Yield: 9 buttermilk cinnamon rolls // Total Time: 2 hr. 45 min. // Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links.
The lightest and fluffiest cinnamon rolls you’ll ever have, made small batch!
Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
I have so many small-batch cinnamon roll variations on here, but somehow I’m just getting around to STANDARD cinnamon rolls! Anyway, here is my schpeal for why you should make THESE. First of all, they’re small batch. This recipe makes 9 small rolls so that you aren’t leftover with a ton if you don’t need them. But more importantly, they are delicious! The dough is made milk bread style which makes it ridiculously soft and fluffy, and uses buttermilk which gives it a wonderful and rich flavor and slight tanginess. The filling is made with brown butter for a toasty flavor, and the cream cheese icing is the perfect compliment to the sweet rolls. They also just so happen to be eggless if that happens to be important to you!
What is milk bread?
Milk bread is a type of bread that uses tangzhong to make soft and fluffy bread. Tangzhong is a cooking method that involves cooking a portion of the flour in a recipe with a portion of the liquid. Doing so allows the dough to hold on to more hydration, leading to softer, fluffier bread that stays fresh for longer than standard bread! To learn more about tangzhong, you can read my post all about it!
Why do you post small batch recipes?
I love making small batch bakes because they are the perfect size myself and others who don’t have a lot of people to bake for in their home. Small batch helps cut down on waste and eliminates the feeling that all that excess dessert MUST be eaten. Here on my blog I post a lot of small batch bakes with a mix of some 8-10″ single layer cakes from time to time. All my recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to fit your need, so long as you use grams to measure!
Weigh your ingredients
- Weighing your ingredients is important for getting the recipe perfect and getting consistent results. Not weighing your ingredients can lead to adding too much or too little of an ingredient and can easily throw off a recipe. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen scale. This one is super cheap and worked well for me when I was starting out!
Kneading the dough
- Kneading this dough will take a longer time than you are probably used to. This dough is enriched with eggs and butter which makes it take longer for the proper amount of gluten to develop. Kneading in the mixer can take me anywhere from 10-20 minutes. The dough is ready to be used when it passes the windowpane test and has pulled away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you are weighing your ingredients, just trust the process! If you are using cup measurements and the dough just is not coming together after 15 minutes, try adding in 1 tbsp. of flour at a time.
Room temperature ingredients
- It is important for the ingredients to be at room temperature so that they properly incorporate with each other. Take out the butter and buttermilk at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hr 30 min. before starting the recipe. To bring an egg to room temperature quickly, you can place it under hot water for 1 minute. To bring butter to room temperature quickly, slice it, place it on a plate, and microwave it in 5 second intervals!
Heating the milk
- Heating the milk is important for bringing the yeast to an optimal temperature for rising. The milk should be heated to ~100°F / 38°C but it does not have to be exact. As long as the milk is between 95°F – 110°F, it is good to be used. If the temperature exceeds 110°F, wait for it to cool down before using so that you do not kill the yeast!
Dough rising environment
- For the first rise, I recommend letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight simply because it’s much easier to work with when it’s cold, and then you don’t have to worry about doing everything in one day. For the second rise (and if you do choose to do both rises in one day) – you’re going to want to make sure your dough is in a warm environment for it to rise faster. If the room is cold, the dough will take longer to rise. I like to place my bowl of dough on top of my oven, preheat the oven to the lowest temperature it will go, and then turn the oven off and let it continue to rise there.
The windowpane test
- The windowpane test is (in my opinion) the best way to tell that your dough has been properly kneaded. Once the dough starts to pull away from the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl, it is most likely ready. However, just to be sure that it’s good to go I check if it passes the windowpane test. To do that, take some of the dough in your hands and start to slowly stretch it out. If it can get thin enough to where light passes through it before tearing, then it’s good to go! If not, keep kneading until it does!
Ingredients and substitutions
For the dough:
All purpose flour: for structure and chewiness. We will use a bit of flour for the tangzhong mixture, and the rest as the base of the dough.
