Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast. Let the yeast proof and rise for 5-10 minutes. While the yeast is rising combine the hot milk (I heat this up in the microwave, be careful not to overflow), 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, egg and salt. Whisk ingredients together until well blended. Add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture and mix throughly, then add the flour. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until well mixed and air bubbles are incorporated. Let rise until doubled in a greased bowl with a moist towel on top.
When dough is risen take it and roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface. A large counter or table works well. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. about 1/2" thickness. Take some soft margarine and rub it on the entire surface of the dough with your fingers. Then mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together and spread evenly over all the margarine. Sprinkle the raisins if you want them over the sugar mixture.
Starting at the bottom of the dough, start rolling gently until you have rolled the complete rectangle and have a large tube. Take dental floss and slide under the roll. Bring both sides up together and then down opposite directions to cut the dough. (This is the best way to cut cinnamon rolls and not deform them.) Start cutting 1" rolls off the tube. When all have been cut place them in 9x13" baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.
You can then leave plain or frost with a simple white frosting.
Take and melt the margarine. Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup milk. Then start adding the powder sugar. When it gets to thick add a couple more Tblsp. milk. If too thin just add a bit more powder sugar. Get to the consistency that you like, then spread on the cinnamon rolls.
-When I was a kid I made these in the winter time and the smell was so wonderful and tasted the same...
Madagascar Vanilla (purchase at Chefs Catalog) Of all the vanilla's I've used this is my favorite. Once you've tried it you won't go back!