Grandma Thiebaud’s Cinnamon Rolls

Credits: Craig Thiebaud

One of the fondest memories I have growing up is making cinnamon rolls with my Grandma Thiebaud and my sister.  My Grandma would make the dough, roll it out, and make a simple filling out of butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans.  Actually she would make two batches:  one with pecans and one without as some people didn’t prefer pecans.  She would make these little breakfast treats and give them as gifts to relatives or friends at holidays or special occasions.    They played a bit part in my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday experience.  However, we made these anytime we visited, Holidays or not.

Here, I have taken my Grandma’s general recipe and adapted it a bit.  I use additional spices, scent it with vanilla powder and citrus juice and zest, and utilize different sugar(s) to create a different depth of flavor.  That said, the basic technique, look, feel, and smell while baking  still takes me right back to my Grandma’s kitchen with my sister, when we were young, just watching and helping sprinkle sugar over the yellow pastry before rolling it.  If you have kids, and try this, I hope you consider sharing this experience with them.  It would please me and I know it would please my Grandma.  Enjoy!


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For Dough:

3.5-4 Cups unbleached AP flour

2 Packages Instant Yeast

1 t fine sea salt

1 Cup milk

1/3 Cup sugar

4 T unsalted butter

1 Large egg

1T butter for greasing the bowl

For Filling:

2-3 T Unsalted butter

2 t Cinnamon (or more to taste)

½ t nutmeg

Scant dash cloves

Zest of half of an orange

1 T Vanilla Powder (Garden of Eden, Berkeley Heights sells this)

½ Cup Muscovado sugar (or more to taste)

½ Cup pecans (raw or toasted)

For Glaze:

Juice of ½ orange

1/3 Cup Muscovado sugar

1 t cinnamon

½ t salt

¼ Cup pecans

Zest of half a lemon



For dough:

  • Warm milk and butter.  Add yeast, sugar, and egg to mixture and whisk together until incorporated.
  • Add flour to the mixture, one cup at a time.  Slowly incorporate the flour, little by little until the dough comes together. 
  • Knead dough for 5-8 minutes, until the dough seems smooth and slightly elastic.  Add more flour if necessary, though do so sparingly.
  • Once kneaded, grease a large bowl with butter and place dough in bowl.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest for approximately an hour or so (until doubled in size).

For Filling:

  • Gather all ingredients for filling.  Set aside.
  • Lightly flour a large work surface.
  • Roll dough out into a square that end up being around 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
  • Spread the butter over the dough.  Sprinkle the muscovado sugar over the buttered dough.
  • Add the spices over the sugar.  Then add the pecans, spreading them sporadically over everything.

Final Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Roll the dough with your hands so that you make a cylinder with it.
  • Gather round 9-inch baking pan.
  • Place all ingredients for glaze in the baking pan and mix completely.
  • Cut dough into 1 inch pieces and place in pan, cut side down.  Continue to place pieces in pan until the pan is filled.  My Grandma made pans that contained quite a few rolls so I did the same.  You may have a bit of dough leftover, which you can either freeze, make another small batch, or simply discard.
  • Allow dough in pan to rise for another 30 minutes or so.
  • Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the dough looks golden brown. 
  • Allow to cool slightly.  Serve while warm.

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