You love fluffy cinnamon rolls hot out of the oven for breakfast? Then make them ahead and bake in the morning. With this recipe, you can enjoy freshly baked cinnamon rolls without doing all the cooking in the morning.
I am not a morning person at all. Everything that’s beyond making coffee and putting a slice of bread in the toaster is simply too much for me. That’s why this recipe is perfect for me. All you need to do in the morning is to bake the already prepared cinnamon rolls.
Overnight or same day rolls
You can make these cinnamon rolls ahead of time and refrigerate them overnight (10-15 hours) or make them on the same day from start to finish. The latter will roughly take 3 hours, including rising times.
How to make cinnamon rolls ahead
How to make cinnamon rolls ahead of time to enjoy them for breakfast? It’s simple: Make and shape the rolls the day before, then refrigerate overnight to slow down the rise, and bake the next morning. Once you nail the timing issue, it’s simple.
Figuring out an overnight breakfast involving yeast can be quite a challenge. Either the rolls turn out under-proofed (not risen enough) or over-proofed (risen too much) after a cold overnight rise. Rarely, they are spot-on. While under-proofed cinnamon rolls might not puff up as nicely, over-proofed ones might collapse during the overnight rise or during baking.
The right timing for an overnight rise
So, do you need to pop the cinnamon rolls into the fridge immediately after shaping or do you have to let them rise first? Here is what works best for me: I let the shaped cinnamon rolls sit in the baking pan, covered, at room temperature just until they start to puff up, about 15 to 20 minutes. This way, I get rather under-proofed rolls the next morning than risking over-proofed ones because there is no going back from over-proofed rolls.
And if they are under-proofed and still not puffed up nicely in the morning? No need to let them sit at room temperature until they rise. After all, we want hot cinnamon rolls NOW. So here is my trick: I will pop them into the oven right out of the fridge and bake them in an un-preheated oven. This gives the dough extra time to slowly warm up and rise in the beginning of the baking time. With this method, the cinnamon rolls turn out perfect every single time.
How to soften butter quickly
For cinnamon rolls, you need very soft and spreadable butter for the filling. These are the two methods I regularly use and recommend if you forget to let the butter come to room temperature ahead of time.
1. Soften the butter using a warm plate
Rinse a ceramic plate with hot water. Quickly dry the plate, and make sure it is still warm. Cut the amount of butter you’ll need into slices and distribute the slices on the warm plate. Thinner slices will soften quicker than larger chunks. After a few minutes, the butter is softened. If not: Take a big glass or ceramic bowl and fill it with hot water. After 1 minutes empty the bowl, dry it and invert it over the plate with the sliced butter.
2. Microwave the butter
Add sliced butter in a microwave-friendly container or on a plate and microwave on low power (defrost) for 15 seconds. Check consistency and repeat, if necessary. If using full power, which I do not recommend but I often do due to laziness, microwave for 5 second increments only and check often since butter melts quickly.
Step-by-step recipe for soft and fluffy cinnamon rolls (overnight or same day)
Make the dough and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Roll dough out into a 22 x 15-inch (55 x 38 cm) rectangle for rolls with many fine layers. If you prefer several thick layers, as shown further below, roll the dough into a 15-inch square. Spread the dough with softened butter.
Sprinkle dough evenly with cinnamon sugar mixture.
Roll up the dough into a 15-inch (38 cm) long log.
Cut dough into equal slices, each about 1.25 inch (3 cm).
Arrange the rolls cut side up in the prepared 9 by 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan.
Overnight version + freezing instructions: At this point you could let them rise overnight in the fridge or freeze them, see recipe below for detailed tips.
Let rolls rise covered at room temperature until puffy (but not doubled in size), about 30 to 45 minutes.
Bake until lightly golden brown.
Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Cinnamon rolls with thick layers
If you prefer thick layers to many fine ones, simply roll dough out into a 15-inch square instead of a 22 x 15-inch (55 x 38 cm) rectangle.
Cinnamon rolls with thick layers after the second rise. Experiment: I brushed the rolls on the right hand side with egg-wash.
This is how cinnamon rolls with thick layers look after baking. Rolls on the right are shiny due to egg-wash.
Cinnamon rolls with thick layers, dusted with powedered sugar: soft & fluffy.
Yield: 12 big cinnamon rolls (9x13 inch / 23x33 cm baking pan)
Recipe for big, soft and fluffy cinnamon rolls. Prepare ahead and bake in the morning or on the same day. To make things easy and fuss-free, I simply dust them with powdered sugar but of course you can finish them with cream cheese icing as well.
They are not overly sweet since I cut back the sugar in the filling a lot. So, if you have a sweet tooth, or like a moist and oozing filling, double the amount of sugar for the filling. Brown sugar (packed) tastes great too.
