Something about the sweet, comforting aroma of cinnamon rolls baking, and the anticipation of that first warm, gooey bite, makes me feel like an excited little kid again!
And these cinnamon rolls are everything a cinnamon roll should be. Buttery, sweet, tender dough spiraled around sticky, cinnamon and brown sugar filling. Generously iced with fluffy cream cheese frosting- when they’re still warm- so that just the right amount melts into the buns and the rest stays in a nice, thick schmear on top.
What’s Your Perfect Cinnamon Roll?
The perfect cinnamon roll means different things to different people. For instance, my perfect cinnamon roll is soft and fluffy on all sides with centers that are cooked through but that border on being slightly under-done. Eric’s perfect cinnamon roll has crispy edges with oozy bits of caramelized filling on the bottoms and soft, gooey centers.
In a little bit, I’m going to show you how one recipe can please everyone 🙂 And THAT’S why this is the only cinnamon roll recipe you need!
First Things First, The Dough
For the dough you’ll combine warm milk and active dry yeast in a large measuring cup and let it stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. The temperature of the milk is important. Too cold and the yeast won’t activate, too hot and it will die. I use an instant read thermometer and aim for 110°f (105°-115° is the recommended temperature range).
In a large mixing bowl combine softened butter, sugar, salt, room temperature eggs and flour. Mix until combined. It will be dry and still have some butter lumps, and that’s ok. With mixer on low gradually pour the milk/yeast mixture into the flour mixture, and continue mixing on low until dough clears the sides of the bowl. You’ll need to scrape down the sides a couple times. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, let it continue mixing on low for 30 seconds. This dough may feel a little stickier than you’re used to. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It will firm up during it’s first rise. If it’s completely unmanageable you can add a couple tablespoons of flour, but no more than that.
Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Place in a warm spot to rest and let it rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. When you’re working with yeast dough there are lots of variables that can affect how long it takes to rise- the temperature of your kitchen, the temperature of your ingredients and the freshness of your yeast all factor in.
So rely on the way it looks more than the amount of time it’s taking.
While your dough is resting combine the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon for your filling.
Punch Down Your Dough & Get ready To Roll
Once your dough has doubled it’s time to punch it down and roll it out- my FAVORITE PART!
Rolling, filling and shaping cinnamon rolls is some of the most satisfying kitchen therapy I can think of. The dough is soft and warm and stretchy and just feels so good under your hands. And this dough is one of my very favorites to work with because it’s so laid back and easy going…plus, I love the sweet, yeasty, comforting way that it smells.
If happy were a dough it would be this one 🙂
How to Shape Cinnamon Rolls
Roll & Butter Your Dough
This recipe makes 24 rolls, but you can easily cut it in half (amounts for one dozen are in recipe notes). You’re going to start by dusting your counter space with flour and laying your dough in the middle. I like to knead it just a couple of turns. Cut your dough into two pieces and set one aside, covered, while you work with the other one.
Take a rolling pin & gently roll the dough to a rectangle roughly 12″ wide by 16″ long. Next, take 1/2 of your softened butter and tear off little pieces to dot evenly over the surface. Using an offset spatula or your hands, spread the butter in an even layer across the dough. I prefer using my hands because the heat helps warm the butter giving you more control so that the dough doesn’t tear.
Add filling and shape into a log
Next, spread 1/2 of your cinnamon and brown sugar mixture over the butter in an even layer. Starting with the side closest to you, begin rolling the dough away from you- keeping it nice and snug without pulling or stretching the dough- until you have just a couple of inches left unrolled. At this point pull the end of the dough up and over your log and pinch it to seal.
Portion into rolls
Now, lightly dust an area of the counter with flour the width of your log. Roll the log, seam side down, onto the floured area (this way, it won’t stick while your portion the dough into individual rolls). Use a bench scraper to first divide the dough in half. Then cut each half in half. You’ll now have four large pieces. Cut each piece into 3 more pieces for 12 total slices.
Repeat with remaining dough half for 24 total cinnamon rolls.
Here’s Where The Choices Come In
If you like your cinnamon rolls like I do, with soft edges, place them close together in a greased pan. This creates the pull apart type rolls that have soft, fluffy sides (and if you pull them out at the right time, those gooey barely done centers). If you like your cinnamon rolls to be wider, individual rolls with firmer sides, place them on a lined sheet pan with plenty of room in between. This allows them to spread as they bake (and you’ll also end up with more of that caramelized, crispy filling on the bottom and at the edges that Eric loves so much). If you want tall buns with more crust and caramelized bottoms place them in greased jumbo muffin tins.
Don’t you love choices??? You can even make more than one kind with the same batch of dough & please EVERYBODY (how often does that happen????)!
Rise & Bake
Now that you’ve chosen your pan, it’s time to cover them, place in a warm spot, and let them rise for about 45 minutes. They most likely won’t double, but they will get larger (about 1 1/2 times their starting size).
Tips For Baking & Icing
- I have included weights with my ingredients. I weigh ingredients instead of measuring with cups for the majority of my baking recipes and it really helps with consistency. If you’re using cups, stir your dry ingredients first to “fluff” them a little and lightly spoon into your cup before leveling off with a knife. Don’t scoop directly from the container because this will result in significantly more flour (or powdered sugar) in the recipe and will affect your final result!
