I have made sooooooooooo many cinnamon roll recipes in my lifetime. I would say that of all those recipes only 2 have sometimes turned out well. None of them have consistently been amazing. They always feel so hit or miss and honestly they are usually a miss. But, I have found the holy grail of cinnamon rolls! I have made this 2021 recipe of the year from King Arthur Baking a few times now and I cannot believe how AMAZING these rolls taste! The texture is just as they describe it, pillowy soft. The best part is that they stay that way for days! So you can make them the day before and reheat them with no change to how fantastic the rolls are to eat. I doubled the recipe when I made it because I wanted to make enough cinnamon rolls to share. You can easily half it to make enough for a small family. But, I am serious when I say RUN and make these NOW!!!
This recipe starts with a tangzhong. A tanzhong is a starter that helps this recipe retain moisture and helps to make the dough so amazingly soft. The ingredients needed are 1 cup of whole milk and 6 tablespoons King Arthur bread flour.
To make the tangzhong, I combined the milk and flour in a small saucepan and whisked them together until there were no more lumps. Then I placed the mixture over medium heat and stirred it until it thickened and my mini spatula showed a line in the pan when I pulled it through the mixture. As soon as it was thickened I put the tangzhong into the bottom of the bowl for my stand mixer.
The rest of the ingredients needed to make the dough are 1 1/3 cups of cold whole milk, 5 cups of King Arthur bread flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 packets of instant yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons) and 8 tablespoons of softened butter (I used salted).
To make the dough, add the cold milk to the bowl on the top of the tangzhong, the heat will help to warm up the milk. I added the bread flour (I used my scale to weigh it out – 600 grams) and then the salt, granulated sugar, yeast and butter to the bowl in that order. Using the dough hook I mixed the ingredients together on low and as soon as they came together I turned the mixer up to medium and let the dough hook knead the dough until it was smooth, elastic but still slightly tacky. I needed to add 3 or 4 tablespoons of flour to my mixture to help it be slightly tacky and not super sticky. The dough kneaded for 15 minutes to develop the right smooth texture and allow the gluten to develop and help the dough be stretchy. After the full fifteen minutes, I used my bowl scraper to gather all the dough out of the bowl and then I shaped it into a ball and placed it back into the bottom of my mixing bowl. After that, I covered the bowl with foil and placed my bowl into my oven. I turned my oven to the proof setting at 100 F degrees and let it rise inside for 45 minutes. If you let it rise on the counter it could take longer – 60 to 90 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.
While the dough was rising I put together the ingredients for the filling. The ingredients needed are 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of King Arthur bread flour, 7 tablespoons of cinnamon and an 1/8 tablespoon of salt. I mixed all the ingredients in a small bowl until the filling looked and felt like wet sand. I set the bowl aside until the dough was finished rising.
Once the dough had risen, I dumped it out onto my dough mat. (Then I got excited about trying out a new fun tool to take a video from above of me shaping, filling and slicing the rolls…and forgot to stop and take pictures…sorry!) I lined 2 9-by-13 inch pans with parchment paper and used binder clips to hold the paper in place. I set them aside as I used my hands to spread the dough into a large rectangle until it was 10 inches by 24 inches long. I made sure to try to keep the dough in a rectangle shape with corners and not let it be an oval shape. Next, I spread the filling out all over the dough, but left 1/2 inch of the dough bare at the top. Starting at the long side of the dough that is covered with filling, I began rolling the dough away from me. Once I reached the top where the bare dough was, I pulled it up and pinched the dough to seal the log. Then, I slid some unwaxed floss under the log of dough about 1 1/2 to 2 inch from the top of the log. I crossed the floss over the top and pulled the floss tight to slice the cinnamon rolls. I continued to move my floss down the roll and cut cinnamon rolls evenly. This made 16 rolls in total. I placed the rolls in the pans using a 3 rolls on the top, 2 in the middle and 3 rolls on the bottom pattern in each pan. Finally, I covered the pans with foil and let them rise again for 30 minutes in the 100 degree oven.
After 30 minutes of rising in the proofing oven, I pulled the pans out and placed them on the counter while I preheated the oven to 375 F degrees. I checked the rolls before putting them in the oven. They were puffy and when I pressed into them, they did not bounce back right away so I knew they were ready. I baked the rolls for 15 minutes and used an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the middle of the rolls and made sure that it was at least 190 F degrees. I removed the rolls form the oven and placed them on a wire rack in the pan to begin cooling.
