Olivia Piepmeier

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

A watercolor illustration of a cinnamon roll from the side with a view of the top swirl. It's surrounded by a purple circle background.

inspired by King Arthur Baking



  • 117g discard and 110g ripe sourdough starter
  • 170g milk, lukewarm
  • 1 large egg
  • 57g butter, room temperature
  • 330g AP flour
  • 57g white whole wheat flour (but if you don’t have it, just use more AP - I think regular whole wheat would be blah but that’s just me!)
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 9g salt


  • 159g brown sugar
  • 30g AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 14g butter, melted


  • 170g powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 21g butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 14-28g milk or cream


  1. Mix together all the dough ingredients except the salt until the flour is evenly moistened and the dough has formed a cohesive, sticky mass, 2 to 3 minutes on low speed of a stand mixer (but how it looks/feels is more important!).
  2. Dump the salt on top of the dough without mixing it in, then cover and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
  3. After, mix in the salt until fully incorporated, about 1 minute on low speed.
  4. Turn the mixer up one speed and knead the dough until it’s smooth though still somewhat tacky, about 2 to 3 minutes (again, the look and feel are what should guide you).
  5. Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm (75°F) place for 4 hours (like the oven with only the light on). Once every hour, uncover to stretch and fold (this is when you take one side of the dough and stretch it up, then do it to the other three sides). It’s pretty amazing how it changes in texture each time. The goal is to end up with a strong dough with good elasticity.
  6. Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. The texture will be somewhat like wet sand.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface and gently deflate it, patting or rolling it into a 14” x 20” rectangle. Get out a ruler - the size is important to make it all work.
  8. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving 1/2” of exposed dough along one short edge.
  9. Starting with the filling-coated short edge, roll the dough into a log. As you roll, the log will lengthen to around 18” (and some of the filling will fall out - catch it if you can and save it to sprinkle on top of the rolls after you get them in the pan).
  10. Cut the log into twelve 1 1/2” slices and place them in a lightly greased 9” x 13” pan. Ideally, this is three rows of four. It’s important to space them evenly so they rise against each other and don’t leave a couple being overly brown and crunchy (speaking from experience - it was very sad).
  11. Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they’re puffy, 2 to 3 hours. If it’s cold in your kitchen, maybe put them in the oven with the light on.
  12. At this point, you can let the buns rise for another hour or so and then bake them; or you can place the pan in the refrigerator, covered, and bake the buns up to 24 hours later.
  13. To bake the same day: Bake the buns in a preheated 400F oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of a middle bun should read 190°F (really, take its temperature - this guarantees a tender and not-dry roll)…..To bake after being refrigerated overnight: Remove the pan from the refrigerator and leave the buns covered at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of a middle bun should read 190°F (really, take it’s temperature - this guarantees a tender and not-dry roll).
  14. While the buns are baking, stir together all the icing ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
  15. Remove the buns from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before topping with icing.
  16. Put some sort of lid on your container and store at room temperature for a day or so. They will last a few days but are best the sooner you eat them.


If you’re ever a guest in my house, this is breakfast. Someone’s coming over? Let me start to plan how to get these babies on the table while they’re here (and with anything that involves ripe sourdough, planning is required)! Don’t let the steps intimidate you, these are worth the time and effort. Tender, tangy, and not too sweet. If you’re like me, before now, cinnamon rolls meat store-bought dough from cans that explode, Ikea, Cinnabon, Burger King’s Cini Mini’s of the late 90s/early 00s, and Sunday mornings at WildFlour in Charleston - they weren’t things you make from scratch. This blows them all out of the water.

Honestly, I typed up most of this months ago, even did the illustration, but have gotten lost in other projects. This seems like a good time of year for this, also because I usually make a cranberry version this time of year. The only difference is the filling - I make cranberry sauce and mix some of it with orange marmalade and toasted chopped pecans and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Chef’s kiss!