In the Midwest where I live, we like to eat cinnamon rolls for dinner alongside a steaming bowl of chili. The combination of sweet and savory satisfy our comfort food requirements for long cold winters.
That being said, we also like cinnamon rolls for breakfast, brunch, bake sales, and other special occasions. When you eat them as often as we do, baking the perfect roll is practically a household requirement.
Whether you're making our big, fluffy Bakery-Style Cinnamon Rolls or your own favorite recipe, here are a few tips that will help you make the best cinnamon rolls ever:
1. Don't Overheat Your Milk
Most cinnamon roll recipes call for warm milk in the dough, and a common mistake is overheating your milk for this step. Warm your milk only to between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over that will kill the yeast, and anything lower can increase the time it takes the dough to rise.
If you don’t have a thermometer, test the milk by dipping your finger in it. It should feel warm, but not so hot that you recoil. If needed, quickly cool it down by placing it in the fridge for a few minutes or stirring with a spoon.
Also, if you add the yeast to the warm milk and it isn’t foamy after 5 minutes, the yeast is probably dead. It’s best to toss it and start over.
2. Use Very Soft, Room Temperature Butter in the Dough
The secret to our super tender cinnamon rolls is room temperature butter beaten into the dough. This technique works best if the butter is very soft. When it's soft like this, the butter incorporates easily into the dough.
Take the butter out of the fridge a few hours before you plan to make the dough so it has time to soften completely to room temperature. You can also take it out of the refrigerator the day before you’re going to use it. (It’s ok. The butter will be fine overnight and won’t go rancid!)
How do you know when the butter has softened enough? You should be able to easily press your finger all the way through the butter with zero resistance. It will feel like lotion. Butter that isn't quite soft enough will still be a bit firm and feel chilled in the middle.
What if you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge, or don't have time to let it soften? Resist the temptation to soften the butter in the microwave; it's easy to over-zap it and end up with a puddle of butter. Instead, slice the butter into tablespoons and knead it between your fingers for a minute or two before adding it to the dough.
Get the Recipe! Bakery-Style Cinnamon Rolls
3. Chill the Dough Before Shaping the Rolls
Not only does chilling the dough mean you can break up the work of making cinnamon rolls over two days, but cold dough is also easier to roll out and shape into rolls. This means tighter, neater rolls with more mouth-watering spirals of cinnamon-and-sugar.
Our recipe includes this chilling step right in the directions, but here's a secret: you can chill the dough for any recipe you want to make. Yup! Make the dough through the end of the rise, then stick it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight. Roll out, shape, and bake your rolls as usual. Give it a try the next time you make cinnamon rolls!
4. Use Room Temperature – Not Melted – Butter for the Filling
Room temperature butter to the rescue again. So many cinnamon roll recipes call for pouring melted butter over the rectangle of dough right before sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar and rolling it up. It works, but it’s messy, and the filling oozes out the sides of the dough when rolling it up.
This causes not only a loss of butter, but also cinnamon sugar filling. Losing filling is not the goal!
The simple solution is to use room temperature butter instead of melted butter. Use the back of a spoon to gently spread it on the dough and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over top. Roll it up and slice your rolls -- no mess.
Do you have any great tips for making perfect cinnamon rolls? Please share!