Prepare yourself for the Softest Cinnamon Rolls with Tangzhong! They’re wonderfully fluffy and perfectly sweet, thanks to a thick vanilla bean icing! Made with easy-to-follow step-by-step photos and instructions that yield perfectly delicious Cinnamon Rolls every time!
You Will Love Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls
Pour that morning steamy cup of coffee and grab one of these Tangzhong cinnamon rolls to begin your day with! After all, no bad day has ever started with Cinnamon Rolls, especially these ones!
I have spent years trying and testing cinnamon rolls to make sure that when I finally shared this classic pastry with you, the recipe would be perfect. I love that this recipe (though long and many steps) is actually pretty easy!
Thanks to the addition of tangzhong, every bite of these cinnamon rolls is pillowy soft, deliciously moist, and satisfyingly sweet! Between their dreamy texture, cozy cinnamon filling, and vanilla frosting, I wouldn’t just save them for breakfast. Instead, enjoy them as a midday snack and even for dessert!
What Makes Cinnamon Rolls With Tangzhong Different?
Tangzhong creates a paste-like mixture from cooking bread flour with water and whole milk. Once this mixture has cooled slightly, it’s incorporated into the dough, which locks and traps lots of moisture in the dough.
This extra moisture turns to steam during baking, which in turn delivers light, fluffy cinnamon rolls. This method also keeps them light and fluffy for longer, preventing them from drying out after just one day!
This added simple step makes for a delicious texture that you just can’t get in cinnamon rolls that are made without tangzhong.
Ingredients for Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls
Full recipe with ingredients amounts can be found towards the bottom of the post after all of the helpful tips, step-by-step photos, and more in the post that will help you make the best cinnamon rolls ever!
- Whole Milk
- Bread Flour
- Powdered Milk
- Granulated Sugar
- Instant Yeast
- Large Eggs
- Large Egg Yolk
- Salted Butter
- Vegetable Oil
- Dark Brown Sugar
- Corn Starch
- Ground Cinnamon
- Powdered Sugar
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Bean Paste
The secret to the Softest Cinnamon Rolls with Tangzhong isn’t solely found in the recipe ingredients as much as it is the technique of making them. Steps such as preparing and incorporating the tangzhong, working with yeast, and allowing them to rise in a warm location of your home three times are all essential to creating the best cinnamon rolls!
As is being careful not to overwork the dough, however, ingredients such as bread flour, powdered milk, and vanilla bean paste all play a huge role in flavor and texture as well!
Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Rolls Substitutions & Variations
- Bread Flour – All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour. However, this swap will impact how light and fluffy the cinnamon rolls turn out!
- Vegetable Oil – Canola oil can be used in place of vegetable oil.
- Salted Butter – If you have unsalted butter on hand, that can be substituted into the recipe to replace salted butter. Additional salt will just need to be added to balance out the recipe.
- Vanilla Bean Paste – The icing recipe can be made with vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean paste. To do so, use 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract in its place.
- Cream Cheese Frosting – If you prefer cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting, feel free to skip the icing in this recipe and instead whip up a batch of your favorite cream cheese frosting to finish them off with.
- Extra Icing – Double the icing recipe for an extra gooey treat!
TikTok Cinnamon Rolls With Heavy Cream Variation
This trend has been popular all over TikTok for the last year, but it was actually my friend, Julie from Tastes of Lizzy T, who originally shared that method years and years ago – so she deserves the credit for this trick! For extra gooey cinnamon rolls, pour 3/4 cup of heavy cream over the top before covering them for their second rise. This takes them from holdable to requiring a fork to eat them!
How To Make Cinnamon Rolls With Tangzhong
Step 1: Prepare the Tangzhong by combining whole milk and water with bread flour in a small saucepan. Whisk this mixture together until smooth and cook until thick and gelatinous. Afterward, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.
Step 2: Begin mixing up the cinnamon roll dough by mixing the bread flour, powdered milk, granulated sugar, instant yeast, and salt in a large bowl or stand mixer that’s fitted with a dough hook attachment.
Step 3: Pour in the whole milk and add the large eggs along with the additional egg yolk and mix.
Step 4: Mix in the melted salted butter and the prepared tangzhong until thoroughly combined. The mixture should resemble sticky dough.
Step 5: Cover the dough and allow it to rest in the bowl.
Step 6: Knead the rested dough at medium-high speed until it becomes smooth and elastic. Resist the urge to add additional flour!
Step 7: The dough should be tacky and pliable yet not sticky when it’s ready. Turn the dough out into a large bowl that has vegetable oil in it. Rotate the dough so that it becomes oiled on all sides. Afterward, cover the bowl with cling wrap and allow it to rise in a warm location of your home.
Step 8: Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down in the center.
Step 9: Transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a rectangular shape using your hands. Then, roll it out into a large rectangle.
Step 10: Line a large, rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Then, prepare the cinnamon sugar filling by first partially melting salted butter in the microwave. Using a pastry brush, brush the partially melted butter all over the surface of the dough.
