These homemade Pecan Cinnamon Rolls are sure to become a new family favorite. Made with a soft pillowy dough, a cinnamon sugar filling made with plenty of cinnamon, and topped with a buttery glaze, these cinnamon rolls are absolutely delicious. In this recipe, I'll show you why heating the milk to 180°F and baking the cinnamon rolls with heavy cream produces the fluffiest and most delicious cinnamon rolls you've ever tasted.
Texture. This cinnamon roll dough is an enriched dough because of the addition of butter and eggs. The fat in the eggs and butter makes the dough extra soft and tender.
In addition, the milk is heated to 180 degrees F. Heating the milk to this temperature, also known as scalding, loosens the protein bonds in the milk, which is called denaturing. Denaturing the protein allows for better gluten formation, which results in more tender cinnamon rolls.
Flavor. The smell of cinnamon will fill your house as these rolls bake. Once you take your first bite, you'll fall in love with the fresh homemade dough, the gooey cinnamon filling, and the caramel formed by the addition of heavy cream.
The pecans add a delicious crunch and extra flavor that will make your taste buds happy.
Pecan Cinnamon Roll Ingredients
- Unbleached All-Purpose Flour: Flour provides the dough structure. All-purpose flour is best for these cinnamon rolls.
- Active Dry Yeast: Yeast is what causes the dough to rise. If you haven’t made a yeast bread in a while check the expiration date on your package. See my recipe notes below on how to check if the yeast is still good.
- Granulated Sugar: Sugar is necessary for flavor and it feeds the yeast.
- Kosher Salt: Salt adds flavor.
- Whole Milk: Whole milk is ideal for the richest-tasting cinnamon rolls.
- Unsalted Butter: This is an enriched dough, meaning it has fat that adds flavor and helps guarantee softness. Salted butter can make the dough too salty, so make sure to use unsalted butter.
- Large Eggs: Like butter, egg promises a softer, richer dough. This recipe
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream is poured over the cinnamon rolls right before they go in the oven. As the cinnamon rolls bake the cream combines with the cinnamon filling to create an extra gooey filling.
How to Make Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Allow plenty of time to make these cinnamon rolls. While most of the time is hands-off, the recipe requires 2 rises of the dough plus baking time.
Step 1: Measure out all your ingredients before you start mixing. This step will ensure you don’t mismeasure and once you start the mixer you won’t have to stop to measure out an ingredient.
Step 2: Over medium heat, heat your milk to 180 degrees F in a small saucepan. Once it reaches temperature, remove it from the heat and add the butter and gently stir together until the butter melts. Cool the milk mixture to 120 to 130 degrees F.
Step 3: While the milk is cooling place half the flour, all of the sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together.
Step 4: With the mixer on low speed and using the paddle attachment, slowly add the warm milk to the dry ingredients.
Step 5: Next add the eggs and mix until the eggs are incorporated. Add the remaining flour and mix on low speed until that flour is incorporated.
Step 6: Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until it is soft, elastic (springs back when poked with your finger), and the dough passes the window pan test.
The time required for kneading the dough can vary based on the type and size of your mixer. Be patient and knead the dough until it's ready.
Take a small piece of dough, about 2 tablespoons, or the size of a golf ball. Slowly stretch the dough into a square, until the dough is thin enough for light to pass through. If you can stretch the dough this thin without tearing, then the dough has been kneaded enough and is ready for its first rise.
Step 7: Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for 30 seconds into a smooth round bowl. Place it in a lightly oiled ceramic bowl or glass bowl.
Step 8: Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 60-90 minutes. When the dough has doubled, punch it down with your first.
Cinnamon Roll Filling
- Unsalted Butter: Use soft butter - it’s easier to mix in with the sugar and cinnamon.
- Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds a delicious molasses flavor and when combined with the heavy cream creates a caramel sauce on the bottom of the rolls. Use light or dark brown sugar.
- Ground Cinnamon: Can’t have cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon and there is plenty in this filling. Use
- Pecans: Make sure to toast the pecans before adding them to the filling. Toasted nuts have more flavor.
