Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 04/12/2021 Updated: 29/11/2023
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 2 hours 55 minutes
Step aside Cinnabon, these pillowy soft milk bread cinnamon rolls with chai spiced icing is here to take the title of the BEST CINNAMON ROLLS EVER. They are made using the Tangzhong milk bread method which yields the softest cloudlike dough slathered in a buttery cinnamon-brown sugar that is topped with a beautiful chai-spiced glaze.
Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Step aside Cinnabon, these pillowy soft milk bread cinnamon rolls with chai spiced icing are here to take the title of the BEST CINNAMON ROLLS EVER. They are made using the Tangzhong milk bread method which yields the softest cloudlike dough slathered in buttery cinnamon-brown sugar that is topped with a beautiful chai-spiced glaze.

A portrait of a cinnamon roll on a plate

Cinnamon rolls are my ultimate weakness. They are fluffy, pillow-soft swirls stuffed with a buttery cinnamon-brown sugar filling and glazed with a cream cheese glaze that drips in between the cracks and melts into every bite. However, a good homemade cinnamon roll recipe is hard to come by. They are usually too tough, overly sweet, or simply not flavorful enough. This cinnamon recipe is none of those things. I’ve combined the softest pillowy bread dough—milk bread with this American classic. To put it simply, these soft milk bread cinnamon rolls are the best cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten.

So let’s brighten up your mornings with this delicious pillowy soft milk bread cinnamon rolls recipe! Pair these cinnamon rolls with some caramelized spam and eggs or bo ne (Vietnamese steak and eggs) and you have got yourself a delicious brunch!

A tray of glazed cinnamon rolls with plates and cutlery nearby
Someone pulling apart a cinnamon roll

What is the Tangzhong Method?

Christine Ho, a food blogger, popularized the Tangzhong method in the early 2010s. Tangzhong uses 7% of the entire flour contents of the recipe and uses a ratio of 1 part flour to 5 parts liquid. You heat it on the stove until it thickens to the consistency of a thick paste. Use the starter when it is cooled to the touch. You can also make this the day before and refrigerate it overnight. Be sure to bring it down to room temperature before adding it to the dough.

Someone pulling off a piece of cinnamon roll

Kitchen Tools

  • Stand Mixer with dough hook attachment: using a stand mixer will make kneading the dough a breeze. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can always knead the dough by hand!
  • Rolling Pin: a rolling pin is needed to roll out your soft fluffy milk bread dough.
  • Floss: this hack is GENIUS. Floss allows you to slice the dough easily without compromising the swirl structure of the dough.
  • 10-inch round pan, 10×10 square pan, or 9×13 baking pan: I recommend using a large enough pan so that cinnamon rolls will have room to expand during proofing and baking.

Ingredients

This soft milk bread cinnamon rolls recipe uses a lot of pantry staples. It does require a bit of patience and dedication to yield such perfectly soft and delicious results.

Milk Bread Dough

  • Bread Flour: has a higher protein level to lighten the milk bread cinnamon roll texture it is also used in the Tangzhong method. The higher protein produces more gluten which provides a slightly chewy, soft texture.
  • Milk: I always recommend using whole milk for that rich moist crumb. You can also use 2% or even almond milk as an alternative.
  • Granulated Sugar: sugar sweetens the cinnamon rolls and helps activate the yeast.
  • Instant Yeast: I generally always use instant yeast because it allows the dough to rise quicker than active dry yeast. I always bloom the instant dry yeast ahead of time which acts as a foolproof way of checking if the yeast is still alive.
  • Salt: the salt adds a subtle amount of flavor to the cinnamon roll dough and controls the yeast.
  • Egg: the egg binds the dough together, aids in the rise and the soft texture
  • Unsalted Butter: makes the dough soft and moist.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling

  • Dark brown sugar: dark brown sugar has a bit more molasses than regular brown sugar which creates a deeper richer sugar flavor.
  • Ground cinnamon: what is a cinnamon roll without cinnamon?
  • Unsalted butter: the unsalted butter binds the sugar and cinnamon onto the dough.

Chai Icing

  • Cream cheese: use full-fat block cream cheese. Cream cheese + cinnamon rolls= a match made in heaven.
  • Unsalted butter: the butter softens the cream cheese which allows it to spread easily.
  • Ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground all spice: this blend of spices gives the icing and the cinnamon roll a spice flavor explosion that is too good to miss out on.
  • Powdered sugar: the powdered sugar sweetens the cream cheese and creates that smooth creamy texture that slowly hardens over time.
  • Whole Milk: will loosen the icing. Add more milk if the icing is too thick.

