast bread.
Wanna know the secret?
- Cream cheese frosting
Based on the research I did, cardamom is an integral ingredient in cinnamon snails. Cream cheese, not so much. But if frosting doesn’t have cream cheese in it, is it really worth eating?
I’m pretty sure you know my answer to that.
Also, if you don’t slice your cinnamon rolls with dental floss or string, you’re doing it wrong. I will defend my stance on this to the grave, amen.
Anyway, I’m a recent convert to adding cardamom to things. It’s in both the dough and the filling here, and I think that’s what really makes these different. In a good way.
Cinnamon Snails or Kanelsnegles
1 cup warm milk*
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, divided
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cardamom
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 Tablespoons cinnamon (depending on how “spicy” you like your cinnamon rolls)
*I heat my milk in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. The setting on my microwave for melting 1 stick of butter gets the milk to just about the perfect temperature. If using a microwave to heat your milk, err on the side of too cold, stir to ensure the temperature is even throughout, and stop when it feels like warm bathwater. If you’re worried about it, heating milk on the stove top take longer but is easier to control.
For the frosting/glaze:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 oz (1/4 brick) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
Proof yeast in a small bowl filled with warm milk. When the mixture is foamy (it takes about 5 minutes), pour into a large bowl and add sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon cardamom, and 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. Leave the remaining butter out to soften and use later. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until dough becomes too thick to stir. Continue adding flour and mixing with your hands until dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Knead by hand for 3-5 minutes; dough should be smooth but not very stretchy. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp dishtowel, and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size.
While the dough rises, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and the remaining teaspoon of cardamom in a small bowl or ramekin. Set aside.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rectangle (about 12″ by 15″). Using a spoon or rubber spatula, gently spread the remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter on the dough, leaving about 1/2″ along the edges. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over the butter. Starting at a long end, roll the dough into a log. Trim off ends (optional, but I like to bake them in a little ramekin for a tiny treat!) and cut remaining dough into 12 even slices. Place in a 9×13″ pan, cover with a damp dishtowel, and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
While the dough rises, preheat your oven 425°F. Bake risen rolls for 11-15 minutes. They should BARELY be turning golden along the edges when you pull them out. Allow to cool slightly on a rack while you prepare the frosting.
In a medium bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Beat together until smooth, being careful not to get powdered sugar EVERYWHERE. Add the remaining powdered sugar, beat until smooth, then spread frosting on the warm cinnamon snails.
Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container and reheat as desired.