DIY: Old Fashioned Sweet Rolls

By Kathryn


There are a lot of ways to impress people, but I think that one of the easiest and most fun ways is baking things from scratch because it often looks harder than it is and you get to eat the final product, which I think should be the true endgame of any endeavor.

Homemade sweet rolls have a reputation for being super ambitious and time­consuming, but most of the time the yeast is doing all the work while you can be on your couch taking a nap. And DAAAAMMNNN, are they good. Your friends will be indebted to you forever if you share with them.


This recipe was my grandma’s, and you can use the same dough to make caramel, orange, or cinnamon rolls. You can also cut the dough in half or in thirds to do a combination of multiple kinds of rolls. I made caramel rolls and orange rolls. Here’s what you need for the dough:

  • 3⁄4 cup milk
  • 1⁄4 cup butter (or shortening)
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or about 2 1⁄2 tsp.)
  • 1⁄4 cup hot water from the faucet (try to get it to about 110 F if you have a cooking thermometer) 1 egg
  • 3 1⁄2 cups flour

CARAMEL AND CINNAMON ROLLS (for sprinkling on dough):

  • 2 tbsp. melted butter 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


  • 5 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar 1⁄2 cup light corn syrup


  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 to 6 tbsp. hot water


  • 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. grated orange rind 1⁄4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. white corn syrup 1⁄4 cup butter

Put the milk in a saucepan and heat over the stove on medium­high heat until little bubbles form around the edges, like in the picture below (AKA scalding the milk). Make sure it doesn’t turn into an actual boil and burn.


Combine the milk, butter (or shortening), sugar, and salt in a bowl. Let it sit and cool to room temperature while you add the yeast to the warm water and stir to dissolve. When the yeast has bubbled the surface of the water, add it to the milk mixture, along with the egg and 1⁄2 cup of the flour. Beat until smooth (use a mixer if you have one, but it can also be doable by hand, just more exercise).

Gradually stir in the remaining flour until you have soft dough (do this part by hand). Usually there’s a little left over that you can use to flour your counter so that the dough doesn’t stick while you’re kneading it, but it can vary.

Next, place the dough on a clean, floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and elastic­­usually about five to ten minutes. (This is the most fun and relaxing part, IMHO.)



Put the dough in a big greased bowl. Roll it around a bit so that the dough gets greased on all sides. Cover the top of the bowl with a towel or saran wrap and put it in a warm spot, like a sunny window or near a furnace, to rise for an hour or two. If that doesn’t seem to cut it, you can put it in the oven or on the stove after heating it to about 100­125 F and turning it off before setting the bowl there.


To check if it’s done, stick some fingers into the dough and see if it keeps their shape. It should just about double in size. Meanwhile, you can be making the syrup or glaze for your roll(s) of choice. If it’s done, punch down the dough (the second most fun and relaxing part) and return it to your floured surface.


Roll out your dough with a rolling pin until it’s about a 15 by 10 inch rectangle. (SORRY TO MY UN­AMERICAN PALS FOR THESE MEASUREMENTS. Click  here for a conversion chart. If you’re making multiple flavors, now would be the time to cut your dough into halves or thirds.


Brush the dough with melted butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture (if you’re making caramel or cinnamon rolls). For orange rolls, sprinkle lightly with sugar and grated orange rind.


Next, roll up the dough like you would roll up a sleeping bag, starting on the longer side. Cut it into equally­sized portions, depending on how big you want the rolls to be. I cut both of my dough halves (for the two flavors) each into eighths. You’ll want to use a really sharp knife or some string or unscented floss to cut it with.


Next, pour your syrup into a pan and set the dough segments on top. If you’re using all of your dough for one type of roll, you’ll probably want a 13×9 pan (depending on how small you cut your rolls), but if you separated your dough into multiple kinds of rolls, a couple of smaller pans will work. Use whatever fits, with some room between the rolls to rise.


10287146_10152073253971662_2056596865_nSet the pan(s) back into a warm place (covered with a cloth again) to rise for another 45 minutes or so, or until the rolls have just about doubled in size or have no more room to rise. No need to set a timer; just stream two episodes of your fav half­hour workplace comedy. (See? This isn’t even hard.)

When the dough is all done rising, bake your rolls at 375 F for 20­25 minutes, or until golden brown.


When they’re all done, flip your pan(s) over wax paper, tap the pan a couple of times, lift straight upwards, and gasp.


TA­DA, YOU’RE AMAZING!!!!!!! You’re like, an actual baker. Just remember to use your powers for good and not for evil.



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