Sneak Preview: These soft and fluffy Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls (aka Japanese milk bread cinnamon rolls) employ the Tangzhong technique and a bread machine to make a sweet roll that stays soft and fresh longer than most homemade cinnamon rolls.
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Cinnamon rolls are like donuts. They taste best the day you bake them. But sometimes, you want or need to make and bake them ahead of time.
Making Cinnamon Rolls with the Tangzhong technique (aka Japanese milk bread) and a bread machine is the answer to your dilemma.
To be clear. Nothing beats a fresh-out-of-the-oven cinnamon roll. But unless you have ten hungry kids waiting to devour them before the icing sets, these are wonderful for savoring over several days.
No worries if you don’t have a bread machine. See directions in the recipe notes for using a stand mixer or mixing by hand.
Why these milk bread cinnamon rolls are the BEST:
Using the Tangzhong technique extends the shelf-life of these homemade Cinnamon Rolls longer than most homemade rolls.
They are appropriately ooey-gooey with a lighter, flakier, and more buttery texture. Counterbalance all that sweetness with the spicy but not overpowering flavor of cinnamon with the tiniest pinch of ground cloves.
What’s different about the method of mixing with the Tangzhong technique?
1. Begin by making a paste mixture using half of the milk and 3 tablespoons of flour.
This variation is called the Tangzhong technique. I use the microwave for cooking the paste because it’s quick. However, if you prefer, heat the milk and flour mixture in a small saucepan using medium heat on the stove.
It’s only one extra step. After you do it once, it won’t add much time beyond what’s required for normal cinnamon rolls
2. The Tangzhong method enables a higher ratio of liquid to flour.
Using the paste mixture made in step #1 results in a dough that needs less flour. In this particular recipe, the liquid (milk, egg, and heavy cream) equals 292 grams. The amount of flour is 360 grams. This works out to 81% hydration.
3. What is the purpose of using the Tangzhong method?
This method produces rolls that are softer, fluffier, and almost flaky. The simple Tangzhong technique also seems to prolong the shelf life or freshness of homemade bread which generally contains no preservatives.
How to mix up cinnamon rolls with a bread machine:
1. Whisk 3 tablespoons of flour into 1/2 cup of milk. Cook in the microwave for 1+ minutes, whisking every 30 seconds until the mixture turns into a thick pudding consistency. Don’t worry if there are a few small lumps. If you accidentally let it overcook into a single mass, it’s best to start over and watch it closer.
2. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk to “pudding” and pour it into your bread machine.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Set the machine on the DOUGH cycle and press “Start.”
4. About 10-15 minutes into the cycle, take a peek. The dough should stick to the side and pull away cleanly. See pictures and more details about why this is so important here.
The dough should look similar to this picture when the kneading has finished.
5. After the dough cycle is finished, check that the dough has risen to nearly double the original size. If not, leave the dough in the machine until it does.
6. When ready to roll out, two fingers poked in the dough will leave an indentation that won’t fill in.
Note to new bread machine users:
Open the lid to your bread machine as it mixes, and take a look at the dough. Check to see if the dough has the right consistency. It should stick to the side, then release cleanly. If you want more information about this process, go here to read the secret to making better bread in a bread machine.
At first, the dough will be lumpy with a rough texture. However, after about 20 minutes of kneading, it should begin to look smoother and more elastic.
If too slack, add additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if too dry, add more milk or cream, one tablespoon at a time. Allow the dough to absorb one tablespoon of flour or liquid for a couple of minutes. Then, look at the dough again to recheck the appearance of your dough.
Checking on the dough is VERY IMPORTANT to your success with bread in general, but especially with a bread machine.
How to roll out cinnamon rolls:
Nothing new here. This method is the traditional way to roll out cinnamon rolls.
Remove dough from your bread maker pan to a floured surface.
Divide dough into 2 equally-sized dough balls. Roll out one dough ball into a 13 x 10-inch rectangle.
Spread softened butter over the rectangle.
Sprinkle the buttered surface with the brown sugar and ground cinnamon mixture.
Begin rolling from the long side to make a cylinder as tight as you can.
Cut rolled cylinder in half. Use a serrated knife or dental floss to cut each half into four evenly-sized slices.
Arrange in a 9-inch round baking pan sprayed with Baker’s Joy or a similar flour-oil aerosol.
Cover the rolls lightly. Use a cheap shower cap, a tea towel, or loose plastic wrap.
When the dough has almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375˚F in preparation for baking. Be careful not to let rolls rise too much, or they will fall when baking.
Baker’s tip for rolling out the dough:
Cleaning after rolling out dough on the counter can be such a mess! Consequently, I use a silicone baking mat. When finished, shake the mat out in the trash or the sink, then throw it in the dishwasher. Yep! That easy.
Just one caveat: If you cut on it as I do, use a light hand so you don’t slice a hole in the mat. I know, I know. Of course, the manufacturer of these mats would not endorse this practice. But, I’ve been doing it for many years, and the process has not harmed a single mat.
FAQ about making cinnamon rolls with a bread machine
According to Wikipedia, it literally means “water roux.” Tangzhong is a Chinese term. Yudane is the Japanese name for a similar technique. Japanese milk bread is a common name for bread made with either of these techniques.
In my experience, the bread machine is the easiest and most fool-proof way to get the best product. Nothing kneads better than a bread machine. In addition, the DOUGH cycle automates the mixing and kneading so you can walk away and know the machine is kneading the dough to perfection.
No bread machine? See alternate instructions for making these rolls with a stand mixer in the notes of the recipe.
Yes. After you make the dough into rolls and have arranged them in the pan, cover and refrigerate. You can also freeze them at this point. Either way, allow extra time for the rolls to come to room temperature and double (almost) in volume before baking them.
Yes. The texture will be slightly chewier. Use all-purpose flour for the tenderest rolls. Also, the amount of liquid you need may vary if you use bread flour. Be sure to check the moisture of the dough as it’s kneading.
First, weigh the flour instead of using measuring cups. People who don’t measure nearly always add too much flour. Second, check the moisture of the dough while it kneads in the bread machine. It should stick to the sides, then pull away cleanly. Third, use a quick-read thermometer to know for sure when the rolls are done. The internal temperature should reach 190˚F. Be careful not to take the temperature in the gooey filling which will read hotter.
Yes. Freeze the unshaped dough as soon as the DOUGH cycle ends. Alternatively, freeze the shaped rolls before the final rise. Double wrap and store either in the freezer for up to a month.
When ready to use, let the dough thaw and shape the rolls. Allow a final rise before you bake them. If you froze shaped rolls, allow them to thaw and become puffy before baking them as directed.
Yes. Double-wrap them and eat them within a month. The rolls will taste pretty good if you zap them briefly in the microwave and eat them immediately.
Parting thoughts: Are you wondering if these cinnamon rolls are worth the bit of extra trouble? I think so. To me, Tangzhong cinnamon rolls have a better texture and flavor than most cinnamon rolls. However, we all have different tastes, standards, and priorities. So, if you want a more straightforward recipe, try my original cinnamon roll recipe.
If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula
Terrific Tangzhong Cinnamon Rolls from Your Bread Machine
- 1 cup whole milk - divided (227 gr)
- 3 cups unbleached flour - divided (360 gr)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter - 57 gr + 4 tablespoons for the filling (57 gr)
- 1 egg - 50 gr
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream - 15 gr OR 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon sugar - 12 gr
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt - 4 gr
- 2 teaspoons bread-machine or instant yeast - 6 gr
- ¾ cup brown sugar - 160 gr
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon - 2.6 gr
- Pinch of ground cloves
- ½ cup chopped - toasted pecans (optional) (57 gr)
- 2 cups powdered sugar - 227 gr
- 2 tablespoons coffee - leftover or instant is good enough or milk (28 gr)
- 1 ounce softened cream cheese - 28 gr
- Measure out 1 cup of milk (227 g). In a separate small bowl, measure out 3 cups flour (360g).
- Make a flour paste by whisking 3 tablespoons of the flour you just measured out and half of the milk (1/2 cup) together in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cook on HIGH in the microwave for 1 minute, whisking every 30 seconds. Cook an additional 15-30 seconds, if necessary until the mixture is as thick as pudding.
- Whisk the other 1/2 cup of milk into the flour paste mixture until it is fairly smooth.
- Add 1 egg (50 g), 1 T heavy cream(15 g) or 1 egg yolk, 1 T sugar (12 g), 1¼ t salt (4 g), 4 T of softened butter, the remaining flour, and yeast to the pan and select the DOUGH cycle. Press START.
- Check the dough at least twice by lifting the lid to take a peek. Do this right after the machine starts to see if the paddles are correctly engaged and the dough is starting to form a ball.Recheck the consistency of the dough again 15 minutes into the DOUGH cycle.If your dough is too wet, add flour one tablespoon at a time. The dough should stick to the side, then pull away cleanly.Conversely, if the dough is too dry, add one tablespoon of liquid at a time until the dough looks just right. Find out more about this surprising secret to success with a bread machine here.
- When the DOUGH cycle finishes, check to see if the dough has risen to double its original size. If so, remove it to a floured surface. If not, allow the dough to remain in the machine until it is double, then remove and proceed with the next step.
Shaping the rolls:
- Remove it from the bread pan, push down gently and divide dough in half. On a generously floured surface, roll each half into a rectangle size about 13 x 10 inches.
- Spread each rectangle with approximately 2 tablespoons of softened butter or heavy cream.
- Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.
- Distribute half of this mixture over first rectangle and half over the second. Sprinkle about 1/4 c. chopped, toasted, pecans over the brown-sugar/cinnamon layer.
- Roll up dough the long way. Slice into 8 equal pieces. Place cut side down into greased 8-inch pan or glass dish.
- Cover and let rise until almost double in a warm, moist place. Rolls should be touching each other when they have proofed enough.
- About 15 minutes before rolls will be ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake rolls for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Ice with 2 cups confectioners sugar mixed with 1-ounce cream cheese and 2 tablespoons coffee. You may need more or less liquid depending on how thick you like your icing.
- You only need a pinch of cloves. But don’t overdo it because that stuff is potent. (You can leave it out, but then your cinnamon rolls won’t be as special. Promise!)
- Substitute milk or cream for coffee in the icing if you don’t have or like coffee. The coffee taste is unidentifiable, but it sure is GOOD! It makes for a nice caramel color, too.
- To make this recipe in a heavy-duty stand mixer: Add ingredients to the bowl in the same order. Turn on LOW to mix until all ingredients are moistened. Then, using a dough hook, turn the speed to 2 or 3. Continue beating/kneading until dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 5-10 minutes). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. Deflate dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
- If making by hand: Combine all ingredients into a shaggy ball in a large bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Kneading will likely take 10-20 minutes, depending on your experience. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double. Deflate the dough gently and shape as indicated in the recipe.
- Please note: If you only have active dry yeast, use 1/4 teaspoon more than called for in the recipe. It no longer needs to be dissolved first, but you can if you prefer.
- Instant Yeast