These soft and pillowy Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls filled with a gooey cinnamon sugar filling are an indulgent treat. Combining the efficiency of commercial yeast with the deep nuanced flavor of sourdough discard, you’ll have delicious fluffy cinnamon rolls in less than 2 hours.
This was my first time making cinnamon rolls and these were amazing! My entire family loved them. Thank you for such clear directions and this delicious recipe!
Why I love this recipe
- Makes the fluffiest cinnamon rolls!
- Quick and easy bake - great for beginners.
- Great way to use up a lot of sourdough discard.
- Delicious sourdough flavor without the long rise times.
Sourdough Bread vs. Sourdough Discard Bread
Traditional sourdough bread relies solely on an active sourdough starter, leading to a longer fermentation time of about 2 days due to the reliance on wild yeast. In contrast, sourdough discard bread combines discarded starter with either active-dry or instant yeast, dramatically reducing proofing time.
Why use commercial yeast with sourdough discard?
Adding instant yeast and sourdough discard in a recipe combines convenience and flavor. Because it’s much more efficient at converting starches into sugars and carbon dioxide, commercial yeast dramatically shortens the rise times of dough.
For instance, while traditional sourdough bulk fermentation may take up to 4 hours, sourdough discard bread only requires a little over 1 hour to rise.
While you won’t get the intense flavor development of a two-day fermentation, adding discard sourdough starter to your cinnamon roll dough will add a more nuanced, intense flavor than just using instant yeast.
What you need
All-purpose flour: The low protein content of all-purpose flour imparts softness to these rolls. Do not substitute whole wheat flour or bread flour to this recipe or your rolls will be too chewy.
Sourdough discard: Imparts a delicious, tangy flavor to this bread. You can use your starter directly from the fridge for this recipe. Use active sourdough starter or add 56 grams of flour and 56 grams of water to your dough if you don’t have any discarded sourdough starter.
Instant yeast: You can use active dry yeast for this recipe, but you’ll need to bloom it in the milk for 15 minutes before mixing your dough.
Cane sugar: Helps activate the yeast, I like to use organic cane sugar because it is produced using more sustainable methods. Substitute white sugar, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup.
Salt: Use kosher salt or sea salt. Different types of salts have varying grain sizes so the amount of salt added to the recipe may differ if you use volume measurements.
Feel free to substitute plant-based alternatives for milk and butter. Apple sauce, pumpkin puree or mashed sweet potatoes makes a great alternative to eggs.
See recipe card for detailed ingredient information.
Baking with sourdough discard
These Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls are much quicker to make because the dough relies on commercial yeast as the primary leavening agent, bypassing the need for an active starter.
The addition of sourdough discard contributes a rich and nuanced flavor to the bread. As the sourdough starter is used solely for flavor enhancement, there's no need to activate it; you can use it directly from the refrigerator.
Using long-refrigerated sourdough discard intensifies the flavor, providing distinct results compared to a freshly fed starter, though both work well in this recipe.
These Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls are endlessly adaptable!
- Add nuts like pecans and walnuts.
- Add dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or chopped dried apricots.
- Fill them with blueberry preserves or cranberry jam.
- Use a combination of spices, like cardamom, nutmeg and cloves.
- Top them with a maple frosting or bourbon glaze.
STEP 1 Make the dough: Whisk the milk, yeast and eggs together in a large bowl (image 1). Fold in the sourdough discard and dry ingredients until a cohesive dough forms (image 2). Knead the butter into the dough (image 3). Continue kneading until the dough feels smooth (image 4).
Let the dough rest for 15 minutes before kneading. This will make the dough less sticky and much easier to work with.
STEP 2 Knead the dough: Place the dough on a floured surface, then fold it in half and use the heels of your hands to push and stretch it away. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat (image 5). Continue for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Round the dough into a tight ball (image 6).
If the dough feels too sticky, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for another 15 minutes before continuing.
STEP 3 First proof: Return the dough into a lightly-greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap (image 7). Let the dough rise, untouched until doubled in size (image 8).
Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot, ensuring it doubles in size. A properly proofed dough will result in light and airy cinnamon rolls, while inadequate proofing can lead to a dense and tough texture.
STEP 4 Shape the rolls: Flatten the dough into a 18 by 10 inch rectangle and spread an even layer of soft butter on top (image 9). Make the cinnamon sugar (image 10). Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the dough. Working with the longer side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a tight log (image 11). Divide the dough into 9 even portions (image 12).
Use unflavored dental floss to cut your cinnamon roll dough, this prevents the rolls from being crushed and the filling from oozing out of the dough.
STEP 5 Final rise: Arrange the dough in a 10-inch cake pan (image 13). Let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and the dough fills the pan. Brush the proofed dough with heavy cream (image 14).
If you don’t have a 10-inch cake pan, use a 9-inch square pan or a 12-inch skillet to bake these rolls.
STEP 6 Bake: Bake the rolls at 350F for 30 to 45 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown (image 15). Top the warm rolls with cream cheese glaze (image 16).
Weigh your ingredients: Measuring by weight is much more accurate than by volume (with tablespoons and cups).
Watch the dough not the clock: I’ll be giving time cues throughout the recipe, but since fermentation is highly dependent on temperature, this may differ based on the conditions of your kitchen.
Be patient: Since these sourdough cinnamon rolls are made from an enriched dough, the rise time may be longer than you’re used to. Butter, dairy, eggs and sugar tend to slow down fermentation, be patient and wait until your dough is bubbly and well-risen. Otherwise, your cinnamon rolls won’t be soft and fluffy.
Use an instant-read thermometer: The best way to determine whether your rolls are fully baked is to probe the center of the cinnamon rolls with an instant-read thermometer. The internal temperature of your rolls should be between 180F to 190F.
The dough can be made 1 day in advance.
- Shape the dough according to the instructions.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the unbaked rolls overnight.
- The next day, take the pan out of the refrigerator. Allow them to come to room temperature or rise until the dough is puffy and the rolls fill the pan.
- Brush the rolls with heavy cream and bake at 350 F for 30 to 45 minutes.
Sourdough discard is any portion of your starter removed during the feeding process or any part not used to leaven sourdough bread. You can use it in other bakes and dishes or store it in the refrigerator.
Allow the dough to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before proceeding with kneading. Knead gently, avoiding rough handling that could break down the dough's surface, making it stickier.
If the dough remains excessively sticky, add flour gradually, don’t be tempted to add too much or your rolls may end up too tough.
There are a few reasons why your dough isn’t rising:
Your yeast is expired and can no longer make dough rise. If your yeast has been in your pantry for quite some time, activate it by mixing it with water and sugar first before mixing it in your dough. The mixture will look bubbly and smell yeasty if it’s still viable.
Your kitchen is too cold, cool temperatures will drastically slow down fermentation or the rate at which your dough rises. If your kitchen is too cold your dough will eventually rise, it may just take longer than the times cued in this recipe.
You used hot milk and you may have killed your yeast. Water hotter than 115 F will kill yeast, if you accidentally add hot water to your yeast, start over.
Absolutely! You can skip the step that calls for activating your yeast if you use instant yeast.
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Sourdough Discard Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
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- 170 grams whole milk
- 2 eggs large
- 50 grams cane sugar
- 440 grams all-purpose flour
- 8 grams salt
- 7 grams instant yeast
- 113 grams sourdough discard
- 56 grams unsalted butter softened
- 150 grams brown sugar
- 10 grams ground cinnamon
- 42 grams unsalted butter softened
- 14 grams heavy cream optional
Cream Cheese Glaze
- 60 grams powdered sugar
- 56 grams cream cheese
- 28 grams milk
- 14 grams unsalted butter softened
Click US Customary to view volume measurements
- Make the dough: Whisk the milk, eggs, yeast and sugar in a large bowl.170 grams whole milk, 2 eggs, 50 grams cane sugar
- Stir in the dry ingredients and sourdough discard using a sturdy wooden spoon or spatula. Switch to your hands and bring the mixture together until a cohesive dough forms.440 grams all-purpose flour, 8 grams salt, 113 grams sourdough discard, 7 grams instant yeast
- Incorporate the butter into the dough gradually, one tablespoon at a time, allowing the dough to absorb each addition. As the butter is absorbed, the dough will progressively feel less greasy.56 grams unsalted butter
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
- Knead the dough: Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough by folding it in half using the heel of your palm. Then apply light pressure to the dough and stretch it away. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough looks smooth and elastic.
- First rise: Round the dough into a tight ball and place it into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in volume, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.150 grams brown sugar, 10 grams ground cinnamon
- Shape the rolls: Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough out into a large rectangle, about 10-by-18 inches.
- Spread an even layer of softened butter on the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the dough.42 grams unsalted butter
- Working with the longer side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut the dough into 9 portions, each portion should be about 2 inches.
- Arrange the dough in a 10-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper (optional). Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
- Second rise: Let the dough rise untouched until puffy and the rolls touch and fill the pan, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 F with a rack in the middle position.
- Bake: Brush the rolls with heavy cream and bake the rolls for 30 to 40 minutes or until they are golden brown and the center of the rolls registers at 190 F when probed with an instant-read thermometer.
- Make the glaze: Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until no lumps remain. Stir in the milk and butter until the frosting looks smooth.14 grams heavy cream, 60 grams powdered sugar, 56 grams cream cheese, 28 grams milk, 14 grams unsalted butter
- Serve: Spread the frosting over the warm rolls and enjoy. These rolls are best eaten the same day they are baked.
- Storage: Store leftover cinnamon rolls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
These recipes were developed and tested using grams for precise measurements. To increase your chances of success, I recommend investing in a kitchen scale. I've included rough volume estimates (in tablespoons and cups), but they might not be totally accurate.
Remember all ovens are unique, these recipes were tested in my oven which runs cooler than others. You might need to lower the temperature if your bake appears to be browning too quickly. Monitor your bake closely and make adjustments if needed.
- Make sure your yeast is not expired before baking these rolls or your dough may not rise.
- Give your dough enough time to rise, waiting until it has doubled in volume before shaping or baking. Otherwise, your rolls may become tough and dense.
- Feel free to use active sourdough starter or sourdough discard to make this recipe.
- Both instant yeast and active dry yeast will work to make these rolls.
These rolls can be baked in a 10-inch cake pan, 12-inch skillet or 9-inch square pan.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your rolls are fully baked. The center of the rolls should measure between 180 F to 190 F when done.
- Whisk the milk, eggs, yeast and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Stir in the dry ingredients and sourdough discard using your dough hook attachment, set to speed 4.
- When the mixture forms a cohesive dough, add the butter in a tablespoon at a time, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more.
- When your dough looks smooth and begins slapping the side of the bowl, turn it out on a lightly floured surface.
- Knead the dough 4 or 5 minutes and round it into a tight ball.
- Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly-oiled bowl and let the dough rise.
- Continue with the recipe according to the instructions above.