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My family and I like the Rhodes cinnamon rolls that come in a foil pan -- straight from the freezer into the oven. Getting the timing just right (not doughy, not overcooked) requires some care, but they rise nicely, and generally turn out really good.

You can also buy frozen Rhodes cinnamon rolls that come in a bag and that you cook in your own pan, which is much cheaper. These rolls seem the same when frozen (and say "from freezer to oven" on them), but never turn out as good. They don't rise well, the cinnamon/sugar filling bubbles out and gets crusty, and they are generally more like hockey pucks.

I've tried some different pan types -- glass, dark non-stick, and lighter non-stick. Any suggestions on what might make the difference?

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First of all, are the ingredient lists the same? Sometimes with packaged foods, there are specific differences in formulas for different product lines.

If we assume that the formula is the same, it could have more to do with the consistency of the ingredients. The ones that come in a pan get stored in the right shape and probably don't get handled the same way as the ones in a bag, which tend to change shape during the freezing process, and probably get handled/reshaped some in transport, etc.

It seems like the ones that are not in the special pan are getting dehydrated more in the freezer, and the "freezer to oven" method (a high heat blast for thawing straight to baking) is not letting the dough redistribute its moisture well, since the outside edges are baked before the inside dough is fully thawed.

I know that the packaging says "freezer to oven", but what might significantly improve the result for you is to do the following:

  1. put the frozen rolls in your pan
  2. let the dough thaw (in fridge overnight, for example)
  3. bake for less time, as they are now thawed

This change in technique would allow the dough to reshape itself some, and redistribute the moisture while it is thawing, so the baking would be more effective, now that the dough is all at the same temperature.

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    The ingredients lists are identical between the two products. Here are my experimental results (in order from worst results to best, but with a sample size of one for each iteration past the first, so maybe not definitive): 1. My own pan, rolls from bag, straight into oven. 2. My own pan, rolls from bag, left in fridge overnight. 3. Recycled foil pan, rolls from bag, straight into oven. 4. Packaged foil pan and rolls, straight into oven. So I'm thinking that the pan does matter, but also that the rolls in the bag don't stay as fresh or get more beat up in shipping. – Eric Smith Apr 8 '14 at 0:42
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    That also make some sense, Eric. The heat would transfer differently with thicker pans (probably more slowly at first) making things crustier on the outside over the time. You might want to try the recycled foil pan and the thawing method overnight. That might be the trick. – Jennifer S Apr 9 '14 at 11:40

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