Today is the first day of school, and a good friend of mine is hosting several of us for a … celebration breakfast. As much as we will miss the lazy days of summer, the return to school and its routine and structure is good for the kids – and for us. She’s providing some of the food and drinks, but of course I have to bring something of my own. Since it’s morning, my thoughts immediately went to tea (and honestly, Bigelow tea since my tea cabinet tends to be stocked primarily with Bigelow Tea). And cinnamon rolls. And so I decided to combine my two loves.
Me? I’m not a coffee girl unless it doesn’t actually taste like coffee. Add in the creams and syrups and such, and then I’ll drink it, but that isn’t exactly the best thing for my waistline, so I turn to tea because I love drinking teas with nothing added. I need no sugar or lemon or milk in mine. The multitude of flavors I can choose from depending on my mood, and with Bigelow teas being stored in individual foil pouches, they maintain their high quality flavor for longer than others, which means I can have a greater variety in my collection at home. In the mornings, my favorite is a chai – so of course I was out when I wanted to make these cinnamon rolls, but once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t change it.
Fortunately, I was already planning to head to Walmart to pick up a few last minute things for the start of school for the wee ones (and get Little Miss’s glasses adjusted once again so they stay on her face properly), and I know they have a great Bigelow tea selection. This time around, I found their vanilla chai tea, which actually sounded like it would be a perfect complement to cinnamon rolls – spicy with just a touch of sweet.
Let’s just say that I was right. I brought 12 cinnamon rolls to our get together where there was other food, and I came home with only 4. That’s a win for me – a bigger win though? I put the rolls together last night after the wee ones went to bed then pulled them from the fridge this morning to bake them off so it was an easy treat to pull off.
The tea in the cinnamon roll dough and in the glaze wasn’t overwhelming, but it was definitely there and gave a great flavor boost. My friends raved over these, and I really think it was the addition of the infused tea that made the difference.
To infuse the tea, I scalded some milk and let it cool to about 115 degrees with a single bag of tea added once I turned off the stove. It didn’t change the color of the milk dramatically, but sitting for five or so minutes really added a nice note to the milk.
From there, I made the dough as I normally would, adding the warm but not hot milk to yeast, sugar and salt in my mixing bowl, adding the flour and stirring until it came together in a ball.
Usually, I would let my stand mixer knead my dough for me, but this is a fairly tacky dough. It won’t necessarily stick to your hands a ton, but it grips the dough hook and won’t let go, so I prefer to knead this dough by hand. Once you dust your surface with flour, you generally don’t need to add more, as it won’t stick.
Simply knead as you normally would for five to 10 minutes, then check to see if your dough is ready. When you press your dough with a finger and it springs back rather than holding its shape, you know that you’ve kneaded enough and can let it rise.
I simply return my dough to the same bowl I used to mix initially and cover with a towel for an hour. In the warm kitchen I have this summer, an hour later, it has more than doubled in size and is ready to roll out.
I don’t even need to flour my surface again to roll it out into a 9 by 15 rectangle. I may add just a touch of flour, but it’s a very manageable dough.
From there, I spread my very softened butter (yay hot kitchens) over the dough, leaving an inch or so along the top long corner so that the dough will stick together later. I simply leave the butter in the wrapper, open the wrapper and rub it onto the dough. There’s no need to melt the butter, and the wrapper helps keep your fingers at least a little clean(er).
Any butter that is left on my wrapper – and there will be – I use to butter the 9×13 pan that I’m going to bake my cinnamon rolls in. I don’t want anything to stick to my pan, and again this is a great way to grease your pan without getting your hands dirty. It’s one of my favorite baking tricks.
For the inside of my cinnamon rolls, I mix together a slightly spiced cinnamon sugar. I add nutmeg and cloves to my usual sugar and cinnamon mixture to add just a little more flavor to go with the chai theme. Usually I add raisins to my cinnamon rolls because I like them, but for this version, it doesn’t need anything aside from the infusion of flavor I’ve already given it, so I skip them and the nuts. This gets spread over the butter, and then it’s time to roll everything up.
Once you’ve rolled it so that you have a long snake, it’s time to cut. A couple tips: use a serrated knife and cut by halves. The serrated knife cuts through the dough better so that your filling doesn’t fall out as the dough is stretched when you try to cut through it. And trying to make 12 even size pieces is hard enough. Rather than eyeballing it from one end to the other, I cut my dough into thirds, then cut each third in half, then cut that half into half, and I have 12 pretty close to even cinnamon rolls.
From there, it’s easy to carefully lift them and place them into my buttered pan. They won’t all touch now, but by the time they’re done baking they will. At this point, I cover them again with the towel and pop them in the fridge until the next morning. If I were making them immediately, I would instead let them rise for a half hour, then bake them. All in all, I had about 20 minutes of active work over an hour and a half time period, with a quick baking and glazing to do in the morning. Splitting it up makes things so much easier to have hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast or brunch!
