are ya’ll ready for one of my FAVORITE EVER recipes?! no, for once, it’s not got anything to do with pie dough haha. i don’t think anything can beat my love for creating and making pies in all its forms, but this one comes verrrrry close!
this magical recipe was born out of two things. first, i have a craving for cinnamon rolls ALL THE TIME. but i’ve found that even the best recipes can sometimes yield slightly dry-ish rolls that go pretty stale by the next day. second, every time i see my parents, i ask them if they have any requests for baked goods. now, my dad has quite the sweet tooth for sure, but they’re still generally more team savory than sweet. so more often than not, the request somehow revolves around bread! they loveee bread. soft, pillowy, with the perfect pull and chew. my mom loves it plain and my dad is obsessed with a bit of seeds and nuts in every bite. so, my experiment with milk bread started.
milk bread is the softest, bounciest, most pillowy bread that has the best chew and pull and a balanced buttery taste. AND IT STAYS THAT WAY FOR DAYSSSS AFTER IT’S BAKED! i didn’t mean to shout. but if you’re not already making milk bread at home, you NEED TO BE! because although it might sound like something complicated, it’s extremely EASY and only uses the most common of your pantry staples.
if you’re wondering how and why this bread gets to hold on to its most famous pull-y and pillowy softness, it’s all thanks to TANGZHONG. and generally, it is the ONLY difference between milk bread and your normal loaf. but it makes a WORLD of difference. tangzhong is a simple water and flour paste that you cook in under 5 minutes over the stove, cool slightly, and add to your dough along with the other ingredients. it’s sooo simple.
another reason i just hadddd to create this recipe was because i was craving a cinnamon roll that was spectacular in EVERY WAY. sure, i love a good classic cream cheese frosting on these, but why not crank it up a (big) notch and add some coffee to it?! the coffee in the frosting balances out the sweetness soooo wonderfully. it brings something a bit more unique to the table. kids shouldn’t have too much caffeine, but i HAD to share with my nieces. and they went absolutely crazy for these even though you could clearly taste the coffee! but you can definitely leave the coffee out and these will still be amazing!
let’s get baking!
1. you will need to knead this dough. my preferred method is with a stand mixer because this dough is supposed to be sticky and a bit wet. it’s beautifully soft and wonderful to work with, but it will make your life a lot easier to use a stand mixer for kneading. if you must knead by hand though, be sure to not be tempted to add too much extra flour to the dough. your rolls will end up a bit drier.
2. i’ve made these rolls with bread flour and with all purpose flour and they’re both WONDERFUL. so use whichever one your heart desires!
3. the most accurate way to measure out ingredients is by using a kitchen SCALE! there are so many amazing and practical ones out there for $10 and under– it’s the best investment i’ve ever made! but if you must using measuring cups, make sure that when measuring flour, you spoon the flour into your measuring cup until you have a mound on top without packing any of it down, then gently using the back of a butter knife, level off the excess flour.
makes 12 rolls in a 9×13 pan
for the tangzhong:
1/4 c (35g) all purpose or bread flour
3/4 c (175g) water
for milk bread dough:
3 1/2 c (450g) all purpose or bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c (70g) granulated sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 c + 1 tbs whole milk, room temperature
tangzhong from above
4 tbs unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
1 c light or dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tb ground cinnamon
6 tb butter, room temperature
for coffee cream cheese frosting:
4 oz (half a package) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3 tb strong brewed coffee (i just use an instant coffee!), cooled completely
1. prepare the tangzhong: to a small to medium saucepan, combine the flour and water. whisk it until there are no more lumps. set it over medium heat, whisking constantly. as the mixture starts to thicken slightly, lower heat to low and continue whisking until it’s a semi thick paste, resembling mashed potatoes. remove from heat and transfer to heat safe bowl. cover lightly with plastic wrap and let cool slightly.
2. prepare the dough: to the bowl of your stand mixer, combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. give it a quick mix. in a small bowl, combine egg and milk and beat lightly. add milk mixture and tangzhong to the flour mixture. with the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until all the dry flour is incorporated into the dough and a shaggy dough starts to form. then, increase the speed by one. as the dough hook is kneading the dough, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, letting the butter fully incorporate into the dough before adding more. once all the butter is incorporated, let mixer knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
*the dough should be slightly sticky and wet but should not be sticking to the sides of the bowl. it SHOULD be sticking to the bottom of the bowl. if dough seems too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time. if dough seems dry, add milk half a tablespoon at a time.
with lightly greased hands, remove dough from mixer bowl and pull the sides of the dough down into the bottom center, creating a smooth and taut round ball on top. place the dough seam side down into a lightly greased large bowl. cover with kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
3. prepare the filling: while the dough is rising, prepare the filling. in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and butter. with the back of a fork, mix until well incorporated.
4. roll out dough: lightly punch down the dough in the bowl to remove excess air. on a well floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle that is about 14×18 inches. with the long (18 inch) side facing you.
5. assemble: with an offset spatula, dot the filling all around the rolled out dough. then, with the spatula on an angle, carefully spread the filling until the entire dough is covered. starting on the side facing you, closest to you, tightly roll up into a long log. you may want to trim off ends if tapered. cut the log into 12 equal rolls. and place into a 9×13 baking pan. cover with kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes, until rolls have almost doubled in size.
6. preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
7. bake: bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are slightly golden brown.
8. prepare coffee frosting: while the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer with a the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy. add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on high for 1 minute and scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding more. once all the sugar is well incorporated, on low speed, add vanilla, salt, and coffee. once it’s mixed in, beat on high for 2 minutes, until everything is fluffy smooth.
9. frost rolls: once you remove the rolls from the oven, dollop the frosting on top of each roll and swirl around the top of the roll to spread. frosting will melt slightly and become beautifully incorporated into the crevices of the warm rolls.
let cool slightly before enjoying!!! please let me know if you’ve tried these and tag me on instagram so i can see your beautiful creations!