Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Updated: May 20
Soft bread dough swirled with brown butter cinnamon filling, brushed generously with delicious buttermilk brown butter glaze.
These soft Cinnamon Rolls are naturally leavened with beautiful crumb texture. Light and airy. Great flavour thanks to long dough maturation (mainly hands off process), beautiful bread-y and flavourful skin, light and airy crumb.
When comparing to cinnamon rolls baked on commercial yeast - this is a slow process rewarding those who wait patiently.
This bake brings all the benefits of sourdough baking. Thanks to longer fermentation, gluten in the dough is pre-fermented before the bake (making it easier to digest). The dough has less sugar. The crust is firmer, has beautiful, fully developed flavour. The crumb is light, airy, springy and flavourful. Rolls will keep fresh for longer (also enjoyable on day 2).
For a good bake:
Starter and levain - the recipe calls for stiff wheat starter (45-50% hydration) which is used to build stiff levain (at 50% hydration). If you have pasta madre - use pasta madre in this bake, if you don’t - use stiff wheat starter. Pasta madre has a lot of advantages in baking sweet sourdough bakes - one of which is close management of acetic:lactic load of sourdough cultures. This type of starter can lift butter and egg-rich dough and resulting bakes do not have sour or acetic notes. Pasta madre can compete with commercial yeast and more than this - produces way better flavour, crumb and crust. If you haven’t had any issues with acetic load in your wheat starter - stiff wheat starter will work here just fine. If you have had issues with acetic load or sour notes in long fermentation of sweet bakes - then it’s worth to measure pH in your dough at several fermentation points (and course correct) or research pasta madre and management of this type of stiff starter. Generally, pure wheat (strong white starter) would fit this bake better (rather than rye or wholemeal wheat). What if your starter is managed at 100% hydration? Run 1 refreshment at 50% hydration (feed 1:1:0.5, starter:flour:water) before building levain. Keep for 3-3.5 hours at 28C (covered but not sealed). During this time your starter should more than double (preferably triple) in volume. Then, go ahead and build levain. If you have major imbalances in sourdough cultures (predominantly acetic) - these will need to be sorted out before starting to bake. If you are interested in building pasta madre from scratch, here are some resources: how to build pasta madre (here and here - two different approaches).
Levain - using stiff starter, after levain build:
Levain - using stiff wheat starter; after 3.5 hours at 28C (ready for mixing):
Pasta madre - before feed, after feed and when the levain is ready for mixing:
Adding butter - let the dough rest for 30-45minutes after mixing and before adding soft butter. This will allow dough to start forming gluten. Add butter in small portions - take your time. This step will take about 10 minutes. Make sure not to over-heat the dough. If the dough temperature starts exceeding 27C - let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes and then go back and knead in the rest of butter.
Proofing at warm temperature - you want to hit lactic fermentation. Bulk proof at 28C and final proof shaped buns at 28-30C. If you don’t have a proofer you may opt to preheat oven for few seconds and then leave the light on to keep warmer temperature in the oven.
Overnight rest - this will chill the dough (it will be easier to shape) and help in developing more flavour. If you want to speed things up - you may opt to refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours (just enough time to chill) and anything up to 12 hours.
Shaping - lightly dust work surface with flour and gently toss top and bottom of the dough with flour. Don’t roll out too thinly, be gentle when rolling - keep it at 1-1.5cm.
Shaped rolls before final proof:
Shaped rolls after final proof, ready for baking (visibly puffy):
Filling - this cinnamon filling is more firm/crumbly (rather than spreadable). We are using here nutty brown butter, brown sugar for caramel notes and cinnamon. These are cinnamon rolls but surely - use whatever filling you crave (brown butter/chocolate/orange zest, blueberry/cardamom/brown butter/lemon zest, tahini/black sesame/brown butter, instant coffee powder with a pinch of cinnamon/cardamom for mocha buns and so on).
Glaze - we are not using egg wash in this dough. Instead, rolls are brushed generously with brown butter buttermilk (or kefir) glaze straight after baking. Buttermilk (or kefir) knocks back the sweetness and brings new flavour dimension complementing nutty brown butter. The glaze is see-through, sticky. If you want the full-cover, increase the amount of icing sugar until you reach the consistency you desire. We love to taste slightly acidic buttermilk notes and nutty butter flavour (if you add too much icing sugar all you are going to taste is.. sugar).