Milk: to add to the tangzhong. I recommend whole, but 1% and 2% will also work. You could swap in non-dairy milk here but you won’t be able to use a non-dairy substitute for the buttermilk.
Buttermilk: for some wonderful and tangy flavor in these rolls! If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (I know, it can be annoying) here’s a substitute for this recipe: mix 85g sour cream with 45g milk and let sit for 5 minutes before adding it to the dough.
Dark brown sugar: for sweetening the rolls and helping the yeast with rising. You can use light brown or granulated sugar here as well.
Active dry yeast: for making the dough rise. You can easily substitute in instant yeast if that is what you have on hand. I have more detailed notes on how to proceed with instant later in this post!
Salt: for balancing and bringing out the sweetness of the brioche. Salt also “controls” the yeast to make sure that it does not overly expand.
Unsalted butter: for tenderizing the rolls and giving them a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth feel. I would not recommend substituting in salted butter since salt is important to controlling yeast growth and the amount of salt in salted butter is quite variable.
Vanilla: optional, but I like to add vanilla bean paste to the dough for flavor and to see those nice little vanilla bean speckles throughout.
For the filling:
Unsalted butter: we make brown butter with this for some great flavor! A tablespoon of the brown butter will also go in the cream cheese icing. You can sub in salted butter if desired.
Dark brown sugar: I recommend dark brown just for the extra flavor it adds, but light brown works perfectly as well!
Cinnamon: to call it a cinnamon roll of course!
For the cream cheese icing:
Cream cheese: the base of the frosting.
Powdered sugar: to sweeten up the frosting.
Milk: to thin out the frosting, use your favorite dairy or non-dairy alternative milk here.
How to: Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
Here are the steps to follow to make these buttermilk cinnamon rolls. You can find the complete recipe (which is printable!) at the end of this blog post.
1. Make the tangzhong mixture. In a small saucepan over medium heat, continuously stir together the flour and milk until the mixture and thickens into a thick slurry. Take off the heat and set aside.
2. Make the dough. Add all of the ingredients, including the hot tangzhong into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium speed for ~15-20 minutes. You will know the dough is done kneading when it passes the windowpane test (more details earlier in this post!)
3. Let the dough rise. Once the dough is done kneading, butter the inside of the bowl, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in a warm area to rise until doubled in size (~1 hr.)
4. Brown the butter. Add the butter to a saucepan set over medium heat, occasionally stirring. Continue occasionally stirring the mixture until it turns amber in color and develops little brown specks (those are the toasted milk solids – the flavor!) Immediately remove the butter from the heat and transfer it to a heat-safe bowl. Take out 1 tbsp. of brown butter to use in the cream cheese icing later on.
5. Roll out the dough. Once the dough has finished rising, lightly punch it down to remove any excess air in it. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface, then roll it out to a 12″ x 16″ (30 x 40 cm) rectangle.
5. Form the rolls. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Carefully spread the brown butter over the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter in an even layer. Start rolling up the dough into a tight log from the longer (16″) side. Cut the roll into 9 even slices.
6. Let the rolls rise. Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined 8″ square pan. Lightly cover the pan with a towel, and let the rolls rise in a warm environment until doubled in size (~30-45 minutes).
7. Bake. Brush the tops of the rolls with an egg wash (or just milk if you are avoiding eggs!) Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls has reached 190°F / 88°C.
8. Make the icing. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown butter until smooth. Then mix in the powdered sugar, followed by the milk.
9. Serve and enjoy! Spread the icing over the warm rolls, then serve and enjoy!
Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls Q & A
Can I double this recipe?
- Yes! I can’t emphasize using a kitchen scale enough for especially this recipe already, but if you are going to double or half the ingredients it is even more important that you weigh your ingredients. The dough is very hydrated and slight alterations can change the texture of the dough.
Is it okay to use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast?
- Yes of course! You’ll do everything the same except the first rise of the dough just needs 10 minutes before you proceed with shaping the rolls.
