Learn my recipe for delicious, long-fermented sourdough cinnamon rolls. Make with eggnog and extra spices if it’s the holiday season, or with the milk of your choice all year long! Make ahead for a gut-friendly, decadent weekend breakfast.
*Updated December 2021*
Have you ever gone deep into an internet rabbit hole trying to find the perfect recipe, just to come up completely empty-handed? That was me with this eggnog sourdough cinnamon rolls recipe – for weeks. I could find sourdough cinnamon rolls, I could find eggnog cinnamon rolls, but I could not find a combo. So I set out to create one – Make-Ahead Eggnog and Spice Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, i.e. the perfect Christmas morning breakfast.
I’ve been trying to establish a Christmas morning cinnamon roll tradition for a few years now, but had yet to land on a perfect recipe. For a while, I did a savory wreath version with pesto, parmesan, and roasted red peppers. My parents prefer savory breakfasts, so this fulfilled my desire to play with dough and was something they wanted to eat Christmas morning. Our 2020 Quarantine Christmas was just my partner and I, and he loves sweet breakfasts.
Also, I realize it’s now after Christmas, but this recipe can totally be repurposed for regular cinnamon rolls by swapping the eggnog for regular milk and dialing down the spices in the cinnamon-sugar filling. And if you happen to have some leftover eggnog, I’m just sayin’ New Year’s Day deserves a fancy breakfast too.
So, in developing this sourdough cinnamon rolls recipe, I had a few criteria I wanted to meet –
- Flavor-wise, my biggest criterion was I wanted to substitute the milk for eggnog and punch up the spices in the filling. Really, these aren’t just cinnamon rolls, but cinnamon-ginger-nutmeg-clove-cardamom-allspice rolls.
- Timing-wise, I didn’t want to have to faff about with dough either late in the evening on Christmas Eve or first thing Christmas morning.
- This may seem obvious from the title but, sourdough – this may be a decadent, occasional breakfast, but the long, slow ferment of the sourdough makes it both healthier than regular cinnamon rolls and gives latitude on the timing.
For context, my family’s Christmas Eve tradition is to watch It’s a Wonderful Life while drinking Bailey’s-laced hot cocoa. In this year of non-family Christmas, my lovely partner acquiesced to my jamming every holiday tradition I have into a two-person celebration (even my making 216+ Christmas cookies…). Post-movie, I’m never in the mood to keep baking. I’m sleepy and warm and want to crawl into bed and wait for Santa to come.
Ditto Christmas morning. I want to drink Bailey’s-laced coffee and open presents. Not deal with a rolling pin or that I forgot to soften the butter or…you get the picture.
Basically, I wanted a simple recipe that could be made far enough ahead that all I had to do Christmas Eve was stick them in the fridge and all I had to do Christmas morning was stick them in the oven. Much like my sourdough pizza, this recipe is pretty low-fuss. The dough is a dream to work with, and the schedule can be worked around your other tasks. There are a lot of steps, yes, but they’re easy to follow, and the stand mixer does the majority of the work.
How do you make sourdough cinnamon rolls?
This recipe is super simple, and the mixer does the work. Combine your wet ingredients in the mix, then add your dry. Let the dough hydrate, then knead til you have a smooth, supple dough. Let rise, roll out and fill, fridge overnight. Then back the next morning for a no-fuss, decadent breakfast!
How do you make homemade cinnamon rolls moist?
The key with an enriched dough is making sure it has a high enough fat content (and not over-baking it). Here, the combo of melted butter and eggnog keep this dough super soft, easy to work with, and melt-in-your-mouth moist.
Do you have to let these rise overnight?
I have not tried this, but I don’t think you necessarily have to. Since these have such a long bulk ferment, you could let them rise an hour or two after rolling and filling, then bake in the evening. But retarding the dough in the fridge overnight improves flavor and yields fresh, warm rolls for breakfast in the morning. For ease, though, I think you could bake them off the night before, then reheat or eat cold in the morning.
Can you freeze sourdough cinnamon rolls?
Yes! Proceed through rolling, filling, and cutting, and then freeze your prepped cinnamon rolls. When you’re ready to eat, pull out the night before and let sit in the fridge overnight to defrost. Then proceed with letting them rise an hour or two on the counter before baking, as described below. You could also completely bake and then freeze before icing.
How do you store sourdough cinnamon rolls?
I put the leftovers on a plate, wrapped tightly in plastic, and fridged. Because of the cream cheese in the glaze, I wanted to store them chilled. Ours only lasted til the next day (because we ate them), but they should last a few days. Though they might start to dry out.
Here’s how I broke things down (baker’s schedule) –
Thursday morning (Christmas Eve)
- 6:00 am – Discarded and fed my sourdough starter
- 10:00 am – Made the cinnamon roll dough
- 10:00 am – 8:00 pm – Bulk rise (including one round of stretch and folds about 3 hours into the rising time)
- (in 2021 my bulk rise only took ~6-7 hours. My kitchen was warm because I was using it all day, and I kept the dough in the microwave)
Thursday evening (Christmas Eve)
- 8:00 pm – We cleaned up Christmas Eve dinner, and then I made the cinnamon roll filling and rolled and shaped them.
