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Fragrant Swirls of Sweet Dough

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THE search for the best cinnamon-roll recipe is fruitless unless you know what kind of cinnamon roll you like to begin with.

For simplicity's sake, rule out raisins and nuts, for a true cinnamon roll is usually a simple combination of cinnamon and sugar bound into sweet dough.

First the texture: Do you like it soft and gooey, spongy and springy, or sturdy - where the outer rings serve as a fortress to protect the precious middle?

Second, the taste: More sugar than cinnamon or vice versa? Lots of yeast or pour on the butter? Then there's the issue of to frost or not to frost.

No one, however, can dispute that the aroma of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven is one of life's great pleasures. Even in the malls and airports, one can get a whiff of the sweet pastry, compliments of Cinnabon, the bakery-retailer that introduced cinnamon rolls to the fast-food world.

One thing is certain: Cinnamon rolls need to be eaten hot.

In Conway, N.H., Cinnamon Tree restaurant keeps customers coming back for the signature homemade cinnamon rolls, which weigh about half a pound and cost $1.

At the restaurant, the waitress asks if you want it heated or grilled. (Go grilled.) High-gluten flour and eggs are what account for the cinnamon rolls' winning formula, says co-owner Wendy Heintzelman, who adapted her own grandmother's recipe.

In St. Louis, the Junior League boasts that 5 million of its popular cinnamon rolls have been "joyfully consumed" since 1927. These are more the dainty table-roll variety than the gargantuan, dripping-with-icing-style cinnamon roll.

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