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Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls with Pillowy Brioche Dough

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Deep nutty brown butter flavour, the softest dough, gooey centres. YOLO - eat warm cinnamon buns for breakfast!

 


Does anyone out there actually NOT love a cinnamon bun? Of course, the first recipe I’m sharing is not super healthy, contradictory to what you might all have expected. BUT, like I said, Ryan and I eat everything to fuel our runs, and cinnamon rolls are actually good recovery fuel after a hard training session! Carbs from the dough, and some sugars will help replenish any depleted glycogen stores. Also, a lot of my followers are American, and American Thanksgiving is coming up next week! Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I wanted to share a recipe that people could bring to a big family dinner, eat as delicious breakfast with the extended family as you share a weekend together, or just indulge in over the holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a toss-up for my favourite holidays; it’s a really special time! Time to enjoy with friends and family, or just appreciate with your partner. Time to reflect on what our bodies have accomplished for us all race season long, and time to appreciate all the good things in life - which includes food! It’s a weekend of appreciation, where you can give yourself a mental break from thinking about training, and just enjoy yourself. Eat a bunch of cinnamon buns, we’ll get back on track with training and vegetable-eating once Thanksgiving has been celebrated!


Lots of people are scared of making cinnamon buns, but trust me, you can make these! This dough is pretty fool proof… it’s easy to get “snobby” when it comes to bread (which I totally can do if you want ;) ), but I think when it comes to cinnamon rolls, people just want an easy dough recipe that’s guaranteed to be delicious and you can’t screw up!



Brown butter – it’s the BEST THING EVER. Basically, you put your butter in a pan until it melts, and then keep it on a low heat until it starts to turn brown. What’s happening is the milk solids in the butter separate and sink to the bottom of the pan, where they caramelize. It only takes about 5 minutes, but brings a whole new level of delicious nuttiness to the flavour. I brown the butter for pretty much everything I bake, because it only takes a few minutes and makes such a better flavour!


This dough, though! - I’ve tried a lot of cinnamon rolls recipe variations, but this is by far the best dough! In my opinion, the key to a great cinnamon roll is a really good brioche dough. Brioche dough differs from normal dough in that it includes eggs and butter, and in this case, honey! You will see that this is a really wet, sticky dough when you’re mixing it. Don’t be alarmed! Just keep it mixing, it will come together. I also had one especially lazy day when I really didn’t knead this dough at all, I just thoroughly mixed it all together, and it still turned out. Wouldn’t recommend it, but your buns won’t die.


I like my buns short and wide (hehe). No tall buns in this household! I like it when there are more twirls in the middle, because the middle is the best gooey part! I actually wrote the recipe to be a normal height of bun, but if you want to make yours short and wide like mine, just roll the dough up the other way. Everyone always rolls up the dough from the long side, but instead, roll it up from the short side, and only cut the buns to be about 1” thick.




Here's how to make them

Detailed instructions are below, but essentially:


- brown the butter, than allow it to cool to room temperature while you tackle the dough

- Make the dough

- Let the dough rise, then cool it so it’s easier to roll

- Make the filling

- Roll out and assemble the rolls

- Do a second rise

- Bake the rolls

- Make the frosting, top the rolls, and devour


How to make it easy on yourself, Option 1:

Cinnamon rolls can totally be a process. I make my brown butter and the filling ahead of time, plus mix my dough. Then I just store the butter and filling in containers in the fridge, throw my dough in the fridge to rise overnight. I included an option here to do it all in the same day, or to let your dough rise in the fridge overnight, which allows for this to be a two-step process. I like this option, because you can basically make your dough at any point that’s convenient for you the day before, stick it in the fridge, and then finish them in the morning for delicious breakfast rolls. It’s nice to divide the tasks in two, so it feels much less labour intensive.


Option 2: Do all the steps the first day, until your rolls are assembled, cut and about to do their second rise before they bake. Stick them in the fridge for the second rise to happen overnight, so they’re fully assembled and ready to bake the next morning. Pull them out of the fridge to sit on the counter while the oven preheats. You can make the icing while they’re baking! Voila, super easy breakfast rolls!


Option 3: Freeze your rolls! This is definitely a possibility. Some “bread snobs” don’t love it, but I tried it with this recipe and it was still delicious. Go through all the steps to make these rolls, bake them only halfway, and then let them cool. Then, wrap them up (I stuck mine in a big Ziplock) and freeze them. I let mine defrost in the fridge overnight before I finished baking them.



