Ever since I committed to powering all of my yeasted baking with sourdough starter, I’ve looked forward to perfecting a signature recipe for pillowy, enriched breakfast buns. Finally, the time has come! Just in time for Christmas morning (the cinna-bunniest day of the year), AND to celebrate the big debut of our very own bun-in-the-oven!
That’s right, there’s a baby in the house! Her name is Lola Jane and I love being her mom. We’ve been having a dreamily cozy winter at home with our new family of three, and I’m thankful I made time to set the scene with some homemade comforts like these (freezer-friendly!) cinnamon rolls. (I owe you another post with a rundown about the rest of my freezer-prep projects soon… stay tuned!)
The last time I baked a batch of swirly honey buns, I didn’t have the confidence yet to let my sourdough take it all the way without a back-up dose of instant dry yeast. But by now, I’m all in! My secret to success with enriched sourdough breads is the same strategy we got into for Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts: a warm 2-hour rise (just long enough to get things started without compromising food safety) followed by a longer slow ferment in the fridge. In this recipe I pause the rise midway, shaping the rolls the night before, then returning them to the fridge until the morning bake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: every sensible breakfast bake should have an overnight rise! I like as much of the work as possible to be finished ahead of time, leaving ourselves an easy morning of finishing up while our coffee brews!
In this case, we only have to proof and bake before breakfast is served. Like the first warm rise, I proof in my food dehydrator set to 90 F with a dish of water in the bottom for about 30 minutes. This gets the yeast ready to rise-and-shine and puff into perfection in the oven!
Make-Ahead Baking: Prepping & Freezing Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
I was interested in testing this recipe for freezer-friendliness, because doesn’t it sound wonderful to have a tray of these stowed away for gifting or impromptu weekend brunch? My strategy was to follow the recipe all the way through to par-baking, just long enough in the oven to reach its full rise but not to completely bake/brown. While it could still work to freeze earlier in the process, this way we get the “heavy lifting” out of the way and don’t have to worry about the sourdough yeast losing potency in cold storage. After cooling the par-baked rolls, wrap them tightly (I used one layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil) and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to finish the bake, transfer the tray to the refrigerator the day before to begin thawing. Then the next day, finish the bake until cooked through and golden brown.
I’m pleased to report that the frozen cinnamon rolls bake up just as well as when freshly made. Thanks to this recipe testing, I even had an extra batch to bake off for the labor & delivery staff that took care of Baby Lola and I 🧡
They’re absolutely tender, buttery, pillowy, very joy-sparking – and made with half whole-grain flour, too. I hope that sharing this recipe with you other sourdough bakers out there will help spread the joy to the best people in your lives!
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[Sourdough] Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
- 250 grams sourdough starter recently fed and bubbly
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 250 grams all purpose flour
- 250 grams whole wheat pastry flour or whole grain spelt flour
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Begin the day before you plan to bake. In a large bowl or electric stand mixer, combine the sourdough starter, water, sugar, melted butter and eggs. Mix until smooth, then add the flours and salt. Mix with a dough hook attachment for about 5 minutes (or knead by hand for 10 or more minutes), until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Cover the bowl loosely with a damp cotton towel or plastic wrap, and put it in a warm place to rise. After two hours, move the bowl to the refrigerator to continue slowly rising for 6-12 hours.
- After this rise, shape the cinnamon rolls. Prepare a floured surface and lightly coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on the floured surface into a large rectangle about 12×18 inches. Spread softened butter evenly over the dough’s surface, and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture all over. Starting with a long side of the rectangle, tightly roll the dough into a log and pinch the seam closed. Slice the log into 12 equal buns using dental floss or a sharp knife. Arrange the 12 buns in the prepared baking dish, leaving space in between buns to allow room to rise. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F and transfer the rolls from the refrigerator to a warm place to proof for about 30 minutes, until lightly plumped. Remove the plastic wrap from the dish and bake for about 25 minutes, until puffy and golden.
- While the rolls begin to cool, prepare a glaze. Mix together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, coffee and salt; then drizzle all over the rolls
To Prepare Cinnamon Rolls for Make-Ahead Freezing:
- Follow the recipe all the way through to baking, except par-bake for only about 15 minutes; the rolls should be fully risen, but uncolored on top and still doughy inside. Cool the par-baked rolls completely at room temperature before wrapping tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and another layer of aluminum foil. Transfer to the freezer and store for up to 3 months.
- To bake frozen rolls, move them to the refrigerator the day before baking to thaw. Bake at 375 F for about 15-20 more minutes, until fully baked and golden brown. Prepare glaze and drizzle over rolls before serving.