Smitten Kitchen first posted this recipe three Octobers ago, way back in 2012, a few days before I was planning to host a baby shower brunch for my friend Amanda. I had the menu all planned out, but naturally I saw the blog post and decided I could definitely do homemade cinnamon rolls for a crowd on top of everything else. I was also planning on homemade quiches, however, and at the eleventh hour decided I couldn’t do both – so I opted for pumpkin muffins, which I had made before and knew would be easier. On the one hand, thank goodness I came to my senses and didn’t attempt the cinnamon rolls, as I was pretty frazzled the morning of the shower (I have a vivid memory of calling a girlfriend at 8 am and asking her to pick up three dozen cupcakes, as I had run out of time to make them). But on the other, it’s really a shame I didn’t, as what I learned last week when I finally made them (three years later!) is that – as it turns out – they’re totally doable. And of course, as delicious as they sound.
So please believe me when I tell you that you, too, can make homemade cinnamon rolls. You can make them from scratch, even. My grandmother is the only person I’ve ever known to make “homemade” cinnamon rolls, and even she uses frozen bread dough – so of course I assumed they must be really difficult. As it turns out, however, that’s not the case. I’ve never worked with yeast before, and I was surprised at just how easy it is. It’s already packaged out for you in the baking aisle – you simply let it sit in some warm milk for five minutes and add it to your dough (just make sure you let the dough rise in a warm room ~ I had to turn the oven on in the kitchen, and in a moment of doubt even leave the oven door open for awhile/the full hour – but my dough rose!!).
You have to let the dough rise twice, for an hour the first time and 45 minutes the second, but that’s still not nearly as long as I thought it would take (SK gives you the option of preparing the rolls the night before baking them, in which case you only have to let the dough rise once, and then the second “rise” happens overnight in the fridge). And you get to use the dough hook attachment to your mixer – I’ve had my mixer for over ten years and this is literally the first time I’ve used it (I was proud of myself more for even knowing where to find it than for the fact that I was actually making dough!). It’s also worth mentioning that the whole process makes your kitchen smell AH-mazing. Please make these tomorrow night, pop them in the fridge for the second rise, and then bake them Saturday morning for the best pumpkin treat you could give yourself. Happy Halloween!
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 16-18 rolls
For the Dough
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 whole milk, warmed (but not over 116 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 0.25 ounce or 7 gram packet)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup pumpkin purée, homemade or canned
1 large egg
Oil, for coating bowl
For the Filling
3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)
To Make Dough: Melt butter (brown it if you wish) and let it cool. Combine warm milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside. After 5-7 minutes it should be a little foamy – if not, you may have some bad yeast and should start again with a new packet. Combine flour, sugars, salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add 1/4 of your melted butter (reserve the rest for assembly) and stir to combine, then add milk/yeast mixture, pumpkin, and egg. Once the dough starts to come together, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and run it on low for five minutes. Scrape your dough into a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm, draft free area of your kitchen and let it rise for an hour. (Trick my aunt taught me: if your dough doesn’t seem to be rising enough, turn your oven on to warm up your kitchen). While the dough rises, prepare your baking dishes: line the bottoms of two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans (or square or rectangular baking dishes) with parchment and then butter the sides of the pan and the parchment.
To Make Filling: Stir together the sugars, cinnamon, and salt.
To Make Glaze: Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the milk until you reach your desired consistency – thick enough to ice (less milk) or thin enough to drizzle (more milk).
To Assemble Rolls: Scoop your dough onto a very well-floured surface, sprinkle some extra flour on top, and roll it out into a 16″ x 11″ rectangle. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough as tightly as possible into a spiral. Using a sharp, serrated knife, saw the log with a back and forth motion as gently as possible (almost no pressure whatsoever) into 1″ rounds. Divide buns between the two prepared pans. Sprinkle any filling that has fallen out on top. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden, top with glaze, and dig in!