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cinnamon rolls
Breakfast/Brunch, Desserts, Failure, Main Dishes, Stuffing Stuff

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

by Nick
cinnamon rolls

Not quite as puffy as I'd like...

Ugghhhh. That’s what I thought when I pulled these guys out of the oven. That’s because these are some of my favorite cinnamon rolls ever. I’ve made them easily half a dozen times. This was the first time that I was making them for Macheesmo though.

And I kinda botched them.

I got cocky and thought I could whip them up quickly. I was in a rush and this is just simply not a recipe that you can rush. So while these were still very edible, I have no doubt that you can do way better. Don’t worry though, I’ll show ya where I went wrong!

Yield
12 Rolls.
Prep Time
Total Time
Print Recipe

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

  • Dough:
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temp
  • 1 whole large egg, room temp
  • 2 ounces sugar (1/4 Cup)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 20 ounces all-purpose flour, about 4 Cups, plus a bit more for dusting counter
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, or 2 1/4 Teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons kosher salt (or 3/4 Teaspoon table salt)
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray for bowl
  • Filling:
  • 8 ounces light brown sugar, 1 Cup packed
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup chopped nuts (pecans are good, this is also completely optional)
  • Icing:
  • 2.5 ounces cream cheese, softened, about 1/4 Cup
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • About 2 Cups powdered sugar

Helpful Equipment

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Combine all dough ingredients except flour in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Let sit for 5 minutes for yeast to activate.

2) Add two cups of flour to mixture and stir to combine.  If using a stand mixer you can use the whisk attachment still to combine.

3) Once those ingredients are together, stir in all the rest of the flour, leaving about 3/4 of a cup.  Either stir well with a wooden spoon to combine and then knead on a counter, or use a dough hook on low speed to knead the dough for 5 minutes.

4) With either method, you might need to add some of the reserved flour.  The dough should be soft, but not sticky at all.  It should be moist though and not cracking.  If it's too wet, mix in a bit more flour.  Too dry?  Add a tiny amount of buttermilk.

5) Knead for 5 more minutes and then add to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and let the dough rise for at least 2 hours until it doubles in size.

6) Remove dough and roll into roughly an 18x12 inch rectangle.

7) Brush rectangle with melted butter.  Fix filling ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to rectangle.  Leave an inch at the top so the rolls will seal well.

8) Roll the dough up tightly and slice into 12 equal pieces.  A serrated knife works well for this.

9) Add the rolls to a buttered baking dish, cover, and store overnight in the fridge.

10) The next day, remove from fridge and stick the rolls in an OFF oven.

11) Add a tray of boiling water (3-4 Cups) on the rack below the rolls in the oven and close the door.  Let the rolls steam for 45-60 minutes until they are big and fluffy.  If you want to be really thorough you could even replace the water halfway through.

12) Remove rolls and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

13) Cook rolls until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

14) Meanwhile, whisk cream cheese and milk together for icing.  Once combined, whisk in powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.

15) Remove rolls and let them cool for a few minutes.  Ice and serve immediately!

Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe.


Making the dough

Like I said, I’ve made these a few times without a problem and so I thought I’d whip up a batch one weekend… at midnight.

At a minimum it takes about 3 hours to make the dough so this was a pretty stupid idea. And of course it ended up with me rushing some steps that simply can’t be rushed.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ll need these things!

basics

Standards for enriched doughs

You’ll also need flour, salt, and yeast obviously.

A quick note on the yeast which was the first (and biggest) mistake that I made. Active dry yeast and instant yeast are close to the same thing but they aren’t exactly the same thing. Active dry yeast (what I used) needs to be dissolved in liquid in most cases because the yeast is in very tiny little clumps.

I skipped this step thinking it wouldn’t matter to my downfall.

dry stuff

Again. Standard stuff.

Too make sure the yeast is working, add it to the buttermilk at room temperature along with the eggs, yolks, sugar, salt, and melted butter (not too hot!). Stir this together and let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should be dissolved at that point and starting to foam a bit. This is the part that I skipped and it led to less than ideal results.