- Preheat your oven so that it’s at 350°f when you’re ready to start baking. Invest in an inexpensive oven thermometer and it will save you from many future baking disappointments!
- Bake on the middle rack.
- Use a metal pan, not glass. Because of the way glass transfers heat, using one will result in overdone edges by the time the middle is cooked.
- Line your pans with parchment. This makes clean up AND getting pull apart buns out of the pan SO much easier!
- Start checking for doneness at 20 minutes. It takes just minutes to go from perfect to overbaked! You want the buns to be lightly golden on top.
- You can also use an instant read thermometer (I do!) poked into the center to check the temperature. For a rich, sweet dough like this, 180-190°f is done (I take mine out at 180° for that coveted gooey core).
- Ice your buns after they cool slightly but while they’re still a little warm. This way the icing partially melts into the buns but some of it stays solidly on top. The best of both worlds!
- And here’s some great advice on how to make them ahead of time so that you can bake them in the morning (think Christmas and Easter morning!)
Now, it’s time to eat!
All that’s left to do is brew a cup of coffee, steep some hot tea or pour yourself an icy cold glass of milk to go with. Or just stand over the pan with sticky fingers and a satisfied smile, too impatient for any additional preparations.
- 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm milk (110°f)
- 3/4 cup (220 grams) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 8 1/2 cups (1050 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 cups (425 grams) packed brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
Cream Cheese Icing
- 12 Tbsp butter, softened
- 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese, softened slightly
- 3 cups sifted (340 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla
- 1/4 tsp Diamond kosher salt
- in a measuring cup combine warm milk and yeast. Set aside for 5-10 minutes (until yeast is nice and foamy)
- In bowl of stand mixer combine sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour. Mix on low with the paddle attachment until well combined. Mixture will look dry and sandy and have some lumps that aren't completely mixed in. This is OK!. Scrape bowl down.
- Change to dough hook and with mixer running on low, slowly pour in yeast/milk mixture in a steady stream. Scrape the bowl a couple of times while continuing to mix on low until dough is a solid mass and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Increase speed one notch and continue beating 30 seconds.
- Dough will look sticky but this is normal for this dough. If it's completely unmanageable you can add a couple tablespoons of flour, but no more than that.
- Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft free place to rise for one hour or until doubled.
While Dough Rises
- While dough rises make the filling by combining brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
- Bring butter to room temperature.
Roll and shape
- Have your prepared pans ready (see notes for sizes) and lined with parchment
- Punch down risen dough and scoop out of bowl onto floured surface.
- Knead a couple of times with floured hands and divide in half. Set one half aside and cover with cloth while you shape the other half.
- Roll dough half into a rectangle approximately 12 inches wide by 16 inches deep. It should be about 1/3 inch thick. The exact dimensions aren't as important as the thickness.
- Take half of the butter and tear it into little pieces, evenly arranging over the rolled out dough. Using an offset spatula or your fingertips, evenly spread the butter over the dough.
- Spread half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the buttered dough leaving about 1/2 inch border all around.
- Starting at the edge closest to you, begin rolling the dough into a log away from you. Try not to stretch the dough too much but keep it nice and snug so that it's a tight roll. When you get close to the end it's ok to pull the last couple inches up and over the log so that you can pinch to seal it on top.
- dust the counter directly in front of the log with a little flour and roll the log back towards you, onto the floured area, so that the seam is on the bottom (this will help it to not stick when you slice it).
- Cut the log into 4 even sections using a bench scraper or knife (I push straight down quickly rather than try to cut back and forth. You'll get a cleaner cut and if it squishes a little you'll be able to reshape it in your pan)
- Cut each section into 3 slices, for 12 slices total. Arrange in pan according to the type of roll you want (see notes)
- Repeat with remaining dough. Cover pans with a clean towel and let rise again in a warm place about 45 minutes, or until 1 1/2 times their original size.
- Bake roll in a preheated 350° f oven 20-25 minutes, or until buns are lightly golden and center is done. Check at 20 minutes. Center should be 180-190° f on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove from oven and place on rack to cool slightly while you make the icing
- With electric mixer beat butter until smooth. Add vanilla and salt, beating to combine. Add cream cheese in several pieces and beat just until smooth and completely combined. Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low (so that it doesn't end up all over your kitchen!) until everything is smooth. Don't overbeat or your icing will get runny.
Spread icing on cinnamon rolls and enjoy! I prefer to ice them when they're still a little warm so that some of the icing melts into the buns and the rest stays in a layer on top.
For soft sided, pull apart rolls place in greased metal pan with 2" sides, leaving 3/4 inch space between rolls. Line with parchment to make getting them out easier. 12 rolls fits perfectly in a 9x13 pan.
For individual rolls that spread out while baking place on lined sheet pan with 2 1/2 to 3 inches between rolls
For tall muffin shaped rolls place in greased JUMBO muffin tins
*The individual and muffin tin rolls tend to be done a little fast than the pull apart rolls so make sure to check them at 20 minutes
For half batch:
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar (110 grams)
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp diamond kosher salt
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour (525 grams)
1 cup brown sugar (212 grams)
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp diamnond kosher salt
1/3 cup butter
Cream Cheese Icing
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 block (4 oz) cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (170 grams)
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
pinch diamond kosher salt