Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I don’t think I’ve made cinnamon rolls since I’ve had my coworkers over for a dinner party.  And by dinner party, I mean my serving them random things, like cinnamon rolls at 10 o’clock at night.

I haven’t had them over in a couple months; since February perhaps.  How the months have slipped away since then completely amazes me.

It turns out my mother was right (yes yes they’re always right). When you’re a kid, you can’t wait to “grow up,” and it feels like an eternity to get there.  I thought I was never going to turn 21; I was one of the last of my friends in college to do so.  But now, as I can say I’m in my thirties…ok, that was too painful, now that I’m thirty, time really feels like it’s moving too fast.  The only positive I can see for the days going by quickly is that when I buy things online, they seem to arrive at our doorstep instantly!

This past week I purchased the latest cookbook craze, Peas and Thank You.  It’s a cookbook filled with meatless meals, and with my recent dabbling in vegetarian cooking, I purchased it from Amazon when I read how other food bloggers stated they hated vegetables, but loved this cookbook.  Despite Roo’s horror after he read the subtitle of the book, “Simple meatless meals the whole family will love,”, I was looking forward to finding some inspiration.

Yes, there are pages filled with recipes in which the base proteins are seitan, tofu and tempeh, but there is also a great sweets section, new smoothie recipes I haven’t thought of, and an interesting take on what to do for the first meal of the day.

There was a lot to choose from, but I didn’t want to fall into the stigma that Roo was terrified of, by starting with, for example, a tofu frittata.  I wasn’t in the mood for french toast (because I still believe it’s blasphemous to stray from this recipe), and a smoothie wasn’t going to cut it.  What did catch my eye were blackberry cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t have blackberries, applesauce, or almond milk on hand, which were essential for the dish.

But, always one for improvising, and despite what my father has always said (“baking is chemistry, don’t mess with the recipe or you’ll be sorry,”) I decided this morning I’d try with what I had my pantry.

Long story short, it worked out wonderfully.  The pumpkin puree was quite a delicate flavor in the roll, so I may increase the amount used for next time.  Or maybe even throw in some pumpkin butter.  The roll itself was not very flaky, as it lacks butter, but it’s more of a soft bread, sweetened by the flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.  The homemade brown sugar I made was amazing, and spread evenly throughout the dough when it baked in the oven.  It was worried when I scattered the filling on the dough (looking sparse), and wondered if we’d have pockets of just plain roll amongst the layers, but it settled itself out.

I’m also glad that I reduced the sugar in half for the icing, but I may add lemon zest to it next time.  Although I love icing on cinnamon rolls, I feel I may be over the whole sweet on sweet theme that you normally have on these pastries.  If you do so before me, let me know how it works out!

Adapted from Peas and Thank You Cookbook, and the original recipe can be found here

Makes 12 Small Rolls


For the dough

1 cup 1% milk, warmed (about 100F or to feel comfortably warm to touch)

Two and one quarter teaspoons of yeast (or one yeast packet)

Quarter cup pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)

1 cup whole wheat flour

One and a half cup of all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

One tablespoon (I know, it seems like a lot) baking powder

Quarter cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Quarter teaspoon nutmeg

One eighth teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt from Diamond)

For the filling

2 tablespoons buter, softened

Half cup brown sugar (I made my own and it was awesome: half cup sugar and three quarters of a tablespoon of unsulfured molasses, pulsed in food processor until it looks like “brown sugar”)

1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the icing

Half cup powdered sugar

Quarter cup reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

the tiniest pinch of salt


Three to four large mixing bowls (four if you don’t want to clean one of the bowls to reuse)

A spatula

A whisk

A rolling pin (although people have been known to use wine bottles when caught in a pinch)

A 9 inch cake pan

Parchment paper

Cooking spray (I use Pam)

A damp towel (or paper towel)

Pour the warmed milk into a large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast.  Whisk so that the yeast is evenly distributed in the milk. Set aside.

In the second mixing bowl, add the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk till combined.

In the third mixing bowl, add the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix with spatula until combined.

Hopefully by now it’s been about five minutes since you’ve added the yeast to the warmed milk.  Add the pumpkin puree to this bowl.  Stir till combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing with a spatula until combined (ie a dough forms up).

Either clean your dry ingredients bowl, so that you can use it again, or throw it in the sink for someone else to clean (ha ha), and have you fourth mixing bowl on stand by.

Dump the dough onto a floured flat surface (like your kitchen table).  Knead the dough, adding flour to avoid the dough from sticking to your hands or flat surface.  Knead for about five minutes, or until the dough is no longer sticky.  *I’m probably a horrible “kneader” as it took me this long.  In the book, it recommends you knead for the duration of a minute, or about twenty times, but no, not enough for me.*

Add more flour to your flat surface, and roll the dough out into a large rectangle (I rolled mine out to eighteen inches long and a foot wide, but I like thin layers and small cinnamon rolls).

Scatter the filling over the dough.  Don’t be afraid if it won’t schmear across your dough like a pesto with a spatula.  I just scattered it about, like dotting a pizza with fresh whole mozzarella.  It’ll work out!

Roll up the dough, tightly.  Slice the dough up into similar sized, little rolls.  It worked out for the size that I rolled out, rolled up, and then cut, to 12 cinnamon rolls.  You may like them bigger.  This is your breakfast, be brave and cut how you like!

Line your cake pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray so that it’s lightly coated.  Put in your rolls, so that they have some space in between (ie not touching).  Cover with a damp towel.  Place somewhere warm and let rise for forty five minutes.

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  When the rolls and oven are ready, bake for fifteen minutes to twenty minutes (maybe even twenty five if your rolls are huge), depending on how large your rolls are.  Mine were on the small size and only took fifteen minutes to take.

While the rolls are baking, add the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt to either your cleaned mixing bowl (where you mixed your dry ingredients), or your fourth.  Mix till smooth, with a spatula.  You do not want to see giant lumps in this icing, so keep mixing until smooth.  Hopefully with the room temperature cream cheese this won’t be very difficult.

When the rolls have finished baking (firm to the touch, cake tester comes out clean), remove from the oven and schmear the tops with the icing.  Let the rolls cool for about five minutes, but I urge you to eat them while warm.  Icing may get all over your face, and fingers, but seriously, it’s more delicious this way.

You’re welcome.


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