The best brioche cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting; perfect for Christmas morning or any old treat yo’ self day!
Hi friends! Now that my book, Frosted, is mostly finished I wanted to update some of my favorite old recipes. I first published this recipe for brioche cinnamon rolls back in January 2018 and I’ve become quite the cinnamon roll addict since then.
I’ve created a few different types of cinnamon rolls, like caramelized white chocolate, lemon and brown butter, carrot cake, chocolate, apple butter and even s’mores rolls. However, one must never deny that the original is always best.
What is brioche dough?
There is lean dough, like ciabatta, bagels and sourdough, which is generally made of just flour, water, yeast and salt. These doughs usually don’t contain much fat in them unlike enriched dough.
Enriched dough generally refers to a dough that’s rich in butter, eggs, milk, and/or sugar, etc. which makes the dough higher in fat, slightly sweeter and more tender. The most popular types of enriched dough are brioche and challah.
Brioche dough usually contains some eggs, milk and butter. The ratios are usually specific to the recipe but the main difference between brioche and challah is that traditional challah doesn’t contain dairy, it has a lot more egg yolks and uses olive oil.
The added fat and sugar tenderizes the dough, making it super soft and fluffy. Think fluffy french toast or a soft cream stuffed donut.
How to make brioche cinnamon rolls
Making dough can be intimidating and it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. There is a lot of science behind baking and especially dough with yeast, it’s actually very interesting but I’ll spare you the nerdy stuff. I’ll just give you a few things to keep in mind.
- Flour: the added fats will weigh down the dough, making the gluten weaker. That can be balanced with a flour that has a higher protein content, such as bread flour. This recipe is made specifically using all-purpose flour to make it easier for those who don’t have access to bread flour.
- I highly recommend using a digital scale for weighing your flour.
- Milk: There is an enzyme in milk that weakens the gluten in flour so to counteract that it’s recommended to heat up the milk. Just before a boil, when the milk is scalding, around 181 °F (83 °C) , the enzyme gets denatured. Make sure to then let the milk cool back down to less than 120F (50C) so we don’t kill the yeast.
- To be totally honest, I don’t always heat up my milk that hot and I still get a good rise in my dough.
- Eggs & egg yolks: eggs are known to be a leavening agent so they help with the rise of dough. Egg yolks are full of fat so they provide an extra tender dough.
- Yeast: this recipe works with both active dry yeast and instant yeast. I follow the same process for most of the dough except for active dry yeast, you’ll want to activate the yeast (see below) and for instant yeast, you can just add it in with the flour.
- Mixing: Depending on the type of yeast, the beginning additions can vary a little but the mixing process is simple. I add the eggs into the flour and sugar, then the butter and milk. Mix
- Proofing: Dough proofs best at room temperature or slightly warmer. The colder the room, the slower the rise will be. I like to keep it somewhere between about 75-100°F (24-38°C).
What kind of yeast to use for brioche dough
I wanted to do a whole separate section on this to explain how to use both active dry yeast and instant yeast in this recipe. I’ve made this recipe many many times with both types and both of them turn out amazing.
The recipe is written using instant yeast because it’s easier and quicker but if you want to substitute it for active dry yeast, just follow these instructions.
Unlike instant yeast, active dry yeast needs to be activated. To do this, let the scalded milk cool a little until it’s just warm and then combine the yeast with HALF of the sugar and the warm milk in a large cup, mix it and let it rest for 10 minutes. The milk should develop a thick layer of foam on top.
If the milk and yeast mixture doesn’t foam after at least 10-15 minutes, then the milk is either too hot and kills the yeast or the yeast has expired. To be safe, make sure the milk is lower than 120 °F (50 °C).
After the mixture has foamed, combine it with the rest of the ingredients and proceed to kneading.
If using instant yeast, I just add it into the bowl with the flour, sugar and salt. Then proceed to adding the eggs, butter and milk.
What temperature to proof dough at?
You want to make sure your dough is proofing at a comfortable temperature. Generally, room temperature is fine but if it’s slightly warmer, you’ll get a much quicker rise.
