Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

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One of my nearest and dearest tai tais now lives only four and a half short hours away. We moved to Beijing within the same month and we left three years later within the same month. I’ll call her Tai Tai L since I’m not sure she wants her name out there in a APB. Tai Tai L and I loved cooking, drinking, spa-ing, shopping…all the fun things that tai tais love to do together, we did. A couple of weeks ago the kids and I ran away from home to go visit Tai Tai L.

Since we were in the Bay Area, I planned for the kids and I to go to the Ferry Building which is one of the joys of the world. It should be a World Heritage Site. I was so happy, just me and my babies, eating chocolate and hot dogs. We loaded up on my favorites…here’s a quick list:

Recchiuti Confections | In addition to truffles and chocolate-dipped marshmallows to eat straight out of the bag, we loaded up on their Burnt Caramel Sauce. I mean really, are they kidding with this stuff? I can eat it by the spoonful. I also picked up a box of truffles for Tai Tai L and I to have that night with a bottle of red.

Blue Bottle Coffee | Always a cappucino. Always a long wait. Never care.

Prather Ranch Meat Co | Total silence while we loaded up on the perfect hot dog for lunch. Grab a Praise the Lard shirt while you’re there.

Stonehouse California Olive Oil | Beautiful stall with olive oil in more hues than the rainbow. Almost. I always go for the standard, non-infused olive oil. As I’m writing this that seems incredibly boring. Next time I’m going Persian lime. I also grabbed their dipping oil (LOVE) and some truffle salt.

Rancho Gordo | This was our last stop on the way out and we grabbed a couple bags of the Crimson Popping Corn. Tasty. I say it’s for the kids but I love it as much as they do. All praise the Whirley Pop.

On our way out of the city, Tai Tai L called an audible and asked if we’d head over to Kingdom of Dumpling. That’s right, it’s singular. But before you laugh and shrug the place off, I’ll ask you to reconsider. We bought nine bags of twenty and I was nervous it wasn’t enough. This place is LEGIT. I picked up a bottle of Chinese vinegar because no self-respecting Beijinger would have their boiled dumplings without vinegar. I can’t recommend it enough, you should really go.

I had to mention all that deliciousness before I got to what this post is actually about: homemade cinnamon rolls. Tai Tai L and I like to cook together and as soon as I said, HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS, Tai Tai was in. These are overnight cinnamon rolls so we made them the night before…as the name implies. While the dough was rising, Tai Tai L and I watched This is 40 and fell asleep. Being a Tai Tai in the US is not like being a Tai Tai in China. Tai Tai muchhhhh more tired here.

I’ve been especially nostalgic for my Beijing days as of late. I miss the hustle and bustle. I miss my favorite restaurants. I miss the adventures. Plus, fall in Beijing can be quite beautiful and pleasant. It may be hard to imagine with all the pollution, but mother nature shows her strength and really spit-shines the place up.

When I’m feeling Peking-stalgia it usually means that I need to get out and garden or go to the beach or breathe some fresh air or Google ‘pollution in Beijing’ and then I’m back in love with Mayberry.

So, in honor of missing Beijing and my Tai Tais, I present to you overnight cinnamon rolls. Alton Brown created this and there is nothing I could possibly do to improve it. …Except I did expand and expound and embellish on the instructions. Because I can’t leave anything as is.

Suck it up the night before so you can wake up to this…you’ll thank yourself.

{ overnight cinnamon rolls }

Makes 12 rolls


For the Dough

  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray

For the Filling

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Icing

  • 2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, soften (or more*)
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or more*)
  • 5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups (or more*)

*My dad loves extra schmooey, as he calls it. I always double the icing, but only put half on the rolls. I put the rest in a bowl on the side for those that want a nauseatingly sweet experience. I’m talking socks on your teeth before noon. Just depends on your sugar threshold.



