Judith Fertig's mini cinnamon rolls rise before baking. - MCT

Cinnamon rolls take center stage

In fall 2011, cookbook author Judith Fertig took on an ambitious assignment: Write a book of cinnamon-roll recipes in 60 days.

Fertig loves cinnamon rolls, and she's authored more than 20 cookbooks on everything from bread to barbecue. Still, this was no easy task.

The expert baker holed up in her Overland Park, Kan., kitchen with colossal amounts of flour, butter and sugar. She gathered four kinds of cinnamon and started rolling it into swirls of every shape and size. Her overworked oven churned out all kinds of crave-worthy creations: Carrot-Cake Cinnamon Rolls With Pineapple-Cream Cheese Frosting. Mexican-Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls spiked with ancho chili. Moroccan-inspired crescents filled with black pepper and rose petals.

Fertig would taste each one, then hand out leftovers to neighbors, friends and family members. "I was very popular for a while," she says.

At the end of those two months, Fertig had lots of new friends and another cookbook: "I Love Cinnamon Rolls!" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012).

The book has everything from traditional sticky buns to gluten-free rolls. The recipes are customizable, so you easily change out the dough, filling, pan sauce or topping.

"I'm a mix-and-match person," Fertig says.

Fertig says she wanted the recipes to be flexible because everyone has his or her own version of the perfect cinnamon roll.

Here in the Midwest, she says, we like our cinnamon rolls soft and feathery, with lots of gooey frosting on top. On the East Coast, people prefer sticky buns. In Colorado, it's not a cinnamon roll unless it's as big as a plate, and in the Northwest, vegan rolls are all the rage.

Don't even get Fertig started on all the different kinds of rolls Europeans like.

As for the cookbook author, she's a native Midwesterner, so it's no surprise she likes cinnamon rolls that are soft and gooey, filled with lots of mouthwatering brown sugar and warm cinnamon.

"If you're going to have a cinnamon roll," Fertig says, "have a cinnamon roll."

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