A few weeks ago, there was a Facebook poll going around asking if a cinnamon roll is a doughnut. I don’t know where or why it started, but I compulsively swiped it every time it came up on my feed just to make sure everyone I know understands that cinnamon rolls are not doughnuts.Cinnamon Rolls = baked pastry.
Doughnuts = fried* pastry.
*Baked Doughnuts = muffins in disguise.Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and, oh, do I love finding an exception. Today’s recipe, Cinnamon Roll Doughnuts, are exactly what they sound like: fluffy, brown sugary cinnamon rolls made from doughnut dough, fried ‘til golden and dunked in a classic sugar glaze. They are both cinnamon roll and a doughnut and they are exactly as delicious as they sound.The inspiration for these comes from my childhood doughnut shop, Dale’s Donuts #9.* They made (and I assume that they still make) a version of these, and since I didn’t grow up with much home baking, I just assumed that all cinnamon rolls were doughnuts. As has been established, they are not, but I didn’t know at the time and I don’t think I would have cared…unless there wasn’t one left for me after a Sunday doughnut run.
*I have never encountered Dale’s Donuts #1-#8. If you ever do, please tell me. I would love to know they exist.Anyway…I’ve since learned to make great cinnamon rolls and doughnuts, but the cinnamon roll doughnuts of my youth have eluded me. I’ve looked for something comparable in every doughnut shop I’ve encountered over the years (which has been a lot), but have come up empty-handed…so I figured it out myself.Cinnamon Roll Doughnuts are as simple to make as any of my other yeasted doughnuts. They begin like many sweet rolls and doughnuts do: by making a dough and letting it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. This makes for prime gluten development (critical for softness and chew) and nuanced flavor, and it means you don’t have to get up at 5am to make doughnuts in time for breakfast.The next day, the dough is punched down, rolled into a rectangle, filled with cinnamon & brown sugar, rolled back up, and sliced.Then the rolls are then pressed down with the heel of your hand and the ends are secured with toothpicks before a short second rise. These steps will keep them unraveling while rising and frying.And speaking of frying, this is when these rolls take a decidedly doughnut-esque turn. Each one is fried in hot oil until golden and fully cooked in the middle. Some filling will escape during frying—that’s the nature of the beast—but trust me when I say your doughnuts will still be plenty cinnamony.Once they’re all fried and golden, the Cinnamon Roll Doughnuts get a dip in a sugar glaze. You could spread them with cream cheese frosting instead, but I really love the contrast of soft doughnut, buttery cinnamon filling and shattering sugar glaze.It tastes like childhood and doughnut victory and a very delicious exception to the rules. The best.
Cinnamon Roll Doughnuts
makes 16 doughnuts
2 cups bread flour*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I used Red Star Platinum)
1 cup buttermilk,* room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten, room temperature
2 quarts shortening or frying oil (like peanut, safflower, or canola), for frying
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 pounds confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup hot tap water
Make the dough the night before. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together bread flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, nutmeg, salt, and instant yeast. Set aside.
Combine buttermilk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm until hot to the touch, about 115F. Use a silicone spatula to fold liquid into dry ingredients. Fold in eggs until a sticky, shaggy dough forms. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes, until dough is smooth. Shape dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, cut a large sheet of parchment into 16 4-inch squares. Place squares on two rimmed baking sheets. Place a separate whole sheet on a third pan.
Fill the dough and form the rolls. Remove plastic wrap from dough and punch down. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14×17-inch rectangle. Use a pastry brush to apply butter to the surface of the dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Sprinkle over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.
Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. Slice dough into 16 rolls. Place each on a square of parchment.
Flour the heel of your hand and press each roll down so that it’s flat and squat. Use toothpicks to secure the end of each roll and use another toothpick to secure the other side of the roll. Do not skip these steps.
Gently lay plastic wrap or a sheet of wax paper over the tops of the pans and allow doughnuts to rise in a warm, draft-free environment* for 45 minutes. Once puffy, remove doughnuts from oven.
Place a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and set in close proximity to the stove.
Heat shortening or oil to 375F. Working in small batches, fry doughnuts 1.5-2 minutes per side, until deeply golden. Remove to rack. Continue with remaining doughnuts.
Make classic doughnut glaze. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Pour glaze into a shallow dish. Dip one doughnut at a time before transferring back to rack. Repeat with all remaining doughnuts. Glaze will set after 15-20 minutes.
Doughnuts are best the day they are made. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about a day.
Dipped doughnuts are best the day they are made.
1. If you do not have bread flour, you may substitute an equal volume of all-purpose flour. Your doughnuts will not have as much chew as those made with bread flour, but they will still be delicious.
2. If you do not have buttermilk, you may make a substitute with lemon juice (or vinegar) and milk. Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Pour in milk until the liquid reaches the 1 cup mark. Let sit for five minutes before proceeding with the recipe as written. Whole and low-fat milks are fine, but I do not recommend skim or nonfat.