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Joanna Gaines's Cinnamon Squares

Cinnamon Squares

byJoanna Gaines
Total 2 hours and 15 minutes (includes rising time)
Active 45 mins
Makes 24 squares
These are, hands down, my kids’ favorite breakfast. Who am I kidding? They’re my favorite, too, especially when served alongside eggs—I can’t get enough of that combination of sweet and salty. These are definitely a labor of love, but honestly I think we all enjoy preparing them almost as much as we like to eat them. I’m in my happy place anytime I get to work with dough. Mixing the ingredients together into a cohesive whole, draping a towel over the bowl and letting the dough rise, punching it down, and then rolling, filling, and shaping it—the ritual of every step brings me pure joy. Whenever I bust out the ingredients for these squares, the kids know it’s a good day. I make these a lot during school holidays when there’s time in the morning for them to help. Duke and Emmie stand at attention with the measured ingredients waiting for the sign from me that they can dump them into the bowl, and then the older two help me roll out the dough and compose each layer. Drake loves that he’s finally allowed to use a big knife to cut the squares before they’re baked, and then he and Ella apply the egg wash to the tops of them. The kids understand that the bit of extra effort required for these squares makes them something really special. I think it probably helps that these squares are the best iteration of a cinnamon roll that any of us has ever tasted. It can be hard to get a good balance with cinnamon rolls—they either have too much bread or too much cinnamon. The way I make these, rolling and folding them repeatedly so that the filling is between several thin layers of dough, results in a square that has a perfect amount of both bread and cinnamon, so every bite is balanced.
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
  • Two 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for the dough and pans
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Egg Wash
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, milk, butter, eggs, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. Rub softened butter on top of the dough and around the bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  2. To make the filling: In a food processor, combine the pecans, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and process until the mixture is well blended and paste-like (do this in two batches if necessary).
  3. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Generously dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough and place it on the work surface. Roll it out into a 16 x 24-inch rectangle.
  5. Spoon two-thirds of the filling mixture over the dough. Spread it to cover the dough to the edges. Starting on a short side, fold the sheet of dough in half, pressing the two short sides together to make sure they stick together and to flatten it slightly (you’ll have a roughly 14 x 16-inch rectangle).
  6. Spoon the remaining filling on top of the dough and spread it to cover the dough. Starting at a short side, fold the dough in half, bringing the two short sides together to cover the filling. Use your hands to flatten the rectangle and “smoosh” it into an approximately 12 x 18-inch rectangle.
  7. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 24 roughly 3-inch squares. Arrange the squares on the prepared pan so that they are touching. Brush the tops of the squares with beaten egg.
  8. Bake until lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
  9. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.