Working on a cycle of extremes, Leanne Brown decides she’s ‘Good Enough’

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A self-proclaimed “cinnamon roll fanatic,” Leanne Brown turns to baking as self-care. Photo courtesy Leanne Brown.

Leanne Brown fulfilled her dreams of becoming a published cookbook author and got busy touring and promoting, which exhausted her. As she preached the joys of cooking while caring for a new baby, she was beginning to struggle with finding balance and feeding herself, believing as many of us have at some point, that she wasn't worth the effort. In her last book "Good and Cheap," Leanne shined a light on the inequity of our food system, believing that everyone deserves to eat well every day. In "Good Enough: A Cookbook," she explores eating well from an internal perspective, to convince herself that she deserves to as well.

Cinnamon and Spice
Cream Cheese Rolls

I am so proud of these rolls. They were good from the start, but I kept finding excuses to make them again and again because “that recipe needs testing” one more time. They are exactly what I like all at once, both as an end product and as an experience. Kneading the dough and watching it go from shaggy to silky smooth, letting it sit and rise, knowing something exciting is happening. Smooshing together the filling and smelling all the spices and sweetness come together. The shaping and rolling and cutting of the buns. The way they rise and get fluffy and soft and gooey in the oven. It is comfort on comfort on comfort. I can feel my deeper breaths returning as I describe them. These are like cinnamon rolls, but with the cream cheese frosting baked into them, there is even more goo and spice and no sad, dry part in the middle, only a sublime final bite. 


  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust the countertop
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt (see note, page 189)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
  • ¾ cup water, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more butter, at room temperature, for greasing the bowl
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces (½ package) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves


  1. Make the dough: Place the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Give it a quick stir.
  2. Place the water, melted butter, and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk, breaking up the yolks, until the liquid becomes frothy and yellow, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients: 

With a stand mixer: Using the paddle attachment, turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture until it comes together into a shaggy dough, about 2 minutes. Switch to the dough hook and knead on a low-medium setting until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

By hand: Lightly flour a clean countertop. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix everything together until a shaggy dough forms. Dump
the dough onto the counter and knead until it is smooth and elastic,
7 to 10 minutes.

  1. Grease a large bowl lightly with butter. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, then turn it over so that every side of the ball is lightly greased and the dough is seam side down. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, 2 to 2½ hours. It can take more or less time depending on humidity and heat levels. The hotter and more humid, the faster it grows.

Note: I like to prep this recipe in advance to make mornings a little easier. The dough can be made through Step 4, covered, and refrigerated. The next morning, put it on the counter, do your thing for 1 hour as it comes to room temperature, then make the filling and continue with the recipe.

  1. While you are waiting for the dough to rise, make the filling: Place the butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves together in a bowl and cream together with a mixer or wooden spoon to form a smooth paste.
  2. When the dough has risen, dust your countertop with flour. Punch down the dough and form it into a short log. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick.
  3. Using a spoon or palette knife for icing cakes, spread the filling evenly over the rectangle of dough. Roll it up lengthwise, like a carpet. Slice the log into 12 rolls as evenly as you can.
  4. Place the 12 rolls into a glass baking dish with the swirl facing up. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap or a moist tea towel and let them rise until they have puffed up just a bit and are getting chummy with one another in the dish, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  6. Bake the rolls until the tops are golden brown and the bottoms are just golden, about 25 minutes. (You should be able to see the color of the bottoms through the glass baking dish.) You want them fully cooked, but not overcooked, or they won’t be as gooey as you want. Serve them as soon as they are cool enough to handle and not burn anyone’s tongue. They will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days, or if you want to save some for later, wrap them up and freeze them for up to a couple of weeks.

Note: In the Rainy Day Focaccia (page 171), I add the salt separately to keep the yeast from losing its punch. It’s not as crucial in this rich dough, but in Step 1, I typically add salt to the flour, give it a little whisk, and then add the rest of the ingredients. 

“Good Enough: A Cookbook,” is Leanne Brown’s follow-up to her first book, a self-published grad school thesis, which has been downloaded 15 million times. Photo courtesy of Workman Publishing.