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White Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

White Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls aren’t the healthiest breakfast treat – but that’s probably why they’re considered to be a breakfast treat in the first place and not a breakfast staple. But homemade cinnamon rolls give you a little more control over what goes into your treats and you can do things like make them with a little bit less butter or, like these rolls, with some whole grain flour instead of all white flour. It’s not a huge change, but it can help cinnamon rolls work their way into the breakfast rotation a little more often.

A great substitution for all purpose flour in yeast breads is white whole wheat flour, as it has lots of whole grains but is close to the look and feel of all purpose flour. Regular whole wheat flour can make breads a little bit dense and, since it has less gluten in it than all purpose, breads can be a little bit crumbly. This isn’t really the case with the white whole wheat, which falls somewhere between the two extremes. The rolls aren’t too heavy, but are tender and soft, with a subtle nutty, whole grain flavor to them.

The dough was great, very easy to work with. It requires a slightly long first rise, then is rolled out and filled with butter, cinnamon and sugar. The dough is rolled up into a log, sliced into individual rolls and place in a baking dish. Once you reach this point, the dough can either be refrigerated overnight (my preference, so I can have the rolls in the morning) or let them rise and bake right away. I top mine with a simple glaze made with confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla extract. It adds just the right amount of sweetness without making the rolls too gooey or hard to handle. 

White Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
2 1/2 tsp (.25 oz) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, about 100-110F
3 – 3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt


1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp coarse sugar/regular sugar

In a large bowl, stir together active dry yeast and warm water. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until bubbly.
Add in 2 cups white whole wheat flour, sugar, buttermilk, butter, vanilla and salt. Stir well, until dough is smooth.
Gradually add in remaining white whole wheat flour until dough comes together into a slightly sticky ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth. Add additional flour if dough becomes too sticky. Dough should be “tacky” but not wet.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press dough gently into a rectangle. Roll dough out into a sheet about 12 x 16-inches.
Spread rolled out dough with softened butter, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon, brown sugar and coarse sugar.
Working with one of the long sides, roll dough up tightly into a log. Pinch the seam down to seal. Cut off any excess from the ends of the log. Divide log into 12 even pieces and cut with a very sharp knife, taking care not to smush the log. Transfer slices into the prepared pan, making rows three down and four across. Leave equal spacing between the rolls.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Place refrigerated rolls on the counter for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 12

Vanilla Glaze
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk all glaze ingredients together in a small bowl. Add additional milk or confectioners’ sugar, as needed, to make glaze pourable.
Drizzle over cinnamon rolls while still warm.

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  • Emily
    February 7, 2012

    BTW, I’m totally excited to make these for dinner. We are having cinnamon rolls and chili in a throwback to elementary school lunches. 🙂

  • Nancy
    August 25, 2013

    What does 3-31/2 cups means? Only 3 1/2 cups or 3 times.3 1/2 ?

  • Nicole
    August 26, 2013

    Nancy – That means that you will need between 3 and 3 1/2 cups of flour when making the dough. The exact amount will vary slightly every time you make it because it can be influenced by the ingredients you’re using and where you’re making it. For instance, if you live somewhere humid, you will usually need a bit more flour than someone baking in the desert.

  • Andrea
    May 8, 2014

    This recipe is amazing! I just made them and they taste so fluffy and soft even with white whole wheat flour. I made the dough with my bread machine ( I still proofed the yeast first in warm water) and it made the whole process so much easier.

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