Next, add about 2 Cups of flour and stir to combine. If you’re using a mixer you can use the whisk attachment. Once it’s all pulled together though, switch to the dough hook and add all the rest of the flour except about 3/4 of a cup.

Knead this with the hook on low speed for about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, don’t freak out. Just stir it all together with a wooden spoon and then knead it on a clean counter until it’s very smooth and soft.

Whether you are using your hands or a mixer, you may need to add more flour so add it in small amounts. You want the dough to be moist, but not sticky at all. In total, you’ll probably need to knead it for 8-10 minutes.

It should look something like this:

dough

Ready for a rise.

My Second Mistake

Remember how I said that the idea to make these came to me at midnight? Well, that means that I also didn’t really give the dough ample time to rise. The recipe says to lightly oil a bowl and add the dough. Cover it and let it rise until doubled, roughly two hours. For me this meant two hours no matter what.

Probably not a good idea.

Although, in all the other times I’ve made this recipe, if you don’t mess up the yeast part, it really does double in two hours.

Anyway, assuming you aren’t in a rush (don’t be in a rush), then you’ll have a beautifully puffy enriched dough that you can now roll out!

Rolling the dough

This dough is so soft and it’s incredibly easy to roll.

Start out by shaping it into a small rectangle. Be sure to flour the counter or you’ll have some serious sticking.

Ready to roll

This part is surprisingly easy.

Pause for fillings

You’ll need to mix up the filling obviously. I had the genius idea of adding banana slices to my rolls.

It really did seem genius at the time (delusion was setting in), but it didn’t really work out. Just stick with the standard here people.

Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nuts if you’re using them in a medium bowl.

fillings

An idea. Not a good one though.

Roll your dough out into about an 18×12 inch rectangle. Melt about 2 Tablespoons of butter and brush it all over the surface. Then sprinkle on the filling and pack it down!

I was at least smart enough to only do half of my rolls with banana. It really didn’t work out.

rolled out

Banana failure.

Then just tightly roll up the dough like a log!

This part is fun.

roll

Can you see the problem?

Slice the rolls into twelve even pieces, or as even as you can make them. A good serrated knife is perfect for this. It’ll slice right through the dough without pulling it and keep the edges really clean.

sliced

Still look pretty good though!

Overnight!

Add the rolls to a lightly buttered baking dish, cover them, and stick them in the fridge overnight.

The overnight rest allows the dough to get even more flavor and the filling and dough get really bonded together.

ready to cool

In the fridge. Overnight.

Steaming the Rolls.

When you’re ready to cook the rolls the next morning, take them out of the fridge and put them in an OFF oven. Add a dish to the level below the rolls and pour in 3-4 cups of boiling hot water. Close the door and let them steam for about an hour. Alton says 30 minutes, but I found that 45-60 minutes is necessary. If you want to be really thorough you can even replace the boiling water half-way through.

Cooking the rolls

When the rolls are puffed up and room temperature, take them out and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the rolls until they are golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Again, I’m not entirely happy with how mine rose. I’ve made these before when they are almost exploding out of the dish! Not bad though if you compare to the before photo.

baked rolls

Hot out of the oven!

The Icing

In my opinion, no cinnamon roll is complete without cream cheese icing. To make it, just whisk the cream cheese and milk together until combined. Then whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth. If lumps concern you, sift in the powdered sugar.

I didn’t sift in this case and it still came out really smooth.

frostings

Easy frosting!

Let the cinnamon rolls cool for a few minutes and then top them with the icing!

Ok. So even if these weren’t perfect, they were still pretty darn good.

sliced!

Not my best, but pretty good.

The point is though that I know they could’ve been better and I was kicking myself for rushing through the whole yeast situation.

If you want to try the banana go for it. It worked fine technically, but I just didn’t love the flavor. I thought it made them almost too sweet.

If you make these (and you should), take your time, use lots of butter, have fun with it, and you’ll be very well-rewarded.