Grandma’s Homemade Cinnamon (or Apricot) Sweet Rolls

apricot sweet rolls

Back in June, I posted a photo of some homemade cinnamon rolls on Instagram (I’m thefrugalgirl there if you want to follow me!), and many of you requested that I share the recipe.

I’d only made the cinnamon version that day, though, and I wanted to wait until I made an apricot batch too so that I could show you both varieties.

grandma's homemade cinnamon rolls

I’ve shared an overnight cinnamon roll recipe here before, but these rolls are free-form (the shaping method is quite different) and they bake on a sheet instead of in a 9×13 pan.

I can’t really say that one is better than the other, as both varieties are really delicious.  You should probably make both kinds and decide for yourself.  ;)

The dough for these rolls is the same dough I use to make my bread bears, which I shared here back in 2010.

It’s my grandma’s recipe, and these particular sweet rolls are pretty nostalgic to me because every summer when we visited my grandparents in their small midwestern town, my grandma always had multiple baking sheets filled with these rolls.

Every morning, she’d heat some up in her oven (she was quite against microwaves, and besides, an oven does make a lot of sense for heating larger quantities) and serve them for breakfast.

So, the smell of these (along with the smell of coffee) just screams grandma to me.

grandma's handwritten sweet roll recipe

There’s all kinds of happy tied up in these.

And I hope that even though these lack nostalgia for you, they’ll still prove a delightful addition to your baking repertoire.

I posted some step-by-step photos of the dough-making process in the bear bread recipe, so I’ll just refer you there if you need help with the dough.

To make cinnamon rolls:

Once your batch of dough has risen for an hour, turn it out onto a counter and divide it in half.  Roll one half into a rectangle, and spread with softened butter, like so.

sweet roll dough spread with butter

Then sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar.  My grandma was quite non-specific about quantities, and honestly, there’s a fair bit of leeway here.  When you make cinnamon bread, too much butter and cinnamon can make your bread fall, but this is pretty much never a problem with rolls.

As long as it’s fairly thoroughly covered, you should be good.

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Now take a pizza cutter and divide the dough into strips.  Again, you don’t need to be super precise.

sweet roll dough cut into strips

It looks like I cut these the long way, but it’s just a wonky perspective.  Cut them the short way!

Twist each dough strip and then coil it into a neat bun.

how to twist sweet roll dough

The dough strips stretch as you do this, which makes it tempting to fold them in half like this:

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But if you do that, less sugary surface area will be exposed during the baking process, and the resulting rolls won’t be quite as good.

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Let the rolls rise for about 30 minutes, and then bake them in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  This baking time can vary depending on the thickness of your baking sheets, so keep an eye on them until you’re familiar with what works.  If you have thin sheets, 10 minutes will be good, but thick sheets like the Vollrath ones I own will require more time.

Remove the baked rolls to a wire rack to cool.

These are good on their own, but are even better with frosting.

frosting a cinnamon roll

My grandma was again very non-specific with her frosting directions. She just says to mix powdered sugar, a little butter, some half and half, and some vanilla.

And honestly, I do usually wing it.  ;)

But it’s probably something like a tablespoon of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, two tablespoons of half and half or milk, and then enough powdered sugar to make the consistency right for spreading.

To make apricot sweet rolls:

The process for these is quite similar, but you’ll need to make the apricot filling first.

It’s pretty simple.  Just take an 8 oz. package of dried apricots (apricots are available at Aldi, and they are SO much more affordable there), put ‘em in a pan and cover them with water.

Bring them to a boil and cook them for about 20 minutes, or until they’re really soft and most of the water is absorbed.

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At first you will think this is waaay too much water, but fear not!  The apricots will absorb it all.

Do keep an eye on them because they can burn if the water level gets too low.  Add more water if necessary.

Put the cooked apricots into a food processor, and process until smooth.  My grandma said to add a cup of sugar, but I usually don’t think a whole cup is necessary.

Now, roll out half of the sweet roll dough, butter it, and sugar it (no cinnamon this time, unless you really want it!)