Yeast dies at around 120F (50C) so make sure the temperature is lower than that. I recommend anywhere between 75F (24C) to 100F (38C).
The dough can also be proofed in the refrigerator. This is called a retarding proof because it really slows down the process. The Benefit of this is that you can just pop the dough in the fridge overnight and the dough will develop a stronger flavor if it proofs for longer.
You can refrigerate the dough overnight for the first proof or the second proof, just bring it back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
How to know when dough is done rising/proofing
Rising and proofing are typically used interchangeably but the initial ‘resting time’ is actually the rising and the second ‘resting time’ is the proofing. The time needed for rising/proofing is dependent on the recipe and the environment.
Typically with instant yeast, you’re “allowed” to skip the first rise and just let the dough relax for just 10 minutes instead before shaping the dough. I prefer to still let it rise. It works both ways but I get a fluffier dough from letting it proof twice.
A general guideline is that the dough should double in size each time. It should also slowly spring back when you press on it, but also leave a small indent.
If the dough springs back quickly, then it needs more time to rise. If it doesn’t spring back at all, it may be over proofed and result in a flat, deflated bread.
How to make brioche cinnamon rolls overnight
Brioche cinnamon rolls can easily be prepped the night before and baked in the morning. After the dough is rolled and sliced and placed in the prepared pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge overnight. Remove the rolls from the fridge about 45 minutes before baking them. Bake them per the instructions.
How to store brioche cinnamon rolls
Brioche cinnamon rolls are best served fresh and warm. If they’re not served immediately, it’s best to reserve the frosting and frost them before serving.
The rolls can stay in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days (unfrosted) and refrigerated for up to a week. When serving brioche cinnamon rolls, reheat them in the microwave or the oven just until they’re warm and then frost.
If they are frosted and not eaten right away, refrigerate them and reheat them before serving, keeping in mind the frosting will melt and probably look separated but it will still taste good.
If you’ve made it this far, I apologize for the length but I hope this post is helpful to make the best brioche cinnamon rolls! Make sure to tag me @baranbakery on Instagram and as always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
- 3 1/2 - 3 3/4 (420g - 450g) cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) instant yeast
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113g) butter softened
- 1 cup (237mL) milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup (145g) light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 4oz (113g) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp (30mL) milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, instant yeast, sugar and salt until they're evenly dispersed.
- Using the hook attachment, turn the mixer up to medium-low speed and add in the egg, egg yolk, butter, milk and vanilla. Mix until the dough starts to come together and then let it knead for 5-10 minutes.
- The dough is ready when it's pulled itself away from the edge, forming a ball around the hook. You can also remove a piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers, if you can see light through it without it breaking then it is done.
- If the dough is still sticky after 10 minutes, add in the extra flour, 1-2 Tbsp at a time and knead until it's combined and the dough is soft but not super sticky.
- Place the dough to rest on a floured surface for just 10 minutes. Grease a 9x13 inch pan and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 12x16 inch rectangle on a floured work surface.
- The butter should be very soft and spreadable but not melted. Spread the butter evenly over the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter, using your hands to press it down into the butter a little.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon over the sugar and then starting at the short edge of the dough, use your hands to tightly roll it into a log.
- You can use a greased knife, unflavored dental floss or a thin piece of thread to evenly slice the log into 12 large rolls. Place the rolls in the prepared baking pan, cover them with plastic wrap. Place them in a warm environment (about 75°F or 24°C), for about 45 minutes, and let the rolls rise until they've doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool for a few minutes while you make the icing.
- Place the softened cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl and use a hand mixer to cream them for 1-2 minutes, until they're smooth and creamy.
- Add the powdered sugar and salt and slowly beat the frosting until the powdered sugar is mixed in. Then turn the mixer up and beat the frosting for 2-3 minutes to ensure the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the milk and vanilla and mix until they're evenly combined.
- Spread the frosting over the warm rolls and serve immediately.
Frost only the rolls that are served immediately and reserve the rest of the frosting for when the rest of the rolls are ready to be served.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 433Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 240mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 7g
Nutrition information may not be fully accurate.