The method for making these cinnamon rolls is based on a popular trick for making brioche dough in a food processor, shared by talented chefs including James Beard, Julia Child and Jack Pepin. The food processor takes the prep time down considerably.
A note on sizing: There is flexibility when it comes to how many rolls you decide to make. It’s all about the size of your baking dish. Take a look at our article above for our guide on make 6 large, 9 medium, and 12 smaller cinnamon rolls.
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (38 grams) granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (268 grams) all-purpose flour or bread flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream for pouring over rolls before baking, optional
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed (50 grams) brown sugar, preferably dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg, optional
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch fine sea salt
Warm milk until it is between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not have a thermometer, to check the milk temperature, you should be able to dip your finger into the warmed milk and hold it there. It should feel slightly warm, not hot.
Add the warm milk, 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar, and yeast to a small bowl then whisk a few times to combine. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. After this time, the mixture should look like a bubbly mass (see our video). If it does not look this way, the yeast you have used may be expired.
Meanwhile, add flour, 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, salt, and the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse two to three times until blended.
Cut the butter into 6 evenly sized pieces, and then scatter them on top of the flour mixture. Pulse until the butter is cut into the flour. The mixture will look like very fine crumbs.
Add the yeast mixture and pulse two more times, then add the eggs and process until most of the dough gathers into a rough ball that goes up the sides of the bowl. The dough will be sticky.
Transfer the rough dough to a well floured work surface. You will likely need a spatula to scrape the dough stuck to the bottom and sides of the food processor bowl. Knead the dough one to two minutes or until smooth, adding flour as needed.
For rolls made on the same day, form the dough into a ball, and then place into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
Alternatively, for overnight cinnamon rolls, place the dough into a lightly oiled and tightly sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight. The dough will slowly proof in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, allow the refrigerated dough to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling out.
Warm the butter (in the microwave or on the stove) until almost melted. Stir in the sugars, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Set aside at room temperature until needed. The butter will firm up slightly.
Butter a small rectangular baking dish or an 8-inch round cake pan. If your dish is larger or you plan to make a higher number of smaller rolls, see our tips in the article above. In the video and photos, we used a 9-inch by 6-inch ceramic dish.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a 12-inch by 12-inch square. It is okay if it goes a little longer on one side.
Brush the dough of excess flour, and then spread the cinnamon sugar mixture all over, making sure to take the mixture all the way to the edges.
Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight spiral. If the ends look a little jagged, clean them up by slicing 1/2-inch from both ends of the roll. Slice the roll into 6 equal pieces, about 2 inches each. If the dough is too soft to cut, carefully transfer the roll to a sheet of parchment paper and place onto a baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes, and then cut into rolls.
Arrange the rolls inside the buttered pan. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. After 15 to 20 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add cream cheese to a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave 10 to 20 seconds or until soft. Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract then whisk until smooth. Whisk in powdered sugar and salt then set aside.
Uncover the rolls and then spoon over the cream (optional). Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until golden brown on top and cooked in the middle, 20 to 30 minutes.
Transfer baked rolls to a cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes. Drizzle over the glaze and serve.