Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Sourdough cinnamon rolls: the new every-weekend tradition? I originally began work on this recipe with the intention that these would be a wonderful Christmas morning indulgence, the birth of a new holiday baking custom. But after making them several times for testing I’m convinced they should seriously be a weekend indulgence. Why limit ourselves and declare these only for special events and holidays? Seriously, let’s just make them every weekend.

Cinnamon rolls fit so perfectly with the cold weather. They’re like that warm blanket you left on the radiator, that puffy wool sweater you wear around the house or that cup of hot chocolate that breaks through the cold. Layers of tender dough segregated by ribbons of gooey cinnamon-sugar and topped with a creamy, white sugar glaze — it’s enough to make you completely forget it’s cold outside, or perhaps stop caring about winter altogether.

Sourdough Cinnamon Buns with glazeBrioche dough is the base for these rolls, which is dough enriched by butter and eggs. When added to a dough these ingredients make for an incredibly tender and mouth-melting crumb that’s a deep yellow color. When pulled these rolls shred apart almost like cotton candy, the only resistance provided by the melted brown sugar cinnamon near the bottom — they’re like a warm, gooey cloud of pure enjoyment. When presented the opportunity, there’s nary a chance anyone will decline one of these on a plate.

These rolls require a little extra effort but once you get the hang of the process it’s pretty straightforward — and of course totally worth it. The dough is also very versatile: you can adjust the mixing and baking schedule so they’re finished in a single day or spread out over three. The dough can be retarded in the refrigerator after bulk fermentation, after shaping and cutting, or both. My preference is a two day process where the dough is placed in the fridge after bulk, the next day I wake and get to work on the rolls so they are fresh baked for breakfast (or bunch if late to rise).

Brown Sugar Cinnamon SpreadCinnamon brown sugar spread

This spread has just the right level of delicate sweetness and comforting bite from the cinnamon. The mixture is more crunchy and thick than it is spreadable, which is my preference. When baked, swaths of the spread caramelize and other smaller areas stay crunchy, providing a subtle contrast of textures.

  • 215g light brown sugar
  • 40g all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix or whisk everything together in a bowl so there are few clumps remaining. Keep covered until used (brown sugar dries out very fast).

Cream Cheese Glaze

cream cheese glazeThe cream cheese added not only makes this glaze extremely velvety but it also pairs wonderfully with vanilla. I’ve also tested various iterations of this, swapping out the cream cheese for maple syrup, adding orange blossom water, a dash or two of angostura bitters… The options are endless.

  • 114g cream cheese softened to room temp (4 oz, half a standard block)
  • 62g (1 cup) powdered sugar
  • 37g (3 tablespoons) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add everything to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk until creamy and soft. It’s best, and easiest, to use a mixer or handheld beater for this, but if you want a workout a handheld whisk will work. The mixer will ensure there are no stray clumps of cream cheese lingering about.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

It’s best to make this brioche dough in a stand mixer (like the one I have) due to the soft nature of the dough and relatively long mix time required. Most of the strength in this dough will be developed upfront at mix time with just a few more stretch and folds during bulk to finish it off.

This recipe yields 12 cinnamon rolls but you can halve all the ingredients to make half a dozen (in this case, you’ll want to use a smaller pan). I’m using a USA Pan 9” x 13” rectangular pan to hold these 12 buns and because the pan is coated in silicone there’s no need for any parchment paper (it’s magic, really). If you don’t have this pan I’d recommend using parchment under the buns for easy removal.sourdough cinnamon rolls rolling and panYou will need a rolling pin for this recipe (in a pinch you could use an empty wine bottle). I am very partial to my rolling pin: it’s a non-tapered solid block of maple wood that’s functional, used in countless tasks around my kitchen and just a beautiful tool (and made in the U.S.A.).

