Yeast Breads: Why do my cinnamon rolls shrink after baking?

I recently got an e-mail from Carol saying, “I’ve made cinnamon rolls for more years then I can remember,but lately they seem to  shrink after I take them out of the oven. By  shrinking I mean they get wide spaces between the layers. I’m wondering if maybe I’m letting them raise too long after I shape them. Any tips?”

It is perfectly normal for yeast breads to shrink a bit after they come out of the oven. Steam from the liquid in the recipe causes part of the increase in volume the bread experiences in the oven. When the bread cools, the steam disappears, and depending upon the stability of the dough, the bread will shrink some.

Many things affect the stability of yeast dough but if you experience unexpected results from a recipe you have made before and you haven’t changed the flour or yeast or increased the butter or sugar in the dough, technique is most likely responsible. Over kneading and over raising during either the dough preparation and first raising stage or  the shaping and second raising stage of the process can cause the dough to shrink after baking. Over kneading will over develop the gluten in the flour making a tough structure that will pull the dough together once the steam is gone from the loaf. Knead only until the dough is smooth, shiny, and pliable. Over raising will make the bread’s framework too fragile and it will collapse as it cools. Raise only until an indentation pressed into the dough holds its shape.

Also, that delicious layer of  butter that you spread on the dough before it is rolled up insures that the layers won’t stick together and support each other making them free to shrink. You might try your recipe without the butter and sprinkle the dough with sugar or brown sugar and cinnamon before rolling it into a log.

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