The absolute BEST cranberry cinnamon rolls. The dough is infused with orange zest, rolled with citrus sugar and finely chopped cranberries. Frosted with cranberry glaze and sugared cranberries.
Why you’ll love these cinnamon rolls
- The dough is SO SOFT and pillowy and the little bit of moisture from the cranberries makes them even softer.
- The tart cranberries pair SO WELL with the citrus sugar and the warm cinnamon.
- They can be assembled the night before and baked fresh Christmas morning!
If you love cranberry and orange together as much as I do, I’ll have the BEST cranberry orange cake posted in a couple of days.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Flour: I’ve made this dough with both bread flour and all purpose flour with no noticeable difference in the dough.
- I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured.
- Yeast: I used one package of active dry yeast. That can also be subbed with instant yeast, just skip the activation step and mix it in with the rest of the ingredients. I still do both proofs with instant yeast, it’s just usually much quicker (about half the time).
- If you store yeast in a jar instead of individual packages you can use a scant tablespoon of yeast. Also make sure to store the yeast in the fridge if it’s an open jar.
- Sugar: I used a little bit of granulated sugar in the dough. I also opted for granulated sugar for the filling to really let the orange and cranberry shine.
- I used powdered sugar to extract the juice from the cranberries because that juice is used to make the glaze and you don’t want the texture of granulated sugar in the glaze.
- Water: this may seem weird since most people make brioche with milk. I have tested this several times both with milk and water and I found that water makes a much softer dough.
- Butter: I like to use salted butter but you can also use unsalted butter as well. Dairy free butter also works well.
- Eggs: make sure to use one room temperature large egg.
- Pop it in hot water for a few minutes if it’s cold.
- Cranberry: I use fresh cranberries. Cranberries are so tart most people wouldn’t like huge chunks so I chop them up really small so you get the flavor without a really tart burst.
- Orange: orange can be subtle so I used a little zest in the dough and a lot in the filling.
Step 1: Rub the orange zest with the sugar for the dough and for the filling.
Step 2: Start by making the brioche by activating the yeast with the sugar in warm water for a few minutes. Once the yeast starts to foam a little, add the melted butter and egg, mixing until they’re somewhat combined. Then add the flour mix until it comes together. Knead for 5-10 minutes in the bowl of the stand mixer with the hook attachment (or 10-15 minutes by hand).
Step 3: Cover and let it proof for about 60-90 minutes in a warm environment, until it’s doubled in size and fluffy.
Step 4: Make the filling by chopping the cranberries in quarters or eights. Mix them in a bowl with the powdered sugar and orange juice and let them rest while the dough is proofing.
Step 5: Shape the dough by punching down the air and placing it onto a floured surface. Stretch it out into a rectangle the best you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about a 12×16 inch rectangle.
Strain the juice from the chopped cranberries. Reserve the juice for the glaze.
Step 6: Add the filling by spreading the butter evenly on top of the dough. Then sprinkle the citrus sugar and cinnamon on top of the butter, spreading it out evenly. Strain the juice from the cranberries and spread them out evenly.
Step 7: Roll the dough into a tight log, starting at one of the short ends, so you have a shorter fat log, not a long skinny roll. Use a large serrated knife to slice into 9 or 12 rolls. Place into the prepared pan, cover and allow to proof in a warm environment for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.
Step 8: Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the bread is golden brown. I like to use a butter knife to push one of the rolls away from the other ones so I can see the bottom edge. It should be super soft, pale but baked and not raw or doughy.
Step 9: Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes. Combine the powdered sugar with 2 Tbsp of the leftover juice from the cranberries. Spread on top of rolls.
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 rolls overnight
Brioche 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 it in the fridge overnight. Remove the rolls from the fridge about 45 minutes before baking them. Bake them per the instructions.
How to store cranberry rolls
There’s NOTHING like a warm roll straight from the oven but if they’re not served immediately, simply place them in an airtight container and store at room temperature for 1-2 days.
If it’s longer, refrigerate them for up to a week. When serving, reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds or the oven just until they’re warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use dairy free butter for the dough and the filling.
I have not tested any bread recipes with gluten-free flours but if you do try, please let us know in the comment section 🙂
I like to use a 9×13 inch pan (or just slightly larger) if I’m making 12 rolls. The one pictured is larger, that works as well but they will spread more, making them shorter and requiring a few minutes less in the oven.
Here I used a 12-13 inch cast iron pan, sliced the log into 9 larger rolls instead of 12. Place one roll in the center and then 8 around the center one and bake for about 27ish minutes.
If you don’t like oranges or have orange allergies, you can skip all the orange zest and juice and just make them cranberry.
If you just want orange cinnamon rolls, skip the cranberries in the filling and swap the cranberry juice in the glaze for orange juice.
Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. Make sure to leave it in the comment section because I can’t answer in the rating section.
If you make these delicious cranberry orange rolls, I’d love it if you left a star rating for me. If it’s less than five stars, please leave a comment with the rating so I know why! 🙂
As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- Zest from 1 large naval orange
- 1 cup (240mL) warm water
- 7g (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, melted
- 3 1/2 cups (420g) bread flour (or all-purpose flour), spooned and leveled
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- Zest from 1 large naval orange
- 1/2 cup (50g) cranberries, quartered
- 2 Tbsp (15g) powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp (30mL) orange juice (half large naval orange)
- 1/4 cup (56g) salted butter, softened
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- *1/4-1/2 cup (60-120mL) heavy cream (see note)
- 2 Tbsp (30mL) leftover cranberry orange juice from filling
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) powdered sugar, spooned and leveled
- Begin by zesting the orange and use your fingers to rub it in with the sugar.
- Place the yeast with half of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast starts to foam.
- Add the rest of the sugar, melted butter and egg, mixing until they’re somewhat combined. Then add the flour and salt and mix until it comes together.
- Use the hook attachment to knead the dough for 5-10 minutes (10-15 minutes by hand), until the dough peels itself away from the edge of the bowl.
- Cover and let it proof for about 60-90 minutes in a warm environment (75-100F/24-38C), until it’s doubled in size and fluffy.
- Zest another orange and rub it with the sugar for the filling. Set aside until ready to use.
- Cut the cranberries into quarters (or eights if they're larger). Mix them together with the orange juice and the powdered sugar. Set aside until ready to use.
- Grease a 9x13x2 inch pan or a 12-13 inch round pan with butter, oil or baking spray (I use the wrapper of the butter and just wipe it around the pan).
- Shape the dough by punching down the air and placing it onto a floured surface. Stretch it out into a rectangle the best you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll it out to about a 12x16 inch rectangle.
- Add the filling by spreading the butter evenly on top of the dough. Then sprinkle the orange sugar and the cinnamon on top of the butter, spreading it out evenly. Spread the cranberries on top of the sugar evenly.
- Roll the dough into a tight log, starting at one of the short ends, so you have a shorter fat log, not a long skinny roll.
- Use a large serrated knife to slice into 9 or 12 rolls. Place into the prepared pan, cover and allow to proof in a warm environment for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/177C convection (325F/163C conventional).
- *see note* Bake for about 22 minutes (12 rolls) or 27 minutes (9 rolls) until the bread is golden brown. I like to use a butter knife to push one of the rolls away from the other ones so I can see the bottom edge. It should be super soft, pale but baked and not raw or doughy.
- Allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes. Use 2 tablespoons of the leftover cranberry orange juice to mix with the powdered sugar for the glaze. Spread on top of the cinnamon rolls and serve warm.