Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

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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.

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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!!).

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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!

One Year Ago: Barefoot Contessa’s Mac and Cheese and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese
Two Years Ago: My Favorite Pumpkin Muffins

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!

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Double Coconut Granola (and a Cookbook Recommendation)

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For anyone out there who has a hard time coming up with what to make for dinner each night, I would suggest you order Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now immediately. It’s only $12 on Amazon, and it’s completely changed the way I think about cooking. The cookbook is divided up into 12 chapters – one chapter for each month of the year, and each chapter containing 10 recipes that should be made in that month. Maybe it’s because I love to follow rules, but this structure really speaks to me. I’m sure I used to at least subconsciously think about cooking/eating seasonally – and I’ll make any recipe I can find with the word “pumpkin” in its title during October and November – but I never used to think of April as the month for asparagus and rhubarb, or August as the month for eggplant. Ever since my friend Lindsay introduced me to Cook This Now, however, it’s been a fun new challenge to shop not just for seasonal produce but even meat and fish. Linds sent me the book at the end of 2011, so I set out to cook my way through it in 2012, Julie and Julia style. 10 recipes per month seems totally doable, right? Of course I didn’t make it, but in Month One I was still going strong. “Double Coconut Granola” was the last remaining recipe I had to try at the end of January last year, and I was (co)hosting my book club girlfriends for a getaway at Hood Canal the last weekend of the month, so I thought it would make a perfect “favor.”

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It turned out so delicious that I made a second batch as soon as I got home from Hood Canal – and in order to not eat the entire thing myself (turns out granola is really just deconstructed oatmeal cookies), I packaged it up and brought it to my aunt Molly’s birthday dinner that night. She loved it so much that I had to make it for her again this year (and this time, give her the cookbook to go with it). Molly is one of the most generous people I’ve ever known – she is always thinking of others, doing for others, worrying about others – so of course I was thrilled to be able to give her something she was excited about. She never shows up to a meal without a delicious treat or the perfect bottle of wine, she never lets a birthday go by without an over the top gift, and when I offhandedly mentioned to her last year that a girlfriend was house hunting in her neighborhood, she found my friend (also named Molly) the perfect house, two houses down from her adorable bungalow in Northeast Portland. Now the two Mollys are neighbors, and theirs is a street I love to visit, granola in hand.

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I should probably tell you at some point that I really, really love coconut, possibly more than the average person. Granola, cupcakes, curries, pina coladas, you name it. If you don’t love it as much as I do, or if you don’t have coconut oil on hand, this recipe would work just fine with olive oil instead. And if you’re really coconut-adverse, you can leave out the flakes too – the beauty of homemade granola, I’ve found, is that you can tweak any of the ingredients to your liking.

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It seems wrong to be talking about a “monthly” cookbook, and then posting a recipe from the wrong month, but this granola is too good not to share, and I promise you it’s as delicious in February as it is in January. As I still have a lot of recipes to catch up on from last year, I’ll try to share them during the appropriate months going forward. And I can’t wait for next fall when I can write about my other favorite granola recipe, pumpkin pecan (see above re: making anything involving pumpkin). Who knew granola could be so seasonal?

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Double Coconut Granola, from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped raw pecans
1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup coconut chips
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup dried cherries

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients but the cherries (I usually combine all the dry ingredients, then stir the maple syrup and coconut oil together and pour them over the oat/nut mixture and combine until the oats are coated).

3. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake until golden all over, about 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

4. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add the cherries, tossing to combine.

For another fabulous blog post on granola (because who doesn’t want to read more than one), please visit my friend Yoona’s blog. Yoona is my blogging inspiration, and as I was writing this I started to remember (panic) that she had already written about granola, and that I was accidentally copying her. Turns out she not only writes about it, but gives you her own recipe, and tells you how to package it much cuter than I do. I mean, even her ribbon looks better than mine. Dang it! Oh well, what are friends for if not to inspire us, right? Next time I’m doing a gift tag too.