This simple dough is made in advance, leaving you free to spend time with friends and family. Pop the pan in the oven and let the smell of baking entice your guests.
The amount of flour depends upon humidity and other conditions on baking day. The dough should be supple and moist; if it is very sticky, you can work in up to 1/2 cup of additional flour before turning the dough onto the work surface for kneading.
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
7 tablespoons warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
1. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and water.
2. Set aside for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the yeast mixture is swollen.
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
4 1/2 cups flour (plus an additional 1/2 cup if needed, and some for the work surface)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Soft butter (for the bowl)
1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the milk, sugar, and butter. Heat just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat, stir well, and scrape into a medium-size heat-proof bowl; cool to tepid.
2. Stir in the vanilla and egg yolks. Blend in the yeast mixture.
3. In a large bowl combine 3 cups of the flour, the cinnamon, and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and using a wooden spoon stir well. Work in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time. If the dough is very sticky, work in up to an additional 1/2 cup of flour. Dust a work surface with flour. Turn out the dough and knead it for 8 minutes or until it is smooth.
4. Scrape out the bowl. Wash and dry it. Rub the inside generously with butter. Add the dough and turn it to coat with butter. With kitchen shears, cut several deep slashes in the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours or until the dough is doubled in bulk.
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.
3. Discard the plastic wrap over the dough. Lightly compress the dough with your fingertips. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll it into a 15-inch square. Spread with butter and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar. Fold in the sides, press them down firmly, and roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the long seam closed with your fingertips. Cut the log into 15 slices. Cup your hands around each slice to plump them up a bit. Place the spirals in the baking pan, making 3 rows, 5 snails per row, spacing them evenly.
4. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Discard the plastic wrap on the rolls and let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes; if the rolls are not fully risen, let them sit up for up to another 40 minutes.
2. Bake the rolls for 35 minutes, or until they pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Transfer, without separating the rolls, to a wire rack for 10 minutes.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift the confectioners’ sugar and salt. Set the bowl in the mixer. Add the butter, milk, water, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice.
4. Spoon the icing over the warm rolls, spreading it as it melts into the surface. Cool completely before separating the rolls.