Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

I thought we might start our Thanksgiving Day, a day of excessive delicious eating, the right way.  I made Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing.  Oh, yes.  That is serious decadence, and a super yummy way to start off Thanksgiving day! 

I did not take any process photos along the way, sorry!  It was night, thus the light wasn't so good, and to be honest I just wanted to get these ready so I could go to bed and bake them in the morning!  My time organization hasn't been so great while being pregnant...  I think it is one of those "pregnancy brain" things.  I sure hope I get it back.  Then I can stop baking late at night!!

This is a yeast bread recipe, so it does take some time, but other than having to wait a bit before you can bake these delectable goodies, the recipe itself is pretty simple.  The pumpkin flavor is not very strong, in fact if I were a better bread maker, I would try to figure out how to increase the pumpkin amount to make the flavor more prominent.  However I am not confident with playing with the ratios of moisture and such with yeast breads, so I am not up to that challenge.  Someone else??  Anyway, if you consider making these rolls but have someone in your life that isn't as in love with pumpkin as I (it could happen, I suppose) they might not even detect the pumpkin in these rolls, other than the color. 

Start off with the actual rolls.  Combine yeast and warm water and allow the yeast to soften for about 5 minutes.  Then add warm milk, an egg, pumpkin, melted butter, whole wheat pastry flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.  Whole wheat pastry flour is not something I generally have in my house.  Whole wheat flour?  Yes, but not whole wheat PASTRY flour.  So I did some internet research and discovered that a potentially suitable substitution would be using half cake flour and half whole wheat flour.  That is what I used instead of the pastry flour, and the rolls ended up nice and light and fluffy, so I think it worked! Also, I happened to grab dark brown sugar when I got the brown sugar out of my pantry, so that is what I used.  I'm not sure if that made any difference...

Start adding all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups), stirring until the bread seems ready to knead.  Continue adding flour as necessary and knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic.  I ended up using about 1 3/4 cups of flour total.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn the dough around so the entire ball of dough has a coating of oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

I like to unroll my cinnamon rolls as I eat them...

In the meantime, combine the dry filling ingredients in a bowl.  The amount of sugar the recipe calls for is 2/3 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar.  In making this again, I would probably reduce the amount of sugar in the filling.  Maybe using only 1/3 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar.  It was plenty sweet but I tend to prefer less sweet things.

Once the dough has doubled, plop it out onto a greased work surface and pat it out into a 12x16-inch rectangle.  Spread softened butter over the dough and then sprinkle with the filling.  Here, the recipe called for 1 stick of softened butter.  I probably had about 3+ tablespoons left when I determined that there was plenty of butter all over the dough and I couldn't fathom adding more.  I think you could probably reduce the amount of butter to 1/2 a stick or maybe 3/4 of a stick total.  My layer of butter was pretty thick!  Roll up the dough lengthwise, stretching the dough to about 20 inches long.

Here is where I do have some advice.  I've been making cinnamon rolls for my family's Christmas mornings for as long as I can remember, and I've figured out what I think is the easiest method for cutting the rolls.  Don't use a knife, as they tend to squish the rolls into weird shapes.  Get a long piece of thread and double it over.  You can also use un-waxed, non-flavored dental floss or button-hole thread, if you have either of those accessible.  Gently pick up an end of the roll and wiggle the thread underneath until it is at the middle.  With an end of thread in each hand, bring the ends around and over the roll, keeping the thread tight and crossing the ends over until the thread goes all the way through the dough.  You have successfully cut the roll all the way around at the same time!  Now scoot the thread down one of the lengths of the roll, and cut in half again and again until you have the number of rolls you desire.  For this recipe, I made 16 rolls.  (If this description is confusing, have some patience.  I will post my Christmas sticky buns recipe around Christmas-time, and I promise to take more photos!  Or, feel free to contact me for help!)