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Cut the dough into strips.

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Twist the strips up and coil them into a bun shape.  Again, resist the urge to fold them in half.  You want the sugary sides exposed!

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Place them on a greased baking sheet and let them rise about 30 minutes.

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Bake them in a preheated 350° F oven for about 8 minutes, or JUST until they’re slightly brown, like this:

underbaked sweet rolls

Take them out of the oven, put a little dollop of apricot filling in the center of each, and place them back in the oven to bake for a few more minutes, until they’re golden brown.

apricot sweet rolls

Remove the baked rolls to a wire rack to cool.

(info on my baking sheets and cooling racks can be found right here, on my work-in-progress kitchen equipment page.)

Cinnamon (or Apricot) Sweet Rolls

(I’ll add a printable later today, promise!)

2 pkg. (4.5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (8 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
about 6.5 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water. Heat milk, sugar, butter, and salt to 110 degrees F. Add to dissolved yeast along with eggs and 3 cups of flour. Beat for 3 minutes on medium speed (or stir thoroughly by hand). Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a bowl, cover with a wet tea towel, and let rise 1 hour.

Punch dough down and divide in half.

To make cinnamon rolls:

Roll each dough half out into a rectangle.  Spread with softened butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.  Cut dough into strips the short way.  Twist each strip, coil into a bun shape, and place on greased baking sheet.

Let rise until double (about 30 minutes) and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Frost with a mixture of about 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons half and half or milk, and enough powdered sugar to provide proper consistency.

To make apricot rolls:

Place 8 oz. dried apricots into a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and apricots are soft.  Process apricots in food processor until smooth.  Add up to 1 cup sugar and process until combined.

Roll each dough half into a rectangle.  Spread with softened butter and sprinkle generously with sugar.  Cut dough into strips the short way.  Twist each strip, coil into a bun shape, and place on greased baking sheet.

Let rise until double (about 30 minutes) and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and spoon a dollop of apricot filling in the middle of each roll.  Return to oven and bake a few more minutes, until nicely browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

How to make fluffy homemade hamburger buns

How to Make Fluffy Homemade Hamburger Buns

Several years ago, I posted a recipe for homemade hamburger buns, but of late, I’ve been slightly modifying the dough from my honey-glazed rolls to make buns because I think they’re slightly fluffier and more delicious.

In fact, these are so good, I might almost prefer one over a doughnut.

fluffy homemade hamburger bun

Seriously delicious.

They’re good for hamburgers of course, but also work very well for BBQ beef or sloppy joes or lunch meat sandwiches.

And they’re awfully good just toasted with butter and jam.

In fact, fresh from the oven, they’re delicious all by themselves!

This is all you’ll need.  It’s kind of surprising how little bread requires, isn’t it??

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Just a few ingredients and somehow, they turn into a pile of buns.

This is why homemade bread can beat the price of even super-duper cheap bread.

baked homemade hamburger buns

I’m going to give you a recipe for 24 buns, because while you’re at it, you might as well make a bunch. If you don’t eat them in a few days like we do, you can always freeze some for later.

Feel free to halve the recipe, though, if 24 buns is way too many for you!

So, in a mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and two packages of yeast (that’s 4.5 teaspoons.)

adding the yeast

Then heat together your milk, fat, sweetener, and salt until it reaches 120° F.

You can use whatever kind of fat you prefer…butter is the tastiest, but vegetable oils work fine too (if you use coconut oil, use the refined kind so your buns don’t taste super tropical!).

You can also vary the sweetener. Sugar works, but so does honey.

heated milk for hamburger buns

Add the hot liquids to the flour/yeast and beat for two minutes.  This will make a really thin batter.

thin yeast dough batter

Next, add two eggs, and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough (the recipe calls for 7 cups total and at this point I’d added a little shy of six cups.)

soft yeast dough

Don’t err on the side of adding too much flour-this is probably the most common mistake beginning bakers make.  Tough yeast dough won’t rise well because the yeast isn’t strong enough to push against really stiff dough.

Tough dough is the enemy of fluffiness.