  • In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and the buttermilk. Make sure that the butter has cooled a bit before adding otherwise it will slightly scramble the eggs. If you happen to find yourself in China where nary a bottle of buttermilk can be found or it’s 9:00 PM Stateside and you don’t have any buttermilk in the fridge, you can make an easy substitute by adding one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of milk. Since this is shy of one cup, eyeball the vinegar and go a little shy of a tablespoon.
  • At this point I like to mix in the yeast. If all of our ingredients are room temperature or warm-ish, than it should get a nice frothy, foamy thing happening. This always makes me feel like my yeast is all active and happy and that good things are going to happen.
  • Add 2 cups of flour and then sprinkle in the salt. Always remember this when you’re dealing with yeast: yeast loves warm, sugary places…so let it linger there for a couple of minutes to get a bit relaxed and frothy. Add your salt a bit later, with the flour, because the salt likes to end the fun. It’s the buzz kill of yeast.
  • Remove the whisk and replace with the dough hook attachment. Add all but 3/4 of the remaining flour and knead on low for 5 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon at a time to keep it from sticking to the sides. This dough looks and feels luxurious. It should be soft and moist to the touch; but not sticky. Knead for an additional 5 minutes until a ball has formed and it is no longer sticking to the sides.
  • Alton tells you to turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 30 seconds at this point. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m kinda lazy. I always skip this step because I don’t want to do the extra dishes and have the mess. I think they turn out fine…you make the call.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl. You can use the cooking spray to lube up the bowl as well, but that always grosses me out. I mean, really, are we cutting calories at this point? You’re making cinnamon rolls. Take a deep breath and grab the jug of oil. You’ll be fine.
  • Put the dough in the bowl, turning it over once to make sure both sides are glistening. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp cloth and set in a draft-free, warm area of the house. The dough should double in size…this should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I always take a photo of the dough when I put it in the bowl and I’m always surprised at how big it gets. I feel like I should insert a joke here.


  • Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Now go watch a movie. Or take a nap. If it’s nighttime, set a timer otherwise your dough’s a goner. By sunrise it will have taken over the kitchen.

Back to the Dough

  • Feeling rested and dewey from your respite, butter a 9 X 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a rectangle; long side nearest to you. Gently roll out to an 18 X 12-inch rectangle, being careful to not have any super thin spots. Brush your melted butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the top. Sprinkle the filling over the dough, leaving that 1/2 inch border at the top naked of any goodness. Slowly start rolling the dough up towards that border, taking your time to shape the dough evenly as you go. When it’s all rolled into a log, pinch the dough together to create a seam and roll that seam to the bottom.
  • So now you have a big dough log of yumminess. Grab a bread knife…they are the best for this. I’ve also heard dental floss, but I’ve never tried it. Cut down the very middle of the dough log, creating two dough logs. Then cut each of those in half. Gently saw the knife when you’re cutting down so that you don’t squash the rolls. Now that you have four dough logs, do two cuts in each so that each dough log yields three rolls. Did that make sense? You should have 12 rolls. Do you have 12 rolls? I’ve found that this technique is the best way to ensure that they are all about the same size.
  • Place the rolls cut side down in the buttered dish, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator. Go to bed dreaming about the fat pants you’re going to put on in the morning so you can make a complete and utter pig of yourself. Here’s the best part, they can hang out in the fridge for up to 16 hours. 16 HOURS!!! So don’t set that alarm clock. Let’s sleep in. Let slumber take you to new, delicious heights that hadn’t been reached before. Get someone else to watch the kids in the morning. You’re making cinnamon rolls. Do you know what this means?? For the next 24-hours, people will do nice things for you. Just you wait.

When You Wake

  • Set out the cream cheese so it can soften.
  • Put on the tea kettle and place a rectangle shallow pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Put the rolls on the rack above. When the whistle blows, pour the water into the shallow pan until it is 2/3 full. Shut the door and set the timer for thirty. Pour yourself a mimosa. The rolls should have puffed up in that thirty minutes. Take the rolls and the shallow pan out of the oven.
  • Turn the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • When the oven is ready, put the rolls back in the oven and bake for roughly 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them. You want them to puff up even more and get nice and golden, but we don’t want a St. Tropez tan. Don’t have your second mimosa just yet.
  • Bust out that stand mixer again and put all the icing ingredients in there. I use the paddle for this and it works fine. If you feel more comfortable with your whisk attachment, go for it. Let your conscience be your guide.
  • Smooth the schmooey over the rolls and voile. You’re done. Prepare to be fawned over and pampered. Keep those fat pants on and now pour that second mimosa.

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