Cinnamon rolls are quite possibly my favorite baked good of all time – sorry brownies. Soft layers of cultured dough, sweet cinnamon brown sugar rolled into a spiral, and an aroma better than any candle. Because it’s my favorite baked good however, I’m VERY picky about my cinnamon rolls, meaning four out of five I try do not impress me. See, like a good donut, a good cinnamon roll has to be fresh – I’m talking any more than 6 hours after it’s been baked and that baby should be half-priced. On top of that, the best cinnamon rolls take a good bit of time; sure, you could make them in 4 hours, but they wouldn’t be as refined and flavorful as if you let them rise overnight.
All this to say that I wouldn’t put out a cinnamon roll recipe if didn’t absolutely smash my standards of what qualifies a cinnamon roll as amazing. Because cinnamon rolls can be quite fussy on their own (don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Michelin Star pastry chef to make these) we’re not going to be skimping today – these rolls contain all-purpose flour, real sugar, and lots of vegan butter. What can I say? I’m a wee bit of a cinnamon roll snob, so these have to raise the bar on every other recipe out there – otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
More of a visual learner? That’s why we made this video for ya!
Before you run straight into the directions, let me just say that yes, there are a lot of steps, but if you read each of them carefully, you shouldn’t have any problems executing them perfectly; after all, it’s just a simple brioche-style bread dough rolled with cinnamon sugar! Let’s go over some crucial points that may be confusing if not otherwise explained:
- Soy Milk – Why use it? Well, soy milk’s protein and fat content is closest in similarity to whole milk out of all other plant-milks, which means it’ll condition the dough and allow it to brown most similarly to traditional whole-milk.
- Overnight Rise – You’ll find a lot of cinnamon roll recipes online that’ll allow you to dig in within 4 hours of starting the process, and I’m here to say that those are great when immediate satisfaction is of the essence. However, letting the cut rolls rest in the fridge for 8-16 hours lends the dough a more refined texture and a lightly sour flavor due to the added time the yeast has to do its magic. This works because placing the dough in the fridge reduces its temperature, thus slowing down the yeasts’ production of CO2, which creates smaller air bubbles throughout the dough instead of big ‘ole pockets created by room-temp rises. Slowing the process down also allows the dough to absorb more yeasty flavor, which will result in a more cultured flavor – and hey, who doesn’t want more culture?
- Water Proofing – One of the most unique steps in this recipe: After the dough’s overnight rest, the rolls are placed into a closed oven with a pan of boiling water on a rack underneath them. The hot steam wakes the yeast up giving us one last rise, which will result in the softest texture possible.
- Pumpkin – In this case, pumpkin adds a subtle flavor and pleasant orange color. It’s flavor is by no means overwhelming and it does not come along with its usual partners in spice: pumpkin pie spice. We wanted to keep the focus on making simple cinnamon rolls that’ll blow your mind.
- Pineapple Glaze – We use a touch of pineapple juice in the glaze as it adds a subtle acidity and fruitiness that accentuates the cinnamon and pumpkin in the rolls. If you don’t want to go out of your way to buy a can of pineapples, you can replace it with soy milk for a more traditional glaze!
With that in mind, let’s get started! This recipe doesn’t need a bulleted list describing what it is. All you need to know is that they’re cinnamon roll perfection: soft, gooey, sweet, warm, and actual heaven in a bite (just ask Jesus).
Roll That Dough,
World's Best Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (vegan)
Soft, gooey, sweet, warm cinnamon roll perfection.
- About 420 grams (3 1/2 c) all-purpose flour, may use more or less
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 c (120 grams) pumpkin puree
- 5 oz (1/2 c + 2 tbsps) unsweetened soy milk
- 2 tbsps (28 grams) vegan butter
- 1/3 c water
- 1 packet of active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsps)
- 3 tbsps powdered sugar or cane sugar
- 3/4 c (144 grams) dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsps vegan butter, melted
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 1 – 1 1/4 c powdered sugar
- 2 tbsps pineapple juice or soy milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Measure out 1/3 cup of water that’s warm, but not scolding to the touch (about 115° F). Use a fork to whisk in 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar and all of the yeast. Set aside to allow yeast to foam up for 10 minutes.
