These butter pecan cinnamon rolls are BEGGING to be your Christmas morning breakfast (or any morning if you ask me!). They are ooey and gooey, packed with candied pecans and a brown sugar cinnamon filling, and topped with a maple cream cheese frosting. The aroma filling up your kitchen smells like you are swimming around in a cinnamon roll, not kidding.
Why you will love these butter pecan cinnamon rolls
- The flavors. The combination of flavors in these cinnamon rolls are *mwah* chef's kiss! The candied pecans are nutty, sweet and cinnamon-y, and have a lightly toasted, almost caramel-like flavor. For an even extra butter pecan flavor, I like to use Amoretti's Natural Butter Pecan Artisan Flavor - it is so delicious! This is then paired with a maple cream cheese frosting which is absolutely impeccable.
- The textures. This dough is so soft and fluffy - I would use it as a pillow if my hair wouldn't get all sticky. The soft bread paired with the crunch of the pecans in the center is a texture explosion in your mouth.
- The maple glaze. Oooooof the maple cream cheese icing is what I live for. It is sweet but tangy, and it soaks into the bread and makes them even more ooey and gooey.
- All purpose flour: all purpose flour is the key to a soft and pillowy pecan cinnamon roll. It gives the rolls the perfect texture.
- Instant yeast: instant yeast is necessary for these rolls. Instant yeast can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients. You don't need to activate it first with warm milk like you would with active yeast.
- Sugar: granulated sugar is used to sweeten the bread just slightly, while brown sugar is used for the candied pecans and cinnamon filling.
- Whole milk: whole milk is my favorite type of milk to use in the dough because it leads to a soft, enriched, and delicious cinnamon roll.
- Eggs: eggs are needed for an enriched dough. We also use one egg for an egg wash to make the dough nice and shiny!
- Butter: unsalted butter is the butter of choice so we can control exactly how much salt goes into this recipe. We use it in the dough and in the cinnamon filling.
- Cinnamon: cinnamon is used for flavor in both the candied pecans and the filling for the rolls.
- Pecans: we fill these rolls with sweet and toasty candied pecans - we need a whole 2 cups for this recipe.
- Butter pecan flavoring: this is optional, but totally recommended. This flavoring enhances the pecan flavor immensely and will make your kitchen smell absolutely incredible.
- Maple syrup: maple syrup is the sweetener in the frosting, and it provides that lovely maple flavor.
- Cream cheese: cream cheese is necessary for a cream cheese frosting, obviously! I like to use full fat cream cheese here.
- Make the dough. Whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add the egg, milk, and melted butter and mix until combined.
- Knead. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes in a mixer or by hand until the dough bounces back and passes the window pane test.
- Rise. Let the dough rise in a well-oiled bowl for 1 ½ hours until it doubles in size.
- Make the candied pecans. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract, water, and butter pecan flavoring (if using) in a pan over medium heat. Once the mixture is bubbling, stir in the pecans. Cook for 2-3 minutes then remove from the heat.
- Roll out the dough. Roll out the dough into a 12x16 inch rectangle, spread on the butter and the brown sugar cinnamon filling. Sprinkle on the pecans.
- Prepare the rolls. Cut the rolls into 9 equal pieces from long side to long side using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, then roll them up. Place in a pan to rise for another 35-40 minutes.
- Bake. Apply an egg wash to the rolls and bake for 24-26 minutes until lightly golden.
- Make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese by itself until fluffy. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt and beat until combined. Add the pecans and stir.
- Enjoy! Spread the frosting on the rolls and enjoy!
How to know when to stop kneading your dough
There are a few tips and tricks to ensure you knead your dough for the right amount of time. My two favorite are the following:
- Press your finger into the dough. If the dough bounces back, it is ready to go! If your finger leaves an indent in the dough, it needs more kneading.
- The window pane test. This one is by far my favorite! Rip off a small piece of dough and place it in between your fingers. Carefully, spread your fingers apart to stretch out the dough. If the dough stretches easily without ripping AND you can see light passing through it, you are golden and it is good to go to rise!
Make sure your yeast is fresh.
This is a simple one, but yeast can be dead. I once tried making cinnamon rolls over and over and over again but the dough was just NOT rising. I thought I wasn't activating it correctly, but turns out the yeast was just dead.
Allow the dough to rise for the entire instructed time.
Don't rush the rise process! Interrupting the rise can cause your rolls to be dense and not pillowy soft.
Sometimes the gluten needs to relax.
