Re-imagining cinnamon rolls with the star spice of the season

Updated 10/19/2016 6:31 AM
  • Think of these pumpkin cinnamon rolls as simply decedent seasonal comfort food.

    Think of these pumpkin cinnamon rolls as simply decedent seasonal comfort food. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

I will admit to being slightly obsessed by the pumpkin spice craze that seems to have hit the fall marketplace. I knew fall was almost here when I saw that pumpkin spice doughnuts and English muffins had arrived in my local grocery store, and couldn't wait to try a recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls I saw Ree Drummond create on her Food Network television show. Pumpkin, cinnamon, brown sugar baked into homemade cinnamon rolls and a cream cheese frosting melting down the sides of freshly baked cinnamon rolls had my mouth watering. The best part about this recipe is that it is easy to make, and tastes even better than it looks.

I love everything pumpkin, so whether it is a sweet preparation like pumpkin pie, pancakes, doughnuts, lattes, or perhaps a savory option like pumpkin ravioli or soup, I am a fan. You will always find at least one can of pumpkin in my pantry, no matter what time of year, so I can satisfy a pumpkin craving whenever necessary.

Temptation struck early one fall and I bought a "pie pumpkin" from the produce section of my local grocery store. I was so excited to bring it home, cut it open and roast my own pumpkin. This will come as no surprise to pumpkin enthusiasts, but fresh roasted pumpkin is not the same as canned pumpkin. My freshly roasted pumpkin had fibrous flesh that required a spin in the food processor before being transformed into the smooth stuff in the can. So be sure to factor in this additional step if you ever decide to take this route of pumpkin preparation. In the end, it tasted great, but I am not sure it was worth the extra effort, but I did feel like Martha Stewart as I pulled my roasted pumpkin out of the oven and enjoyed the extra-added benefit of roasted pumpkin seeds!

You will be happy to know canned pumpkin is just fine for this delicious recipe. I found it interesting that pumpkin seems to take the place of oil and adds moisture to the light and fluffy finished product.

Yes, this recipe contains yeast, but no kneading, refreshingly strange I know. Just heat the liquid ingredients, stir in most of the dry ingredients and wait an hour before adding a few more items and either refrigerating until ready to use, or forming into rolls. The recipe suggests cutting them ½- to ¾-inch thick, but I prefer them to be on the thick side and would recommend ¾- to 1-inch thickness. It is the easiest yeast bread I have ever made.

The uniqueness of the recipe doesn't end there as the recipe also calls for the late addition of both baking soda and baking powder, ingredients you don't usually see in a recipe already containing yeast. These additions intrigued me.

I searched my favorite internet sites and found nothing, then stumbled across a post on a website called Apparently, there is a cookbook titled, Home Made Breads (published in 1969), written by the food editors of Farm Journal that recognized time is often a challenge when baking yeast bread. They asked home economists from flour milling and yeast companies to develop methods to shorten the time needed, and amount of work in bread making. The result was five recipes for "Can-Do-Quick Breads" and a method that is faster than traditional yeast bread because you add yeast and baking powder. These breads only require one rise and far less kneading, and according to the website, the high-rise loaves that result from this method are beautiful. They brown well, and the bread has an even, fine texture.

I can say this recipe also bakes up beautifully and has a fine even texture as described above. Unlike other homemade cinnamon roll recipes I have made, these are even good the next day, as they do not seem to become stale as quickly.

Of course, you can leave the pumpkin out, but you will need to add ½ cup of oil in its place and eliminate the brown sugar. The Pioneer Woman makes a blueberry lemon variety by combining lemon zest with granulated sugar instead of the brown sugar and spices and then sprinkles fresh blueberries over the dough as if they were nuts before rolling it all up and slicing. Add a little more zest to a powdered sugar based glaze, and you're set. She also makes a caramel apple version filled with sautéed-minced apples and freshly made caramel, as well as one where the main ingredient is chocolate chips. Use your imagination and create your own, just remember to add the oil if you won't be including the pumpkin.

Cinnamon rolls are pure comfort food for me. My mom would make them for special occasions and holidays, but never with pumpkin. Hers were almost caramel like, studded with raisins, and always lots of cinnamon. I can smell them now. So, whatever flavor you have a taste for try this recipe, or the pumpkin free version, and enjoy a warm treat from your oven this weekend. Your family and anyone you share them with will be thrilled and wanting more.

Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

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