What if we tried to make cinnamon rolls "better"


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Aug 17, 2017
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Laminated dough has a wide learning curve. What I’ve discovered about laminating dough is butter lock method matters as much as brand of butter and percentage of butter weight to total dough weight.

I much prefer the traditional French envelope lock to the English letter fold. The French lock wraps the dough on all four sides, with seams on top. The English lock leaves seams on two sides. With the French lock, the seams are tightly fused closed as you roll over the dough. So the butter remains tightly encased in dough.

With the English lock you have to leave a border around the butter block to seal the side seams. I find butter sometimes oozes out of the seams during rolling. For me it’s just not as secure a butter lock.

I perfer Kerrygold brand butter. The brand of butter really matters as pliability is key to rolling the dough without tearing the layers. If layers are torn during rolling, the dough fuses into a mass, and the butter leaks during the bake. Judging pliability based on the temperature of the butter is a rabbit hole as the body (spreadability) of butter is determined by butterfat composition.

Butterfat is a mix of crystallized fat and liquid fat. The more crystallized fat in the butter, the harder the butter. Creating the right balance of crystallized and liquid fat is as much nature as it is an art form. In the spring and summer months there is less butterfat in the cows milk. So this lower butterfat butter will be sticky and leak its natural moisture. In the winter months there’s considerably more butterfat. But a high butterfat will result in a hard, brittle and un-spreadable butter.

To counter the adverse effects of nature, the cream is temperature controlled in storage. Then during churning, the cream is actually tempered. Every butter producers has their proprietary method of tempering the cream. Without a doubt, Kerrygold has perfected the art of tempering cream to produce a butter of extraordinary spreadability. Their butter is pliable right out of the refrigerator.

The pliability of Kerrygold takes the guesswork out of the equation. I make my butter block the night before I laminate dough. Then let it sit on the counter for about 5 - 10 minutes before I lock it in. It’s always soft and rolls out easily between the dough.

In rolling the dough it’s very important that the layers not tear. If the layers inside tear, the butter will leak. So the butter needs to be very pliable. It should rolls out between the layers of dough as a separate layer.

When rolling the dough I keep a close watch on how much elasticity is developing. With each pass of the rolling pin, I watch for signs of contraction. The minute it starts to show signs of contracting, I immediately stop rolling; I place the dough in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Also with each pass of the rolling pin I check to make sure the dough is not stuck to the counter. If you roll dough that is stuck to the counter, the bottom stays stuck to the counter while the top stretches outward and tears the layers inside. This will cause the dough to fuse in some spots and cause leaking during the bake.

Other thoughts in laminated dough...

The percentage of butterfat content is important. A butterfat of 83% - 85% is best for flavor and layers. I once used Vermont creamery cultured butter. Which is a delicious butter with an extraordinary 86% butterfat. I found it to be too greasy. I don’t what the key is too work with a butterfat over 85%.

There is such a thing as too much butter. In a commercial bakery the total dough weight to the roll-in fat (the butter block) maybe 15% - 25%. This is usually due to cost controls. A low roll-in fat percentage will produce a very bland dough. But a total dough weight to roll-in fat above 50% can be way too rich, difficult to work, and produce a greasy finished product. A master baker will usually use 28% - 30% roll-in fat.

I prefer to stay between 30% - 40% butter. The Weekend Bakery recipe is 31% roll-in fat to total dough weight.

Unlike other ratios, the roll-in fat is always based on the total the weight, not the weight of the flour.

The protein content in flour is also important. A flour with a protein of 11.5 to 12.8 works best for laminated dough. So King Arthur AP flour or an equivalent would be good. The Gold Medal and Pillsbury all purpose flours are too low in protein to make a good laminated dough.

Total hydration is another factor. On the commercial side they tend to use around 50% hydration. The lower hydration dough produces very distinct layers and that wonderful crispy crust that shatters when you bite in to it.

A higher the hydration dough is softer and has less distinct layers. The finished product has a nice moist chew.

What I like about the Weekend Bakery recipe is it comes in at 56% hydration, so it will produce that shattering crust. And if you use a higher butterfat butter, it will provide plenty enough fat to create a moist bite.

Demonstrates clearly the English fold method


A laypersons explanation of butter production


This was my first attempt at laminated dough. Fail! The tight crumb is caused by pressing down on the rolling pin and stretching and tearing the layers. This dough is fused. It did not leak in the bake, but it didn’t expand into layers. This has more a cake crumb:(
View attachment 1446

This was the second attempt. I improved on the laminating process, but under proofed. So the honeycomb layers didn’t fully shape. And the dough was probably a bit too hydrated. While the crust was amazingly crisp, the interior was a bit moist. The third time was a charm. The crust and crumb were very good. I thought I had a photo of the inside of third batch, but don’t see it in my photo library.

View attachment 1447

I won’t lie, laminated dough is really hard work. I still have a long way to go to achieve a consistently great finished product. The last time I made it, a few months ago, it was bad. Time before that it was near perfect. So it’s a step forward, a step back. A couple steps forward, a step back.
That is a pretty pretty dough.



Well-Known Member
Mar 26, 2013
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I think adding the brown sugar was a bad idea - the big crystals would most likely tear up the layers as you roll it out. I think if you want to make a flavoured, laminated dough then you could try creaming together the butter with icing sugar and cinnamon, then forming it into a block and chilling it. Then make the laminated dough according to a recipe, but using the flavoured butter instead of plain butter :)



Well-Known Member
Jun 23, 2017
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I used a recipe for cinnamon rolls. It seemed like a good one. (Before I did terrible things to it)
I used a package of kerrygold. It looked about right? I think I needed to have rolled it much, much thinner.
I rolled out the dough, put the butter in the middle of the lower two thirds of the dough. I threw some unspecified amount of brown sugar on it. Then some cinnamon, them some sugar. I alternated. I didn't measure. Because we don't need no stinking measures! Right?
I did a weird fold on the first go. Because there was a whole lot of dough at the top. And probably that was for the best.
I put it all back in the fridge and did some laundry. Checked email and maybe watched something on tv.
I rolled it out, until I got bored. Tri-folded it all into something about 7 inches tall. Back in the fridge. Did more of the stuff one does on Sunday.
I turned it so I was rolling the short side long. (or rather the part that had been short because now it was a square) I rolled it out to about three inches thick?
Back in the fridge.
Turned and rolled.
Back in fridge.
Took it out and thought, what now? I guess I'll cut it into cubes. And there they were, all the layers on display. Inches thick. No seal at all. But I can't figure out how I could have sealed them.
So, my guess is there needed to be more muscle applied? More rolling?
It was a mess.

lol, torturing dough in the kitchen is a good way to work out our aggressions.

Ahhh yes, when you say “I think I needed to have rolled it much, much thinner.” thats where using total dough weight and percentage of roll-in fat really help. When the roll-in fat is based on the total weight of the dough, the butter amount is relative to the dough. That was one of the nice things about the Weekend Bakery recipe. He gives you the dimensions for the dough and butter block. When I sliced the butter and arranged it in the dimensions he had given, it was the perfect thickness. Like you that was one of the things I was concerned about as I was preparing everything.

It’s really nice to hear stories from
other bakers who also try things on a whim. My house is very ordered and organized. Baking is the one activity where I will throw all caution to the wind.

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