Put the rolls into either a lightly greased 9x13-inch pan or 2 9-inch cake or pie pans.  If you are making the rolls the night before you intend to cook them, cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Then continue in the morning at this point.  Cover the pan with a tea-towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes, or until about doubled in size.  Bake in a 375F oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown across the center and the edges.  Mine were done in 20 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.  Add all ingredients except the powdered sugar to a bowl and beat until smooth.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar until it tastes the way you want and is the consistency you want as well.  I used about 2 cups of powdered sugar.  I neglected to measure the lemon juice, I just squeezed it in the beginning and then added more once all of the sugar was in for more zip.

Here is my confession:  I am not a fan of icing on cinnamon rolls.  I prefer them naked.  However, when I mentioned to my husband that I was not planning on icing the rolls, he just couldn't believe it.  "No icing at all?  Not even a little?  Not even a small amount?  You aren't even going to make some we could put on if we WANT?  Can we cover it with powdered sugar?", and on and on.  You get the idea.  He can be pretty insistent!  Since I happened to have cream cheese on hand and I was doing this recipe for the blog and thus had a small feeling that maybe I should at least TRY the recipe as written, I went ahead with the icing.  However, after eating them I still think I'd prefer them without icing.  I just think the icing can try to take over the roll.  It's a matter of opinion, though!  What I think would be better, would be to bake the rolls with a brown sugar/butter mixture on the bottom of the pan, with some pecans (like I do in my Christmas Sticky bun recipe), and then turn the buns upside down after baking so that glaze would drizzle down over the buns.  Then you'd have a sweet caramelized glaze and the yummy crunch of pecans with the rolls.  And pumpkin with pecans are a great combination!

Finger-licking good!

Regardless, the end result was divine.  Really super good and worth the work.  I am not sure if this will become a Thanksgiving tradition, though it is possible.  I suppose it depends on how much actual Thanksgiving cooking I have to do in any particular year.  This year I don't have to do very much since we are going to a friend's house, so I had the extra time for a decadent breakfast! 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Good Life Eats
makes 15-16 rolls

Roll Dough:
1/4 cup warm water, about 110F
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I prefer using organic)
1 TB melted butter
1 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (OR 1/2 cup + 2 TB cake flour plus 1/2 cup + 2 TB whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups (approx.) all-purpose flour

1 stick (or less) softened butter
2/3 cup white sugar (or less, see post)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Cream Cheese Icing:
4 ounces cream cheese
1 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice (or to your taste)
2-3 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes and stir to combine.  Add the milk, pumpkin, butter, pastry flour (or mixture), brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom to yeast mixture.  Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the all-purpose flour to the dough, a bit at a time, until the dough is stiff enough to knead.  Begin with 1 1/2 cups of flour and increase as necessary.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  Knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a greased bowl.  Turn the dough over to coat the entire ball with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and rise until doubled, approximately 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.  Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface and pat/roll it into a 12" x 16" rectangle.  Spread softened butter over the dough and sprinkle with filing.

Roll the dough the long way into a log.  Let it  stretch to about 20 inches long as you roll.  Using thread (see post for more details) slice the roll into 16 slices.  Place in a greased 9x13-inch pan or 2 9-inch cake or pie pans.  **Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. 

Bake in preheated 375F oven until they are brown around the edges and turning a golden brown across the center, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the icing.  Beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, until well mixed and desired taste and consistency is reached.

Spread icing over warm rolls and serve immediately.

**For preparation the night before:  Prepare the rolls up to the point where they are placed into the pan/s.  Then, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, remove the pan from the refrigerator and start again at the "**" in the recipe, removing the plastic wrap and covering with tea-towels.  The rise time might take a little longer since the dough is cold when it starts to rise.  I let mine sit for about 1 hour. 
Printable Recipe

These rolls are soft and light, and the flavor is just delicious.  It was a bit sweet for my tastes but I tend to like things less sweet than others, so that is just a personal preference.  There were no complaints from the clever girl or Mr. Clever Mom afterwards, that is for sure.  And I think the baby started doing jumping jacks right after I ate them, from the nice sweet rush he received!  These rolls made for a happy way to start our day!

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