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Jun 26

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls {photo tutorial}

Hands down, Cinnamon Rolls are my favorite breakfast. If we’re being totally honest, they’re my favorite lunch, dinner, and snack, too. Everyone needs the perfect cinnamon roll recipe (from scratch!) in their arsenal.

This is that recipe for you.

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!

Until a few years ago I was pretty freaked out about yeast. I was afraid I’d kill it and be labeled a yeast murderer. My first foray into yeasted bread was pizza crust using a recipe I’d found in the Rachael Ray Magazine. It was love at first bite.

Shortly thereafter I began making yeasted cinnamon rolls and over the past year I’ve developed a dough recipe that I absolutely love. It works every time, winter or summer, and it’s so much fun to play with the filling. In fact, I very rarely make “plain old” cinnamon rolls. I make versions like carrot cake or bacon maple.

My only complaint with making your own yeasted cinnamon rolls is the time. Start to finish, making cinnamon rolls from scratch can take up to 4-5 hours. If you’re making them for breakfast, that would mean you have to get up at 4am. Or earlier, if you have a daughter like mine who wakes up with the birds and demands breakfast before most people have even hit the snooze.

This recipe takes time – but the best thing about it is that these are OVERNIGHT Cinnamon Rolls. Which means all the hard work is done the day before and the day of you just have to bake them. They’re done in about 30 minutes, which is even doable for me if I bribe Jordan with a turkey breakfast link or 2.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: perfect for the mom who’d rather be sleeping!

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

These rolls have a rich, buttery egg dough and are filled with a buttery, sugary, cinnamony filling. I added nuts to these because I was in the mood for them, but they’re not mandatory.

Great, you’re thinking. Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. Perfect. But I’m still afraid of working with yeast!

Don’t be. You have to start somewhere, and this recipe is what you should start with. To prove it to you, I took some process shots to tutor you in all things cinnamon roll. Follow my steps and you’ll do just fine.

{Bear with me. Process shots and I are not BFFs. In fact, I think of them as the mortal enemy that stole my strawberry shortcake eraser in the 3rd grade. Also, the lighting in my kitchen sucks.}

Okay, let’s get started. I present you with “The Anatomy of a Cinnamon Roll”…

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (1 of 27)

First, you need yeast. My favorite is Red Star Active Dry Yeast. I use it for all my yeasted recipes. You can find it in the regular grocery store and in my experience it performs better than the other brand. I usually buy the jars, because I go through it so fast. 1 packet = about 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast.

In order for your rolls to be successful, you have to wake up the yeast using warm liquid. I use nonfat milk that is heated in the microwave to about 120°F. If you have an instant-read thermometer, that’s the best thing to use. If you don’t, a candy thermometer or a meat thermometer will work too.

Once your liquid is hot, you add the yeast and let it sit.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (3 of 27)

After a few minutes it looks like this. I know it’s not all super frothy, but it’ll get the job done. While the yeast is doing it’s thing, you start mixing the butter, egg, and salt, and sugar in a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer.

Make sure your butter is soft, and it helps if the egg is room temperature. Mix it until it’s chunky, then add the yeast to the butter mixture.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (4 of 27)

Next, you add your flour. I add 3 cups of all-purpose flour. At this point, my mixer has the paddle attachment attached to it. I mix the liquid with the flour until it gets sticky and is all over the paddle.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (5 of 27)

At that point, it’s time to switch to the dough hook. This is how you’re going to knead your dough. Kneading by hand is so old school. 😉

If you don’t have a stand mixer, go buy one. Kidding, you can do it by hand. Use your hand mixer until you can’t anymore, then use your hands to knead it.

Most of the time I only use 3 cups of flour, but occasionally I have to add 1/4 cup more. When I made these, I had to do that. When you’re running your mixer with the dough hook, the dough will ball up onto itself and no chunks of dough should stick to the side (there will be flour residue, but no chunks of dough). It should be a little sticky, but not so much that your hands get covered when touching it. If it still feels wet or too sticky, add up to 1/4 cup more flour and continue the kneading process.

Once the dough has come together in a ball, transfer it to a new bowl that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. After using your hands to maneuver the dough out of one bowl and another, your hands should be relatively clean, like this:

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (7 of 27)

That’s how you know you used enough flour.

Spray the top of the dough lightly with cooking spray and tightly cover with plastic wrap.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (8 of 27)

Set this bowl in a warm place. If it’s summer and where you live is warm, this won’t be an issue. In cooler climates or times of year, set it in the sunlight, near a preheating oven, or near a heater vent.

It will take anywhere from 2-4 hours to rise to double it’s size, depending on the warmth in your house. In summer, I can count on it rising in 2 hours. In winter, it takes longer. If you leave the house for awhile and get home from Target several hours later and think Oh no! I forgot about the dough! Don’t worry. It won’t hurt it.

After a few hours it looks like this:

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (9 of 27)

Now it’s time for fun. While the dough is rising, I mix up my filling. For a traditional cinnamon roll filling, I use brown sugar, softened butter, cinnamon, flour, and salt. I mix it with a fork and it creates a grainy paste. Also chop your nuts if you’re using them.

You know what would be another good mix-in? Chocolate chips. #justsaying

Okay, so your dough is ready. Roll it out into a rectangle, about 10×14.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (10 of 27)

Then spread the filling over the top. It won’t spread like butter, but be crumbly over the top. You’ll spread it a little with your fingers. Sprinkle with nuts, if you’re using them.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (11 of 27)

If you’ve floured your board, it should roll up, no problem. The dough is very stretchy. Roll it as tightly as possible into a long log.

