Raise your hand if you don't want one of these right now. (Didn't think so.) And even better: This is the brilliant sort of fluffy cinnamon roll that you don't have to wake up early to make, or eat all at once, thanks to a simple, time-honored technique that keeps them pillowy-soft for days. (No wonder this is King Arthur Baking Company's 2021 Recipe of the Year.) Don’t be deterred by the length of the recipe—much of the time is hands-off, and the method is very forgiving.
As the King Arthur team writes: “There’s something magical about warm-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls. Unfortunately, that magic often evaporates as the rolls cool. If only it were possible to serve fresh, soft rolls first thing in the morning—without getting up at midnight to make them! Enter our 2021 Recipe of the Year. Whether you enjoy these pillowy cinnamon rolls hot from the oven or up to a week later (if they last that long!), they retain their wonderful soft texture. Paired with classic bold cinnamon flavor and rich vanilla icing, the result is truly the ultimate cinnamon roll.”
A few tips from King Arthur’s bakers:
—While kneading by hand is definitely doable (see Kristen’s tips in the video below), since this is a sticky dough, a stand mixer is recommended if you have one.
—With origins in Japan's yukone (or yudane), tangzhong is a yeast bread technique popularized across Asia by Chinese cookbook author Yvonne Chen. Tangzhong involves cooking some of a bread recipe’s flour in liquid prior to adding it to the remaining dough ingredients. Bringing the temperature of the flour and liquid to 65°C (149°F) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which makes them more able to retain liquid—thus enhancing the resulting loaf’s softness and shelf life.
—Use the lesser amount in the recipe for stronger cinnamons, like Vietnamese (Saigon); the larger amount for milder cinnamons, like Indonesian/Ceylon.
—Do you enjoy your cinnamon rolls with tangy, thick cream cheese frosting instead of vanilla icing? Stir 4 to 6 tablespoons (57g to 90g) softened cream cheese into the icing along with the other ingredients. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier this will be to do. Resist the urge to add more than 2 teaspoons of milk until the icing is fully mixed. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more milk a teaspoon at a time to get it to the consistency you prefer.
—Many of you have asked how to turn this into an overnight cinnamon roll recipe. It's simple: Make and bake the rolls the day before you want to serve them. The rolls stay wonderfully soft for at least 3 days, and we've found the best way to enjoy them for breakfast is to bake them the day before, store them tightly sealed (and un-iced) at room temperature overnight,. The next morning, lightly cover the rolls with foil and warm them in a 300°F to 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Spread with icing and enjoy.
Recipe adapted very slightly from King Arthur Baking Company.
Want to hear more about this recipe? On The Genius Recipe Tapes, Kristen goes behind the scenes with the geniuses themselves. Check out the show here. —Genius Recipes
- Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cook time 18 minutes
- makes 8 large rolls
(113g) whole milk
(23g) bread flour (preferably King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
(151g) whole milk, cold
2 1/2 cups
(300g) bread flour (preferably King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
(25g) granulated sugar
(57g) unsalted butter, softened
(14g) butter, melted
(107g) light brown sugar, packed
(15g) bread flour (such as King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour)
3 to 4 teaspoons
(8g to 10g) cinnamon (see note)
(42g) butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups
(170g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons
(14g to 28g) milk, cream, or buttermilk; enough to thin to desired consistency
- To make the tangzhong: Combine both the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened, paste-like, and the spoon or spatula leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. This should take 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the strength of your burner.
- Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl, the bowl of a stand mixer, or the bucket of a bread machine (whatever you plan to knead the dough in).
- To make the dough: Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed; the heat from the tangzhong will help to warm the cold milk.
- Mix — by hand, on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, or in a bread machine set to the dough cycle — to bring the dough together. Next, knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and tacky. This will take up to 15 minutes by hand, 10 to 12 minutes on medium-low speed of a mixer, or the length of the dough cycle in a bread machine.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover.
- Let the dough rise until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 to 90 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen).
- To make the filling: While the dough is rising, put the melted butter into a medium bowl and add the remaining ingredients, stirring until the mixture is the texture of damp sand. Set aside.
- Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.
- To assemble the rolls: Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and press it into a 10x12-inch rectangle that’s about ½-inch thick. For evenly shaped rolls, try to pat the dough into an actual rectangle (with corners), rather than an oval.
- Sprinkle the filling over the dough, covering all but a ½-inch strip along one long side.
- Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log.
- Score the dough lightly into eight equal 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces; this will make large, saucer-sized cinnamon rolls — their generous size is part of their charm. Cut the dough at the score marks. Dental floss will give you the cleanest cut: pull off a long piece of floss, loop it underneath the log at the score mark, and pull the ends in opposite directions to cut the dough. Repeat until you've cut all of the rolls. If you don’t have dental floss, a bench knife or sharp knife will work.
- Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them so there’s at least 2 inches between each one and they’re 2” away from the edges of the pan; a 3-2-3 arrangement works well on a half-sheet pan. To prevent them from unraveling while they rise and bake, tuck the ends of the spirals underneath the rolls so that they’re held in place.
- Cover the rolls with lightly greased plastic wrap or a reusable cover and let them rise for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). The rolls should be puffy and the dough shouldn’t bounce back immediately when gently pressed.
- About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the top third of the oven. (If you need to use two sheet pans, either keep one sheet in the fridge while the first bakes, or bake them on racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, rotating halfway through baking.) Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the rolls until they’re a light golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190°F, for 14 to 18 minutes, or less if you’ve cut the rolls thinner than 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Bake for the lesser amount of time for extra-soft rolls, and the longer amount of time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.
- Remove the rolls from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) of the melted butter. Let the rolls cool for 10 to 15 minutes before icing.
- To make the icing: Combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) melted butter with the remaining icing ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing with a spatula until smooth. Milk makes a lovely frosting; using cream in place of milk creates an extra layer of richness, while substituting buttermilk adds subtle tang, a nice counterpoint to the icing's overall sweetness.
- Ice the rolls and serve immediately. If you’re planning to serve the rolls later, wait to ice them until just before serving. Store icing at room temperature, tightly covered, until you’re ready to use it.
- Store completely cooled rolls, un-iced and well wrapped, for a couple of days at room temperature; or freeze for up to 1 month.