Sourdough Starter Notes

I know when some read this recipe title and see the word “sourdough” thoughts of sharp, sour cinnamon rolls might enter the mind, but this is definitely not the case. I maintain my sourdough starter with frequent refreshments to ensure acidity is kept low. Additionally, when I call for a mature starter in the ingredient list, “mature” means when my starter is just about to its peak height and has not yet fallen. If the starter is used at a state that is overly ripe (perhaps it’s fallen and has been that way for an hour or more) then significant acidity will be transferred to the final dough.

If you’re interested in how I maintain my sourdough starter head over to my Sourdough Starter Maintenance Routine post for in depth details.

Dough Formula

Total dough weight: 1250g
Yield: One dozen rolls
Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 70ºF – 73ºF.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
477g All Purpose or Bread Flour (I used King Arthur All Purpose Flour) 100.00%
133g Cold, Whole Milk 28.00%
191g Large Eggs (About 4) 40.00%
191g European Style Butter (I used Kerrygold) 40.00%
48g Fine White Sugar 10.00%
11g Salt 2.3%
200g Mature, 100% hydration liquid sourdough starter 42.00%

Brioche doughMethod

1. Mix – 9:00 a.m.

First, take out butter and cut into 1/4” to 1/2” squares, let sit in a bowl for 30 minutes to warm to room temperature while gathering and mixing other ingredients.

Mixing will take place in three stages (clockwise starting in upper-left in the image below, the last image is the final dough). The first stage will be the initial incorporation of all the ingredients which is then allowed to rest for 10 minutes. The second stage will be strengthening the gluten in the dough before adding butter. The third, and final stage will be adding the room temperature butter blocks to the strengthened dough.Stages of dough mixing

Initial Incorporation

In a medium bowl add the cold eggs, cold whole milk, sugar and mature sourdough starter. Whisk together until incorporated.

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Set the mixer to low (level “1” on my machine, one notch above “STIR”) and slowly start to pour the liquid into the mixer bowl. Add a little at a time over the course of 3 minutes. Once finished the dough will look very wet and have clumps, let it rest for 10 minutes before further strengthening.

Strengthen Dough

After the 10 minute rest turn the mixer to medium speed (number “4” on my machine) and mix for about 5-6 minutes until the dough starts to come together and all clumps have disappeared. The dough should start to pull from the sides of the bowl but it will not completely remove from the bottom. If the dough just doesn’t want to come together and it’s overly wet add a little flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it comes together.

Incorporate Butter

Butter temperature is important. It should be slightly cold to the touch but easily pliable. If the butter is too cold it won’t incorporate easily into the dough, if it’s too warm (almost melting) then it will make for a greasy dough. Don’t fret if the temperature is off, pop the bowl with butter in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm slowly or place into freezer for a minute or two to firm up. Adjust as necessary.

Add the butter to the dough one square at a time, waiting until the previous block is absorbed before adding the next. It incorporates easiest if placed right where the hook meets the dough. Continue until all the butter is added and there are no butter patches visible, this could take 8-10 minutes at low/medium mix speed.

2. Bulk Fermentation – 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Transfer the mixed dough to a bulk container and let ferment for 2 hours at 75ºF. Just like when baking sourdough bread, do 3 to 4 sets of stretch and folds1 during bulk spaced out by 30 minutes. If the dough is very strong after the third set omit the last set but let the dough rest for a full 2 hours.

3. Chill Dough – 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle only when it’s completely chilled

Place the covered bulk container into the fridge for at least 2 hours (I like 3-4 hours), or overnight. The timing here is very flexible, I’ve done overnight batches that turn out fantastic. This way the rolls could be prepared the day before, shaped and proofed first thing the morning, and then baked so they’re fresh for breakfast (or late breakfast, depending on when you get up).

The dough does need to be completely cold and firm to the touch before rolled out, do not shortcut this step.

4. Shape Rolls – 2:00 p.m.

Before rolling out the dough make the Brown Sugar Cinnamon mixture (see recipe, above).