If you are rolling out the dough and it just keeps shrinking as you roll it, stop what you're doing, cover it lightly, and let it sit for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
Baking in grams
While I provide volume measurements for the recipes on my blog, I highly suggest baking these recipes using weight. It is the most standardized and accurate way to bake. I carefully recipe test all of my recipes using a kitchen scale, not by using cups, and therefore I cannot guarantee the success of my recipes when using volume measurements.
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Butter Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
- 2 ½ cups (313 grams) all purpose flour plus more for kneading
- 1 package instant yeast must be instant! 1 standard package of yeast is 2 ¼ teaspoons
- ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup (180 mL) whole milk room temperature
- 1 egg room temperature
- ¼ cup (57 grams) unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoons water
- ½ tablespoon butter pecan flavoring optional
- 2 cups (225 grams) pecans
- ¼ cup (57 grams) unsalted butter soft and spreadable
- ⅔ cup (133 grams) brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- about ¾ of the candied pecans
- 1 egg lightly beaten
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese room temperature
- ½ cup (120 mL) maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- the remaining ¼ of the candied pecans
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if kneading by hand), whisk together the flour, instant yeast, granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg.
- Add the milk, egg and melted and cooled butter.
- If you are using a stand mixer, using the hook attachment, mix on low-medium speed until the dough comes together, scraping the flour off the sides of the bowl if necessary. Once the dough forms, turn the mixer up to medium speed and knead for an additional 8-10 minutes. If the dough is sticking to the bottom/sides of the bowl, add more flour tablespoon by tablespoon. You may need to add an extra 4-5 tablespoons of flour. The dough should come together and be slightly sticky but smooth.
- If you are making the dough by hand, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Lightly flour your work space (and your hands) and begin to knead the dough. If the dough is super sticky, add more flour tablespoon by tablespoon. You may need to add an additional 4-5 tablespoons of flour so it is not super sticky. Knead the dough by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough should come together and be slightly sticky but smooth.
- The dough is done kneading when it passes the window pane test. Rip off a small piece of dough and place it in between your fingers. Carefully, spread your fingers apart to stretch out the dough. If the dough stretches easily without ripping AND you can see light passing through it, it does not need anymore kneading. Additionally, if you press your finger into the dough and it bounces back, it is ready to go!
- Once the dough is ready, transfer it to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm environment (in the microwave/in the oven - both OFF - are good options) for 1 ½ hours. It should double in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the candied nuts. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a pan over medium heat, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, water, and butter pecan flavoring (if using) and stir until the sugar melts the mixture is bubbling.
- Stir in the pecans so that the sauce coats the nuts. Stir until the nuts look candied and smell nutty, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer the candied pecans to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Leave at room temperature to cool completely.
- Take the butter out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for a while so it becomes super soft and spreadable. You can microwave the butter for 5 seconds if necessary to soften it up.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
- Coarsely chop your candied nuts into small pieces, then set aside.
- Once the dough has finished its first rise, grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan, or pie dish and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12x16 inch rectangle. Spread the butter into an even and smooth layer across the rolled out dough.
- Sprinkle on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture so it is covering the butter. Using an offset spatula, back of a spoon, etc., or your hands (I find it easier with my hands) rub the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture completely into the butter. Sprinkle on ¾ of the candied nuts.
Preparing the rolls and baking
- There are a few ways you can roll the dough.
- One: Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the rolled out dough into 9 equal pieces from long side to long side (so you have 12 inch strips), then roll them up individually.
- Two: Gently roll the dough into a log, beginning from the long side. Once the dough is completely rolled, with the seam side down, gently press on the top of the log just to secure it. Cut the dough into 9 equal pieces by using a very sharp knife or a piece of floss. If using a piece of floss, place the floss underneath the dough with the ends coming up on the sides. Criss cross the floss over the dough and pull until a roll comes off.
- Place your rolls into the prepared pan, cover, and leave the rolls to rise for another 35-40 minutes. They should fluff up.
- When the dough has 5-10 minutes left to rise, preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly whisk an egg to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash on the edges of the rolls using a pastry brush or your finger.
- Place the rolls in the oven and bake them for 24-26 minutes until slightly golden on top.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
- While the rolls are baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese by itself on medium high speed until creamy. Add the maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt and mix until super smooth. Once the rolls are cooled or still slightly warm, spread the frosting on top of the rolls. Enjoy!
Tried this recipe? Make sure to rate and review and tag @sturbridgebakery on Instagram!