Last week’s Sourdough Brioche post evolved out of a desire to make this week’s recipe: Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls. I’ve long loved letting dough rise overnight to bake off for sweet breakfast buns. But I’ve had some failures. I once overloaded a bundt pan with balls of frozen bread dough to make my mom’s favorite buttterscotch roll recipe—only to wake up and find the dough balls dangling rather obscenely outside the pan.
Initially, my cinnamon roll recipe was also unappealing—but for its flavor, not its looks. The plan was to use pizza dough. I’d read about such conversions on various blogs and websites, with titles like Easiest Cinnamon Rolls Ever and Shortcut Cinnamon Rolls. My attempt resulted in spiral-wound, cinnamon-tinged… pizza crust.
So although a handy ball of pizza dough seems like an easy shortcut, you’re better off learning to make last week’s delicious Sourdough Brioche Dough. It won’t just turn into the best hamburger buns you’ve ever tasted; it will turn into breakfast buns that taste and feel like cinnamon rolls.
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
1 ball Sourdough Brioche Dough
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Prepare and chill the Sourdough Brioche Dough according to the recipe. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts, if desired.
Transfer the dough from the fridge to a lightly floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, shape the dough into a 12- by 21-inch rectangle. Brush the rectangle with the melted butter and then sprinkle it with the cinnamon mixture, leaving a small, bare margin along one of the long edges of the rectangle. From the opposite long edge, fold up a small portion of the dough, starting at one corner and working to the other end of that edge. Repeat the process, rolling one tight revolution at a time, until the dough is completely rolled into a tight log, ending with the bare margin and pressing it enough to seal the outside edge. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into slices about 1-3/4 inches thick.
Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and space out the slices in it. Cover the pan with a damp towel, and let the dough rest at room temperature for 2-1/2 hours, until the rolls relax and begin to puff up.
During the last 30 minutes of proofing time, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover the pan with a piece of foil, which allows you to trap steam while the rolls bake. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the covering, rotate the pan, and then bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the rolls are lightly brown on top. Remove the pan from the oven and let the rolls cool to slightly warm or room temperature before topping with Buttermilk Glaze (see below). Makes 12 rolls.
Tips & Tricks
- The dough recipe behind these rolls uses a blend of flours suitable for Sourdough Brioche Buns. I don’t mind a bit of whole grain in my cinnamon rolls, so I stick with the blend if I’m making a split or double batch that will become breakfast and dinner rolls. But you could stick with all-white flour and even boost the sugar in the recipe if you’re focused on sweet bread.
- It’s easiest to work with cold dough, particularly when slicing the log. If the dough sits out or becomes warm from your hands, return the log to the fridge before cutting it with a very sharp knife.
- You can prepare this recipe and bake another day. Once the rolls are in the pan, they can be covered with a buttered sheet of foil and refrigerated or even frozen. Remove the pan the night before baking and let them rise overnight.
- Cinnamon is traditional, but it’s fun to play with other options. For a classy tray of rolls, smear the dough with chocolate ganache or buttercream frosting and finely ground hazelnuts or almonds.
Twice as Tasty
Once cinnamon rolls are in the oven, thoughts turn to how to top them. For a somewhat lower-fat option, you could leave them unadorned, but let’s face it: you’re making a breakfast treat, so you might as well indulge. That said, I dislike overly sweet frostings that detract from the bread. I’ve seen recipes that use up to 6 cups of powdered sugar to frost a dozen buns and icings that are rich not just in confectioners’ sugar but also in butter and heavy cream. That might be too much indulgence, not to mention suffocation of your sourdough flavor.
My preferred glaze for Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls builds on the fermented yeast flavor by adding buttermilk to the mix. The icing is still a bit sweet and a bit buttery, but it doesn’t overpower the roll. If you have a sweeter tooth, a little vanilla extract gives just the right boost.
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
In a small bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, if desired, and buttermilk; beat until smooth. If too thin, add a little sugar; if too thick, add a little buttermilk. Spread or drizzle the glaze on the warm or room-temperature Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls. Makes about 1/3 cup of glaze to cover 12 rolls.
Tips & Tricks
- Real, fresh buttermilk is worth splurging for with this recipe, because the flavors stand out on the surface of the bun. When buying buttermilk, look for a brand that doesn’t contain a lot of fillers; the ingredient list should simply read, “cultured milk.” If you’re adding vanilla, use pure extract rather than imitation flavoring for the same reason.
- Homemade breads, from Sourdough Cabin Bread to Sourdough Pita, continue to bake inside after they leave the oven, and twists of cinnamon are no exception. But there’s one more reason to let cinnamon rolls cool: when hot, the icing will slide right off.
- If you’re using one of my suggested decadent fillings for a batch of rolls, there are plenty of options for fancier toppings—and not necessarily sweeter ones. Browning the butter is one of the easiest tricks for adding another layer of flavor. Swaps are also easy: change out the butter for cream cheese or the buttermilk for brandy. Or simply stick with the recipe and sprinkle with macerated strawberries and chopped hazelnuts or sliced almonds while the glaze is soft.
All month long, Twice as Tasty is getting you hooked on sourdough. If I’ve convinced you that you can and should bake with wild yeast, check out the Sourdough Giveaway Experiment to find out how to get your free sourdough starter. I’m also teaching these techniques in a workshop held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.