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Yield: 6 rolls
Time: 20-24 hrs (mainly rest time)
Tin: 2x loaf tins (12x20cm, 3 rolls per tin) or 20cmx20cm tin
Eggs - 14%
Butter - 15%
Hydration - 65-68% (roux included)
Salt - 2%
Levain - 25% (at 50% hydration)
1pm - 4/4.30pm - mix up levain (leave for 3-3.5hrs at 28C)
4.30pm - 5pm - mix the dough and let rest for 30-45min at ambient room temp
5pm - 5.15pm - add butter to the dough
5.15pm - 10.15pm - bulk proof (5hrs at 28C)
10.15pm - 8am - overnight bulk rest (at 3-4C), bulk can rest for 2 and up to 12 hours
8am - 8.15am - shape
8.15am - 11.am - final proof (3 hrs at 28-30C)
11am - 11.20am - bake
Levain (at 50% hydration):
50g wheat starter (45-50% hydration)
50g wheat flour
25g water (at 22-24C)
25g bread flour (strong white, 12g protein)
150ml full-fat milk (+1 Tbsp bread flour and 1 tsp sugar)
390g bread flour (strong white, 12g protein)
8g coarse sea salt
1 large egg, 60g
45g sugar (or 30g sugar + 15 g vanilla sugar)
65g unsalted butter, room temperature (soft but not oily)
60g unsalted butter, browned
120g light brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
10g (1 Tbsp) bread flour
1/8 tsp table salt
Brown Butter Buttermilk (or Kefir) Glaze:
50g unsalted butter, browned
120g confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
30ml buttermilk (or kefir), shaken
1/8 tsp table salt (scant tsp)
Prepare levain: Mix starter, flour and water until firm dough is formed. Mix well so that there are no dry pockets of flour remaining - this will take 3-5 minutes. At the end of mixing (this portion is very small so you can work it in your hands) you should have elastic, satiny dough. Form a little ball, cut X on top and transfer to jar (locked but without seal, for free air circulation). Move to warm place (28C) for 3-3.5 hours (the levain should more than double, preferably triple the initial volume). You may opt to pre-heat oven for few seconds, switch it off and turn the light on OR you may opt to place levain in the proofer.
Prepare water roux: Whisk flour with water and slowly heat up to 65C, whisking every so often. If you don’t have kitchen thermometer - it should take about 3-4 minutes, cooking on low/medium heat (you are going for thin béchamel sauce consistency). Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for anything from 2-24 hours. Leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before adding to the rest of the dough.
Mix the dough: When levain is ready, warm up 150ml milk mixed with 1 Tbsp flour and 1 tsp of sugar to 38C. Take off the heat and add levain (split into small 0.5cm pieces). Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. In your main mixing bowl whisk flour with coarse salt. Add levain, water roux. Lightly beat egg with sugar until fluffy and add to the main mixing bowl. Knead for 8-10 minutes on low-medium speed. Cover the dough and let rest for 30-45 minutes at room temperature.
Add butter to the dough: After short rest, start adding butter into dough. Take your time and add in small pieces, mixing on low/medium speed. It will take about 10 minutes to work butter in fully and develop the dough. Final mixing temperature should be between 26-28C. If you notice the dough is heating up too much - let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then knead for 3-4 more minutes. At the end - bring the dough together by hand - do few slap and folds or knead by hand until plump dough is formed. Transfer the dough into clean bowl, cover and proceed to bulk proof.
Bulk proof the dough at 28C for 5 hours. Again - you can preheat oven for few seconds and leave the light on OR use the proofer. Do 2 sets of stretch and fold in the 1st hour of bulk proof. After 5 hours the dough should double (or triple, depending on the strength of your starter). Don’t degas, transfer the dough to the fridge.
Overnight rest: Refrigerate dough for 8-12 hours (covered) at 3-4C.
Shape: Lightly dust work surface with flour. Toss top and bottom of the cold dough with flour. Let it sit on the work surface and in a meantime prepare the filling. Brown butter and cool until lukewarm, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until crumbly texture forms. Go back to the dough - gently roll out, 1-1.5cm thin (not too thin). Spread the filling and roll into a log shape, cut into 6 rolls. Brush baking tin(s) generously with butter, place rolls in the tin(s) and cover.
Final proof: Transfer tin(s) to warm place (28-30C) and proof for 3 hours. The rolls should become visibly puffy.
Bake: Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced) and bake for 18-20 minutes (in the last 7 minutes decrease the temperature to 175C/155C fan forced). In a meantime prepare the glaze: brown butter (and cool down fully), add the rest of ingredients and mix until smooth (don’t add hot butter as buttermilk/kefir will curdle). Brush hot cinnamon rolls generously with brown butter buttermilk glaze. The buns will stay fresh for at least 2 days. You may opt to warm up rolls on the second day in the oven (few minutes at 180C; even if you glazed previously).