The next morning, I remove the cinnamon rolls as soon as I wake up and let them sit on the counter while I get everything else done. Once they’ve warmed up for 45 minutes or so, I’ll turn on my oven to 350 degrees and bake them for 30 minutes, until they’re golden brown and I can see the topping bubbling at the edges.
While they’re cooling in their pan for a few minutes, I whip up the glaze. Since I love my chai, I simply brew myself a cup of chai tea to start – and ok, maybe it’s my second or third cup of chai for the morning. In a small bowl, I add the melted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. I pour some of my chai tea (before I’ve drunk any obviously) over the powdered sugar and use a fork to stir. If I need a little more chai to thin it, I add it and stir until combined. Simply pour the glaze over your cinnamon rolls, and they’re ready to eat.
No surprise, these are best hot and the first day, though you can keep them on your counter in a tightly sealed container for another day or so. (Note that I was lazy and didn’t sift my (older) powdered sugar, nor did I fluff it with my fork beforehand. It has a few lumps in the glaze, but they get absorbed by the moisture in the glaze as it starts to harden and are no longer noticeable. But I still recommend quickly sifting or fluffing your powdered sugar before using it!
- 1 c milk
- 1 vanilla chai tea bag
- 2 1/4 t yeast (1 packet equivalent)
- 1 t salt
- 1/4 c sugar
- 5 T butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 3 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 c butter, softened
- 1/3 c sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t fresh ground nutmeg
- 1/4 t fresh ground cloves
- 3 T butter, melted
- 1 t vanilla
- 2 c powdered sugar
- 1/4 c brewed vanilla chai tea
- Heat milk just until it is steaming. Add the tea bag and let it steep for five minutes off the heat. Remove the tea bag, and add milk to mixing bowl. Top with yeast, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add softened butter and mix again. When mostly incorporated, add the egg and bring to medium speed to beat together. Once incorporated, add remaining flour slowly. Mix on low speed until your dough comes together in a ball.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for five to ten minutes, until the dough springs back when you press lightly into it. Return to your bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for an hour until doubled in size.
- Roll out dough to a 9 by 15 rectangle. Spread 1/2 cup of butter over the dough, leaving a one inch gap along the top long side Use the wrapper to spread any remaining butter into the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan to grease the pan
- Mix together the remainder of your filling in a separate bowl. Use a fork to combine the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Spread this over the butter on your dough.
- Roll up your rectangle into a long log, starting at the bottom and leaving the uncoated edge for the end. Use a serrated knife to slice into 12 equal pieces.
- Place each piece into your buttered pan. Replace the towel and let rise for 30 minutes or place in the fridge overnight to finish in the morning.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while your cinnamon rolls are rising. Once they are ready to bake, remove the towel and bake uncovered in your oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and the filling has started to bubble at the edges.
- Cool in the pan while you make the glaze. Brew a cup of vanilla chai tea. In a small mixing bowl, add melted butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Pour the hot tea over this. Use a fork to stir until thoroughly combined, adding a bit more tea to thin the glaze if needed. Pour the glaze over your cinnamon rolls and enjoy immediately.
- If you don't have vanilla chai tea, use your standard chai tea but add a half teaspoon of vanilla to the milk at the start of the recipe and a quarter teaspoon vanilla to the glaze.
- If you make these at night and let them rise in your fridge, this works great. Make sure you remove the rolls from the fridge and let sit on the counter, still covered by the towel, for 45 minutes before you bake them.
- These are best eaten the day they're made but can be stored on the counter in a tightly sealed container for another 1-2 days, if needed.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 roll
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 445 Total Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 10g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 58mg Sodium: 336mg Carbohydrates: 67g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 37g Protein: 6g
So did you know that you can cook and bake with tea? You absolutely can, and there are so many great ideas for what you can do with it. A green tea smoothie is actually one of my favorite breakfasts. Needless to say, I do truly have a tea cabinet, and it’s filled with all sorts of varieties depending on my mood and on what I spot when I’m at the store that strikes my fancy.
Most of my tea is Bigelow Tea because I really love the way they run their business and make their teas. The teas are 100% American made by an American family for three generations. The Bigelow Charleston Tea Planation is America’s largest working tea garden – and you can bet that it’s on my bucket list to visit. It is open to the public, and they host weddings, tours, and yep, even music festivals. Now that’s the way to vacation in the South and really get your authentic Southern culture in! Beyond that, Bigelow believes in giving back, and they’ve sent almost four million bags of tea to troops overseas as part of the Tea for Troops program. I love hearing about programs that give back directly and find ways to bring a little happiness and comfort to those who don’t have it.
Bigelow has a great Pinterest board filled with all sorts of information and inspiration for your tea. What will you brew next?