These homemade cinnamon rolls are so convenient, because the dough needs to chill in the fridge overnight – they were made for Christmas morning! Of course they’re delicious year ’round, for whenever you need a make ahead brunch dish.
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart… No, that was the wrong line. Let’s try this again.
Last Christmas I really, really wanted to make a special breakfast for our little family. Not a French toast casserole, that seemed too simple. Not pancakes either, because we eat pancakes every weekend.
So I decided on very special cinnamon rolls.
I had practiced and perfected my recipe all December long – ready for the big day!
And then Christmas Eve came… And I even managed to make the dough in time, as it needed to chill in the fridge overnight.
On Christmas morning, my eldest could barely contain her excitement (and by that I mean she was basically jumping from wall to wall), I walked into the dark kitchen to get started on our brunch.
I had planned it all out: I wanted to make a cinnamon roll star, braided and swirled and just all around beautiful.
I opened the fridge door, got out the bowl of dough, lifted the towel, got to work on my star.
But that dough…
It was so soft. Way harder to turn into an artsy swirled star than I had anticipated.
I so badly wanted to make this happen, but then my husband walked into the kitchen and said… “Why don’t you just make buns?”
Oh, how that had been the wrong line. I got furious. This was supposed to be a special brunch, not just buns!
I spent way too much sweating over rolling and braiding each section, but in the end a star it was. So soft. Such a tender crumb.
And the flavour? Outstanding.
I’m still not sure if that star shape was worth the fighting and arguing with my husband on Christmas morning, but what I do know is that I’ll be forever and always making this very recipe for my cinnamon rolls.
How to make these homemade cinnamon rolls foolproof:
Making the dough
There’s no need to be scared of making yeast dough enriched with milk, butter and sugar, as long as you follow a few tips:
- Melt the butter, then stir in the milk and sugar. There’s no need to heat the milk and wait for it to cool again! The mix should be lukewarm, but make sure to check it before adding the yeast.
- Do not stir the yeast into liquid that is too hot. It will kill off the yeast and your dough won’t rise at all!
- Start with a sponge: Wait until bubbles appear on the yeasted milk. Then stir it into a portion of the flour to make a sticky sponge. (There’s no need to knead the dough at this stage, it just needs to be mixed. There’s also no salt in the dough yet, as it inhibits the yeast.)
- Knead the dough: After letting the sponge rise, add the remaining flour and salt, then knead in a standing mixer with the hook attachment for 15 minutes. It’s very important to knead it for that long, enriched doughs need a lot of slow kneading – best done in a mixer, because it handles the sticky dough quite well.
- The second rise: Allow the dough to rest until it’s doubled in size. It will still be very soft and that’s fine.
- Chill the dough: The dough is too sticky to roll out right away. It’s easiest to manage if it can chill overnight, but a few hours work too if you’re in a hurry.
Making the filling
Many recipes for cinnamon rolls call for the butter to be melted, then spread on the rolled out dough.
I find this makes a terrible mess and the dough gets so sticky. It’s impossible to roll it up tightly.
So this is what I do:
- Cream the butter
- Add sugar and cinnamon and blend well
- Spread on the rolled-out dough with an offset spatula*
This doesn’t warm up the dough, doesn’t get sticky or messy, and you can roll the dough and filling into a really tight log – which leads to way prettier cinnamon rolls!
Filling and rolling
It’s important to make tight rolls, they just bake more beautifully and evenly that way.
Here’s how I do mine:
- The dough gets quite sticky, so it’s best to roll it between two sheets of floured parchment. I place the parchment on top of a clean kitchen towel, that way it is less slippery.
- You’ll want a rectangle of about 7×14 inches, any smaller and the rolled up dough won’t bake in the middle, larger and the rolls get too small.
- Spread the cinnamon butter on the dough rectangle, leaving an edge of around 1/8 inch all around – this will help with rolling.
- Roll up the dough very tightly from the longer side – so you’ll end up with a 14 inch long log.
Now this is where the real magic happens!
Ever rolled a beautiful log of cinnamon rolls, only to then destroy their beautiful round shape by running a knife through them?
It’s actually way easier, neater and prettier to cut them with some unscented dental floss (or just a piece of sewing string).
I found a great tutorial on YouTube to demonstrate how it works:
Before baking, the rolls get a final rise of about 30 minutes.
I bake my rolls in two small casserole dishes. We never finish an entire batch in one sitting, and that way I can easily put aside an entire dish to warm up the next day.
Cinnamon rolls are supposed to be soft and a bit gooey, so don’t overbake them – they’ll be dry.
It’s perfectly fine if they turn a light golden on top, but they shouldn’t turn out crispy and dark brown on top.
If you slice the log in about 12 rolls, they will take roughly 15 minutes to bake – give or take 2.
Be sure to watch them like a hawk! No shame in hanging out in front of your oven just to get that perfect batch of homemade cinnamon rolls 🙂
Is there anything better than pulling a batch of hot cinnamon rolls out of the oven, the smells of cinnamon, sugar and pure magic lingering in the air? Pulling that soft roll apart… Bliss.
There’s not much I’d rather have on a cold winter morning – except maybe an extra hour of sleep and warm fuzzy slippers.
I know they sound like quite a task to manage, and they definitely aren’t the easiest thing to make, but they are truly worth the effort.
I’m definitely making them for our holly-jolly brunch this year again – because last Christmas, I absolutely did give them my heart.
The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups flour divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons softened butter NOT melted!
To make the dough:
- Prepare the liquid: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the milk and sugar and check the temperature - it should be lukewarm. If it is too hot, allow it to cool - or the yeast will die once you put it in! Take the pot off the heat and stir in the yeast. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside for about 5 minutes, or until bubbles form on the surface.
- Start the dough with a sponge: Add 1 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl of your standing mixer. As soon as the milk mixture shows bubbles, pour it over the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon just until there are no more flecks of dry flour. Cover with a clean towel and let rise at warm room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Knead the dough: Add the remaining 3/4 cup flour and 1 teaspoon salt to the bowl with the sponge. Add the hook attachment to your standing mixer, then knead the dough for about 15 minutes on medium-low speed. It will still be very soft, but it should form a ball. Cover the bowl again with the dish towel and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Chill dough: Keeping the dough covered, chill it in the fridge for a few hours, better overnight.
Fill and cut the rolls:
- Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, cream the butter. Add both sugars and the cinnamon and mix very well.
- Prep for rolling: Place a towel on your countertop. Cover it with a piece of parchment. Sprinkle that with plenty of flour.
- Roll out the dough: Place the dough on top of the prepared parchment and gently flatten a bit with your fingers. Flour the top of the dough, then cover with a second sheet of parchment. Roll the dough to a rectangle of about 7x14 inches.
- Add filling and roll up: Spread the prepared cinnamon-sugar-butter filling over the dough rectangle, leaving a gap of about 1/8 inch all around the edges. Starting on the long side, very tightly roll up the dough into a 14-inch long log.
- Cut the rolls: Using a piece of unscented dental floss or sewing string, cut off rolls (check the post for video instructions!). You will get about 12-14 rolls from your log.
- Final rise: Place the rolls in a medium-large casserole dish (or divide between two smaller ones, around 7x11). There should be some space between the rolls so they can rise and expand. Cover with the dish towel and rise for 30 minutes.
- Bake: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls for around 15 minutes, or until baked through and lightly golden on top. Do not overbake! You can add your favourite glaze or frosting - I usually leave them plain or drizzle with a bit of lemon glaze.
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