- 9:00 pm – After letting the rolls sit out for an hour to get a head start on their second rise, into the fridge they went overnight.
Friday morning (Christmas Day)
- 7:30-9:30 am – Moved the cinnamon rolls from the fridge to the counter and let them rise at room temp for two hours.
- 9:30 am – Baked!
- 10:30 am – After cooling for 15 minutes, glazed and ate!
These cinnamon rolls are incredible – fluffy and soft, with a subtle eggnog flavor. (Subtle enough that if you don’t actually like drinking eggnog, like me, they’re still delicious!) The glaze is sweet and decadent. The filling is spicy and aromatic to balance the sweetness.
Just do yourself a favor and make them. If it’s no longer Christmas and you can’t find eggnog, or you’re just holiday-ed out, swap the eggnog for normal milk. Whole milk will definitely work here, skim should, but I’m less sure about plant-based milks. If you try one, let me know how it works! Likewise, if you’re not feeling it, feel free to cut the other spices from the filling and just increase the cinnamon to a tablespoon.
Enriched Brioche Dough
- 160g (2/3 cup) eggnog (or whole milk)
- 113g (8 tbsp or 1 stick) salted butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 100g (1/2 cup) active, bubbly sourdough starter (fed ~4 hours before beginning dough)
- 24g (2 tbsp) maple syrup (or honey or sugar – if the latter, you may need to reduce the amount of flour in the dough)
- 490g (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- A large, greased bowl for the dough to rise in
Sugar and Spice Filling
- 90g (6 tbsp) very soft butter
- 150g (2/3 cup) dark brown sugar (or light brown sugar, if you prefer)
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- Pinch salt
- 1 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
Eggnog Cream Cheese Glaze
- 56g (2 oz) softened cream cheese
- 56g (4 tbsp) softened salted butter
- 246g (2 cups) powdered sugar, more as needed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 80g (6 tbsp) eggnog, more as needed
- Note: This will make a GENEROUS amount of icing, feel free to scale down.
Prepping the dough:
- In a measuring cup, combine eggnog and melted butter. You may need to zap for ~20 seconds in the microwave if the butter resolidifies, but you don’t want the mixture to be warm.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine active starter, maple syrup (or other sweetener), and egg. Mix to combine with the paddle attachment. Once combined, keep the machine running and slowly pour in melted butter and eggnog.
- Add salt and flour in three additions so you don’t shoot flour everywhere. Mix until a shaggy dough forms.
- Scrape dough off paddle and sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes while the dough hydrates.
- After the dough has rested, use the dough hook to knead on low to medium speed until it’s soft and stretchy and cleans the sides of the bowl. It might still be a little tacky, but it shouldn’t be sticky anymore. In my mixer, it takes about 10 minutes.
- Transfer kneaded dough to a large, greased bowl and cover again with the damp tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size. It will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, but it should take 6-10 hours. I stuck mine in the oven on with the light on, and it took 7 hours. (At about the three-hour mark, I did one round of stretch-and-folds and re-dampened my tea towel.)
Rolling and filling:
- When your dough has doubled in size, line with parchment and butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
- Flour your countertop and scrape the dough onto it. Pat into a rough rectangle and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, prep your filling. If your butter isn’t already soft and spreadable, microwave it for a few seconds. In a bowl, combine sugar and spices.
- Dust your rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough into roughly a 18×14-inch rectangle. If the dough springs back too much, lest rest 5-10 minutes and try again.
- Spread softened butter across the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle sugar and spice mixture evenly on top, stopping a ½-inch short of one long edge.
- Starting with the other long side, roll the dough into a log (towards the side with no filling). Be sure to press gently as you roll so your swirl stays tight and your seam seals.
- Using a serrated knife or a length of thread, trim the edges of the dough to reveal your spirals and then cut into eight 2-inch sections. (So you should have enough to trim ~1 inch on each side.) I start by cutting the log in half, and then continue cutting each piece in half until I have eight. So cut the log into the halves, the halves into quarters, and then the quarters into eighths.
- Arrange your cinnamon rolls in the cast iron skillet, re-cover with the damp tea towel and allow to rise on the counter for about one hour.
- After an hour, pop the skillet in the fridge to chill overnight.
- In the morning, pull the skillet out of the fridge and let it warm up for one-two hours, until the dough looks puffed.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. When dough looks ready, place on center rack and bake 35-45 minutes. Tops should look lightly golden brown when the rolls are finished.
- When done, remove from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze. In your stand mixer, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until fluffy – about 2-3 minutes. Then mix in the eggnog and 2 cups of the powdered sugar, mixing until both are incorporated. Add more powdered sugar or eggnog to achieve desired consistency. As written, the recipe makes a thick, spreadable glaze that loosens as it hits the warm rolls.
- When rolls have cooled a bit, spread the glaze across and serve.