Flour your counter and dump the dough out.

dough ready to knead

FYI, I could have made this dough a hair stiffer than I did.  If you’re new to kneading, you might want to add just a bit more flour than this before you knead or you’ll have difficulty handling the dough.

A bench knife/dough scraper makes the process way easier. Mine is almost exactly like this one, which sells for $5.99.

dough scraper

To start the kneading off, I run the dough scraper around the edge of the dough, folding the floury edges into the middle.

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Once I do that, the dough is usually quite manageable.  I knead my dough for about three minutes or so, only adding flour to the underside/outside of the dough, never to the middle.

It should look something like this when you’re done.  See how it flattens out a bit?  Your dough should be soft enough to do that.  If it stays in a tall round ball, it’s too stiff.

dough after kneading

You should need right about 7 cups of flour, with a little extra for dusting the counter.  However, the amount of flour you need will depend a bit on the humidity levels in your home, so if you need to use a little more or a little less, don’t worry about it.  Yeast baking isn’t terribly exact when it comes to flour.

Put the dough back into the mixing bowl (I don’t bother washing mine!) and cover it with a wet tea towel.

cover bread dough with a tea towel

Let it rise in a warm place for an hour.

risen bread dough

Once it’s risen, punch it down, turn it out onto the counter, and divide it into 24 pieces.

dividing bread dough

Shape each pieces into a ball, and then flatten the ball slightly.

To shape my dough into balls, I place a piece of dough in my hand and pull the outer edges to the middle.

You can sort of see how I did that if you look at the third dough piece in the picture below.

shaping hamburger rolls

From left to right, there’s a piece of unshaped dough, the top of a shaped ball, the bottom of a shaped ball, and a flattened dough ball.

Place the buns onto two greased baking sheets (I have two Vollrath baking sheets, and I totally dig them.  So incredibly sturdy.)

homemade hamburger buns ready to rise

I do cover my dough with a towel in other circumstances, but sometimes, the towel can stick to small items like buns, so I like to put these into my oven, uncovered, with a bowl of steaming water below them.  This keeps the air warm and moist, which is the point of the tea towel anyway.

how to keep rising dough warm

This also is a handy way to give your dough a warm place to rise during the winter, when the air in your house is a little on the cool side.

The buns will probably take about 45 minutes to rise, although if you’re making them in the summer, they could be done rising in as little as 30 minutes.  It all depends how warm the air is.

They should look like this when they’re done rising, though.

risen hamburger buns

About 10 minutes before the buns are done rising (take them out of the oven first!!!), preheat your oven to 350°F.  Once the oven is hot, bake the buns for 13-15 minutes, or until they’re nicely browned.

Remove them to a wire rack to cool.

On wire racks: I used to own two cheap and terrible racks, but I now own two of these Professional Cross Wire Cooling Racks.  I love them because they should last forever and because they fit perfectly in my half-sheet pans. And the cross-hatch pattern of the wires means nothing can sag between them.

baked homemade hamburger buns

Here’s what the inside of a roll should look like…soft and fluffy.

fluffy homemade hamburger bun

Fluffy Homemade Hamburger Buns

Printable Homemade Hamburger Buns Recipe

7 cups all purpose flour (my favorite is Gold Medal Unbleached)
4.5 teaspoons (two packages) active dry yeast (I buy mine in bulk at Costco)
3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar or honey
3 teaspoons salt
2 eggs

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 cups of flour with the yeast.  In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt, and heat (stovetop or microwave) to 120°F.

Add hot liquids to flour/yeast mixture and beat for 2 minutes.  Add eggs and mix to combine.  Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes.  Place dough in bowl, cover with wet tea towel, and let rise in a warm place for one hour, or until doubled in size.

Turn dough out on to floured surface and divide into 24 pieces.  Shape each into a ball and flatten slightly.  Place on greased baking sheets; cover baking sheets or place into oven with a bowl of warm water below.  Let rise 30-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Remove rising buns from the oven and preheat oven to 350° F.  Bake buns, one sheet at a time, for 13-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.