While the rolls are still warm, I brushed the tops of the rolls with 3 tablespoons of melted butter. I have found other recipes put the melted butter on before baking, but putting it on after baking is a total game changer! The amazing buttery flavor remains when you eat it and it gives the rolls an awesome shine.
As the cinnamon rolls are cooling in the pan, I made the vanilla icing. I mixed together 3 cups of powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste and 4 tablespoons of cream (you could also use whole milk too – I forgot to measure the milk for my picture – again sorry!) I mixed all the ingredients together in a small bowl until it was smooth. I added the cream a little at a time until I reached the consistency I wanted in the icing. I went for a thicker icing that needed to be spread but a thinner icing that you could pour over would work as well.
When I make the cinnamon rolls, I like to ice them one at a time. That way I can store the extra rolls and reheat them one at a time and put fresh icing on the warm rolls. The sweet vanilla icing is so delicious on these rolls. The dough is soft and tender, the filling has a little bit of a sharpness to it from having so much cinnamon in it and the sweet icing on the top perfectly rounds these out to be the best cinnamon rolls! I am not joking when I say that you need to make these! They are the perfect breakfast treat. I really encourage you to make more than you think you need, especially if you make them the night before and reheat them the next day, because they will disappear before your eyes. My husband came home from work one night and ate 3 rolls that were cooling on the counter before dinner…magically making him no longer hungry for dinner, but he did let me know how much he loved these cinnamon rolls and I am sure you will too!
Recipe: The Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls*
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 6 tablespoons of King Arthur bread flour
- 1 1/3 cups of cold whole milk
- 5 cups of King Arthur bread flour
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 2 packets of 4 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast
- 8 tablespoons of softened butter
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of King Arthur bread flour
- 7 to 8 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons of melted butter (for brushing on top of the baked rolls)
- 3 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
- pinch of salt
- 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons of cream or whole milk
- To make the tangzhong – mix together the milk and flour and whisk until smooth in a small saucepan. Then place over medium heat and stir until thick enough for a spatula leaves a line on the bottom of then when dragged through the pan. Once thick place in the bottom of bowl of your stand mixer.
- To make the dough – add the cold milk on top of the tangzhong and then add the rest of the ingredients in order. Be sure to weigh out or carefully measure the flour by fluffing the flour, scooping it over your cup and then leveling the top. Place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low until the ingredients begin to come together. Then, turn the mixer up to medium and knead for 15 minutes. If the dough appears very sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is just tacky. Mix until the dough is smooth, stretchy, and slightly tacky. If needed you can add flour a tablespoon at a time. Use your bowl scraper to remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a ball. Place it back into the bowl and cover the bowl. Place in a proofing oven for 45 minutes or on the counter for 60 to 90 minutes.
- To make the filling – while the dough is rising mix the filling, add the brown sugar, flour, melted butter, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and mix until it has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside.
- Line 2 9-by-13 inch baking pans with parchment paper and use binder clips to hold the paper in place.
- Once the dough has risen, place on a floured counter or dough mat and shape with your hands into a 10-by-24 inch rectangle. Be sure to shape into a rectangle with corners and not an oval.
- Spread the filling out over the dough and press into the dough with your hands, be sure to leave 1/2 border along the far long edge of the dough.
- Roll the dough, starting at the long covered edge. When you get to the bare edge, pull the dough up and pinch it to seal the log. Use unwaxed floss to slice 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices. Place the slices into the baking pans in a 3 on top, 2 in the middle and 3 on the bottom pattern. Cover the pans and let rise again in the warm proofing oven for 30 minutes or on the counter for 60 minutes. You will know they are ready to bake when you can press your finger into the side and the dough does not automatically bounce back.
- 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 15 minutes or until the middle of the rolls reaches 190 F degrees. Remove the pans from the oven and let them cool on wire racks.
- Brush the tops of the cinnamon rolls with melted butter.
- To make the icing – in a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla bean paste, salt and cream. (You can add the cream a little at a time until you reach the consistency you want). Mix until the icing is smooth.
- Once the rolls are warm but no longer very hot, remove how many cinnamon rolls you plan on eating and ice them one at a time.
- You can save the un-iced rolls in an airtight container until you are ready to eat them. Just rewarm them when ready and ice the warm rolls.
Recipe from King Arthur Baking
*The King Arthur Baking website has the measurements for a single batch of cinnamon rolls which makes 8 rolls. It also has many wonderful notes and extra tips if you are looking for more information and reading about these wonderful cinnamon rolls.