Step 9: On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a 12x19-inch rectangle. Use your hands to gently pull the corners of the dough outward into a square shape.
Step 10: Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, then sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cinnamon filling.
Step 11: Roll the dough into a cylinder. Trim the ends, then cut the cylinder into 12 even pieces.
Step 12: Place the cinnamon rolls into the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let the cinnamon rolls rise until almost doubled in size.
Step 13: When the cinnamon rolls are ready, preheat the oven, pour the warm heavy cream over the rolls, and
Before adding the heavy cream to the rolls, warm the cream to 100 degrees F, which is about 30 seconds in the microwave. Don't pour cold cream over the cinnamon rolls.
Bake the cinnamon rolls until they are dark golden brown, have risen, and the internal temperature of one of tholls in the center registers 190°F (88°C) using an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the rolls from the oven, and put them on a wire rack. Let the cinnamon rolls cool for 15 minutes then spread the cinnamon roll icing over the warm rolls.
How to Make the Cinnamon Roll Icing
While the cinnamon rolls are baking make your cinnamon roll icing. You can make this icing by hand or with a handheld mixer, but making it with a handheld mixer is quicker and easier
Place the powdered sugar, milk, and butter in a large bowl. With the handheld mixer, mix the ingredients on low speed until the powdered sugar and butter are mostly mixed together.
Increase the speed to medium and mix until the icing is smooth and creamy. The icing is thick. If you want a thinner icing, add 1-2 additional tablespoons of milk.
Add half the frosting to the rolls 10 minutes after the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven so the frosting soaks into the rolls. Wait for the rolls to slightly cool and add the remaining frosting.
What To Do If Your Kitchen Is Cold
One of the challenges of baking during cold weather is having a kitchen that is too cool for the dough to rise. So here are the directions to make your own proofing box in your oven to help ensure that your cinnamon rolls get a proper rise.
Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour 8 cups of boiling water into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set it on the floor or bottom rack of your oven. Place the bowl with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Repeat these steps for the second rise.
Why Heavy Cream Makes Cinnamon Rolls Ooey Gooey
The trick to making these cinnamon rolls extra tender is the addition of heavy cream right before baking the cinnamon rolls.
As the cinnamon rolls bake, the cream heats up and soaks into the rolls, adding moisture and making them more tender. The remaining fat and sugar in the cream, caramelizes and mixes with the cinnamon filling to create a sticky syrup that coats the bottom of the rolls.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Use a Kitchen Scale: Use a scale to measure your flour to ensure you're adding the right amount. Too much flour will result in dry cinnamon rolls and too little flour the dough will be too soft and not hold its shape.
- Milk Temperature: Use an instant-read thermometer to check the milk temperature before adding the milk mixture to the other ingredients. If the milk is too hot, it could kill the yeast, and the dough won't rise.
- Instant-Read Thermometer: This tool is so helpful for checking the temperate of the milk, but also for ensuring the cinnamon rolls are done. Brush the inside edges of the puff pastry with egg wash to help it stay in position as the galette bakes.
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Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon Roll Dough
- 5 cups (625 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour divided
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup (63 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon for buttering the baking dish room temperature
- 3 large (150 grams ) eggs room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream heated to 100℉
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces (113 grams) pecans toasted and chopped
- 12 tablespoons (169 grams) unsalted butter softened (about 75℉)
Cinnamon Roll Icing
- 1-1/2 cups (170 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
- 8 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter softened
- 1-2 tablespoons whole milk
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. If you’re using a USA Pan baking pan or a similar pan with nonstick coating you won’t need to line it with parchment.
Make the Cinnamon Roll Dough
- Cut the remaining butter into 8 pieces. Heat the milk in a small saucepan to 180 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the butter and gently stir until the butter is almost completely melted and there are just 1 or 2 small pieces left. Pour the mixture into a 1 cup measuring cup and cool it to 120 – 130 degrees F.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them together.
- Place 2-1/2 cups of the flour, the salt, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. When you add the yeast and salt to the bowl, make sure to add them on opposite sides of the bowl. You don’t want the yeast and salt to come in direct contact. Whisk the ingredients together.