How to Make Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

This milk bread cinnamon rolls recipe may seem daunting at first glance but it is really quite simple to make. All you need is to make the dough, add the filling, bake, and drizzle with some chai icing!

Tangzhong

  1. In a small saucepan, add the water and bread flour on medium heat and using a rubber spatula mix until there are no more lumps and the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a small bowl and wrap with plastic wrap Refrigerate until it has cooled to about room temperature.
Cooking tangzhang on a skillet

Dough

  1. Bloom the yeast. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, mix together warm milk (100-105°F or 38°C), 2 teaspoons of sugar, and yeast. Let it bloom for 5-10 minutes or until it has risen.
  1. Make the dough. In the bowl of your stand mixer with a dough attachment, mix together the bread flour, the remaining sugar, and salt. While the mixer is on low, add in the yeast mixture and tangzhong, and egg. Continue mixing until the mixture forms into a dough about 2 minutes.
Mixing together dry ingredients with a stand mixer
Mix the dry ingredients before adding the yeast, tangzhong, and egg.
  1. Add butter and knead. When the dough has formed, add the room-temperature butter and knead on low until combined about 1 minute. Then increase the speed to medium-high and knead until smooth, 7-8 minutes. The dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
Stretching the dough to check its elasticity
Testing the elasticity of the dough, it shouldn’t tear easily.
  1. 1st Proof. Shape the dough as a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proof in a warm place for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
  1. Roll out the proofed dough. Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.
Rolling out dough with a french rolling pin
Rolled out dough.
  1. Add the filling. Spread the butter over the dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin along one 9-inch side of the dough to seal the dough. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to sprinkle the mixture over the buttered dough, then rub the brown sugar mixture into the butter.
  1. Roll the dough. Starting from the 9-inch buttered side, tightly roll the dough and end with the un-buttered margin and gently pinch the end to seal the edges of the dough as best you can.
Rolling the dough into a cyclinder
  1. Cut the dough. Cut into 1-inch sections with a serrated knife or floss.
Slicing off cinnamon rolls from the cyclinder with the floss method
Slicing the dough with the floss method.
  1. 2nd proof. Place the cut cinnamon rolls in a lined and greased baking pan. Cover and place the pan in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Remove kitchen towel and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown along the edges. Cool before frosting.
Looking down at a tray of freshly baked cinnamon rolls ready to be glazed

Chai Cream Cheese Glaze

  1. Make the chai cream cheese glaze: Add the cream cheese and butter to a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until melted. The mixture will look curdled. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice and whisk until combined. Pour the powdered sugar and milk into the saucepan and whisk over low heat until smooth and thoroughly combined. Drizzle icing over warm rolls using a piping bag or a spoon.
Looking down at a freshly glazed tray of cinnamon rolls

Tips For The Best Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

  • Do not overheat your milk! The ideal temperature for activating yeast is 100-110 degrees F. (My sweet spot is usually 105 degrees F) Anything hotter will instantly kill the yeast and the yeast will not rise. Measure the temperature with a thermometer to make sure it is at the right temperature.
  • Make sure to use room-temperature butter. Using softened room-temperature butter will allow even mixing into the dough without making the dough overly wet. Do not use melted butter. The filling will leak out before baking.
  • Use a room-temperature egg. Using a cold egg may shock the dough and may affect the yeast preventing the dough from rising.
  • If the dough is too wet, add 1-2 more tablespoons of flour. The dough should be fairly tacky and may stick to your hands but should come off cleanly. However, if you feel like the dough is too wet to be manageable knead in 1-2 more tablespoons of flour.
  • Flour your work surface and rolling pin before rolling out the dough. The dough may be fairly sticky since it is a wetter dough. To prevent any tearing, make sure the work surface and rolling pin are generously floured.
  • Rub the brown sugar into the butter. When you spread the cinnamon sugar across the buttered dough, remember to gently rub the sugar into the dough so that it is well combined and sticks to the dough.

Storage Instructions

These milk bread cinnamon rolls are best served immediately. For any leftovers, cover in an airtight container or with plastic wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

A cinnamon roll on a plate with more plated treats nearby

Can I make overnight cinnamon rolls?

You can make these milk bread cinnamon rolls the night before! Simply place the rolls in the refrigerator After placing the rolls into the greased pan (after the first rise), simply cover them, place them overnight in the fridge, and then bake them in the morning as directed. I like to bring my cinnamon rolls to room temperature first by leaving them on the counter for 30-45 minutes before baking (this is known as the second rise).

