Kitchn Love Letters

I Tried King Arthur Baking’s 2021 Recipe of the Year, and It’s as Good as Promised

published Jan 2, 2021
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Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

Every December I look forward to King Arthur Baking Company’s “Recipe of the Year” announcement. Last year, they choose their Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza, which became a huge hit in 2020 (it now has more than 500 reviews on their site). In 2019, they featured their Classic Birthday Cake, which I’ll be testing soon for an upcoming birthday cake showdown. And this year, they picked their “Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls” — and I immediately knew I needed to try them.

Thanks to the use of the tangzhong method (the same technique used in Japanese milk bread), this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill cinnamon roll. The method involves cooking milk and bread flour together until it forms a paste, which helps lock in water and yield a bread that stays moist for days. Many recipe developers credit a book titled 65 Degrees C by Yvonne Chen (65°C referring to the temperature that the starches in flour gelatinize) as their first introduction to the technique.

As a lover of milk bread myself, I was excited to see how cinnamon rolls would benefit from the technique. Here’s what happened when I headed into the kitchen.

Get the recipe: Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make King Arthur’s Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls before, you know they can be a bit of a project. This recipe is no exception. You’ll start by cooking milk and bread flour in a saucepan until it forms a thick paste. (This is the tangzhong.) Transfer it into the bowl of a mixer and add more milk and bread flour along with salt, sugar, instant yeast, and softened butter. Knead until a smooth dough forms, shape it into a ball, place it into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise until puffy.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine melted butter, brown sugar, bread flour, cinnamon, and salt. Roll the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle the filling over top of it, and roll into a tight cylinder shape. Using dental floss, cut the log into eight equal pieces and place them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving two inches between each. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise once more.

Bake the cinnamon rolls until golden-brown, then brush the tops with melted butter. Let cool for 15 minutes, then ice the tops with a simple frosting made with melted butter, vanilla extract, salt, powdered sugar, and milk.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of King Arthur’s Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

I totally understand why this is King Arthur Baking Company’s recipe of the year. It is absolutely delicious! The rolls really are incredibly soft, and they stay soft for several days. The texture is almost like brioche, with a super-airy interior that’s almost sponge-like. I’ve had many cinnamon rolls in my life, but none of them have ever come close to how soft these are.

The flavor was also delicious. They had a strong cinnamon flavor that was aggressive without being overwhelming. They were just sweet enough with a pleasant butter flavor that came through. The icing was simple, but it was missing that tangy note that cream cheese gives it. If I were to make them again, I would add cream cheese to the glaze (which King Arthur explains how to do in the recipe). But overall these cinnamon rolls were absolutely delicious, and I would 100 percent make them again. It’s a wonderful recipe that is worthy of its “Recipe of the Year” title.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

4 Tips for Making King Arthur’s Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls

Before heading into the kitchen to make these cinnamon rolls, a few tips.

1. Feel free to make them the night before. King Arthur’s recipe says the rolls stay soft for multiple days (and I can attest to this!), so feel free to make them in advance if you want to get a head-start on breakfast.

2. Use dental floss to cut the cinnamon rolls. King Arthur’s recipe recommends using floss to cut the cinnamon rolls, and I found this produced much cleaner cinnamon rolls. Using a knife tends to smash the rolls, ruining their perfect spiral shape.

3. Feel free to make the cinnamon rolls a tiny bit smaller. This recipe makes eight very large cinnamon rolls. After reading the comments, I saw that some people made ten cinnamon rolls instead of eight. This would give you a more traditionally sized cinnamon roll, but you would have to reduce the baking time a tad — so just keep an eye on them if so.

4. Be careful not to overbake them. One of the biggest mistakes people make when making cinnamon rolls is overbaking them. My favorite way to tell if they are done (and what King Arthur recommends in the recipe) is to use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of a roll. Once the center registers 190°F, they are done.

Have you ever made King Arthur’s perfectly pillowy cinnamon rolls? Tell us what you thought in the comments!