I’m not crazy about making all things pumpkin the moment Fall begins. BUT, I’m not one to complain about cinnamon rolls either. So, when my little sister visits and requests that we make these, I don’t object.
I’ve been making this recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls for a few years now. We make plain cinnamon rolls on a frequent basis for birthday breakfasts as well as Christmas mornings. After making cinnamon rolls so many times, I’ve learnt a few things and have tweaked this recipe to get them how I like them: tender, soft, and gooey, chewy but without a hint of being under-baked. Oh, and with plenty of cinnamon deliciousness!
A note on the frosting. My personal favorite is cream cheese (like Sarah uses in her recipe here). But, I’m not one to make an extra trip to the grocery store if I didn’t think of getting cream cheese ahead of time (and it’s not a kitchen staple). So, I most often make a simple glaze with buttermilk or kefir in place of the milk to add a little tang.
pumpkin cinnamon rolls
I tried to add tricks I’ve learnt within the recipe, but also give longer notes at the end of the recipe.
Makes 12-16 rolls
[For the Dough]:
3 1/4 cup flour, plus more for kneading
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8-1/4 tsp allspice
1/8-1/4 tsp cloves
1/2-1 tsp salt
1 stick, 8 tbs, or 4oz butter
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup buttermilk or kefir or thin plain yogurt
[For the Filling]:
6 tbs butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
[For the Glaze]:
1/2 stick, 4 tbs, or 2oz butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
2-4 tbs buttermilk, kefir, thin plain yogurt, or milk
[For the Dough]:
Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, keeping the salt and yeast on separate sides (as salt can kill yeast). Mix together until thoroughly blended.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and add pumpkin, buttermilk, and egg. (Doing this will help warm the pumpkin, buttermilk, and egg if they are not at room temperature already but not so much to kill the yeast.) Mix well.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix until a dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms. (You may need to add a few sprinkles of flour, but I usually don’t need much. It is a very nice dough to work with.) This may also be done with a stand mixer and the kneading attachment.
Once dough is kneaded, grease the bowl, place dough in upside down, flip to coat, then cover and let rise until doubled, about 2-2.5hrs. (If the dough doesn’t rise well here, it won’t later, so give it ample time!)
[For the Filling]:
While dough is rising, put your butter on the counter to soften.
Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
Once butter is soft, add butter to the spiced sugar and mix together until a uniform paste forms. Set aside.
Butter a 9x13in baking pan. Set aside.
Once dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a rough 18x15 in rectangle. (Precision is not crucial. The long side depends on how many and how big you want your rolls. The short side depends on how tight you want the swirl. I usually eyeball it.)
Dollop the filling over the dough and then smear evenly over the whole top. I use my hands, but the back of a spoon or offset spatula would work too. (Try to get the filling right up to the edges of the dough, especially along the short edges to make sure no cinnamon roll is deprived ample swirl.)
Once the filling is spread, roll the dough into a log starting along one of the long edges. Tuck the initial edge in tightly and keep the log tight as you roll. Once rolled, gently seal the seam and roll the log a little back and forth to help solidify. The edges will be uneven, and it’s fine to press in at both ends at the same time to help even them out.
Using a sharp knife or unflavored dental floss, cut the log into 12-16 pieces.
Place rolls into buttered baking pan, spacing them out as evenly as possible. (Touching each other is fine and actually perfect for achieving soft, gooey rolls.)
Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight. (Or, if you need to bake same day, let rise until puffy.)
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350. Take the rolls out of the fridge, uncover, and let sit to take the chill off as the oven heats up. Take the butter for the glaze out too.
Once oven is heated, place cinnamon rolls on the middle rack for about 30min, rotating the pan once after 20min.
When there is about 5 minutes or so left on the rolls, place the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and 2tbs of buttermilk or kefir into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat well until creamy and spreadable, but still a little thick (more of a frosting consistency). Add more buttermilk or kefir if needed, but keep in mind the glaze will melt and thin on top of the warm cinnamon rolls.
When rolls are done baking (they should have a touch of golden brown and if you gently press the middles, they should not be hard or crispy but they should offer some resistance and not feel in anyway like raw dough), remove from oven. Immediately dollop the glaze over them, getting a good dollop on each roll. The heat from the rolls will quickly melt the glaze and add to their gooey deliciousness. Serve, and enjoy!
The original recipe called for 2 tbs of pumpkin pie spice in the dough. It was overwhelming, tasting like a mouthful of spice. I don’t always have pumpkin pie spice on hand either. Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste. Cloves can be especially powerful, so I recommend starting with the lesser amount. If you have pumpkin pie spice and want to use it, 1 tbs is a good substitute for the spices listed.
You’ll notice I give a range with the salt amounts in the dough and frosting. It’s up to your preference and how much of salty, sweet contrast you want going. The original pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe has barely any salt whereas my usual cinnamon recipe uses 1 tsp in the dough but none elsewhere. Some salt in the dough is essential (just taste unsalted bread some time — it’s not very tasty!), and I prefer closer to 1 tsp. I like some in the filling and glaze as well as it cuts the sweetness. I use salted butter as well.
The only time I needed more flour than usual when kneading was when I used frozen leftover pumpkin puree. It separated and was more watery than straight from the can. But that was the only difference I noticed.
A note on kneading. If my dough is ever especially sticky, I’ll sometimes leave it for a few minutes, maybe wash the dishes I just dirtied or something. Then, I come back to it. Even that short rest help builds up the gluten a little and makes the dough easier to manage. Sometimes I’ll take more than one break. I prefer that to 8-10minutes of straight work and needing to add more flour again and again which can make the final dough less tender.
Brown sugar is key for getting the delicious gooey middles. White sugar works, but not the same. Now if I make any recipe and it calls for white sugar in the filling, I swap it out for brown. More gooey deliciousness and depth of flavor.
I’ve seen a range of methods for adding butter to the filling of cinnamon rolls. Some have you melt butter, spread it on top, then sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar. Others have you spread softened butter on top, then add the sugar. I find the butter and sugar paste makes for the most even dispersal of filling and the least mess. Filling doesn’t ooze out when rolling or cutting. And who wants to loose any of the filling?
The original recipe baked the cinnamon rolls at a higher temp for almost half the time. It was too easy for the middles to stay a bit raw. 30min at 350 is the charm in my oven, but you may need 5 min more or less in yours.
The best way to serve these rolls keeping them intact as much as possible is to press against the edge of one and gently tug it away from the others, rotating as you tug so that it slowly frees its edges.
Inspired by this recipe.