 

Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls with Pillowy Brioche Dough





INGREDIENTS


INGREDIENTS FOR BROWN BUTTER

  • 454g/1lb Butter. Brown all this butter! It seems like a lot, but butter contains moisture, and you’ll end up with less grams after the browning process. We won’t use all of it in the frosting, so you’ll have some left over that you can use for literally anything else you cook in place of butter or oil.


INGREDIENTS FOR BRIOCHE DOUGH

  • ½ cup (128g) warm milk (not hot, it will kill the yeast)

  • 1 tsp instant yeast

  • 1 tbsp honey

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ cup (111g) butter, softened or slightly melted

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 tbsp honey

  • 2 ¾ cups (330g) flour

INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING

  • 1 cup (222g) browned butter, spreadable texture, at room temperature

  • 1.5 cups (340g) brown sugar

  • 3 Tbsp cinnamon

  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or paste

INGREDIENTS FOR BROWN BUTTER CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • ½ cup (111g) browned butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup (229g) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 ¾ cup (250g) powdered sugar

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or paste



INSTRUCTIONS


INSTRUCTIONS FOR BROWN BUTTER (for filling and frosting)


  1. Place the butter in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter has melted, and then continue to cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter foams and turns golden brown and nutty - this should take 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill the butter solidifies a bit. Or if you have time, let it cool to room temperature on the countertop.


INSTRUCTIONS FOR DOUGH

  1. Place the warm milk, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and stir to combine. Leave for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Give it a quick stir.

  3. Add the foamy milk mixture, eggs and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Mix on low for 2 minutes, until it starts to look mixed together. You want to start it on low, so you don't have flour flying all over your kitchen! Then increase the speed of the mixer to medium, and mix for a further 5 minutes. Slowly add the butter a little at a time. Mix for a further 7-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft. This is a really soft dough! Don’t be alarmed when at first it looks like a puddle. You’ll feel like you need to add more flour, but don’t. You’ll know the dough is done its kneading processes when it comes together, and comes away from the sides of the bowl in to a ball.

  4. Cover the bowl with a bag or plastic wrap (I use beeswax wraps) and place in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about an hour. This rising process is important, don’t skip it! Otherwise, you’ll have a dense mess of a bun. Alternatively you can do the first rise overnight in the fridge.

  5. If you let your dough rise in a warm place (not the overnight fridge method), stick it in the fridge now for 1hour, or the freezer for 20 minutes. This will make the sticky dough much easier to work with, so we can shape it into rolls.


FILLING AND ASSEMBLY

  1. Line a 9x13" baking pan (metal pans are definitely better than glass for this recipe) with parchment paper.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine the 1 cup browned butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, and vanilla bean paste. Mix to combine.

  3. Lightly flour a large flat surface. Roll into a rectangle that is about 24” x 16”, trying to square off the edges often as you roll. Spread with the brown butter filling mixture evenly over the surface, right to the edges!

  4. If you want normal sized cinnamon rolls, start from the long side and roll in to a tight spiral. I like to cut my cinnamon roll log in half, then in halves again, and THOSE in three pieces, so you end up with 12 cinnamon rolls. I like to use a serrated knife for this, and just take my time cutting gently. Other people swear by the "dental floss" method, but honestly once they go through the second rise they pop themselves back in to shape again, even if they've been a little flattened after cutting.

  5. Lightly cover the pan with plastic wrap, and leave to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until puffy, and a small indentation is left when poked gently with your finger. OR, go for the Option 2 "How to make it easy on yourself" option, and let them rise (covered) in the fridge overnight.

  6. When you're ready to bake, preheat your over to 350°f / 180°c.

  7. Bake the rolls for 35 to 40 minutes, or until deeply golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes or so before icing with the Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting.


INSTRUCTIONS FOR BROWN BUTTER CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  1. Place your 1/2 cup of room temp brown butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl or your stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until well combined. Add in the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste, and whip until light and fluffy.

  2. Pile it over your cinnamon rolls. I like a 50/50 icing to roll ratio (lol), but go with your personal hearts desire!

  3. Store leftover cinnamon rolls in an airtight container at room temperature. I love to rewarm them in the microwave before serving! Ryan likes his cold. Suunto and Noodle would take theirs any way we would allow them to eat.






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