Sunday, July 7, 2019

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Frosting

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll RecipeCinnamon rolls are such a labor of love.  The mixing and kneading, the filling and rolling, the waiting and waiting for them to rise.  And there's nothing like that first taste, that perfect swirling bite of warm, soft yeasted bread, cinnamon and sugar, all slathered in sweet, creamy frosting.  That taste that says, someone loves you enough to get up early and make cinnamon rolls.

I bake cinnamon rolls maybe 2-3 times a year, reserving them for special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but recently I made them for my husband on Father's Day.  A few days after the rolls were gone, I was fixing a bowl of yogurt and fruit for my toddler's breakfast, and I asked him if he wanted cinnamon on top.  He replied, "I'll have cinnamon rolls."

All cinnamon rolls are good when they're hot from the oven, and some are pretty great.  But I've long felt like most recipes were lacking in greatness, especially when it comes to the freshness of the roll by the end of the day, and particularly in the days following.  If you're not able to finish an entire pan of rolls in the hours after they're baked, it's an awful lot of work to go through for a stale, leftover roll the next day, so I've set about to make a better (and finally, the best) cinnamon roll that's not only great fresh from the oven, but also for days after.




Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Rolls, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, Brown Butter Frosting, Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe



Making the perfect cinnamon roll has long been a goal of mine, and I've spent the last few years testing many different aspects, starting first with the recipe, of course.  The type of flour used, to varying amounts of eggs and butter, milk or buttermilk, less filling or more filling... all of these factors make such a difference in how the roll rises and bakes.  The other big area I tested was letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight for the popular "overnight rolls" option vs. no refrigerator time.  And lastly, the type of pan they are baked in ended up playing a major part in their deliciousness.  (Something a bit different for this post, too, is that I challenged myself to shoot and edit all the photos using only my iPhone instead of my DSLR, something that I'll occasionally do for an IG post, but have rarely done for a full blog post.)

And I'm happy to share my findings today.  Read on to find out how I came up with a soft, tender roll that's bursting with flavor, just sweet enough and balanced with a bit of salt, with a fantastic brown butter frosting.  And these aren't just great fresh from the oven.  They stay soft and fresh for several days after baking.

  1. To begin, I feel like any bread recipe that calls for yeast should be made with bread flour, not all-purpose flour.  Bread flour has more protein than all-purpose flour, and the protein helps with gluten development, giving the rolls that soft, chewy texture, rather than cakey or crumbly.  So use bread flour for the best results.
  2. This is an enriched dough, meaning it has a fairly high fat content from the eggs and butter, but the amount of sugar called for in the dough itself is relatively low.  The result is a soft, pillowy dough that bakes into a beautifully rich-tasting roll.
  3. Buttermilk contains more acid than whole milk, and provides a beautiful rise to the dough, wonderful flavor, and tender chewy texture.  Make sure you warm it to the correct temperature noted.  Too hot or too cold will result in a very poor rise from the yeast.
  4. The tablespoon of corn starch in my recipe might surprise you.  But it's something I've started adding to cookie dough over the last few years, and it does wonders for keeping your cookies so soft for days and days, and its effect worked on my cinnamon rolls, too.  It's said that corn starch, in combination with flour, "softens" the proteins of flour, making a more tender baked good.
  5. When it comes to the filling, less is more for cinnamon rolls, even though it's tempting to really load up on the butter and sugar.  But you really don't want to go too heavy on the butter and sugar filling, because the dough simply can't absorb all that, and the excess will melt to the bottom and burn.  Don't worry, the roll is plenty rich enough from the butter in the dough, as well as from the brown butter frosting.
  6. I used both vanilla and almond extracts in my dough, but the rolls don't taste like almond.  It's just enough to enhance the flavor and complement the cinnamon and nutmeg, but not enough to turn this into an almond pastry.  Likewise with the almond paste - it's an ingredient I love, but I didn't add enough for it to overpower the rolls.  You can certainly add more if you love almond, as I do.  I tend to go easy on it since my husband doesn't love the flavor as much as I do.
  7. The brown butter icing is just fantastic.  Take the time to brown the butter, and you won't be sorry.  The flavor is just amazing.
  8. To make the rolls the night before and refrigerate overnight, or not?  Overnight rolls are a popular option on Pinterest, but I have to be honest - I just don't care for the process.  Your cinnamon rolls will always, always be best if you are able to skip the refrigeration.  I feel like the cold stunts the rise too much, and the rolls never really recover, even after letting them warm up in the morning before baking.  Now, I realize that getting up at 3am to start your dough so that it can rise for an hour and a half, then roll it out to make your rolls and let them rise again before baking isn't something most people are willing to do.  I get it.  Everyone wants to get everything prepped the night before, have the rolls shaped and in the pan and ready to pop into the oven the next morning for breakfast, and it's what I've always done, because I like my morning sleep.  But I have to tell you, they're so much better if you don't.  Something to consider.
  9. Lastly, am I the only one who is annoyed by making those pretty, round spiraled rolls only to have them bake into squares that have to be cut apart when baked in a 9x13 pan?  For me, this part of the testing process began simply for aesthetic purposes - I wanted a pretty, round baked roll, not a square roll.  So I thought I'd try baking half the rolls in a pan and half in my jumbo muffin pan, for comparison.  And the ones in the muffin pan were so much better.  Not just in looks, although they were far prettier, round and golden brown.  But taste-wise, they were better, too, with that gorgeous golden crust all around but so soft inside.  When I picked one up, I couldn't believe how light it felt, compared to its size.  The rise was spectacular, resulting in a huge, fluffy roll that was so soft and pillowy inside.  I will always bake my cinnamon rolls in a muffin pan now.



Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
printable


Dough.
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, warmed to between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Filling.
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • almond paste, 1-3 ounces, finely crumbled or grated, optional
Icing.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • milk or cream, to thin to desired consistency

Dough.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, corn starch, salt, nutmeg and yeast.  Add the warmed buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts and softened butter. Mix to combine for two minutes.  Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes on medium-low speed, scraping the bowl down several times, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Dough will be very soft and loose, and will not form a firm dough ball.  Scrape the dough into a large greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (but not too hot, or the dough can dry out) until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Tip the dough out onto a well-floured surface, sprinkle more flour over the dough, and knead 5-6 times to bring it together.  Roll out into a 20x16 inch rectangle, sprinkling with more flour as needed to keep it from sticking.

Filling.
Brush the melted butter all over the dough.  Combine the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and sprinkle evenly over the dough, pressing it in slightly.  Sprinkle with the almond paste, if using.

Starting at one of the 16-inch edges, tightly roll the dough up into a log, keeping it as tight as possible.  Use a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen scissors (scissors are easier since the dough is so soft) to cut 12 rolls, dipping the knife in flour between cuts.

Preferably, bake these in a jumbo muffin pan.  Grease the pan with non-stick spray and place the rolls, cut side up, in the muffin cups.  Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the rolls fill the cups and are puffing up above the edges.

If baking in a 9x13 pan, line the pan with parchment paper and arrange the rolls in the pan, cut side up.  Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the rolls fill the pan and are puffing up.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the rolls, uncovered for 20 minutes (for the muffin pan) and 25-30 minutes (for the 9x13 pan) until golden brown.  While the rolls are baking, you should get your frosting ready.

Frosting.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Continue to cook the butter, swirling occasionally, until the water has evaporated and nutty brown solids form at the bottom of the pan.  Scrape the butter, including the browned bits, into a bowl to cool to room temperature.  You can even make your butter the day before.

Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar to the browned butter and mix with a spoon until smooth and well combined, adding milk or cream if necessary, for your desired consistency.

After baking the rolls, spread a small amount of the frosting over the rolls, letting it melt into all the swirls, then let the rolls cool for about 20 minutes.  Spread the remainder of the frosting on the rolls and serve.

Yields 12 cinnamon rolls
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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