Yield: 6 (small batch) cinnamon rolls // Total Time: 2 hr. 40 min. // Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. // Recipe updated 9/29/23.
The lightest and fluffiest cinnamon rolls you’ll ever have, in small batch form!
brown butter milk bread cinnamon rolls
These cinnamon rolls are SO delicious. And obviously I would say that because it’s my recipe, but I LOVE making yeast breads and these use a recipe I’ve perfected over the years. It’s a milk bread dough which means it’s super light and fluffy, and it’s made with brown butter. The filling is made with brown butter and dark brown sugar for the ultimate flavor, and it’s all topped off with a cream cheese glaze that also has brown butter.
These rolls are ridiculously light and fluffy, and exploding with brown butter and cinnamon flavor. And of course they’re small batch, for all those times that you don’t need enough to feed a whole family. Below are a *TON* of tips, tricks and notes that (I hope) are helpful for succeeding with this recipe. I know yeast dough can seem super intimidating and it’s a lot of information, but once you’ve got the basics down it becomes intuitive, easy and fun to make!
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. This allows the dough to hold on to more hydration, leading to softer, fluffier bread that stays fresh for longer than standard bread!
what is brown butter?
Brown butter is super simple to make so don’t worry! It’s just regular butter that is cooked on the stove until some of the moisture evaporates. This allows the milk solids in the butter to be toasted. The result is this butter with an amber hue and little speckles that has a toasted and slightly nutty aroma.
Because the butter gets cooked for a while, you do lose most of the moisture present in butter. It’s another reason I highly recommend weighing your ingredients! You should have 90g of butter left from the 113g at the start. Any less and you’ll want to add some water to the butter to bring it to 90g.
small batch cinnamon rolls
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. All my recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to fit your needs. I just highly recommend using grams, especially if you’re scaling the recipe!
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. 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!
the dough will need to knead for a while
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. Also, please make sure you are using a higher protein all purpose flour that has at least 11%, not 10% protein (I use King Arthur Flour, 11.7%.) 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 20 minutes, try adding in 1 tbsp. of flour at a time.
use 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 egg at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hr 30 min. before starting the recipe, and the cream cheese about an hour before the rolls are done. To bring an egg to room temperature quickly, you can place it under hot water for 1 minute. To bring cream cheese 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.
how to tell your dough is done kneading: 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. Please be sure that you are using a high-quality flour that has a high protein %, such as King Arthur (11.7%) so that your gluten will develop. If you’re using a low protein flour, the gluten will not develop enough and you will have to add a lot more flour to the brioche, which will alter the dough!
Active dry yeast: for making the dough rise. You can easily substitute in instant yeast if that is what you have on hand. You will just skip the step of combining the warm milk, sugar, and yeast!
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.
Dark brown sugar: for sweetening the brioche and for helping the yeast with rising.
Egg: for binding and adding moisture.
Unsalted butter: for tenderizing the brioche 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 a little variable.
Whole milk: for tenderizing and hydrating the dough. Whole milk will provide the softest rolls because the extra fat helps tenderize the dough. You can however swap in 1%, 2% or your favorite non dairy milk alternative! Just note that the dough may be a little less soft and fluffy due to the varying fat content.
For the filling:
Unsalted butter: we make brown butter with this for some great flavor!
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.
Unsalted butter: more brown butter (of course!)
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 make small batch cinnamon rolls
Below are some steps of the cinnamon roll making process. You can find the full recipe at the end of this page!
small batch cinnamon rolls q&a
how to store cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls are definitely going to taste the best the day that they are baked, and I highly *highly* recommend serving them on the same day. If you’re not consuming them all in one day, store any extra cream cheese glaze in the fridge and keep the cinnamon rolls in an airtight container at room temperature. When you want to have a cinnamon roll, heat it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds before icing it, then enjoy!
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.
can I use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast?
Yes of course! Instead of mixing the heated milk, sugar, and yeast together, just pop all of the dough ingredients into your mixing bowl to start kneading. I do highly recommend refrigerating the dough overnight to make it easier to work with and more flavorful. However, if you are making the recipe all in one day, and using instant yeast, simply let the dough rest for just 10 minutes as the first rise (or however long it states on the instant yeast packet), then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
can I make the dough ahead of time?
Yes, and I highly recommend it because it will be easier to work with! Simply knead the dough together, cover it, and leave it to rise in the fridge overnight. When ready to make the honey almond brioche cake simply take it out of the fridge and proceed with the recipe.
why do you measure in grams?
My recipes are all written in grams because it is the most 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 and therefore can not guarantee your recipe will come out how mine did. Here is my favorite kitchen scale.
a note on oven temperature
Ovens vary and fluctuate in temperature and aren’t always at the temperature they claim to be. 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.
tools and ingredients
You can find all my favorite tools and ingredients that I use on my Amazon Storefront page, here!
small batch cinnamon rolls troubleshooting
my yeast mixture isn’t foaming, what should I do?
The mixture should start foaming around 5 minutes in. If it has not foamed after 10 minutes, the yeast is likely dead. You want to make sure that the milk temperature does not exceed 110°F / 43°C or it will kill the yeast. If you try it again and it still does not foam, the yeast you are using may be expired and you will want to purchase some more before proceeding.
the 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. Please note that the dough at times has taken me up to 20 minutes to knead and pass the windowpane test!
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 cinnamon rolls?
If you made these small batch 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 Cinnamon Rolls
- 113 g unsalted butter (8 tbsp.)
- 24 g all purpose flour (3 tbsp.)
- 100 g whole milk (⅓ c. + 2 tbsp.)
- 90 g whole milk (⅓ c. + 1 tbsp.)
- 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 egg room temperature
- 240 g all purpose flour (2 c.)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 42 g brown butter (3 ½ tbsp.)
- 36 g brown butter (3 tbsp.)
- 100 g dark brown sugar (½ c.)
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cream Cheese Glaze
- 110 g cream cheese (½ c.) room temperature
- 12 g brown butter (1 tbsp.)
- 30 g powdered sugar (¼ c.)
- 2 tbsp. whole milk room temperature
- 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!)
- Remove the butter from the heat and set aside. You should be left with 90g (~6 ½ tbsp.), which will be distributed throughout the dough, filling, and glaze.
- 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. Alternatively, whisk together the flour and milk in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until the mixture becomes a thick slurry.
- Warm the milk to ~100°F / 38°C.
- Add all of the ingredients, including the tangzhong, warm milk and 42g of brown butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
- Knead the mixture on medium speed for ~15-20 minutes. The dough is ready when it is no longer sticking to the sides or bottom of the bowl, and passes the windowpane test.*
- Once the dough is done kneading, shape the dough into a ball and place it back into the mixing bowl. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in a warm area to rise until doubled in size (~1 hr.)**
- 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 3 tbsp. of the brown butter over the dough (you may have to melt it a little if it's hardened), then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the butter in an even layer. From the longer side, cut the dough into 6 strips, then roll each strip up.
- Transfer the rolls to a lightly buttered and/or lined eighth sheet 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.
- (Optional, for browning) Make an egg wash by whisking together an egg with 1 tbsp. milk, then brush it over the rolls.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls has reached 180°F / 82°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!