Small Batch Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Small Batch Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

overnight small batch cinnamon rolls

Small Batch Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Break up the work and get the rolls onto the table quicker in this recipe that yields a manageable 9 cinnamon rolls.
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
refrigeration time 8 hours
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 9 rolls


for the dough:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour plus extra as needed
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch salt

for the filling:

  • 1/4 cup butter creamed
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon we used Saigon cinnamon

for the icing:

  • 1 cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 11/2 teaspoons vanilla


  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm (not more than about 100F) water and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let sit.
  • In a small saucepan, warm butter and milk to about 100F. It may help to melt the butter first and then add the milk if both are straight from the fridge.
  • Using a stand mixer with a dough hook combine dissolved yeast and the butter mixture on low. Slowly the sugar, then the egg. Add salt and flour, mix until smooth. The mixture should become a sticky dough at this time. Continue to mix with the dough hook and add additional flour a little at a time as needed for it become a tacky but smooth and uniform ball of dough.
  • Place in a greased bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise for about 20 minutes. Replace the cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day:
  • Butter a 8x8 inch baking dish. Set aside.
  • Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured counter. Roll out in a 12 by 14 inch rectangle. The dough should be about an inch thick.
  • Using a spatula, spread the soft, creamed butter over dough. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon evenly over the buttered dough.
  • Roll dough into a tight log. Cut into 9 1 inch thick slices. Place in the prepared pan.
  • Allow to rise about an hour until they have almost doubled and start to drift together. Bake for about 35 minutes or until fully cooked and browned.
  • While you are waiting, whisk together all of the icing ingredients until a smooth, pourable icing forms—add more milk or cream if needed.
  • Move the pan to a wire rack. Pour the glaze over the rolls and smooth it out with a spatula.
  • Cool in pan for about 5 minutes prior to serving.
Keyword sweet roll

This year for New Year’s Eve we did our usual themed movie marathon. It has over the years developed into a two-day event. This year’s theme was school. I researched and polled people on their favorite school lunch memories. We ended up making square pizzas and homemade “lunchables” with fudge and cupcakes for dessert for two of the meals but I went in a different direction for the other main meal. 

I had come across a very regional combination years ago and knew this was my excuse to make it. Apparently in parts of the mid-west near and around Nebraska and Iowa chili and cinnamon rolls is a popular school lunch combination. It’s also found seasonally at chain Runza and on many menus I found online. There isn’t a consensus about how the combination started or became popular. Some said it was because school lunches required a grain with every main so they made cinnamon rolls. That seems like a lot of work when you could just make bread or a plain roll! Another story was that a lunch lady just liked making cinnamon rolls and wanted them on the menu.

Other sources said it was a happy accident and one restaurant (or woman) was good at making both chili and cinnamon rolls so they started selling and serving them together and since it was popular with kids, they started making the combo for school lunches. Another story was that it came from logging camps! Quite a mystery!

The trick is serving them side by side so you can have a bite of each. It’s not a layered dish! Alton Brown made the mistake of ladling chili on his cinnamon roll last year and it made the news.

I was pretty sure I’d like it because I like cinnamon rolls and I like chili. I was not disappointed. It was really good! You had the sweet spice of the rolls foiled by the different types of spices and tomatoes in chili. It sort of reminded me of Cincinnati chili which has some cinnamon and other spices not always found in chili.

I was also excited to try making a truly small batch of cinnamon rolls. So many recipes (even my own) yield two full pans of rolls. Even the “small batch” roll recipes I found made a full dozen. Or they went the opposite way and made one giant roll for two people to slice and share. Not what I had in mind. 

This recipe makes nine which is still a good number of rolls but isn’t completely overwhelming. They keep pretty well at room temperature for a day or two–try heating them up!

Another bonus was coming up with a recipe that could be started the night before. The all-day nature of regular cinnamon roll recipes really keeps me from making them and other yeasted sweet rolls more often. We made the dough at night then got up, left the butter out to soften and rolled them onto rolls as soon as we woke up and then were able to serve them for an early lunch with the chili. I don’t know if it is just a mental thing or what but it felt so much quicker and easier.

I recommend letting the dough rise in a warm place in your house, even if it isn’t in the kitchen! Don’t rush this, if they do not rise, they will not be good. It’s tempting to want to rush and get them in the oven but better to have them be late than sad. 


A note about the chili for the curious:

The chili we made was a very basic chili with ground chicken, jalapeño and habanero canned tomatoes, crushed and diced tomatoes with green chile, great northern and kidney beans and lots of ground spices including smoked paprika and dark chili powder. Nothing fancy!

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