Flour your work surface. Then, remove the chilled dough from the fridge and turn it out to the floured surface. Flour the top of the dough and the rolling pin and begin rolling the dough. Roll it out to a 11” x 21” rectangle that is oriented so one of the long sides is near your body and the squat ends are to the sides. Use a bench knife and a dusting of flour anywhere the dough sticks to the surface. Try to keep your warm hands off the dough as much as possible to avoid heating it up. Sprinkle the dry Brown Sugar Cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough but leave a small margin at the very top bare. When the dough is rolled up that small margin will help seal the roll.

Starting at the long end nearest you, fold up a small portion of the dough all the way across, then roll one revolution at a time starting at the left side of the dough moving to the right. During the first few rolls it’s important to roll things up sufficiently tight to make cutting and transferring easier later.

Continue rolling from left to right, one revolution at a time, until the dough is completely rolled up into a “log.” Lay out a ruler and using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough every 1 3/4” inches. You can go smaller if you want squatter rolls or up to 2” for taller rolls (if you cut smaller you’ll have more rolls and taller you’ll have less).

Transfer the cut discs to a baking pan with some space around each one.

A few tips to help with this step:

  • Place the rolling pin in the freezer while the dough is chilling to help keep it cold
  • If the dough warms up excessively while rolling out, transfer to a baking sheet and place in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool
  • If the dough is very pliable and warm after it’s completely rolled up place the entire rolled “log” into the fridge on a baking sheet before cutting

7. Proof – 2:30 p.m.

Place the baking pan with cut dough somewhere warm, around 77ºF, to let proof for 2 hours. During proof, the rolls will relax out and start to puff up, eventually they may touch each other but it depends on how much space you have between rolls.Fully proofed cinnamon rolls

Don’t be alarmed if you see any sugary liquid leaking out of the rolls, it’s totally normal. Additionally, if any of the layers develop gaps between them it only means when they rise in the oven they’ll be a little more interesting with pieces jutting up and out — beautiful.

8. Bake – Preheat oven at 4:00 p.m., Bake at 4:40 p.m.

Preheat oven to 350ºF during the last 30 minutes of proof. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until the rolls look well colored.

Spread the glaze over the rolls once cooled.Baked sourdough cinnamon rolls

Conclusion

Whatever the distraction, whatever the work being done — even if a bath is drawn — the aroma in the kitchen when these are baked is sure to draw out any and all. It reminds me of those old cartoons where they put out a piece of cheese and you see everyone floating toward it in a trance — just like that.

These sourdough cinnamon rolls are addicting. The brioche interior is extremely tender and silky, interrupted only by warm, gooey brown sugar cinnamon. As I alluded to earlier, the cream cheese glaze is tremendous but the possibilities there are endless, each change bringing on a whole new dimension to these rolls.

Sourdough cinnamon roll crumbThese rolls stay great for a few days in the fridge and I always reheat them (without glaze) in the oven or microwave to warm back up before eating. They fill the kitchen with that intoxicating aroma once again and always seem to come out as if they were freshly baked.


Well, I know what I’m going to be making for Christmas morning! But now that the word is out and everyone knows what I’m baking every other weekend after that I might be expecting a few more surprise visits from friends and family. I’m completely fine with it, though, because I’m happy to share with any and all who stop by — it may just mean I sneak off with one or two before they do.

Buon appetito and happy holidays!

Thanks so much to USA Pan for sponsoring this sourdough post! As always, all opinions and thoughts here are my own.


  1. Grab one side of the dough stretch up and fold over to the other. Do one fold at each side, North, South, East and West.

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  • Christie Lynn

    Thank you for posting this just in time for Christmas breakfast.

    • You’re very welcome and this is exactly what I’m going to be making as well 🙂 Happy holidays Christie!

  • Guy Rolland

    Merry Christmas to you, Maurizio and thank you for this nice recipe

    • You’re very welcome! Thanks so much Guy, happy holidays!

  • Rosa V.

    thank you for sharing this lovely recipe Maurizio, and have a wonderful Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2017 .P.S. this is not the whole wheat one , is it?

    • This is not whole wheat, but I’ve been playing with that as well. I’ll probably do a future update to this with more whole grains 🙂

      Merry Christmas Rosa!

