Shaping Cinnamon Rolls

Alrighty. We’re under a little time pressure here because reader Pauline has to get these made for tomorrow morning. ;). So let’s dive into it, shall we? Begin by dusting your surface with flour.

Dump your batch of cold brioche dough (recipe under “Pastry Components” menu to the left) out on the counter and forming it into a rough square with your palms. Perfection is not necessary here, since you don’t want to handle the dough too much for fear of warming it up.

Seizing the nearest pin, roll it out into a square about twelve inches to a side.

Sprinkle the dough square liberally with brown sugar:

Then cinnmamon:

Then, beginning at the edge furthest from you, begin to roll the square up in as tight a roll as you can manage (though, you know, don’t go nuts).

Once you’ve got your roll, shore up the sides and pat down/roll the center to even the whole thing out. You don’t want any big bulges anywhere.

Now then the clever part. Seizing a two-foot (or so) length of dental floss, scoot it under the roll to the very center. Loop it once and pull the ends, thus slicing the roll in twain.

Do the same thing with each half so you get a total of four pieces.

Cut each of those quarters into three pieces (this is easier than it sounds, since after three cuts you’ll be a pro at this, trust me).

Lay all the slices out in a baking pan (you can also use a large cast iron skillet if you prefer).

Preheat your oven to 375, cover the rolls and proof them for one hour until they’re nice and puffy.

Brush with (yes, you guessed it) more butter.

Bake for ten minutes, then apply a tin foil cover to the pan and bake for another 20-25. If the rolls aren’t brown enough at the end of that time, take off the foil and bake a few minutes more. What you should get in the end is something along these lines:

At this point you have several options, you can lather on some cream cheese frosting and let it melt over the whole pan, then serve (not my favorite option). Alternately, you can let the pan cool for half an hour or so, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar-water icing. Or you can cool them slightly, move them to individual serving plates and ice them (or don’t ice them) as you see fit. That, as you can probably tell, is what I like to do.

They can also be made the night before and then reheated in the oven or microwave before serving.

17 thoughts on “Shaping Cinnamon Rolls”

  1. Thank you for taking the time to think through and illustrate so clearly how you bake your pastries. I wish that cookbooks would do the same as a matter of course. For those who have taken courses, they may be unnecessary, but it really helps me through a recipe.

    It is a lot of work, and you should know that it is appreciated. As a teacher who comes from a family of teachers, this means a lot.

    1. It’s my very great pleasure, Franklin. Thanks very much for the terrific complement — and let me know how the cinnamon rolls turn out! – J

      1. Hi Joe

        I made these cinnamon rolls and they came out great, my only hitch was the icing drizzle, that did not come out like yours, tell me how to make it.
        Thanks June.

  2. how big would you roll out the dough if you wanted to make a giant cinnamon roll? I’ve got the sofball size, the golfball size. I want one for my business that is giant! Thoughts?

    1. Hehe…hey Dodi! Just roll the rectangle in the other direction! 😉

      Actually you might have a little trouble cutting the buns with a roll that’s three-to-four inches or so in diameter. So I’d suggest you experiment with refrigerating the dough to make it firmer during the shaping phase. How big a roll are you wanting?

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe!
    I was thinking of making these in advance and then freezing them so that I can pull them out for Christmas and bake them the morning of. At what point do you think it would be best to freeze them? Before proofing or after?

    1. Definitely before. Add an extra 30-45 minutes to the proofing time to allow for thawing.


      – Joe

  4. Wonderful web site, great brioche-cinnamon roll recipe and process!

    One question…you do not spread butter or cream over dough prior to brown sugar and cinnamon layers?


    1. Hey Jack!

      Thanks so much! As for the buttercream (or butter or cream) you certainly can do that. The brioche I use is pretty darn butter already, which is why I don’t add anything else. But I see no reason to impose limits! Go for it!

      – joe

  5. Hi Joe,
    Luv your recipes. I’m newly retired and decided to take up baking as my hobby. (I’m a Gluten for punishment). Most cinnamon bun rcipes I see call for oiling or buttering the dough prior to the sugar and cinnamon (my thoughts were to keep the filling from falling out, I guess creating some sort of paste. You obviously have not included that step. can you confirm – NOT REQUIRED!. also what size baking pan did u use to make such a nice compacted set of rolls – 9 x 13 ? or half sheet pan 12 x 18?

    Going down your list of recipes and I luv each new one better than the prior one. Keep um coming.


    1. Larry, I was going to apologize for being so late to reply to you, then I read the gluten pun. Ow.

      The answer is that extra butter or leftover pastry cream or buttercream is not required, but all are frequently used to help keep the filling place during cutting. In this case the dough is soft enough that there really aren’t any problems with filling running out. But it won’t hurt anything either! Also I used a 9 x 13 pan.

      Thanks very much for the generous compliments. Enjoy your newfound hobby and get back to me with any questions!


      – Joe

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