- With the paddle attachment and the mixer on low speed (speed 2 on a KitchenAid mixer) slowly add the warm milk to the dry ingredients. When all the milk is added slowly pour the eggs into the bowl as the mixer is running.
- When the eggs are fully incorporated and there are no bits of flour left, add the remaining flour in 5 batches. You can use a large spoon or a measuring cup for this step. As soon as all the flour is mixed in, switch to the dough hook. Make sure to remove as much dough as possible from the paddle attachment.
- With the dough hook knead the dough on low speed (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) until the dough is smooth, elastic and clears the sides of the bowl, 13-15 minutes. The dough should not stick to your finger when you poke it with your finger, and it should pass the windowpane test.
- For the windowpane test, take a small piece of dough, about the size of a golf ball and gently stretch it into a square. Keep on stretching until it becomes a thin enough for light to pass through it without tearing. If the dough tears, knead for 2 more minutes and perform the windowpane test again
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Lightly spray a large bowl or an 8-cup glass measuring cup with non-stick spray or brush it with vegetable oil. Place the dough seam side down in the oiled container and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Place the dough in a warm spot let it rise until doubled in volume, about 60-90 minutes. If you kitchen is cold see my note below for creating your own proofing box.
- NOTE: I recommend using the 8-cup measuring cup because the markings on the side are good indicator of when the dough has doubled.
- When the dough has risen gently turn the dough onto a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12 x 19-inch rectangle. As you roll out the dough roll it out from the center, so the dough is even thickness throughout. If the dough keeps springing back on you and is difficult to roll out, let it rest for 10 minutes and then try rolling it out again. Use your hands to gently stretch the corners of the dough so they are as square as possible.
- Use an offset spatula spread the cinnamon-sugar filling across the dough and leave an 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cinnamon roll filling. With the long side of the dough square facing you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Roll the dough until the seam is face down. Trim the ends so the cylinder is 18 inches long.
- Use a ruler to mark the dough and with a sharp knife cut 12 rolls 1 1/2-inches wide each.
- Place the rolls in the buttered pan evenly spaced from each other and the sides of the pan. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. If your kitchen is still cool you can recreate the proofing box in your oven.
- When the rolls look doubled in size check them by gently and lightly poking a puffy corner with the knuckle of your index finger. If the dough springs back it is ready.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Right before the rolls are placed in the oven, heat 1/2 cup of heavy cream in the microwave until it is about 90 degrees F. With a pastry brush, brush the top of the rolls with the cream. Slowly pour the remaining cream over the rolls. The cream mixture will settle on the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 30-35 minutes until the cinnamon rolls have risen and they are dark golden brown. Use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of one of the rolls in the center. It should register 190 degrees F.
- While the rolls are cooling make the cinnamon roll icing (see the recipe below).
- Remove the cinnamon rolls from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool. Let the rolls cool for 15 minutes, then spread the glaze over the rolls while they are still warm.
Cinnamon Roll Filling
- For the cinnamon roll filling the butter needs to really soft. Your finger will make an imprint with zero resistance.
- Place the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and whisk the ingredients together.
- Cut the butter into 8 pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. With a fork or your fingers mix the butter into the sugar-cinnamon mixture until the ingredients are well combined.
Cinnamon Roll Icing
- Place the powdered sugar, unsalted butter, and 1 tablespoon of the milk in large bowl. With a handheld mixer, mix the ingredient first on low speed then on medium speed until the ingredients are combined and icing is smooth.
- The icing is thick. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if you want a slightly thinner icing.
- Spread half of the mixture over the cinnamon rolls 10 minutes after they have come out of the oven and while they are still warm. The glaze will melt into the cinnamon rolls. When the rolls have cooled slightly spread the remaining glaze on the rolls.
- Serve the rolls warms or at room temperature.
- Room Temperature: The cinnamon rolls are good at room temperature for up to 2 days. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or place the rolls in a large container with a lid.
- Refrigerator: The cinnamon rolls can be stored in the refrigerator for up 1 week in an airtight container. Don’t place the rolls uncovered in the refrigerator or they’ll dry out.