      • Rosa V.

        Oh I see, I probably could minus about 200 grams maybe of white flour and use whole wheat or red winter hard wheat, which one do you think I should use please let me know.😉

        • You can definitely! If you have white whole wheat I’d go with that for the more mild flavor but red will work just as well 🙂

          • Rosa V.

            Thank you Maurizio
            Happy Holidays…

  • oeufsmayonnaise

    Hi Maurizio, what do you mean by roll one revolution at a time? I’m not clear on that….

    • I just mean one turn, one physical roll of the dough. Sorry for the confusion!

  • KF in VT

    Yay!!! thank you and happy holidays!!!

  • Mantana Heim

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. As usual your post is so welcoming and so wonderfully written in details that it is so very easy to understand. And the pictures!!!!! It is so wonderfully done that I can almost smell the cinnamon rolls in my own kitchen. Thanks. Mantana

    • Thanks so much Mantana, I really appreciate the kind words! These really are hypnotic when they’re baking — so dangerous 🙂 Happy holidays!

  • MelB

    You read my mind!! I make cinnamon buns every Christmas morning, but never with sourdough! Trying this recipe this year!

    • Super glad to hear that! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

  • Buon Natale, Maurizio! We didn’t make sour dough sweet rolls but we did make a quick yeast dinner rolls. My goodness I think 12 made 12 dozen for us and to give as gifts. My resolution this coming year is to refresh my sour dough and get back to some of my sour dough recipes. I’m saving your recipe to try with my sour dough. Alla prossima!

    • Buon Natale Marisa! No worries, the recipe is always here waiting for you 🙂 I’m making another batch of these as I type this, perfect for tomorrow morning. Sounds like you guys have the dinner rolls for a weeks worth of meals! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday and here’s to next year’s sourdough adventures!

  • jinal

    Fantastic Post as always! This is the first thing I want to bake upon returning.

    • Thank you Jinal! Looking forward to hearing how you like them. Happy holidays!

  • Elizabeth Meadows

    Thanks–I’ve been waiting for this–it will be my holiday baking task!

    • Super glad to hear that! I’m on the task right now as well, can’t wait to have another one 😀 Happy holidays!

  • Jacqueline

    This might sound crazy, but I don’t have a stand up mixer. Is it possible to hand-mix or maybe use a blendtec?

    • Brook Moniger

      Same question here! I have a Vitamix, although I’ve never done any dough mixing with it.( I only have the ‘wet’ blade). I’ve being seeing your beautiful Insta posts of these rolls and have been anxiously awaiting this post! Any tips for us non-stand mixer folks would be much appreciated!! Thank you!

      • Hello, Brook! I just replied to @Jacqueline, above, take a look at my reply. Unfortunately I don’t have too much advice for those without a mixer… Luckily I’ve had this KitchenAid one for a long, long time.

        Here is a video that might provide some help, I’ve not done this personally but it looks like it could work!

        http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough.html

        Hope this helps 🙂

    • That’s not crazy at all, not everyone has one! I honestly don’t know how the blentec would do with this but I worry it wouldn’t work too well since it would essentially cut the dough (the gluten network we’re trying to build). I think blenders work ok for things like pie crust but this dough is different.

      You can also mix this by hand but it’s going to be a bit of a workout! I’ve never done brioche dough by hand and I think it would require quite a bit of work to get the butter into the dough, you’d probably have to use a spoon and bowl to take on that task.

      So sorry I can’t be of more help, you’re venturing down unexplored territory for me 🙂

    • I just replied to @brookmoniger:disqus below with a link to a video of Bertinet mixing some brioche dough by hand, this could work!

  • Ania

    Brilliant. Thank you! Today I’ll give this a try. I’ve made brioche dough from Tartine which asks for poolish. It’ll be interesting to see how your recipe turns out sans poolish. I like to print out recipes, and it’s quite hard to print your recipes or even copy-paste the ingredient chart. It would be helpful if there were a print icon which would omit the photos and create a printable version of your recipe : )

    • Thank you! Yes, I’m working on a print function… I like to insert photos as the steps progress but I’m working on a way to print just the text from each of these. I’ll start doing it very soon!

