I’ve never been a fan of cinnamon rolls. Or most things normal humans enjoy. But I’m a fan of baking them, and a fan of bringing them over to your house at 9 o’clock at night to surprise you. And the you we’re talking about here is Thom. Not you, you – just so we’re clear. The night I made these, I walked the pan all three blocks over to his house and shoved them into his face as soon as he opened the door. Then I followed him into the kitchen, pan in tow, as he lifted the towel to uncover the steamy buns, drenched in maple goodness. He covered them, as if he wasn’t even phased by the fact that I just surprised him with an entire pan of cinnamon rolls. He walked back into the dining room and proceeded to eat his dinner. Who eats dinner at 9 o’clock at night?
When he finally got around to trying one, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he passed out. Because they were that good. He laid there unconscious, cinnamon roll still clinched between his fingers, until the paramedics arrived. That wasn’t even remotely true. But I’m pretty sure I did see his eyes roll into the back of his head. Did I mention he ate three (3!) before calling it a night? I mean, I don’t get it. He maintains his svelte figure after binge eating three cinnamon rolls, yet I eat one and it goes straight to my ass.
I’m going to be honest – I used to think cinnamon rolls were some daunting task that required more work than they’re worth. But the truth is, making cinnamon rolls is quite simple. And the outcome wildly rewarding. I bet I spent 20 minutes total working with the actual ingredients; the rest of the time was spent washing dishes and letting the dough rise. And trust me, you need to let it rise. No cheating! You won’t have fluffy buns if you don’t let it rise. Ha, fluffy buns. That just sounds weird.
If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls from scratch, you know how important it is to get your yeast started just right. If the water you use to activate the yeast is too warm, it can kill the yeast. Too cold and it won’t activate properly. Make sure you use warm water. And if the yeast doesn’t look like this, you run the risk of having dense, chewy cinnamon rolls. No one likes dense, chewy cinnamon rolls, FYI. If you want to add more sugar to the filling, be my guest. But I was adding up the cups and realized that Thom and my homeless neighbor (I unofficially adopt the homeless person who sleeps within the closest proximity to my house) could potentially go into a diabetic coma from eating one too many of these. So I took it easy on the sugar filling.
CINNAMON ROLLS WITH MAPLE ICING
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, between 105-108˚F
1/4 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 cup soy cream (or nondairy milk)
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 tbsp vegan butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp nondairy milk
1/4 tsp pure maple extract
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl; set aside. Add the water to a small bowl and lightly stir in the yeast; add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy (15-20 minutes). In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the sugar and creamer just until warm; about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Add the salt and 3 cups of flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment; mix for 10-15 seconds. Add the butter and yeast mixture, then mix until combined. Add remaining 3/4 cup of flour and mix on medium-high speed for 6-7 minutes. If the dough is not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Transfer the dough to the prepared mixing bowl, cover with a towel and store in a warm part of your house for 60 minutes. If the dough doesn’t rise much during this time, don’t worry.
Lightly oil a 9″ square baking pan; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into an 18×12 rectangle. Spread with butter then cover with sucanat and cinnamon. Starting at the long end, tightly (seriously, I said tightly!) roll the dough into a log, then cut it unto 9 even pieces (each will be about 2″ thick). Transfer the rolls to the prepared pan, leaving even spaces in between. Cover pan with a towel and allow the rolls to rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled. Bake at 375˚F for 16-18 minutes. Allow to cool in pan.
While the rolls are cooling, prepare the icing by stirring together the sugar, maple syrup, milk, and maple extract. Drizzle over cooled cinnamon rolls and serve. You can store the cinnamon rolls in an air tight container for up to three days. After the dough is cut, it can be kept frozen. When ready to use, allow the dough to thaw and rise, then bake according to instructions.
Yield: 9 rolls