These Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls are just that . . . pillowy , perfect soft and so, so good . A soft, tender roll loaded with bold cinnamon flavor and topped witch delicious buttercream. Absolutely delicious!
It’s a well-known fact that chocolate chip cookies are a weakness of mine. Well, cinnamon rolls are too. There is nothing better than a warm, gooey cinnamon roll slathered in buttercream frosting. So, so good and definitely a HUGE weakness of mine.
I know I have several cinnamon rolls recipes on my site, but there is always room in my heart for more cinnamon roll recipes, and these Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls are a welcome addition to my collection.
These cinnamon rolls were names King Arthur’s 2021 Recipe of the Year. So naturally I had to try them, right. I mean the words cinnamon rolls and recipe of the year in the same sentence . . . it’s a no brainer.
King Arthur website describes these as “cinnamon sugar swirl wrapped in a perfectly pillow package.” That pretty much sums these rolls up in a nutshell.
Thanks to the use of the tangzhong method, this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill cinnamon roll. This method involves cooking milk and bread flour together until it forms a paste, which helps lock in water and yield a cinnamon roll or bread that will stay moist for days.
These cinnamon rolls really are incredibly soft, and they stay soft for several days. The texture kind of like brioche, with a super-airy, almost sponge like inside.
WHAT IS THE TANGZHONG TECHNIQUE?
It’s an Asian technique that was popularized across Asia by Chinese cookbook author Yvonne Chen. It’s basically a special starter made from cooked flour and milk that makes these rolls stay soft even if you serve them a few days after baking. I won’t go into all the details of how it works, but if you if you’re dying to know, here is a link that will explain it.
CAN I USE ALL PURPOSE FLOUR INSTEAD OF BREAD FLOUR?
Here is the answer straight from the King Arthur website : Sure, but the recipe won’t be the same, both in terms of how you execute it (the dough will be stickier and harder to work with), and of the finished result (the rolls tend to collapse more out of the oven, making them denser). Hopefully that answers that question.
The beauty of these cinnamon rolls is that they are delicious hot of the oven and even three or four days later, they still retain their soft, pillowy texture, and taste delicious.
The King Arthur website does suggest that if you’re planning to serve the rolls later, then wait to frost them until just before serving. Store the frosting room temperature, tightly covered, until you’re ready to use it, or wait and make it when you’re ready to frost them. What I do, is frost all of them and then wrap the uneaten rolls really well in foil. Then when someone wants to eat one a day or two later, we warm them in the microwave for about 20 seconds. . . cinnamon roll perfection!
A FEW TIPS FOR MAKING THESE CINNAMON ROLLS:
- Don’t add too much flour. The first time I made these I could tell from the dough that I added a little too much flour, which caused my first batch to be not quite as soft and tender. I’m not usually one to weigh flour, but I did the second and third time I made these and it made a difference in how the rolls don’t out.
- Use dental floss or thread the cinnamon rolls. I ALWAYS use this method to cut my cinnamon rolls. So I loved when I saw that King Arthur recommends using floss to cut these. Using floss or thread gives you a much cleaner cut and doesn’t small the rolls.
- Be careful not to overbake them. I usually watch for the outside of the rolls to become light golden brown. King Arthur recommends using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of a roll. Once the center registers 190°F, they are done. I have personally never used a thermometer to check cinnamon rolls, but I may have to give it a try.
- Feel free to frost these with cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream. I personally don’t love cream cheese frosting on cinnamon rolls and always use buttercream, but that’s just me.
- The filling calls for 3 to 4 teaspoons of cinnamon. If you don’t love a strong cinnamon flavor, then start with less and add more, I buy the Saigon cinnamon from Costco which is a stronger cinnamon, so I use about 3 teaspoons. Adjust it according to your tastes.
- If you want smaller rolls, go ahead and cut them smaller. I loved the size these were cutting the dough into 8 pieces and didn’t think they were too large, but I LOVE cinnamon rolls and thing the bigger, the better (lol!).
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons unbleached bread flour
- 2/3 cup whole milk, cold
- 2 1/2 cups (300g) unbleached bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons unbleached bread flour
- 3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon*
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons half & half or cream; enough to get desired consistency.
- Combine both the milk and bread flour 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 or the bowl of a stand mixer.
- 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 or on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Continue to knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic, and tacky. This will take up to 15 minutes by hand and about 10 to 12 minutes on medium-low speed of a mixer.
- 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).
- 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.
ASSEMBLING THE ROLLS:
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and press it into a 10” x 12” rectangle that’s about 1/2” 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 1/2” strip along one long side.
- Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log.
- Cut the dough lightly into eight equal 1 1/2” to 2” pieces. (*I like to score with knife first, and then use thread or dental floss to cut, for a clean cut. Cut the dough at the score marks, using dental floss for the cleanest cut
- Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them so there’s at least 2” between each one and they’re 2” away from the edges of the pan; a 3-2-3 arrangement works well. 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 towel 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. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the rolls for 15 to 19 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. 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. (*I bake mine about 18-19 minutes).
- Remove the rolls from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Let the rolls cool for 10 minutes before icing.
Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons 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.
- I love lots of frosting on my cinnamon rolls, so I add about an extra half cup of powdered sugar, a little more half & half and a little more melted butter.
- If you have a favorite buttercream recipe, go ahead and use your own.
Recipe Source: Adapted just slightly from King Arthur (they have some short video tutorials and pictures for the steps if you want to watch.)