      I’ve made the Tartine brioche in the past using a poolish and it comes out great but I find this recipe produces some excellent results. Happy baking!

  • Cindy Hutchison

    To clarify quickly, does the above recipe call for 200g of starter? It says 200gg and I wanted to make sure I was adding the correct amount. Many thanks! Great blog by the way!

    • Yes, just 200 grams — I’ve fixed the typo, thanks for catching that! Thanks for the kind words and enjoy!

  • cherstuff

    Excellent post. These look so amazing.

    Turns out the first bread I ever made (when I was 8 or so) was brioche dough – just never knew it because it was simply the way my grandmother made rolls and cinnamon rolls. Of course, she used yeast and so have I for her recipe. I have been thinking for months now to try her recipe using starter instead of yeast and this gives me the push I needed. Thanks!!

    One little tip for the cutting: using a piece of thread or (unflavoured) dental floss makes the cleanest fastest cuts. Just slip the thread under the rolled log and bring it up around the dough, cross at the top and pull. Presto beautiful clean cut.

    Finally – speaking from experience, it is totally possible to make this by hand. It is actually very therapeutic 🙂

    Thanks again for the beautiful work you do. I always look forward to a new post. And I always make it 😋

    • Thank you! I love how I bake/cook things from my childhood later in life and then finally realize exactly what it was my mom/dad/grandma were doing 🙂 Glad this is giving you that push you need, I know you’ll do really well with it!

      The thread idea for cutting is brilliant! I am very careful when cutting these but no matter what knife is used some amount of snagging will occur. Will give this a try next time!

      I’m lucky to have my stand mixer but I honestly don’t really use it much. It’s pretty much tasked with cookies and brioche, that’s about it — well maybe now it will get even more use with these rolls popping up!

      You’re very welcome, thanks so much and I hope you enjoy them! Hope you had a great holiday!

  • Rosa V.

    Thank you again for the lovely recipe 😉 I mad it with 200g of white whole wheat and the rest all purpose flour.
    Absolutely Delicious!
    Come over and see my blog. .

    http://maggiggie55.blogspot.ca/2016/12/sourdough-white-whole-wheat-cinnamon.html?m=1

    • Perfect! They really do look delicious, love the mods 🙂

      • Rosa V.

        Hi Maurizio , what does (love the mods) mean?? lol…Oh , did you see my Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls 😉?

        • Yes, saw the rolls and like the “mods” (modifications)!

          • Rosa V.

            Oh! I see, you don’t leave me a comment. .

  • jjmancini

    Hi Maurizio!!
    Thank you SO MUCH for your post. We made these today and I think we may have made a mistake. When the rolls were done, there was a cinnamon gooey paste at the bottom on the parchment paper that was like camelized/candied cinnamon sugar. Although tasty, it made the bottoms gummy and hard to cut through. Any ideas what could have gone awry? A couple of notes. We were not able to place all of the rolls in our 9×13 pan so we used a 9×13 and a 8×8 and spread them out a little more. Is it possible that there was too much room and caused the filling to ooze out and get scorched?

    • You’re very welcome! That does happen sometimes, usually it’s not a problem as I think it tastes pretty good but I could see it being an issue if the rolls were hard to cut through. I’ve found this happens when I don’t roll them up quite as tight, the spread does seem to leak out a bit. You could try to roll them up a bit tighter next time and pack them in a little closer to see if that helps — I have a feeling that will.

      Not sure I can think of anything else to remedy, I think this is a common thing with cinnamon rolls. Let me know if you discover a way to keep them more contained other than my suggestions.

      Thanks again and happy baking!

  • cherstuff

    Perfection!! So sooooo good.

  • maccompatible

    These look AMAZING! I’ve only ever tried instant yeasted cinnamon rolls, so this will be happening in my kitchen soon. This is also the simplest sd cinnamon roll recipe I’ve ever seen; others call for ingredients like mashed potatoes???

