Beyond the Kitchen Bread Breakfast Recipes

Chai-Spiced Cinnamon Rolls


I’ve had this flavor combination gemstone  living in my brain for the past few weeks.  I wanted to smash the beautiful flavors of chai with my always-obsession: cinnamon rolls.

If I made cinnamon rolls as often as I wanted them, I’d probably make the two to three times a day.  Not normal.  Not healthy.  Not generally acceptable.

I usually need to call someone when I make cinnamon rolls.  It’s not so much a friendly phone call as much as it is a cry for help.  The subtext is something along the lines of  ‘I need you to come over here right now and help me eat these cinnamon rolls because if you don’t I’ll surely eat them all on my own and if I do that my only option is to blame you for friend negligence’.

All that being said, when Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere and I decided to get together for brunch… I knew what’d I’d be making:  steamed broccoli cinnamon rolls DUH!

emily + joy by emily

 photo by emily schuman

I packed up my dough and bowls.  I packed up my spices and brown sugar.  I put on a dress and fished a matching pair of earrings out of the bottom of my purse… and I descended upon the kitchen of my new friend Emily.

I won’t even tell you how bonkers excited and nervous I was to hang with super-talented, super-blogger Emily Schuman.  I thought about what I was going to wear for three minutes… and then I remembered that I’m not a fashion expert aaaaattttt aaaalllllll. I wore a Forever 21 dress, a vintage belt, an orange slip I bought 13 years ago… and I painted my nails in the car (which is probably as illegal as texting while driving).  Totally normal.


I wanted these cinnamon rolls to feel like a cozy Fall blanket.

Nothing brings the cozy blanket quality out of food more than a boat-load of spices.

Ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger two ways, cloves, and cracked black pepper.


This cinnamon roll recipe is one of my absolute favorites.  The recipe is born from these Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls (which are totally as indulgent as they sound).

What I love about this recipe is the softness of the dough.  It’s tender and lovely… almost feminine.  Though the dough is somewhat sticky, it can be easily coaxed into lusciously tender cinnamon rolls.  Work with the softness.


Dough is rolled thin and topped with melted butter and a candied ginger, spiced, brown sugar mixture.

Nothing here can go wrong.  Nothing at all.


It’s just so cool to be in the kitchen with someone you admire.

It’s really amazing to see how different people approach things.


I also LOVE taking in the little details and gear.

I have a naturally nosey nature.  That’s real.


This is where I live.

I live right here in these rolls.


These will rise and bake, rise and brown.


While the cinnamon rolls rise, I took in the details.

I’m a little obsessed with the gold silverware.


And the festive twine.

And the fancy white scissors.


Emily sets the brunch table.

I stand by and admire the Cinderella pumpkins.


I love to see how people work in the kitchen.

This is how Emily makes Bloody Marys.

It’s a crazy-beautiful mess.


Stir and…


Stir and serve.

Emily has tricks.  She chilled these Bloody Marys with tomato juice ice cubes.

Totally clever!


Brunch was divine!  Bloody Marys, warm and spicy cinnamon rolls, and an Onion and Ricotta Frittata that I can’t wait to tell you about!


photo by geoffrey fuller

After brunch we sat in the kitchen nook and played with candy corn.

We were making little post brunch treats (while simultaneously gorging ourselves on Halloween candy).  Yeeeesh!


photo by geoffrey fuller

Some things never change for me.

I always want to eat cinnamon rolls.  Cinnamon rolls should be the new Thanksgiving turkey.

I’m always nervous getting to know new friends… especially if I know they have fancier shoes that me (everyone has fancier shoes than me).


Food is how I make friends.  I’d like to come over and make your house smell like cinnamon rolls.  Just like that… friends!!

Emily, thank you for your sweet kindness and warm kitchen.  Next time I’m coming over with homemade pizza.  Just deal with it.  xo!

Chai-Spiced Cinnamon Rolls

makes 8 large rolls

Print this Recipe!

For the Dough:

1 – 1/4 oz (just over 2 teaspoons) package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

pinch of ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

For the Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Icing:

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons heavy cream

a dash of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves

Making the Dough:

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F.  Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk.  Beat with a wire whisk until well combined.  Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment.  Add the flour, spices, and  salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together.  Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.  The dough will be very moist.

With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter about 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to knead for about 6 minutes.  The dough will the wet and sticky.  Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough.  Don’t worry, the dough still might be a little sticky.  It’s ok.  Just set the dough to rest in a large greased bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling.  Combine the sugar,  brown sugar, candied ginger, spices, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.  Stir in the maple syrup.  The filling will be slightly moist and crunchy.  Set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface.  Gently knead the dough  adding more flour as needed.  I think I added about 3 Tablespoons of flour.  Work the dough for about 1 or 2 minutes.  Once it’s no longer very sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 x 10-inch square.

Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter.  We’ll use the rest of the butter after the rolls are baked.

Pour all of the filling onto the dough.  Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch boarder at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed.  Lightly press the filling into the dough.

Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder.  Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board.  Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.

Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices.  Nestle the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a butter 9 x 13-inch metal baking dish.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 1 hour.  You may also cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Uncover the rolls.  If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking.  Drizzle with remaining butter and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Make the icing:  While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar, spices and cream in a small bowl until smooth.

Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack.   Let cool for 5 minutes.  Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls.  Serve immediately.