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Up close of a milk bread cinnamon roll on a plate

Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 55 minutes
Step aside Cinnabon, these pillowy soft milk bread cinnamon rolls with chai spiced icing is here to take the title of the BEST CINNAMON ROLLS EVER. They are made using the Tangzhong milk bread method which yields the softest cloudlike dough slathered in a buttery cinnamon-brown sugar that is topped with a beautiful chai-spiced glaze.
Servings: 9 rolls
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • ¾ cup (180 g) water
  • ¼ cup (34 g) bread flour

Bread Dough

  • 1 cup (250 g) warmed milk, 100-105°F or 38°C
  • 2 teaspoon (8 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) active dry yeast, or instant yeast
  • 4 cup (543 g) bread flour
  • cup (67 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 4 tablespoon (57 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling

  • cup (135 g) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter room temperature

Chai Icing

  • 4 ½ tablespoon (85 g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon (30 g) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon ground cardamom
  • teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 2 cups (240 g) powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoon (45-60 g) milk

Instructions

Tangzhong

  • In a small saucepan, combine the tangzhong ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until no lumps are left. Then heat over medium heat while mixing constantly until the mixture thickens into a paste, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl and wrap with plastic wrap. Make sure plastic wrap is touching tangzhong to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate until it has cooled to room temperature. Alternatively, you can refrigerate overnight, and leave at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

Milk Bread Dough

  • Bloom the yeast. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, mix together warm milk (100-105°F or 38°C), 2 teaspoons of sugar, and yeast. Let it bloom for 5-10 minutes or until it has risen.
  • Make the dough. In the bowl of your stand mixer with a dough attachment, mix together the bread flour, the remaining sugar, and salt. While the mixer is on low, add in the yeast mixture and tangzhong and egg. Continue mixing until the mixture forms into a dough for about 2 minutes.
  • Add butter and knead. When the dough has just formed, add the softened room temperature butter and knead on low until combined about 1 minute. Then increase the speed to medium-high and knead until smooth, 7-8 minutes. The dough should form into a nice ball and be slightly sticky. If it's TOO sticky (meaning it's sticking to the bottom of the mixer, add in 2 tablespoons more bread flour.) The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • 1st Proof. Shape the dough as a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proof in a warm place for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. This may more or less time depending on the humidity and temperature in your home.

Assemble

  • Roll out the proofed dough. After the dough has doubled, transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.
  • Add the filling. Spread softened butter over dough, leaving a ¼ inch margin along one 9 inch side of the dough to seal the dough. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Use your hands to sprinkle the mixture over the buttered dough, then rub the brown sugar mixture into the butter.
  • Roll the dough. Starting from the 9-inch buttered side, tightly roll the dough and ending with the unbuttered margin and gently pinch the end to seal the edges of the dough as best you can.
  • Cut the dough. Cut into 1-inch sections with a serrated knife or floss. You should get 9 pieces.
  • 2nd proof. Place the cut cinnamon rolls in a lined and greased baking pan (9 inch round or 9x13 pan) Cover with a kitchen towel and place the pan in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. Remove kitchen towel and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown along the edges. You want to slightly underbake so they stay soft in the middle. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before frosting.

Chai Cream Cheese Glaze

  • Make the glaze: Add the cream cheese and butter to a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until melted. The mixture will look curdled. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice and whisk until combined. Pour in the powdered sugar and milk into the saucepan and whisk over low heat until smooth and thoroughly combined. If the icing is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar; if it's too thick, add more milk. Drizzle icing over warm rolls using a piping bag or a spoon. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Do not overheat your milk! The ideal temperature for activating yeast is 100-110 degrees F. (My sweet spot is usually 105 degrees F) Anything hotter will instantly kill the yeast and the yeast will not rise. Measure the temperature with a thermometer to make sure it is at the right temperature.
  • Make sure to use room-temperature butter. Using softened room-temperature butter will allow even mixing into the dough without making the dough overly wet. Moreover, if you use melted butter for the filling it will cause the filling to leak out before baking.
  • Use a room-temperature egg. Using a cold egg may shock the dough and may affect the yeast preventing the dough from rising.
  • If the dough is too wet, add 1-2 more tablespoons of flour. The dough should be fairly tacky and may stick to your hands but should come off cleanly. However, if you feel like the dough is too wet to be manageable knead in 1-2 more tablespoons of flour.
  • Flour your work surface and rolling pin before rolling out the dough. The dough may be fairly sticky since it is a wetter dough. To prevent any tearing, make sure the work surface and rolling pin are generously floured.
  • Rub the brown sugar into the butter. When you spread the cinnamon sugar across the buttered dough, remember to gently rub the sugar into the dough so that it is well combined and sticks to the dough.

Storage Instructions

These rolls are best served immediately. For any leftovers, cover in an airtight container or with plastic wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Nutrition:

Serving: 1g | Calories: 448kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 178mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g

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