These no-knead, sourdough milk bread cinnamon rolls are the fluffiest, softest rolls with a sourdough tang in every bite. They’re naturally leavened and filled layers of cinnamon and brown sugar. A smooth and luscious vanilla cream cheese frosting adds the perfect amount of sweetness to these rolls
I love sourdough. I love milk bread. I love cinnamon rolls. Therefore, I love these sourdough milk bread cinnamon rolls. They combine the soft fluffiness of milk bread with the subtle tang of sourdough. And the best part? They’re not too sweet but still packed with flavor!
The base of this recipe comes from my popular sourdough Japanese milk bread recipe. If you want to make a non-sourdough version, replace the dough with my regular Japanese milk bread.
What makes this the fluffiest sourdough cinnamon rolls
Texture is key for cinnamon rolls, and we use two methods to make this a fluffy and no fuss cinnamon roll recipe.
First, the recipe is no-knead. The long fermentation process helps naturally develop the gluten and create a tender crumb. We’ll only perform a few coil folds to help gently develop the gluten.
Second, we use the tangzhong method to create that cotton candy-like fluffy texture. You cook flour, milk, and water together to create a roux. This gelatinizes the starches which contributes to that incomparable texture.
Tips for making sourdough cinnamon rolls
Unlike working with commercial yeast, there is always a bit of variability when working with sourdough starter. The rise times will vary depending on the strength of your starter. If this is your first time making sourdough, I recommend making just a normal loaf with only water, salt, flour, and starter to get a feel for the process.
Here are tips to help you with these rolls:
- Make sure you have a mature starter that doubles in size after being fed within 4 – 8 hours. The rise time on this loaf is quite long, so a strong starter is crucial to make sure your loaf is not underproved. If you’re starter isn’t doubling quickly enough, keep discarding and feeding until it builds strength.
- Be patient – it’s going to take time to rise! Milk bread is an enriched loaf, meaning there’s butter, milk, and eggs added to the dough. These fats slow down the rise, and natural yeast is already a slower mover than commercial yeast. Rise time will vary depending on how warm and humid your kitchen is – I’ve had this recipe take me anywhere from 5 – 10 hours on the second proof.
- Use a homemade proofing box – my kitchen is always super cold, so I’ll make my own proofing box. I warm water to 150 – 160F, and pour into a tray on the bottom shelf of my oven. I place my rolls on a higher shelf, then close the oven door to trap the heat and steam.
- Use a food scale to measure ingredients. Precision helps for the best sourdough results, so I only provide this recipe in grams.
- Make sure your butter is at room temperature. Softened butter is important for incorporating smoothly into the dough, otherwise you may have small lumps.
My baking timeline
Here is a general guide on my baking timeline when making these sourdough cinnamon rolls. You can adjust to whatever works best for your schedule, which I always encourage! Overall, this process spans 2 days though there isn’t too much active time.
1:00pm – Mix sourdough starter with milk and flour
5:00pm – Starter has doubled in size. Make the tangzhong. Mix together all ingredients to create the dough.
5:30pm – First set of coil folds to develop gluten
6:15pm – Second set of coil folds
7:00pm – Third set of coil folds
8:00pm – Cover and place in fridge for overnight cold retard. This helps make the dough easier to handle when shaping the next day.
11:00am – Roll out the dough and shape. Place in a baking dish
— Long rise time. I’ve had it rise in 5 hours in a very warm and humid environment. I’ve also had it take 10 hours during the winter —
7:00pm – Bake for 30 – 35 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven and slather with cream cheese frosting.
This recipe definitely takes longer than your average cinnamon rolls, but I love the sourdough flavor. If you make this recipe, please let me know! It would bring me so much joy to see your sourdough cinnamon rolls. You can comment below or tag me on Instagram @halicopteraway.
Sourdough milk bread cinnamon rolls
- Mixing bowl
- Rolling Pin
- 9 inch baking dish (see notes)
- 30 g fed and active sourdough starter, 100% hydration
- 60 g milk, warm
- 60 g bread or all purpose flour
- 23 g bread flour
- 60 g milk
- 60 g water
- 275 g bread flour
- 50 g granulated sugar
- 4 g salt
- 60 g milk, warm
- 1 egg
- 60 g butter, room temperature
- heavy cream or milk for brushing
- 45 g butter, room temperature
- 65 g light or dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Cream cheese frosting
- 113 g block cream cheese, room temperature
- 30 g butter, room temperature
- 40 g powdered sugar (see notes)
Make the levain
- Mix together the sourdough starter, warm milk, and flour to create the levain. Cover and let rise until doubled in size. This takes about 4 – 8 hours.
Make the tangzhong
- In small skillet or pot, whisk together flour, milk, and water until smooth. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until mixture has thickened but is still pourable. It should take 5 – 10 minutes. Your whisk should leave a mark when dragged along the bottom of the pan.
- Pour into a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make the dough
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, milk, egg, levain, and tangzhong. Mix until a shaggy dough forms. Use your hands to gently mix in the softened butter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Gently slide your hand under the middle of the dough and fold it over itself twice using the coil fold method. This helps gently develop the gluten.
- Over the next 2 to 3 hours, allow the dough to rise, performing a coil fold every 30 – 45 minutes.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
Fill and shape the cinnamon rolls
- Make the filling – use a spatula to mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon into a paste.
- Grease a baking tin. Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Roll into a 9 inch by 12 inch rectangle.
- Spread the surface evenly with the cinnamon sugar filling, making sure to get all the way to the edges.
- Roll up the dough so that you have a 9 inch roll. Divide into 8 to 12 equal pieces (see notes on size)
- Place the rolls into the greased baking tin. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, humid spot until the tops of cinnamon rolls reach the edge of the pan. This takes 6 – 10 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is and the strength of your starter.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the top of the rolls with heavy cream or milk
- Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the tops are golden brown and make a hollow noise when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- Whisk together the softened butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and whisk together until smooth. If you like your icing to be sweeter, you can add up to 40g more of powdered sugar.
- Spread the icing on the warm rolls and enjoy!
- Baking dish size and number of rolls to make – I use a 9 inch round pan, which fits 8 large rolls. You can make more cinnamon rolls, but will need a larger dish to accommodate. For 12 cinnamon rolls, I recommend a 9 x 13 inch tray. Check the oven at the 25 minute mark to see how the rolls are baking.
- Frosting sweetness – I prefer a less sweet icing, so only use 40g of sugar. You can add up to 80g depending on your preference
- Make your own proofing box – To help with the rise time, I use a homemade proofing box using hot water and my oven.
- Heat water to 150 – 160F. You don’t want the water to be too hot, since it can melt the butter in the dough and filling
- Pour the water into a baking tray set on the bottom rack of your oven
- Place the rolls on the middle rack
- Close the oven door. The hot water will create warmth and humidity. Periodically refill the warm water.