These flaky brown butter cinnamon roll pancakes are the result of a complete and total happy accident. A few weeks ago I made the most amazing flaky scallion pancakes as part of one of the fantastic bake-a-longs Emily Trotochaud (aka @100daysofpasta) has been hosting each week. Only, even though I’ve been diligently regrowing all my scallion butts, I had barely enough to fill three pancakes, let alone the four the recipe made. So for the fourth pancake, I quickly dusted in some cinnamon sugar. The end result was a thick and crispy fried pancake with a very mild but promising cinnamon sugar filling. I started tinkering.
Sesame oil just didn’t work with the sweeter cinnamon sugar flavors, so I swapped it for brown butter. Then, to replicate the satisfyingly crunchy texture of the scallions I sprinkled finely chopped toasted walnuts across the surface of the dough before rolling it up. Oh, and I added nutmeg to the traditional hot water dough to carry that warm nutty flavor all the way through. And they were divine.
The pancakes are flaky and crispy on the outside but tender and a little gooey on the inside. The nuts are crunchy and toasty, the cinnamon sugar gets all melty in the brown butter. And a quick sprinkle of cinnamon sugar after they come out of the frying pan gives them that lightly sugary textured exterior you might associate more with apple cider doughnuts.
Yes, making brown butter is one extra step but trust me, it’s so worth it. I make it in batches and store it in the fridge because it saves time when I’m feeling inspired and want brown butter in my baking and I want it now. For these pancakes, I tested with both melted brown butter and softened brown butter, and the softened butter yielded much better results.
The cinnamon sugar filling goes down in streaks and clumps — if you sprinkle it on evenly the layers become prone to unraveling when you bite in. A splotchy application of cinnamon sugar is both welcome and encouraged.
how to assemble
(Yes, this is similar to the technique used in the scaled down recipe for a single (epic) cinnamon roll!)
brown butter cinnamon roll pancake notes
- These flaky cinnamon roll pancakes use a hot water dough. Boiling hot. What’s the benefit of a hot water dough? J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains in this great article about the techniques behind traditional Chinese scallion pancakes: “By adding boiling water directly to flour, you actually end up not only denaturing the proteins, but smashing them into small pieces. Some degree of gluten can still form, but because cooked proteins aren’t nearly as stretchy or clingy as raw ones, you won’t get anywhere near the stretch or elasticity of a cold-water dough. If […] you’re looking for tender dumpling wrappers or scallion pancakes with just a bit of tug and chew, that’s precisely what you want.”
- Brown butter is made by cooking butter until the milkfat in the butter starts to brown (for you science nerds: this is the Maillard reaction). Use a wide, flat skillet with a light bottom (rather than a dark non-stick pan) to brown your butter. The butter will bubble and fizzle as it browns, a side effect of the water content in the butter evaporating. Those bubbles obscure the milkfat particles which settle on the bottom. A wide, shallow pan with a light bottom will let you see the milkfat particles on the bottom and remove the butter from the heat before they get too dark. Once your butter is suitably browned, transfer it to a separate container and stir it periodically as it cools to room temp to evenly distribute the brown milkfat particles. It’ll store more or less indefinitely in the fridge.
- I’ve included instructions for making your own cinnamon sugar blend to sprinkle on the outside of the finished pancakes, but you need such a small amount that I usually don’t make it from scratch. I prefer using a superfine cinnamon sugar blend like Domino’s or King Arthur Flour’s.
- To see how I styled the photo at the top of this page, click here.
flaky brown butter cinnamon roll pancakes
- 6 TBSP brown butter (softened)
- 240 grams flour (2 cups, scooped into the measuring cup and leveled off)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp whole nutmeg (freshly grated)
- 177 grams boiling water (¾ cup)
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 TBSP granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- 2 TBSP finely chopped walnuts
- 1 TBSP cinnamon sugar blend (1 TBSP granulated sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon)
- Brown your butter. Cook 6 TBSP unsalted butter in a small shallow skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the milkfat particles on the bottom turn brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl or airtight container. Let cool to room temp. It should have a very soft, spreadable consistency. Stir a few times as it cools to evenly distribute brown butter particles.
- Toast the walnuts. In a small, bare skillet over medium heat toast the finely chopped walnuts until aromatic and lightly browned. They'll toast quickly, so don't walk away! Remove from the skillet to a small bowl or paper towel to cool while you make the dough.
- Make the dough. Whisk together flour, salt, and nutmeg in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until a shaggy dough forms, meaning the dough will have mostly come together but there might still be some patches of flour and visible dry bits in the bottom of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth and cohesive, about 5 minutes. Cover and set aside for at least 5 minutes while you make the filling.
- Make the filling. Combine both sugars, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl with a pinch of salt (optional) and set aside.
- Divide the dough into quarters (use a kitchen scale to be precise) and shape each section into a smooth ball. Lightly flatten the dough against the counter then fold and tuck the edges up over the center of the dough creating a smooth surface against the counter. Then flip the dough balls over so the smooth side is facing up. Work with one dough ball at a time, leaving the others covered while you work so they don't dry out.
- Roll one piece of dough into a large oval-y circle-ish shape on a lightly floured surface. Rotate the disc of dough as you roll to ensure it isn't sticking. When the dough is about 11-12" wide and very, very thin (almost translucent) you're ready for the next step.
- Brush any excess flour off the dough. Then, use a small offset spatula or small silicone spatula with a flexible tip to spread a very thin layer of softened brown butter across the surface of the dough all the way to the edges. Be careful not to rip or tear the dough.
- Sprinkle on a quarter of the cinnamon sugar mixture. You want a somewhat uneven application here — try to avoid big clumps, but it's okay if it's splotchy or slightly bare in a few spots. Then top with a tablespoon or two of the toasted walnuts. Less is more here!
- Roll the dough circle up into a tightly coiled log tube. Pinch both ends of the tube shut. Then, coil the log tube into a tight spiral, tucking the open end underneath. Press down once, firmly, with your palm to flatten. Set aside, covered, while you assemble the other three pancakes.
- Slowly heat about a ¼" oil in a skillet. While the oil heats up, gently roll the pancakes into ½" thick discs about 6" wide, starting with the one that has rested the longest. Some walnuts and cinnamon sugar might break through the dough — that's okay.
- Test oil by dipping the edge of a pancake in it. It's ready if it immediately starts to bubble. Place the pancake in the oil slowly, bent at almost a right angle as you slide it in. This helps ensure the center of the pancake hits the oil as evenly as the edges, and that you don't end up with an air pocket under the center of the pancake. Fry each pancake 2-3 minutes per side, then remove to a cooling rack over a sheet pan lined with paper towels. While the oil is still hot on the outside of the pancake, dust both sides with cinnamon sugar blend. Serve hot.