A few years ago I was looking for something sweet, decadent and just over-the-top to make for Valentine’s Day weekend. I had the idea to take my favorite cinnamon rolls and turn them into a delicious red velvet counterpart. Now I’ve made a sourdough version. Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls are decadent, delicious and perfect for any red velvet and chocolate lovers. Rich chocolate filling rolled between red velvet dough, baked to perfection and drizzled with a creamy cream cheese icing. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Sample Baking Schedule
A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.
A few notes: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78 degrees F throughout the process. If you’d like to make these red velvet sourdough rolls for a late breakfast, stick the dough in the refrigerator after bulk fermentation and shape in the morning.
|8 PM -8AM||Make Stiff Sweet Levain. Let rise overnight.|
|8 AM||Mix Dough|
|8:15 AM||Begin Bulk Fermentation|
|12:15 PM||End Bulk Fermentation |
Option 1: Shape Rolls
Option 2: Refrigerate the dough for 12-24 hours and shape rolls the next morning
|12: 15PM- 12:30PM||Shape Red Velvet Rolls|
|12:30PM – 3:30PM||Rise in a warm (78 degree F) place for 2-3 hours until puffed up and touching. Do not bake unless dough has puffed up and risen.|
|3:30PM – 4:15PM||Bake and frost. Serve warm.|
Making a Stiff Sweet Levain
One of the reasons I advocate for making a levain instead of using straight sourdough starter is in cases like these red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls. Maintaining a sourdough starter at 100% hydration makes it easy for me to create a stiff sweet levain when I need it for an enriched dough. I use a stiff sweet levain for enriched breads like this cinnamon sugar babka. A stiff levain is a levain that mixes up to a firm consistency and is anywhere from 50%-65% hydration. It adds elasticity to dough and helps temper the acid in the sourdough which gives all the benefit of sourdough fermentation but not the tang. The sugar in the levain helps counteract the acidity and creates a more mild flavor. My picky kids are especially grateful for this! To make a stiff sweet levain:
- Use 100% hydration sourdough starter at its peak
- Add 20 grams of ripe sourdough starter to 100 grams of all purpose flour, 50 grams of water and 20 grams of sugar. Mix together.
- A stiff starter will be a little more difficult to mix together because it forms a dough ball instead of a batter. Knead the ball of dough a few times until smooth.
- Place the stiff sweet levain in a liquid measuring cup and set in a warm (76-78 degree F) spot for 12 hours.
- Stiff Sweet Levain is ready to use when it has doubled in size and has a rounded top. Using it right when it reaches its peak will help decrease the acidity in the dough.
Mixing the Dough
I use a Bosch mixer to mix this dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hands, though it will take longer. Add all the dough ingredients to the mixer fitted with a dough hook. Reserve a little bit of the flour to add toward the end of mixing the dough as needed. Weight measurements are always more accurate than volume, but I always like to reserve a bit of flour so I don’t over-flour my dough. Varieties of flour and weight of eggs can impact the amount of flour added to dough, so I play it safe. It’s easier to add more flour than fix over-floured dough. Mix the dough on low speed for about 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky. Continue kneading about 5 more minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a container or bowl for bulk fermentation.
Bulk fermentation is the name for when the dough ferments in one big mass. Put the dough in a container and cover it (I like using these shower caps). The entire bulk fermentation should take about 4 hours at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the temperature of the dough, it should be between 76-78 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dough is significantly colder, bulk fermentation will take longer. If it’s warmer, the bulk fermentation will be a bit shorter. Wild yeast perform best in the 76-78 degree F range, so do your best to keep the dough in that range. I use a dough proofer or the inside of my oven with the light turned on (don’t turn the oven on!) to keep my dough warm. Let the dough sit for 4 hours in that warm place. By the end of 4 hours it should have puffed up and risen a bit.
Red Velvet Roll Filling
Toward the end of bulk fermentation, make the red velvet roll filling. I use a combination of brown sugar and cocoa powder to get a rich chocolatey flavor in these rolls. I recommend using a dutch cocoa powder (I linked my favorite one) for the most chocolate flavor. Stir together melted butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Set aside to spread when shaping the rolls.
What Pan Should I Bake Red Velvet Rolls in?
I’ve experimented with a couple different options. I found that when the rolls are touching, they need a little bit longer to bake through completely.
- Pie Pan (7-8 inch): You will need 2 pans, 4 rolls to a pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes.
- Pie Pan (10 inch): One dish will fit all 8 rolls snuggly. If you like the look of rolls all baked together, use a large circular pie pan. Bake 45-50 minutes.
- Glass Baking Dish (9 by 13): Bake for about 30-35 minutes
- Half Sheet Pan: Rolls will not be touching. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Shaping Sourdough Red Velvet Rolls
Roll the dough out in a 16 by 10 inch rectangle. I like to do this on a pastry mat with measurements on the side. Due to the nature of the mat, I don’t usually need to dust the mat with flour, but if your dough is a little sticky you can use a slight dusting of flour. Spread the reserved filling over the dough, making sure to cover up to the edges. Sprinkle chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate over the filling. Roll the red velvet rolls up, cinnamon-roll-style, starting at the edge closest to you and rolling tightly. Pinch the seam closed and flip the log seam-side down. Slice into 8 equal rolls and place into pan, leaving a little space between rolls for them to rise.