Step 11: Stir dark brown sugar, cornstarch, and ground cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
Step 12: Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the brushed-on butter, leaving half an inch to an inch border at one of the shorter ends. Next, use a rolling pin to roll over and press the sugar into the dough.
Step 13: Cut the dough into 12 strips that are about 1 1/3-inch wide using a pizza or pastry cutter.
Step 14: Roll the slices of cinnamon roll dough up to create a pinwheel. To do so, start with the fully sugared end, making it fairly tight, then secure it with the exposed buttered end without sugar on it. If needed, brush more butter onto the outside of the roll to secure the end.
Step 15: Transfer the rolls to a parchment-lined baking pan with a little space between each. To enjoy the heavy cream variation of these rolls, pour heavy cream over the top of the cinnamon rolls. If not, skip this step, cover the rolls with plastic wrap, and then allow them to rise.
Step 16: With about 15 minutes left of rise time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once preheated, uncover the rolls and transfer the baking dish into the oven on the lowest rack. Bake until golden brown.
Step 20: Prepare the icing as the rolls cool by melting salted butter in a medium bowl in the microwave. Then, whisk in powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla bean paste until smooth with no lumps.
Step 21: Spread the icing over the top of the warm buns using a rubber spatula or spoon.
How Long To Cook Cinnamon Rolls
A batch of the cinnamon roll recipe will take about 22 to 25 minutes to bake. Keep in mind, though, that all ovens will bake and hold their temperatures differently.
Therefore, an instant-read kitchen thermometer is a good method to check for doneness on cinnamon rolls. Insert the thermometer into the center of the rolls; once it reads 190 degrees F, the cinnamon rolls are done baking.
How To Ice Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls
To ice these Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls, I have found that using a rubber spatula or rubber spoon works better than a knife. Therefore, dip the rubber spatula into the icing and then spread it across the rolls, being sure to distribute the icing across all of them evenly.
Tips For Making Fluffy Cinnamon Rolls
- Tangzhong Method – The tangzhong method is the key step to keeping these cinnamon rolls softer for longer since it helps to retain the moisture in the rolls. Therefore, it’s important to accurately make this paste by following the recipe instructions.
- Properly Measured Ingredients – Accidentally adding too much or too little of an ingredient can greatly impact a recipe. Therefore, on the recipe card, I included weighted measurements for complete recipe accuracy. To measure the ingredients, you’ll need a kitchen scale! However, if you only measure one ingredient correctly, let it be the flour, as this one is easy to measure incorrectly. Check out these easy ways to measure flour correctly!
- Bread Flour – Use bread flour! Since bread flour has a higher percentage of protein, it creates a softer dough that has a better rise. While all-purpose flour will work in this recipe, it just doesn’t deliver cinnamon rolls that have a soft, fluffy texture the same way that bread flour will!
- Yeast – Yeast is the leavening agent that plays a large part in these cinnamon rolls! The yeast feeds on the sugars, which creates carbon dioxide, causing the rolls to rise into soft, fluffy pillows of dough. Therefore, your yeast must be high quality and not expired!
- Rising – Be sure to place the dough in a warm spot to encourage the dough and rolls to rise. If the dough is in a place that’s not warm enough, it won’t rise, which will cause it to lose its fluffy texture. The rolls are ready for the oven when they’re puffy, touching, and crowding each other from their risen size.
- Rolling – Be careful not to overwork the dough while rolling. Doing so could cause too much gluten to develop, which would lead to hard, dry cinnamon rolls.
- Bake Time – Keep a close eye on the cinnamon rolls as they bake so that they don’t overbake. Utilize an instant-read kitchen thermometer to ensure they don’t dry out from overbaking!
Can These Soft Cinnamon Rolls Be Made Ahead?
Yes, these cinnamon rolls have an overnight option that makes breakfast or brunch a breeze! To make them ahead of time, once the rolls are in the pan on step 8 on the recipe card, under the “Filling” instructions, do not allow them to rise.
Instead, cover the dish of cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap and then immediately transfer them to the refrigerator. When you’re ready to enjoy them, add 2 to 3 minutes to the baking time.
Storing Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls
Since these Cinnamon Rolls are made using the tangzhong method, you’ll be able to enjoy their soft, fluffy texture for up to 3 days. To store them, place them in an airtight container and keep them at room temperature.
You can also freeze them for up to one month! Which makes it extremely convenient to enjoy them later!
How To Reheat Cinnamon Rolls With Tangzhong
To reheat these cinnamon rolls back up to enjoy their gooey goodness, simply pop them in the microwave or the oven.
Soft Cinnamon Rolls Recipe FAQs
There are multiple possible reasons that could have caused your cinnamon rolls not to turn out fluffy. Too much flour could have accidentally been added, or the dough may have been overworked, causing too much gluten to develop.
