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.
1tablespoon12 g active dry yeast, or instant yeast
4cup543 g bread flour
⅓cup67 g sugar
1teaspoon5 g salt
1large eggroom temperature
4tablespoon57 g unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔cup135 g dark brown sugar, packed
1 ½tablespoonground cinnamon
¼cupunsalted butterroom temperature
4 ½tablespoon85 g cream cheese, room temperature
2tablespoon30 g unsalted butter
2cups240 g powdered sugar
3-4tablespoon45-60 g milk
Tangzhong. 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 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue mixing for an additional 1 minute. Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl and place the plastic wrap tightly over the plastic wrap. Make sure plastic wrap is touching tangzhong because we don’t want any air around tangzhong. Refrigerate until it has cooled to about room temperature.
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 ½ hours or until doubled in size. This may more or less time depending on the humidity and temperature in your home.
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 ¼-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.
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 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.
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.
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.