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Who can resist a gooey cinnamon roll?
Every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I prepare a batch for brunch. After many years of this habit, my family has grown to expect it – even when I travel from an hour away or work an overnight shift at the bakery the day before.
“You’re bringing the cinnamon rolls, right?” my youngest brother will plead.
But oftentimes, cinnamon rolls can be so cloyingly sweet that they ache your teeth to enjoy them.
Not so with my buns!
Just the perfect amount of gooey sweetness in the filling and a light drizzle of icing create the perfect cinnamon roll to start the day. The light brioche dough leaves these buns nice and fluffy, so you can eat one as big as your hand and feel just fine for the rest of the morning!
Make sure to mix your brioche at least 15 hours before you want to serve them, as the dough will need to rest for 12 hours before it’s time to shape.
I like to mix mine up before bed, then I shape as soon as I awake. After a brief proof, they go in the oven and are ready just in time for a nice mid-morning brunch.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step One – Mix Brioche
The night before you are ready to bake, mix together one batch of my recipe for brioche.
Let it rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours, or overnight. It must be nice and cool in order to shape without a fuss.
Step Two – Roll
Flour your work surface generously, and roll the dough out into a large rectangle. It should be about 1/4-inch thick, which will make a rectangle roughly 18 inches by 24 inches.
Work swiftly so that the dough does not get too warm!
Step Three – Fill
Spread your room temperature butter over the entire surface of the dough.
I find it easiest to use a large offset spatula for this, as it helps spread things evenly without digging into the dough. I like this stainless steel 8-inch model from Sur La Table. It’s also available in a smaller 4.5-inch size for more delicate tasks.
Next, mix together the sugars, spices, and salt. Spread them evenly across the buttered dough.
Step Four – Shape
Starting at the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up into a tight log.
If your dough has gotten warm, this step will be difficult, which is why it’s important to work swiftly.
If that is the case, run your hands under cold water to cool them off, then use your hands and a bench knife to carefully handle the dough without tearing it.
Slice the log into 1-inch thick pieces. This recipe should make about 16 buns.
Spread the shaped dough evenly across a well-sprayed baking sheet. They will more than double in size, so be sure to spread them well apart!
I prefer to use an aluminum half-sheet tray with sides, particularly one with a lid for easy transport. Check out our review of the best baking sheets for our top suggestions.
Step Five – Proof and Bake
Let the dough proof at room temperature. Because there’s butter in the brioche, it is important not to let them proof in a space that is too warm.
Instead, it’s better to allow for a slightly longer, cooler proof (around 65-70°F) rather than the more typical warm one (around 80-90°F).
The dough is ready when it slowly springs back if touched lightly with the tip of your finger. If they resist or spring back quickly, they are not quite ready yet.
The buns will only grow a little bit during this proof, so don’t expect them to be touching one another on the tray yet!
While the dough proofs, preheat the oven to 350°F. Once proofed, bake for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden brown.
Step Six – Frost
While the cinnamon rolls are cooling, combine the powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.
If the icing mixture seems too thick, add more milk 1/2 tablespoon at a time. If its too thin, add more powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time.
Glaze thickness is a matter of individual preference, so you can make yours as thick or thin as you desire!
A touch of vanilla or a few pinches of orange zest also make delicious, flavorful additions.
We also have a super easy spiced glaze recipe, perfect for the fall and winter months!
Pour the glaze over the warm pastries, and enjoy!
Serving Up the Best Baked Goods
I think these guys taste the best still warm from the oven, but I devour them at room temperature as well.
If you manage to have any leftovers, just keep them in a sealed container at room temperature – this is where that handy half sheet with the lid is particularly helpful! They will keep 3-4 days if well covered.
If you’re aching for something a little less sweet but just as light, fluffy, and divine, give my brown butter brioche rolls a try.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go fix myself a cup of coffee and feast on a bun or two myself.
What’s your favorite way to serve cinnamon rolls? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.