Be sure the cinnamon rolls have ample time to rise, as this is the process that gives them their light, fluffy texture.
Yes, the cinnamon rolls should be touching. They begin to touch once they’ve had ample time to rise properly.
Only partially melting the butter allows it to form a creamy paste-like consistency that holds the cinnamon sugar mixture better than fully melted butter.
I find that rolling each slice individually allowed the cinnamon rolls to have a perfect shape without overworking the dough. However, if you prefer, you can roll the entire dough into a log and then cut it.
If you use the log method, I’d suggest using unflavored dental floss to cut the log into slices, as this will prevent them from getting squished.
Tangzhong is a traditional Chinese bread-making method that then worked its way into Japan. However, in Japan, it is known as milk bread.
If the dough sticks to your finger when checking it, add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time. Once the dough feels tacky but doesn’t stick to your finger, you can stop adding the flour.
If the cinnamon rolls didn’t rise, it’s likely because they weren’t warm enough. Just give them extra time than stated on the recipe card so that the yeast has a chance to work.
If, after more time, they still don’t rise, then it’s possible that your yeast has expired. Or if you were using a traditional dry active yeast, that your milk was too hot and killed it.
No worries, we did an unintentional test recipe with this “no punch” method because I forgot to, too! Your cinnamon rolls will still turn out great, BUT they will be tougher quicker, so they are best enjoyed the day they are baked if you forget this step!
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Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls
- 4¼ cups bread flour 574g, spooned and leveled, plus extra if the dough is sticky
- ¼ cup powdered milk 20g
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 56g
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast 8g
- ½ teaspoon salt 4g
- 1¼ cups whole milk 290g, room temperature (250g/cup)
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 additional large egg yolk room temperature
- 6 tablespoons salted butter 84g
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil for coating the proofing bowl
- Add ½ cup whole milk, ¼ cup water, and ¼ cup bread flour to a small saucepan and whisk over medium heat until smooth. Cook until thick and gelatinous, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix together 4¼ cups bread flour, ¼ cup powdered milk, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon instant yeast, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Add in 1¼ cups whole milk, 2 large eggs, and 1 additional large egg yolk and mix for 15 seconds.
- Mix in the melted 6 tablespoons salted butter and the tangzhong that was prepped earlier and mix until thoroughly combined and the mixture resembles sticky dough.
- Cover the dough and let it rest in the bowl for 20 minutes.
- After resting, knead for about 10 minutes at medium-high speed (speed 6 on a stand mixer) until smooth and elastic. Resist the urge to add additional flour.
- When the dough is ready, it should feel tacky (but not sticky) and pliable. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil to a large clean bowl and turn your dough out into it. Rotate the dough so it’s oiled on all sides, then cover it with cling wrap and let it rise somewhere warm for 75 to 90 minutes. It should double in size within that time.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down in the center, then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangular shape, then roll it out into a 16×18-inch rectangle measuring; it doesn’t have to be exact.
- Line a large 12×17-inch rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.
- Partially melt ½ cup salted butter in the microwave for 15 seconds, then use a pastry brush to stir and brush the butter all over the surface of the dough. Yes, we are partially melting already room temperature butter because this allows us to do a quick partial melt and stir the butter into a creamy paste-like consistency for brushing. You don't want to use all melted butter for this step because it's too thin and won't hold the filling in as well.
- In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons corn starch, and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon with a fork until mixed.
- Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter, and leave a ½ to 1-inch border at one of the shorter ends. Then use a rolling pin to roll over and press the sugar into the dough.
- Use a pizza or pastry cutter to cut the dough into 12 strips about 1⅓-inch wide with, the cuts starting from the shorter (16-inch) side of the dough.
- Roll up each strip of dough to create a pinwheel, starting with the fully sugared end, making sure it's fairly tight, then securing with the exposed buttered end without sugar on it. You can brush more butter onto the outside of the roll if needed to secure the end.
- Place the rolls on the parchment-lined baking pan with a little space between.
- Heavy Cream Variation: If you prefer a more gooey cinnamon roll, pour ¾ cup of heavy cream over the top of the cinnamon rolls right before covering for their second rise. These rolls are very tender and soft without doing this, but this method yields a bit more of a gooey texture. Think holdable vs requiring a fork.
- Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 to 60 minutes. They should now be touching and crowding each other and be fairly puffy.
- Overnight Instructions: Transfer the covered rolls to the refrigerator immediately after placing them on the pan for a second slow rise for 8 to 12 hours. Add 2 to 3 minutes to the bake time with this method.
- With about 15 minutes left of rise time, preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Bake the rolls on the lowest rack of the oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. When done, the center of the rolls should read 190°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.
- Prepare the icing by melting 2 tablespoons salted butter in a medium bowl in the microwave and then whisking in 1 cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup heavy cream, and ½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste until smooth. If you want extra gooey cinnamon rolls, you can 1.5x this recipe.
- Use a rubber spatula or spoon to spread the icing over the top of the warm rolls