- Whisk together flour, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add soy milk and butter to a small pot over low heat and warm until butter just melts, stirring often, then turn off the heat and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand-up mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together pumpkin puree, soy milk & butter mixture, yeast mixture, and the remaining two tablespoons of powdered sugar on medium-low speed until smooth.
- Once smooth, pause the mixing and add in half of the flour mixture. Beat on low until the dust settles then boost the speed to medium. The dough should start to cling to the paddle; if not, add in another 1/2 cup of flour and mix again. Once the dough starts to cling to the paddle, remove any stuck-on dough, and replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook attachment.
- Add in more of the flour mixture, reserving about 1/4 cup, and knead on low speed until the flour is absorbed into the dough. At this point, the dough should form a ball around the dough hook and be soft to the touch. If the dough’s so sticky that it clings to your fingers or is still attached to the bottom of the bowl, add a little more flour.
- Once the dough forms a ball around the hook, boost the speed to medium and knead for 1 minute. Unhook the dough, lightly oil the bowl of your stand up mixer, place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel, and stash in a warm place to rise until its doubled in size; about 1 hour.
- While dough rises, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and a medium pinch of salt together in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
- Gently press down on the dough to release the built up air, move it to a lightly floured work surface, and sprinkle flour on top of dough. Roll and stretch the dough out into a rectangle roughly 20 inches wide and 14 inches long. I like to pull the edges into shape once I get close to the right size.
- Brush most of the dough with melted butter, leaving 3/4 inch of clean space on top. Rub cinnamon sugar mixture all over – again, leaving that clean space up top – and gently pat it into the dough. Reserve any leftover melted butter for later use.
- Here comes the tricky part: use your fingers to tightly roll the dough away from you, starting with the bottom and ending with the clean space on top. Be sure to roll out evenly by moving back and forth from the center to the edges. Once you get to the end, pull over that top clean flap and lightly pinch it to seal the roll. Gently squeeze the roll to create an even thickness.
- Roll the log to where the pinched flap is on the counter (that way, it doesn’t unroll) and cut off about an inch from each side using sharp thread or a chef’s knife. Then, continue to cut 2-inch rolls out of the log. Use remaining melted butter to lightly grease a 9 x 9 inch casserole dish, including the walls. Carefully place rolls in casserole dish – ensuring they’re evenly spaced out – cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 8-16 hours.
- After 8-16 hours have passed, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, place a cake pan, pie pan, or another casserole dish on the bottom rack of your oven. Gently fill it 2/3rds full with boiling water. Remove plastic wrap from cinnamon rolls and place them on the rack above boiling water. Close the oven and allow the rolls to proof for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the pan of water and the cinnamon rolls. Crank the oven up to 350° F. When it’s at temperature, bake the cinnamon rolls on the middle rack for 25 minutes; the tops will be lightly golden and crunchy – don’t worry, the inside will still be soft and gooey. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- While the rolls cool, assemble your glaze! Add vanilla and pineapple juice (or soy milk, if you choose not to use pineapple juice) to a large mixing bowl. Sift in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time and whisk until smooth. Stop to check the consistency after adding in 1 cup; the glaze should be stringy but thick. If necessary, whisk in the final 1/4 cup of sugar.
- Pour glaze atop of cinnamon rolls and serve! Softest and most perfect within the first hour of making. If you and your friends can’t finish them within the first hour, cover with plastic wrap and store at room temp for up to 2 days. To warm up, heat oven to 350° F. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and brush it on top of the rolls, cover with aluminum foil, and bake until just warm; about 10 minutes.