James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Unplugged. No-Knead Cinnamon Raisin Rolls

While shopping at a farmer’s market in the San Diego area recently, I met a seller who offered samples of the plumpest darkest raisins I’d ever seen. The raisins were huge, the size of dried cherries, and they tasted of the sun. They were by far the best-tasting raisins I’d ever eaten. I bought a bag and began gobbling them down, but all of a sudden I stopped.I pictured myself munching on a cinnamon roll loaded with these amazing raisins. So I closed the bag and made plans to bake as soon as I got home. I decided on a no-knead dough that I mixed up in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. After the dough rose, I chilled it briefly to make it easier to handle. Then I shaped the dough into a square on a lightly floured smooth surface, spread it with a raisin-cinnamon filling, rolled it up into a log, and sliced the log into rolls.

After arranging the rolls in a buttered baking pan and letting them rise a second time, into the oven they went, and in less than 30 minutes I had my cinnamon rolls.

CinnamonRoolsInPanI couldn’t wait to tear into one. The raisins and cinnamon and soft dough were perfect together. Just what I wanted. When I eat a cinnamon roll I like to unravel it and tear off bite-size pieces that each contain a raisin or two. This may sound weird, but it insures I get a bit of everything with each bite.

The raisins I bought come from Gama Farms in Arvin, California. Call 657.217.9741 to order.

No-knead Cinnamon Raisin Rolls


2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned into the cups and leveled, plus more for rolling

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) quick-rise yeast

1/2 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg + 1 egg yolk


2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

8 tablespoons very soft butter

1 cup (5 ounces) dark raisins

For the dough, in a large bowl stir together 1 1/4 cups of the flour and the yeast. Put the milk, butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla into a small saucepan and heat just until the butter is melted and the liquid feels hot to a fingertip. Take the pan off heat and whisk in the egg and yolk. Add to the flour and yeast and beat well with a wooden spoon until the dough smooth and stretchy. Gradually stir in the remaining flour to make a thick, soft, sticky dough. Beat well with the spoon until smooth. Scrape the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise to double at room temperature, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the dough a bit.

For the filling, mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

For the rolls, butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll to a 12-inch square. Spread the filling to within 1-inch of the far edge of the dough and brush the bare dough with water. Roll up from the opposite side and pinch edges to seal. With seam side down, use a serrated knife to cut the roll into 9 even slices. The roll will be longer than 10 inches at this point because of all the manipulation.

Put the slices into the prepared pan (it’s okay if they’re touching each other), cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until the rolls almost reach the top of the pan. To make ahead: Refrigerate the pan of rolls overnight; they’ll rise slowly and be ready to bake in the morning.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Uncover the dough and put the pan in the oven. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until well-browned. Cover the pan with a cooling rack and invert the two. Lift off the pan—careful, it’s hot. Serve the rolls warm or at room temperature.

Makes 9 large rolls.

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