“They are best right out of the oven, covered with runny frosting and very messy.”

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WHEN BRANDI HENDERSON grew up in Alabama, food came from boxes and cans, and American cheese was a staple. As a kid, one of her favorite treats was cinnamon rolls from a tube. Today, as founder and owner of The Pantry in Ballard, she has developed a new recipe for cinnamon rolls with a similar flavor profile to her childhood favorites, only handmade with fresh eggs and real butter. This decadent version marries sophistication and nostalgia — the perfect mix of grown-up and childish.

Henderson makes these rolls for holidays or any time a crowd is coming for brunch. They can be made the night before and baked at the last minute. “People basically think you’re God if you make homemade cinnamon rolls,” she says. “They are best right out of the oven, covered with runny frosting and very messy.”

Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12

When measuring dry ingredients, weight is more accurate than volume


Brioche dough

12 ounces (about 2¾ cups) bread flour

1½ tablespoons sugar

1¼ teaspoons instant yeast

½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons whole milk, lukewarm

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft

Cinnamon filling

5 ounces brown sugar (about ¾ cup, packed)

5 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft

Cream cheese glaze

½ vanilla bean

1 tablespoon sugar

5 tablespoons cream cheese, soft

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft

¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon whole milk

1. To make the dough, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl.

2. Combine the milk and eggs in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture in the dry mixture and stir until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes. Dough will be very sticky.

3. Knead in the butter a piece at a time. Continue mixing about 6 minutes if using a mixer or, if kneading, until the dough is well mixed. When the dough is very smooth, place it in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled. Chill in the fridge before rolling.

4. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

5. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into a rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and ¼ inch thick, with the long side facing you. Spread the butter evenly over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Starting from the side closest to you, roll up the rectangle tightly like a jelly roll. Trim off about 1 inch from each end. If dough becomes warm or sticky, place it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

6. Use a scraper or knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces about 1½ inches wide. (If baking another day, tightly wrap the buns in plastic and freeze for up to 1 week.)

7. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Arrange the buns evenly in pan, cut-side down. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot until the dough is puffy and soft, about 2 hours.

8. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

9. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze in a bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sugar. Using your fingers, smash the seeds to break up any clumps. Add the vanilla sugar to the rest of the glaze ingredients and mix until smooth.

10. When the rolls are finished, let them cool slightly (5 to 10 minutes). With a knife or spatula, spread the glaze over the buns.

— Brandi Henderson, The Pantry