vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls


It's going down.

I feel like there have always been a few things I assumed don't work in the vegan world. Anything cheese-related, of course (though that's soon to be disproven, which I can hardly believe myself) and for some reason, cinnamon rolls. I don't know why. It could be that they're typically so buttery you can see the gleam from space or the fact that they're often covered in sugary (butter-based) glaze. How do you vegan-ize that without giving something up?

In keeping with the autumn flavors currently trending, here's how: you add pumpkin. And (vegan) pumpkin butter. You hold the glaze because, sure, it's good, but with rolls this flavorful you don't even need the added sweetness.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (any non-dairy milk will do)
6 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter (I used organic Earth Balance)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
2 3/4 - 3 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour (I used a combo with all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 cup pumpkin butter***

***A note on pumpkin butter: you can no doubt find this on the store shelves this time of year (or all year, if you live around some stores that stock smart). But it's also a piece of pumpkin-y cake to make your own. Just take 1 cup of pumpkin purée, 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 4 tablespoons of apple juice, cider or water. Let simmer on a stovetop for about 10 minutes or until it reduces to a thick yet spreadable paste. 

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the almond milk and two tablespoons of butter to 110 degrees. This will happen relatively quickly and this isn't really something you can eyeball or guess at. It has to be pretty exact and definitely no hotter or you'll risk killing the yeast, resulting in a sad, flat cinnamon roll which no one invited to the cinnamon roll party.

Transfer your milk-butter combo to the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast packet on top. Allow to activate for about ten minutes (it will start to look foamy if it's working properly/the yeast isn't too hot). Add one tablespoon of sugar, your salt, a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Whisk together (using the mixer's whisk attachment). Add your pumpkin purée and whisk once more.

Switch out the whisk attachment for the dough hook. Add your flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring as you go. It's hard to know ahead of time how much flour you'll actually use, but what you're looking for is when the dough gets a little too thick to stir any longer or when it begins to completely attach itself to the dough hook. At this point, transfer your dough to a well-floured countertop and knead until it comes together in a loose ball, about one minute.

In a large bowl coated lightly with oil (I used canola), place your dough ball inside and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area (the oven, off of course, is a good spot) to rise for one hour.

After an hour, the dough should be about doubled in size. Yay! On a floured surface, roll out your dough into a rectangle-ish shape. Brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, followed by brushing with the pumpkin butter. I know, right? In a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup of your sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of the dough and then roll up, gently but quickly.

Using a serrated knife (trust me), cut one-inch rolls and place in a well-buttered square pan. (I actually cut enough to fill a square and a round pan, so you might want to plan for extras. I say, score!). Brush the tops with the remaining butter and top with a little more pumpkin butter and sugar, if you want. Cover with plastic wrap and set on top of the oven while it preheats to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the tops have puffed up and gone beautifully golden.

You could wait until these aren't hot enough to burn your mouth, but I have no idea why you would do something as crazy as that. These just scream Sunday in autumn, a crisp morning with leaves on the ground and a cozy sweater. Except I made these on a Tuesday in honor of our third wedding anniversary, but it totally felt Sunday-ish. And brunch-ish. And really, really lovely.

Can't quit the pumpkin? Well, why would you, it's barely November: