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Cinnamon Rolls Using Sourdough Discard — or Not!

Make these delicious sourdough discard cinnamon rolls, or use my non-sourdough alternative

I am fascinated by sourdough and using sourdough discard in recipes. I’ve developed a whole list of dishes that use it just so the discard isn’t wasted. I first developed a recipe for biscuits. It was such a success that I was inspired to adapt it to making cinnamon rolls, and this is the result.

Because I wanted to make a sweeter roll, I added additional sugar to my biscuit recipe and reduced the ingredients to make one pan of rolls. I also noticed in researching other cinnamon roll or sticky bun recipes that they often put caramel and nuts in the bottom of the dish. My filling oozes out the bottom as it cooks to create that base for the cinnamon rolls.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

Print this recipe.

Make the dough

Begin by making the dough. This recipe is for using sourdough discard, but I will give the alternative at the end of this section.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cup (142 grams) all-purpose flour, reserve ¼ cup for rolling
2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar
½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
4 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter, ice cold
½ cup (113 grams) sourdough starter discard
¼ cup (60 grams) buttermilk

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Cut the butter into ½” cubes before trying to mash it into the dry ingredients using the tines of a fork. You will continue to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks crumbly. You can use a dough blender, if you have one.

In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the sourdough starter and buttermilk until it is smooth. Add this to the flour mixture. Using a bowl scraper or spatula, gently mix by pulling the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and pressing the dough down over the top of the ingredients, like folding it over.

You want to continue to mix in this manner until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture holds together without crumbling apart. If it is too wet and sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and mix together. You can add additional flour, if needed, up to two tablespoons. It will still be sticky.

Shape the dough into a rectangular brick and wrap it in plastic wrap or put in a quart size storage bag. Put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. This will allow the butter in the dough to get cold again and make it easier to handle while rolling it out and filling it.

Non-sourdough alternative

Instead of using sourdough discard, add 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon (2 grams) of baking soda to the dry ingredients and increase the buttermilk to ⅓ cup (75 grams.) The baking powder and baking soda will act as a leavener in place of the yeast in the sourdough starter.

Make the filling

The filling is the star of this recipe, so you need to have plenty of it. You can also add your favorite add-ins like pecans and raisins, or keep it simple.

Ingredients

¼ cup (48 grams) granulated sugar
¾ cup (144 grams) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
⅛ teaspoon (1–2 grams) kosher salt
½ cup (56 grams) chopped pecans — optional
¼ cup (42 grams) raisins — optional

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, brown sugar and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until well mixed.

Fill the dough

Cinnamon roll filling.

Spread the reserved flour on your countertop. Coat your hands and rolling pin. Remove the dough from your refrigerator and place it on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a 12″ x 12″ square. It will be about ¼” to ½” thick. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, spreading it evenly and leaving a ½” border around the edges. This will make it easier to seal the dough.

Roll up the cinnamon rolls into a log.

If you are adding pecans and raisins, sprinkle them evenly across the dough and slightly press them into it. This will keep them in place as you roll it up. Starting at the edge closest to you, begin by tightly rolling the edge away from you. Continue rolling the dough until you have rolled it into a log. 

Wet your fingertips and lightly moisten the inside edge of the dough. This will help it to stick together and not unwind when you cut it. Smooth the outside of the seam to completely seal it. 

These rolls are ready to proof for 4 hours.

Using a serrated knife, even up each end of the log by cutting off the uneven edges. Then cut 1 ¼” slices along the rest of the roll. You should get 10 slices. Turn them on their sides and place in a greased 9″ round cake pan or pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the biscuits to proof for 2 to 8 hours.

For proofing these rolls, you have two options. The first is to put them into your oven with the light on for 2 to 4 hours. The second is to allow them to proof overnight in your cool house, if the temperature is lower than 75℉. This will slow the rise and allow you to bake them first thing in the morning.

Non-sourdough alternative

If you are not using sourdough discard, you will omit the rise time and bake these immediately. If you wish to bake them the next morning, you can cover them with plastic and put them in the refrigerator. Remove them from the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature before baking them.

Bake the rolls

These rolls are proofed and ready to bake.

Preheat your oven to 350℉. When it is preheated, place the cinnamon rolls on the center rack in your oven. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the rolls to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. I baked mine in my countertop air fryer/toaster oven combo oven. It has the ability to convection bake, so I set the temperature to 325℉ and let it cook for 20 minutes.

Check the rolls for doneness during the last 5 minutes of baking. The top should be golden brown, but not too dark. If you are using a glass baking dish, the bottoms and sides should also be browned. If they don’t seem to be browning evenly, you can move the pan to a lower rack to make sure the bottoms and sides get that golden color, too.

Make the icing

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese-Buttermilk Icing.

While the rolls are baking, make the icing. Each roll will get about 1 teaspoon of icing. We like to ice each one when we are ready to eat them. That way we do not have to refrigerate the rolls, and can heat them up without the icing running completely off the roll.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (28 grams) cream cheese
1 tablespoon (15 grams) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (14 grams) powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together the cream cheese and the buttermilk, until it is smooth. If the mixture appears lumpy, it helps to microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds and whisk vigorously. Stir in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. It should be slightly runny.

Come and get it

When the cinnamon rolls finish baking, remove one from the dish and place a dollop of icing on top. The heat of the warm roll will melt the icing slightly and cause it to run down the sides. Yummy!

I doubt that there will be leftovers, but if there are, you can store these in the pie plate or cake pan by covering with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Reheat on high for 15 to 20 seconds in your microwave before topping with the icing. You can also put each roll in a sandwich bag and place in your freezer.

My final thoughts

My first attempt at making these cinnamon rolls browned a little too much on top in my countertop oven before the sides and bottoms were sufficiently browned. They still tasted delicious. Next time, I will try lowering the rack to see if that produces more even results.

In my second attempt at making these, I used my full-sized oven and placed them on the rack at the lowest position in my oven for the first half of the bake. Then, I moved them to the middle rack and rotated the pan 180° to finish baking. The results were perfect.

I can’t wait to make these for Christmas. I will let them rise overnight so we can eat them hot and fresh in the morning. 

Don’t forget to print this recipe.

Merry Christmas and Bon Appetit!


Get my free handy-dandy list of ingredient weights to help you cook with consistency!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

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Recipe

Honey Oatmeal Bread Made with Love

My grandma’s oatmeal bread recipe is a family favorite.

When I was a little girl, I remember waking up to the smell of fresh bread that my mother had baked that morning. She would cut me a thick slice, still warm, and generously smear butter on it. This loaf of bread would not stay around long because when I wanted a snack, I would eat this every time.

I watched my mom make this bread, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that my grandma taught me how to make bread of any kind. Her yeast rolls are what my family requests me to bring to our large Thanksgiving dinners, though we haven’t met during this pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, I was forced to find an alternative to using store bought yeast for this recipe because I simply couldn’t buy it. After much research, I developed my own wild yeast levain, also known as sourdough starter. After building it up through regular feedings, I could make bread.

While I built up my starter, I did research on how to use it to make bread. Since my starter is made with all-purpose flour and not rye flour, it has a sweeter taste to it, so it is much less sour than normal sourdough, but it does contribute some of that lovely flavor. Here is the recipe I follow.

Honey Oatmeal Bread Recipe

Print this recipe, which also has the original version using store-bought yeast.

Start with a poolish mix — Mixture 1

A poolish mix is used to give your wild yeast stamina and strength. This is the equivalent to dissolving your store-bought yeast in warm water and adding a bit of sugar to make it start rising. While store bought yeast does this within minutes, it takes several hours for the poolish mix to develop. 

It is worth the wait.

Before I begin making the poolish mix, I make sure I have fed my starter that morning, usually about 4 to 6 hours before. This insures that the yeast is highly active, which makes the poolie more robust.

Poolish Ingredients

⅓ cup (75 grams) water
½ cup (75 grams) flour
⅔ cup (150 grams) wild yeast starter, fed within the last 8 hours

In a 3-cup bowl, mix the starter and water. Stir in the flour until it is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours. During this time, you will see it rise to about double its original height. If you want, you can start this before you go to bed and let it rise overnight.

Create your oat base — Mixture 2

As this is oatmeal bread, this part of the recipe is the star. You want to use rolled oats, not instant, as they hold up better, absorb less water, and give the bread a better texture. I use Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats, but you can use whatever brand you prefer.

Oatmeal base ingredients

1 ¾ cups (413 grams) boiling water
1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Mix water, oats and butter in a large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.

2 ½ teaspoons (15 grams) kosher salt
½ cup (168 grams) honey (or molasses or raisins)

Mix together until well combined.

Mix it all together

Stir the poolish mix (mixture 1) into the oat mix (mixture 2.) Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed together before beginning to add the flour.

Remaining ingredient

5 ¼ cups (746 grams) flour

Begin adding flour gradually, mixing a half cup at a time until the dough is soft and not too sticky. Reserve 1 ½ to 2 cups (220–300 grams) from the total amount of flour (5 ¼ cups) for kneading.

At this point the dough will be very tacky, so you will need to use the reserved flour on the counter and your hands before you start to knead the bread. Spread about ¼ to ½ cup of flour on your counter. If you have a marble or stone surface to knead the dough, use it. It works great.

Knead the dough — this is not scary, I promise!

Scrape the dough from your bowl onto the floured surface. Fold the dough toward you and press down firmly with the ball of your hand, pushing away from you. The dough will feel somewhat resistant to being pushed. Lift the dough and rotate ¼ turn, then repeat the fold and push technique.

When the dough sticks to your countertop, use a bench scraper to help you lift it, if you have one. Then, spread another ¼ cup of flour onto your counter. Also, sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough so your hands don’t stick too much.

Keep turning and pushing until the dough becomes soft, doesn’t stick to the countertop easily, and can be formed into a boulle. I find that this takes about 10 minutes. It is okay if you do not use up all your reserved flour. Too much flour makes the bread dense and not rise.

Let it rise

On the top, you can see how my unrisen dough holds its shape in a boulle. On the bottom, you can see that it has doubled in size.

Now it is time for the bulk rise, when you allow all the dough to rise in one large batch. I usually wash the large bowl that I mixed the bread in for this. Before putting the dough into the bowl, generously grease it with Crisco. Set the dough into the bowl, press it down, and then flip it over to coat both sides.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. This keeps the dough from drying out. You want the bulk rise to take 8 to 10 hours, so place the bowl in a cool place (72°F to 75°F.) Because wild yeast is less robust than store-bought, it takes much longer to double in size, which is what it needs to do.

Form and proof the loaves

Once the dough has doubled in size, it is time to form the loaves. I found that it is best to treat the dough gently from this point forward. Do not punch down the dough or press all the air out of it. Because wild yeast is delicate, you will want to keep as much of the rise in the dough as you can.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of flour on your work surface or countertop. Gently tip the bowl to allow the dough to roll onto the floured surface. This recipe makes two loaves, so you will need a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into two halves. Set one half aside while you work with the other.

Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle that is about the same width as your loaf pan. My loaf pan is 9″ long, so my rectangle is roughly 12″ long by 9″ wide. Be sure you have generously greased your loaf pans with shortening.

Begin rolling away from you, with the 9″ side facing you.

With the 9″ side (width of your pan) facing you, begin rolling the dough into a log, pushing away as you roll the dough. With the seam side down, gently tuck under the ends as you lift the log and scoop it into your loaf pan.

Repeat this process with the remainder of your dough. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them to proof for 4 to 10 hours.They should double in size. The slower they proof, the better the flavor. You can prepare them at night and let them proof while you sleep and bake in the morning.

The loaves on the top are ready to proof and the loaves on the bottom have proofed for 4 hours in my oven.

There are two options for proofing the bread. The first, and in my opinion the easiest, is to form the loaves before going to bed and letting them proof overnight. This allows the bread to be baked first thing in the morning. It’s lovely to have fresh bread for breakfast.

The second option is to form the loaves in the morning and proof them in your oven. If you don’t have a proofing oven, simply place a pan of boiling water in the bottom of your full-sized oven and turn on the interior light. This will allow the bread to rise within 2 to 4 hours. Then bake as usual.

Bake the bread

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap from your loaf pans before baking the bread. Before you bake your bread, you will want to split the top using a sharp knife or a bread lame and brush it with a tablespoon of melted butter to help it brown.

Split the top of the loaf using a sharp knife or lame. Angle the knife/lame at a 45° angle and score it quickly.

I like to put a pan of boiling water in the bottom of my oven for the first 30 minutes of the baking time. Remove the water for the last half. This helps create a crispy crust on the bread. Bake the bread for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After 45 minutes, begin to test the interior temperature of your bread. Once it reaches 200°F, it is done. 

If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, thump the top of the loaf with your fingers. (Like your mom used to do to your ear when you were misbehaving in a store.) If it sounds hollow and the top and sides are browned, it is done.

Don’t be afraid of making bread at home

I know that many people are intimidated by making bread at home. I promise, with a little practice, you will find success. Using the wild yeast is a little bit more advanced than using store-bought yeast, so try my original recipe while you learn. Then, once you are more confident, give the converted recipe a try.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Don’t forget to print this converted recipe and original version.

Bon Appetit!


Print my free handy-dandy list of ingredient weights to help you cook with consistency!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking on Medium.