Then slice it into 9 pieces.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (12 of 27)

You can also slice it into 12, for more rolls. But then you need to use a 9×13″ pan. Your choice!

Place them in your pan.

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (13 of 27)

Here’s where the overnight part comes in. Cover that pan with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight. I usually make my rolls in the afternoon/evening and then bake them around 6-7am. They’ll rise a little in the fridge. Here’s what they look like in the morning (under my horrible 7am kitchen lighting):

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (14 of 27)

At this point, take them out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake, frost, and serve!

I absolutely love that all the hard work is done the afternoon before. I always make my frosting the day before too, then I cover and chill it overnight. Who wants to clean up powdered sugar mess at 6am? Not me! I leave it on the stove to come to room temperature while the rolls are baking, or heat it for a few seconds in the microwave.

This is my favorite cinnamon roll frosting of all time. I use melted butter and very soft cream cheese. If the cream cheese is soft enough, you can just whisk them together and then add the powdered sugar and vanilla. One bowl, no mixer.

Cream cheese frosting just belongs on cinnamon rolls, don’t you think?

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

I’ll eat these warm from the pan or reheated later in the day. They’re best on the day they’re made, but are okay day 2 with reheating.  They’re ooey gooey in the center and full of cinnamon flavor. And the frosting.

Get me a spoon!

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!

Besides the fact that they rise overnight for a special but quick morning breakfast, I love how versatile this recipe is. Fill it with whatever you want. Different kinds of chips or candy. Lemon zest, orange zest. Berries. Make your favorite cinnamon roll.

Just don’t do it at 4am. Please. Get some sleep.

The Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls plus a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make them!

Enjoy!

**Notes, updated May 2015**

  • You can make 12 cinnamon rolls and bake in a 9×13 (instead of 9 rolls).
  • Make mini rolls by cutting the large rectangle of dough in half before rolling, then cut each into 9 or 12 rolls.
  • Make them and FREEZE them! Make the cinnamon rolls, place them in the pan, wrap them well with plastic wrap and freeze the unbaked rolls for up to 2 weeks. Let the rolls completely defrost before baking as directed (about 1-2 days in the refrigerator). The frosting can also be made ahead and frozen!

Perfect Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 9-12 rolls

These are the perfect cinnamon rolls! Make them in the afternoon and bake them the next day for an easy special cinnamon roll breakfast!

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup warm non-fat milk (heated to about 120 degrees, about 30-45 seconds in the microwave)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • Paddle attachment & dough hook for your mixer

For the Filling:

  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

For the Frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Make the Dough:

  1. Place milk in a microwave safe measuring cup. Heat for 45-60 seconds in the microwave, until it’s about 120°F. (The time you heat it will need to be adjusted depending on your microwave. You can use a candy or a meat thermometer to test the temperature.) Add yeast and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Place sugar, butter, salt, and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is distributed throughout the liquids, although it may be chunky. Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and stir for a few seconds.
  3. Add flour and stir with the paddle attachment just until the mixture starts to stick to the paddle. Then replace the paddle with the dough hook. Continue mixing on low speed until the dough forms a ball in the center of the bowl. If dough is still very sticky, you can add an additional 1/4 cup of flour.
  4. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball in it. Spray the top of the dough ball with cooking spray (lightly) and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 2-4 hours until it doubles in size. Note on rising: if your house is warm, it should rise no problem. If it’s cold in your house, it may take longer for the dough to rise.

 

Prepare your Rolls:

  1. Stir together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour until it forms a paste.
  2. Once the dough is risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, about 10” by 14”. Spread the filling as evenly as possible over the rectangle, making sure to reach to the sides so the outer rolls have enough filling. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts.
  3. Roll the dough up tightly from the long end. Slice it into 9 equal rounds. Place the rolls into a 9” pan or 9 1/2” round pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. (Alternately you can cut the roll into 12 rolls and bake them in a 9×13″ pan.)
  5. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let them warm up to room temperature while the oven is preheating. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until they are golden brown. (Bake a 9×13 pan of rolls 20-28 minutes depending on your oven.)

Make the frosting:

  1. Whisk the melted butter and softened cream cheese until mostly smooth. If your cream cheese is too stiff, you can use a hand mixer. Whisk/beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour over warm rolls and serve.

These rolls can be made and frozen before baking! Prepare the cinnamon rolls through Step 4. Wrap the pan very tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let completely defrost before baking. (I had them in the regfrigerator for about a day and a half from the freezer before baking.) Let them come to room temperature while the oven is preheating and bake as directed in step 6. Great for gifting or because you want to get prepped ahead of time for a holiday! The frosting can also be made ahead and frozen, then defrosted. For best results, place the frosting on the stove while baking so it gets gooey.

Use this same dough to make the following variations:

Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Rolls

Gingerbread Spice Cinnamon Rolls (4 of 4)w

Zucchini Cinnamon Rolls

zucchini cinnamon rolls (2 of 7)w

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Rolls

peanut butter cinnamon rolls (3 of 7)w

Bacon Maple Cinnamon Rolls

Bacon Maple Cinnamon Rolls 1 words

Or check out my Round-Up of OVER 70 Cinnamon Rolls from me and my friends!

Sweets from friends:
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls by Something Swanky
Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze by Averie Cooks
Butterscotch Pecan Cinnamon Rolls by Mom on Timeout