Not that I’d ever had such a thing. Last time I had fresh-baked cinnamon rolls was back when I took Advanced Food in high school. That’s the sort of course they had at my religious fundamentalist boarding school. I mock that sort of thing now, but actually? Advanced Food was pretty fabulous. We came, we cooked, we ate. Repeatedly, for a whole semester.
Since we lived there, they could drag us out of bed for weekend classes. One Sunday, we budding foodies traipsed to the home ec building to learn how to bake several kinds of of bread, among which was sticky buns. Sticky buns aren’t quite the same as cinnamon rolls, but they’re in the same family … you catch my drift.
So that, over a decade ago, was my most recent breakfast-roll baking experience. However, I've baked quite a bit of bread in the interval, and I’m not afraid of yeast. The lure of Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls was too enticing to deny. They suggested the perfect mélange of the fall flavors and morning baked goods I craved.
The King Arthur’s Bread people have lovely pictures, and I’m sure their recipe is fabulous. Unfortunately, their recipe calls for a mere a cup of pumpkin puree. I haven’t graduated to making my own pumpkin puree yet, and when I open a can, I like to use the whole thing. I suppose a diligent women would scoop the remaining pumpkin into a baggie and toss it in the freezer … but I am not a diligent woman. In my house, the freezer is where leftovers and well-intentioned future cooking shortcuts (bread crumbs, anyone?) go to die of acute freezer burn.
Where were we? Oh yes. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Back to them. Anyway, I wanted to use a whole can of pumpkin, so I jiggered with the proportions and came up with the following:
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
1 15-oz. can pumpkin (plain, not pumpkin pie filling)
2/3 cup soft butter
zest of one lemon
3 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons of whiskey and/or amaretto
5 to 5 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons instant yeast
3-4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed in
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-oz. brick cream cheese, room temp (I used Neufchatel, which has slightly less fat than regular cream cheese. That makes it healthy. Right.)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
zest of one lemon (optional)
Mix together 5 cups flour, malted milk or milk powder, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl container of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook attachment. Microwave butter and pumpkin for 1-2 minutes, until warm but not hot. Add eggs, whiskey and lemon zest. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together with a large spatula or spoon until everything is more or less incorporated – your goal here is to prevent a flour volcano once you turn on the stand mixer; the dough hook will take care of the hard work. Turn on the stand mixer (medium) and let “knead” until the dough forms a ball and is stretchy, about 3 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add more flour.
Cover dough and let rise in warm place until doubled, about an hour and a half.
Punch down and turn onto floured surface. Roll into large rectangle with dough about ½” thick. Spread with melted butter, then sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle raisins and nuts evenly over the surface.
Roll along the wide edge. Try to roll tightly to keep the raisins and nuts from falling out.
Slice 1” to 1 ½” thick and place in greased pans – I used 3 cake pans; if you cut them 1 ½” thick, you could probably also use a 9 x 13” pan. Let rise for another hour and a half or so in a warm place, until again doubled in bulk.
This is the rolls before they'd risen the second time
Bake in 350 oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Makes about 2-3 dozen.
Let cinnamon rolls cool for 1-2 minutes after coming out of the oven, then spread with cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!
Not to toot my own horn, but I did a good thing here. These are warm and moist and soft and gooey and just bursting with the flavors of the season. You really ought to whip up a batch to taste for yourself.
Next time I make these, I will make a couple of adjustments. I don’t know if it’s Cinnabon conditioning, but I like larger rolls, and these were rather dainty in their proportions. Next time, I’ll roll the dough slightly less thin and will cut them in 1 1/2” slices instead of 1” slices so I’ll end up with chubbier buns. Pun not intended, but I’m a sucker for lame puns, so I'll just run with it.
I won’t change a thing about the frosting, which is perfection. I like a thick frosting, but if you prefer more of a glaze, you could thin it out with more syrup or milk. You should definitely include the maple syrup, though – the maple flavor came through very distinctly and was the perfect complement to the pumpkin in the rolls.
Printable recipe here.