Can I make the dough ahead of time?
- Yes, and I highly recommend it! Simply knead the dough together, cover it, and leave it to rise in the fridge overnight. When ready to make the rolls simply take it out of the fridge and proceed with the recipe.
How should I store these rolls?
- If you don’t plan on eating all of the rolls be sure to only frost them as you want to eat them. The icing must be stored in the fridge so I definitely recommend storing the icing in the fridge and the unfrosted rolls at room temperature in an airtight container. When you want to eat one, pop it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds then frost it and enjoy!
Why do you measure in grams?
My recipes are all written in grams because it is a more accurate way to bake. When you use a kitchen scale, you ensure that your baked goods turn out as close to the written recipe as possible. Plus, the cleanup is way easier when using a scale! I will provide standard cup measurements but please note that I have not tested the recipe using cup measurements. Here is my favorite kitchen scale, and here’s an article about why I use a kitchen scale, and why you should too!
A note on oven temperature.
Ovens vary and fluctuate in temperature. For example, I always have to set my oven to 330°F if I want it to bake at 350°F. If you love to bake like I do, I highly recommend getting an oven thermometer. They are super helpful for letting you know when your oven might be lying to you. I use this one.
Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls troubleshooting
My dough just isn’t coming together
- I can’t recommend the use of a kitchen scale enough, especially for this super hydrated dough. If you’ve been kneading and kneading and the dough still won’t come together, add 1 tbsp. of flour at a time and knead for 2 minutes until the dough comes together.
Tools and ingredients
You can find all my favorite tools and ingredients that I use on my Amazon Storefront page, here!
Did you make these Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls?
If you made these small batch buttermilk cinnamon rolls I would love to see them and know your thoughts! Please leave a comment and review down below, and tag me on Instagram @freshbeanbakery. If you have any questions about the recipe I will gladly do my best to answer them in the comments below!
Small Batch Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
- 24 g all purpose flour (3 tbsp.)
- 100 g whole milk (⅓ c. + 2 tbsp.)
- 130 g buttermilk (4 ½ oz.) room temperature
- 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
- 240 g all purpose flour (2 c.)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 56 g unsalted butter (¼ c.) room temperature, cubed
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- 113 g unsalted butter (½ c.)
- 100 g dark brown sugar (½ c.)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Icing
- 110 g cream cheese (½ c.) room temperature
- 1 tbsp. brown butter *from filling
- 15 g powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp. milk room temperature
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, continuously stir together the flour and milk until the mixture and thickens into a thick slurry. Take off the heat and set aside.
- Add all of the ingredients, including the hot tangzhong into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium speed for ~15-20 minutes. You will know the dough is done kneading when it passes the windowpane test.
- Once the dough is done kneading, butter the inside of the bowl, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in a warm area to rise until doubled in size (~1 hr.)
- Add the butter to a saucepan set over medium heat, occasionally stirring. Continue occasionally stirring the mixture until it turns amber in color and develops little brown specks (those are the toasted milk solids – the flavor!)
- Immediately remove the butter from the heat and transfer it to a heat-safe bowl. Take out 1 tbsp. of brown butter to use in the craem cheese icing later on.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
- Once the dough has finished rising, lightly punch it down to remove any excess air in it. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly floured surface, then roll it out to a 12″ x 16″ (30 x 40 cm) rectangle.
- Carefully spread the brown butter over the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter in an even layer. Start rolling up the dough into a tight log from the longer (16") side. Cut the roll into 9 even slices.
- Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined 8" square pan. Lightly cover the pan with a towel, and let the rolls rise in a warm environment until doubled in size (~30 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.
- Make an egg wash by whisking together an egg with 1 tbsp. milk, then brush it over the rolls. If you are avoiding eggs, you can do this with just milk!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls has reached 190°F / 88°C.
Cream Cheese Icing
- In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown butter until smooth. Then mix in the powdered sugar, followed by the milk.
- Spread the icing over the warm rolls, then serve and enjoy!