Cinnamon rolls can be easily purchased at many Japanese bakeries in Tokyo. There's only one problem. They're pretty terrible. For the most part, they're dried out and lacking in both cinnamon and sugar flavor. If they're glazed, they are iced with what tastes like a part yogurt or part cream cheese frosting which can be somewhat sour, rubbery or high in fat and low in sugar.
My husband has told me that there are a few Cinnabon shops around Tokyo though I've never been to one or seen one myself. A web search reveals that there are at least a few in central Tokyo (Kichijoji and Ikebukuro, to name a few places). Part of the reason why I don't know where they are is that I actually don't like cinnamon rolls all that much and part of it is he gets around Tokyo more than I. My husband loves cinnamon rolls but he tries to avoid sugar. About once a year though, he does indulge.
Even though I don't like to eat them, I do like to make them and since my husband had a taste for some yesterday, I made a batch. There's something very satisfying about both dealing with the yeast-risen dough and making the pinwheels. The recipe I use is a modified orange rolls recipe:
1 T. dry yeast softened in 1/4 cup lukewarm water for 5-15 minutes
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter cut into small pieces
1/4 cup scalded milk + 2 T. cold milk
1 large egg
3/4 t. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
In a mixing bowl, whisk sugar, butter, salt and scalded milk. Cool then add egg, 2 T. cold milk and yeast mixture. Gradually add the flour until it forms a stiff dough. You may need a little more or less than 2 cups. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and satiny (about 3-5 minutes). Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about an hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
After it has risen, divide the dough in half (use a knife to cut it). Roll out thinly (about the thickness of a tortilla) into a long rectangular shape. Spread filling (see below) over the dough. Roll up lengthwise and cut into pinwheels slightly smaller than the height of the pan you'll be baking in.
Place the about 9 pinwheels in a 9" square pan or 12 in a 9" x 12" pan. There should be about 1-2 inches between each. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for an hour or two. The dough should rise enough such that the rolls nearly touch each other in the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. or 175 degrees C. Remove the plastic wrap from the rolls and bake for between 20 and 30 minutes until the tops are golden. Be careful not to overbake them or the filling will get hard and the bread will dry out. Baking time is affected by the size and type of pan. Shallow, thinner pans need less time than deeper, thicker pans. Glaze if desired.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
4 T. cinnamon
Cream the ingredients together and set aside. Soften the butter if necessary to make it spreadable but do not melt it!
1/2 cup powdered sugar
dash of vanilla essence
1-2 T. whole milk
This recipe makes rolls that are very light and tender. They are much less heavy and bread-like than most cinnamon rolls. They also have a very strong cinnamon element so you may want to reduce the amount of cinnamon in the filling if you like a more subdued flavor.
The rolls also freeze well though it's better if you freeze them without icing and glaze them after they've thawed. Usually, I end up freezing at least half of them since my husband can't eat them quickly enough.
They smell great and are lovely to wake up to, even if you don't eat them. ;-)