SMiLes by Meg

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I have a confession to make: my sourdough starter experiment failed. For three days, it looked perfect – everything was bubbling away just like it should. And then I had to fiddle. The book I bought here, Alaska Sourdough, didn’t really give much guidance when it came to sourdough starter upkeep. I like having directions to follow, and don’t do well with “just let it be for 2 weeks.” I’m the kind of person that has to constantly push around anything I’m cooking on a stovetop. So I felt the need to at least give it a stir once a day. And then I felt the need to start treating it like my already mature sourdough, feeding it once a day.

I think that was my error. Soon it stopped bubbling altogether and developed a nasty dark liquid on the top. I’d stir it in. Then it started to smell absolutely horrendous, to a degree that sourdough starter just shouldn’t. Finally, I had to admit defeat.

Fortunately, Cathy Coon had given me some of her 150-year-old Denali sourdough starter, which is in perfect health. I’ve fed it a couple of times, and it’s a happy bubbling sourdough, ready to provide all the baked goods. Cathy also sent along a recipe for sourdough cinnamon rolls, and that is how I decided that Sunday morning baked goods could make a comeback.

This is a very active and healthy sourdough starter. I had to move it into a larger jar, because after one day sitting on the counter (in an admittedly very warm room), it looked like this:Fortunately, I happened to be monitoring it pretty closely during the day, a little afraid an eruption was coming, and got a plate under it before any serious messes were made.

All good yeasted breads start the night before. So if you want to make these right, prepare the dough in the evening before you want to eat them. Start by cutting the butter into the flour until it looks like sand. I used the old school two knife approach, but a pastry blender would do better.

Then mix in the sourdough starter, sugar and milk, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.Cover the dough and place in a warm spot overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small dish, mix together the salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Sprinkle the mixture over the dough. Gather dough together and knead slightly on a floured surface until comes together in a smooth ball.In a small dish, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. This may be my favorite smell in existence – it just makes everything feel like Fall. Relatedly, apologies for my lack of pumpkin posts this September – Alaska seems to be less pumpkin-obsessed than the rest of the country. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. I didn’t have a rolling pin, so I used that yellow water bottle you can see in the picture.   Spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll the dough into a log starting at a long edge. Cut the edges off (to bake separately as testers) and cut the log into 12 equal slices. Place them spiral side up in a cast iron skillet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for around 30 minutes, until browned.Remove from oven and cool slightly (maybe 5 to 10 minutes) before pulling apart to serve.  Eat warm, and store in an airtight container if you can’t finish them in one go.

These even got the approval of Erik’s roommate, Josh, who had previously declared a strong hatred of sourdough. Though it’s probably cheating to try to convert someone to sourdough by adding lots of butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Anyways, these are great for a holiday morning or just a lazy weekend.


Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls


  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup active sourdough starter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. The night before, cut the cold butter into the flour in a large bowl until the texture of sand.
  2. Mix in the starter, sugar, and milk with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together into soft dough. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, combine salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small dish. Sprinkle over dough.
  4. Gather dough together and knead on a lightly floured surface until a smooth ball forms, being careful not to over-knead.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter to make the filling.
  6. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Spread filling evenly over dough.
  7. Roll dough into a log starting at a long edge. Cut off ends, then slice log into 12 equal slices.
  8. Place slices spiral side up in a cast iron pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes, until browned.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before tearing apart to serve.