Cinnamon rolls are a special treat just right for Christmas morning. But with their sugary filling, cinnamon rolls can be difficult to bake just right. They’re often pulled before they’re baked through completely, resulting in rolls with a doughy center. They may still be raw in the middle when they look done on the outside.
One easy way to know if your cinnamon rolls are done is by quickly checking their temperature at the thermal center with an instant-read thermometer, of course!
Brioche: For our Christmas morning cinnamon rolls we used a brioche (pronounced BRĒ-ôsh) dough because of its light and tender texture and rich flavor. Brioche is a rich yeast-risen dough with French origins. Its rich quality comes from the high amount of eggs and butter in the dough. The fat makes the finished product extremely soft and tender and gives very rich flavor. Brioche can be shaped and made into braids, loaves (pictured at right), and many types of sweet rolls like cinnamon rolls.
Rich Doughs vs Lean Doughs: Different Doneness Temperatures
In the category of yeast bread, there are rich doughs and lean doughs, each with their own recommended pull temperature ranges. Rich doughs (like brioche and challah) should be pulled at an internal doneness temperature of 190–200°F (88–93°C) while lean doughs (like baguettes and ciabatta) are best pulled at 200–210°F (93–99°C) (see bread and other chef recommended food doneness temperatures in our Learning Center).
Brioche Temperature Control
Temperature control is critical from start to finish with this project. As mentioned in our Temperature Tips for Thanksgiving Rolls post, dough temperature directly affects the fermentation process. Brioche is a dough that requires a lot of mixing. Mixing creates friction, which increases the temperature of the dough. It’s important that the liquid ingredients and the butter are cold when they are first introduced into the dough so that the dough’s temperature doesn’t get too high during mixing. For all of the temperature spot-checking in this project, an instant-read digital thermometer is the best tool for the job, and we used a Thermapen® Mk4.
Start with Cold Ingredients
The milk and eggs should be used directly from the refrigerator—36–40°F (2–4°C). The butter needs to be cool but malleable—60–65°F (15–18°C) (verify the butter’s temperature with a Thermapen).
Friction Increases Dough Temperature
When moisture is added to wheat flour and is mixed, gluten begins to develop. Fat interferes with gluten development and shortens the gluten strands, breaking down the structure it had developed. Gluten is developed first when the dough is made, then the butter is incorporated gradually. The once tight dough will seem to fall apart once butter is added.
It’s important to continue mixing after the butter is incorporated to strengthen the gluten again. This lengthy process of adding little chunks of butter and redeveloping the gluten each time is what can increase the dough’s temperature so much. Cold butter helps. The dough’s final temperature should be 75–77°F (24–25°C).
The dough is then fermented at room temperature (68–75°F [20–24°C]) for an hour, then stretched, folded, and refrigerated overnight (at least 4 hours, but overnight is best).
☼ Sugar Slows Fermentation in Rich Doughs
Large amounts of sugar slow the growth of yeast by dehydrating the cells, so sweet doughs are often made with more yeast than ordinary breads, and they may take longer to rise. —On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee
The slower chilled fermentation also develops complexity in the dough’s flavor and texture (our Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls post has more information on cold fermentation and its effect on yeast doughs). The high amount of butter in the dough makes the dough firm when it’s chilled. This makes the dough easy to roll into a perfect rectangle. And after it’s filled and rolled up, the cinnamon roll log will hold its shape and cut into individual cinnamon rolls more easily than with dough at room temperature.
Brioche Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
- 3-3/4 cups (526 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) ground cinnamon
- 3-1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) instant yeast
- 1/4 cup + 3-1/2 teaspoons (62 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (12 grams) salt
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (264 grams) whole eggs (cold—36–40°F [2–4°C]) (about 5 large eggs)
- 1/4 cup + 4-1/2 teaspoons (88 grams) whole milk (cold—36–40°F [2–4°C])
- 8.2 ounces unsalted butter (236 grams), cut into 1/2-inch pieces (malleable—60–65°F [15–18°C])
Modified Almond Cream recipe from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, with cinnamon added
This paste spreads on easily and evenly and makes it easy to roll up the dough tightly without it falling apart. You can use the traditional method of brushing on melted butter then sprinkling with brown sugar and cinnamon with this recipe if you would like, or give the cinnamon filling a try!
All ingredients should be room temperature—68–75°F (20–24°C)
- 1 cup (125 grams) almond flour
- 3-1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4-1/2 ounces (125 grams) butter (1 stick + 1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup (125 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup whole egg (75 grams)—about 1 to 1-1/2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) ground cinnamon
➤ Make Brioche Dough
- Place flour, cinnamon, yeast, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together evenly.
- Add the eggs and milk and mix on low speed with dough hook for 4 minutes (the dough should hold together into a ball).
- Gradually add the butter piece by piece, mixing well to incorporate after each piece. The dough will seem to fall apart while mixing in the butter. After all the butter has been added, continue mixing on low to medium-low speed until the dough forms a tight ball around the dough hook again. This process may take 30 minutes. The final dough should be about 75–77°F (24–25°C).
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl or container and cover. Ferment at room temperature for 1 hour. The dough will not rise very much in this hour.
- Fold the dough by stretching from top, bottom, and either side, then flip the dough over. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
➤ Make Cinnamon Filling
- Place the room temperature butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the butter is fluffy and light.
- Warming the bottom of the bowl with a hand torch while mixing can speed up this process of getting the butter light and fluffy.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and add to the butter. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Scrape down the sides with a spatula.
- Add the egg and mix on medium speed so the mixture is fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the almond flour, flour, and cinnamon and mix on low speed to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
- Set the filling aside while you roll the brioche dough.
- Pull the brioche dough from the refrigerator. Scrape the dough from the bottom of the container and invert onto lightly floured work surface.
- Roll out into a 12 x 15″ rectangle that is 1/4″-thick.
- Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with an angled spatula leaving a 1″ border of one of the long sides uncovered.
- Lightly moisten the 1″ border of dough with water. Roll up the dough into a log starting with the long edge that has the cinnamon filling spread all the way to the border.
- Pinch the moistened edge of the dough to seal the seam. Shape the log so that its diameter is even all the way across. Position the rolled log so it’s seam-side down.
- Using kitchen twine, cut 3/4″ slices through the length of the log.
- Place the cinnamon rolls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.
- Proof (last fermentation after shaping) the cinnamon rolls at room temperature until they have increased in volume and the indentation springs back when you press the edge of the dough with your finger. You should see and feel that bubbles have developed in the dough.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Once proofed, bake the cinnamon rolls for 20-30 minutes.
- When the cinnamon rolls are lightly golden brown, spot-check their internal temperature with a Thermapen to test their doneness. Their internal temperature should be 190–200°F (88–93°C).
- If the internal temperature is below 190°F (88°C), continue baking for a minute or two longer and spot-check the internal temperature again.
➤ Finish and Serve
Once they’re done, remove from the oven and let them cool at room temperature while you make the icing.
Make the icing: Whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar and enough cream to make icing that’s just thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle or spread the icing over the cinnamon rolls and eat them warm! There’s really nothing quite like fresh brioche that’s still warm from the oven. It’s pillowy-soft and so rich.
Once you give brioche a try you may be hooked! Temperature control with the ingredients and the dough are the secret to its success and make for a memorable treat anytime.
Hi-Temp Silicone Spatula