    Side question: you keep calling the dough “brioche.” Is this a legit brioche dough I could shape into other purposes (buns, loaf, etc)?

    • Thank you, really appreciate that! I’ve never used mashed potatoes 🙂

      This is definitely “brioche” dough but I slightly reduced the percentage of sugar and butter from what you’ll sometimes see in other brioche recipes. I didn’t want this dough to be overly sweet and rich because it was intended to have a sweet icing on top — too much sweet can be a bad thing. That said, I’d definitely try using this recipe for hamburger buns or the like, it would be delicious! Once the weather warms up I’ll do just that 🙂 I could also see this making a really great babka…

  • Caroyln

    I just revived my starter that I had neglected for 6 months. I also just started following your blog (beautiful!) Just wondering if you’ve tried making these up to step 7 the day before, and then refrigerate overnight (doing the final proof and bake) in the morning? If not, thoughts on the viability of that? Thank you!

    • Thank you! Yes, I’ve refrigerated them in shape (after rolling) and then proofed and baked the next day — they came out great! Just make sure you bake them after sufficient proof time, you’ll have to keep in mind they are cold from the fridge and will take a little extra time to warm up.

  • ZW

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, might have to wait a while after all my holiday indulgences! Just wanted to share – I have made a very similar recipe, but a savoury version (cut back to 14g sugar). After rolling out the dough I sprinkle on a mixture of white pepper, smoked paprika and dry mustard, then lay some thin slices of black forest ham and shredded sharp cheddar. Roll up and brush the tops with some melted butter.

    I haven’t commented on your other recipes but your help with my starter was invaluable, and I have make many successful loaves because of you. I just got the Tartine book for Christmas but I think your blog is the best!

    • Yes, it’s time to take a (short) break from sweets 🙂 Or maybe take your idea and just make these savory! That sounds fantastic, I haven’t tried these savory-style but I’ll add it to my to-bake list.

      Really glad to hear my site has helped so much, thank you for the kind words and happy baking!

  • Kevin Smith

    looks soooo good! I will be trying this on Saturday! Any plans for posting a sourdough baguette recipe or for sourdough croissants??

    • Thanks, Kevin! I do have plans for both sourdough baguettes and croissants but I’m not quite there yet. Those two things definitely are a challenge and will require some proper testing and development. I’ll get there soon!

  • Jeff Markel

    Looks like an awesome recipe, Maurizio – can’t wait to try it ( hmmm maybe tomorrow? 🙂 )

    One comment though – in the “Method” section you refer back to using a mature starter, but unlike for the levain in your bread recipes, the timings here don’t include the time needed for building the starter. I don’t usually have more than about 150-180 g starter on hand and you do specify mature – i.e at or just past peak – starter so it should be built right before starting the dough build. Seems like it would add at least 2-4 hours to the process.

    • Jeff Markel

      One more question/suggestion – I’m wondering if you’ve tried, or would consider trying, the Japanese Tangzhong method for making doughs more moist, fluffy, and stale-resistant http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/39723/my-tangzhong-roux-faq. I just learned about it and it seems like it would be a great thing to try here. It’s used in Hokkaido Milk Bread and often for the pain de mie style breads they like so much in Japan.

      • Wow, thank you so much for sending this over! I’ve actually never heard of this method but you have my curiosity so piqued I want to try it ASAP. I could see this method working very, very well for these rolls… I need to give it a try!

    • Thanks, Jeff! The weekend is the perfect time 🙂

      So for this recipe I don’t build a specific levain, I just use some of my starter when it’s mature. Really, your levain and starter are the same thing but when I refer to my “starter” I mean my on-going culture that I always feed and never completely use up in a single bake. To make this recipe easy I just call for snatching a bit of that on-going starter and use it to make this dough. You can do this however you want: build up your starter a bit the night before so there’s enough to cover the requirement in this recipe; OR you could even make a specific levain for this recipe and use it in total in the dough mix. Either way works.

      Hope that helps!