Proofing Sourdough Red Velvet Rolls
If I could give one piece of advice on sourdough is let the rolls rise until they are fully proofed. Keep the temperature in the 76-78 degree Fahrenheit range. I cover my rolls with. a plastic shower cap and stick them in a dough proofer or my oven with the light on (don’t actually turn the oven on). Let the rolls puff up and rise. If you touch the risen rolls with your finger they will feel light and airy. Use the timeline as a guide and go by the feel and appearance of the rolls before baking them. Once the rolls have risen, bake them in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. How close together your rolls are will affect the length of time to bake them. Typically I bake these rolls for 30-35 minutes in a baking dish, unless they are crammed together–then I’ll add on an extra 10-15 minutes to make sure the middles are baked through. If you use a baking sheet where the rolls are not touching at all, they will need less time, around 22-25 minutes.
Whip up the Cream Cheese Frosting
Using a hand mixer, whip the softened butter and cream cheese together. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting will be light and fluffy. Top the warm rolls with creamy cream cheese frosting and enjoy warm!
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t have Red Velvet Bakery Emulsion. What can I substitute?
If you really love and want the flavor of red velvet, you will want to purchase and use a red velvet bakery emulsion. You can also substitute red food coloring instead of the emulsion but it may not have quite the same flavor. Add food coloring in with the cocoa powder and melted butter until you get your desired color of red.
How should I store extra red velvet sourdough cinnamon rolls?
These rolls should be eaten right away. If you have extras, let them cool and then stick them in a ziplock bag. Put the bag in the freezer and freeze for up to a month or two. To re-heat, pull the roll out of the freezer and warm up in the microwave to enjoy.
I want to make sourdough red velvet rolls for breakfast or brunch. How can I do that?
I would make the red velvet dough the day before you want them. After bulk fermentation, cover the dough and put the dough in the refrigerator. The next morning, roll out the dough and shape the rolls. Let rise and then bake.
Should I use salted or unsalted butter when baking?
I always use unsalted butter when baking. It allows me to have more control over how much salt is added, which directly affects the taste of the recipe. If you choose to use salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe accordingly.
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Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Day 1 Stiff Sweet Levain (12 hours/overnight)
- 20 grams sourdough starter 100% hydration, see recipe notes
- 100 grams all purpose flour
- 20 grams granulated sugar
- 50 grams water
Day 2 Red Velvet Rolls
- 130 grams levain
- 238 grams whole milk warmed
- 60 grams unsalted butter melted
- 58 grams granulated sugar
- 1 large egg about 50 grams
- 23 grams cocoa powder see recipe notes
- 13 grams red velvet bakery emulsion see recipe notes
- 6 grams salt about 1 teaspoon
- 480 grams bread flour
Red Velvet Roll Filling
- 57 grams melted unsalted butter about 1/4 cup
- 75 grams brown sugar 1/3 cup
- 9 grams cocoa powder see recipe notes, about 1 Tablespoon
- 10 grams all purpose flour about 1 Tablespoon
- 2 grams ground cinnamon about 1 teaspoon
- 4 grams vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
- a pinch of salt
- 80 grams chocolate chips about 3/4 cup
Cream Cheese Icing
- 57 grams unsalted butter softened
- 113 grams cream cheese softened
- 200 grams powdered sugar
- 5 grams vanilla extract
- 80 grams heavy whipping cream
- a pinch of salt
Stiff Sweet Levain (12 hours/overnight)
- Mix together ripe sourdough starter, all purpose flour, granulated sugar and water. Knead the levain until it forms a cohesive ball. Set in a liquid measuring cup and cover for 12 hours until the levain has doubled in size and the top is rounded.
Red Velvet Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
- Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. It should be around 90-100 degrees F, no warmer than that. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the ripe levain, warmed milk and melted butter.
- Add the sugar, egg, cocoa powder, red velvet bakery emulsion, salt and most of the bread flour. Turn on the dough hook and knead for a few minutes. Add the remainder of the bread flour as needed. The dough should be tacky, not overly sticky and should all cling to one side of the bowl (or away from the edges depending on your mixer). Knead for a total of 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.
- At the end of about 4 hours, the dough should be puffed up and feel very elastic. If it doesn't feel this way, let it bulk ferment for another half hour and check again.
- Overnight Option: At this point, after the bulk fermentation has finished, you can cover the dough and put it in the refrigerator. Proceed with the recipe the next day, shaping and proofing the rolls before baking. This allows you to time the red velvet rolls for breakfast or brunch if desired.
- Mix up the Filling: Near the end of bulk fermentation, mix up the red velvet roll filling. To a small bowl, add the melted butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, flour, vanilla and salt. Mix together. Set aside.
- Prepare Baking Pans: This recipe makes 8 red velvet rolls. Use a pie plate, fitting 4 rolls per pie plate for a beautiful circular shape. You could also use a 9 by 13 pan and put all the rolls in the pan. I've also crammed all 8 rolls in a large pie tin if you want a fuller look (but it will take longer to bake). Choose your pan and spray with cooking spray.
- Shaping: Roll the dough out in a 16 by 10 inch rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the filling. Roll the red velvet rolls up, cinnamon-roll-style, starting at the edge closest to you and rolling tightly. Pinch the seam closed and flip seam-side down.
- Cut the log of dough into 12 equal pieces. Place each red velvet roll in the pan, nestling them together. You can also bake these on a baking sheet, spread out a little, if desired (they will take less time if they aren't nestled together, so watch carefully).
- Proofing: Cover the pan and let rise in a 78 degree F place until puffed up and risen, about 3 hours. Do not bake these rolls if they have not risen.
- Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. For rolls that are 4 to a pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes until baked all the way through. For rolls 8 to a pan, bake a little longer, 40-45 minutes. For rolls baked on a baking sheet and not touching, bake for about 20-25 minutes.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: Using a hand mixer, whip together softened butter and cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream and salt. Whip together for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The frosting should be light and fluffy.
- Spread frosting over the tops of the red velvet rolls while they are still warm. Enjoy!
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