You can make the dough by hand (see note) or using a stand mixer. I prefer the latter since the dough is quite sticky. For freezing instructions, see note.
Recipe: Ursula | lilvienna.com
For the dough:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) lukewarm milk
5 tablespoons (65 g) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g) instant or active dry yeast
5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter, melted and lightly cooled
1 large egg
4 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/4 teaspoons (7 g) fine salt
For the filling:
4.5 tablespoons (65 g) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons (43 g) granulated sugar (see intro)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (if you love cinnamon, add 1/2 tablespoon more)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add warm milk and sugar. Sprinkle instant yeast on top and let sit for 1 minute (or 5 minutes if using active dry yeast). Add in the melted butter and egg, stirring to combine.
Add in salt and roughly half the flour (simply eyeball it), stirring until mixed well. Add in the remaining flour and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes on medium low. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and be slightly sticky. Add 2 tablespoons more flour if necessary.
Place dough inside an oiled bowl. Turn to coat and cover with a fitting lid or plastic wrap. [At this point you could do an overnight rise in the fridge, see note.] Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the room temperature. Meanwhile prepare the filling.
Slice butter and place on a plate to soften at room temperature – it should be rather soft for easy spreading. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon. Line a 9 by 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
Assemble cinnamon rolls:
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Put the dough on a well-floured counter and roll it out into a 22 x 15-inch (55 x 38 cm) rectangle for rolls with many fine layers. If you prefer several thick layers, roll the dough into a 15-inch square. While rolling, often flour dough and counter underneath to prevent sticking.
Use a knife or a soft spatula to spread the softened butter (see blog post for softening butter, in case you forgot it in the fridge) out evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Roll up the dough into a 15-inch (38 cm) long log. Position it seam side down. Cut dough into 12 equal slices, each about 1.25 inch (3 cm).
Bake / overnight rise / freeze:
Arrange the rolls cut side up in the prepared baking pan. [At this point you could let them rise overnight in the fridge or freeze them, see notes.] Let rolls rise covered at room temperature until puffy (but not doubled in size), about 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 °F (175°C) fan or to 375 °F (190 °C) if using top and bottom heat. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Make the dough by hand:
The dough is rather sticky, so I start by mixing the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden cooking spoon until the ingredients form a shaggy dough. Then, knead it in the bowl for a few minutes. Only add additional flour as needed to handle the dough. Transfer to a well-floured counter and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should feel slightly sticky and moist. A sticky dough makes fluffy cinnamon rolls. After rising, it is much easier to handle.
Make ahead / Overnight rise:
You can do either the first or second rise overnight (10-15 hours) in the fridge.
• First rise (the unshaped dough):
As soon as you place the dough into a greased bowl to rise, cover it tightly with a fitting lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight. Before rolling and filling the dough the next day, allow it to warm to room temperature about 3/4 hour to 1 hour.
• Second rise (for ready to bake rolls in the morning):
After arranging the rolls in the pan, cover the pan tightly with a fitting lid or plastic wrap, let it sit at room temperature just until they start to puff up, about 15 to 20 minutes, then refrigerate the rolls overnight. Make sure the lid/plastic wrap isn’t touching the buns as they might stick to it. If your baking pan is rather shallow, oil the lid/plastic wrap. Next morning, the rolls should be puffy. Take the rolls out of the fridge, still covered, while preheating the oven. Remove the cover and bake in the preheated oven, see recipe. If the rolls didn’t rise enough overnight, take the rolls out of the fridge, remove the cover, and place in an unheated oven (do not preheat). Bake them according to the recipe – it will roughly take 5-10 minutes longer without preheating. If your oven heats up slowly, the baking time might even be a little longer.
• Freeze unbaked cinnamon rolls:
Arrange cut rolls in a pan and cover well, then place in freezer. For baking: Take them out of the freezer and let the dough thaw in the fridge, preferably overnight, covered. Next morning, the rolls should be puffy. Take the rolls out of the fridge, still covered, while preheating the oven. Remove the cover and bake in the preheated oven, see recipe. If the rolls didn’t rise enough overnight, take the rolls out of the fridge, remove the cover, and place in an unheated oven (do not preheat). Bake them according to the recipe – it will roughly take 5-10 minutes longer without preheating. If your oven heats up slowly, the baking time might even be a little longer.
• Freeze baked cinnamon rolls:
I often freeze individual cinnamon rolls and defrost one or two for breakfast. After baking, allow the cinnamon rolls to come to room temperature. Tightly wrap each roll in plastic wrap and place them all in one or several freezer bags. When ready to eat, defrost the cinnamon rolls at room temperature, still wrapped, then remove cover and warm in the oven at 350 °F for 5-10 minutes. Once defrosted, you can warm them up in the microwave for 20-30 seconds too.