Sometimes two flavors were born to be together.
Like a pair of perfectly compatible star-crossed lovers, just waiting to be brought together in perfect union.
And then they meet –
Cinnamon, meet pumpkin. Pumpkin, meet cinnamon –
And my life would never be the same.
Because then I add some warm melty butter, a hearty sprinkle of sweet brown sugar, and a drizzle of smooth cream cheese frosting, and serve it up for
dessert breakfast. Yes, breakfast. Because cinnamon rolls have somehow been lumped into the “pastry” category, and pastries have inexplicably been labeled a breakfast food – making them perfectly socially acceptable to be consumed in the wee morning hours.
God bless whoever did this labeling and categorizing.
(Sidebar: I’m pretty sure most cookies are less sweet and rich than my cinnamon rolls…so…why isn’t it ok to eat them for breakfast???)
What I most love about these cinnamon rolls is that they are packed with pumpkin flavor in both the dough AND the filling. And it’s not just “pumpkin spices” (hello, ridiculous “pumpkin spice” obsession of the world right now – thanks a lot, #PSL), but it’s actual pumpkin/pumpkin flavor. With pumpkin spices, of course. Because cinnamon = happiness. So you get this delicious pumpkin flavor in every bite, without it overwhelming the cinnamon roll flavor. These rolls achieve a perfectly delicate balance.
What I love next most is the texture of the cinnamon rolls. I think it’s as close to perfect as I’ve found – and, trust me, I’ve tried some cinnamon roll recipes in my day. They’re light and fluffy, but not dry or overly bready. It’s so perfect that I’m inspired to recreate this recipe without pumpkin…I’ll get back to you on that one…
So just in case you don’t already have enough pumpkin recipes to work your way through before the season’s over (quick! peppermint is invading!), give this one a try!
If you’re a cinnamon roll first-timer (make these now!), there are some step-by-step photos below. If you’ve been around the cinnamon roll block a time or two, feel free to skip over to the recipe at the bottom.
- Combine the milk, sugar and butter in a pot over medium-low heat, until butter melts and mixture reaches 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. (If it gets hotter than this, make sure and wait until it cools to 120-130 degrees, or you risk killing your yeast. (Eek!))
- Add the milk into the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs, then the pumpkin, then start adding the rest of the flour until you get a cohesive dough that is sticky to the touch, but doesn’t “stick” too much to your finger (ie. when you touch it and pull your finger away, the dough stretches a tiny bit as it sticks to your finger momentarily, but your finger comes away pretty much clean of any dough).
- Put the dough in an oiled bowl (I used Pam), cover with a towel, and put somewhere warm to rise. (Lori’s method: stick it in an unheated oven and turn the oven light on. It creates a perfect yeast-nurturing environment.)
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling by combining the softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a large bowl. I often find that I actually have to get in there and mix it up with my hands to get it all combined.
- Once dough has doubled in size (1-2 hours), turn it out onto a well-floured countertop.
- Roll the dough into a large rectangle, until dough is about 1/4 inch thick.
- Let me pause here for a moment and make a suggestion: unless you have a huge working space, I’d suggest dividing the dough in half and doing this in 2 batches. Otherwise, you may end up with gigantic cinnamon rolls. Unless that’s what you’re going for. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
- Spread the dough with the pumpkin (it should be fairly thin)
- Then spread the the cinnamon sugar filling over the pumpkin (again, used my hands for this, as you can see below). Make sure you spread it to the very edges (it’s ok for some to fall off the dough onto the countertop!). You don’t want any cinnamon roll spots devoid of cinnamon filling! (Note: I used dark brown sugar in this batch, and thought the flavor was a bit strong. I’d suggest light brown sugar.)
- Starting on a long edge (I started at the edge farthest from me, the edge at the top of the photo above), roll the dough up until it forms a cute little log, spiraled with cinnamony goodness to its very core.
- Cut the rolls about 1″ thick using a string or knife (I used dental floss). I do this by gently lifting the log and sliding the dental floss under it, 1″ into the log, then pull it up on either side, criss cross the ends, and pull to cut through the roll.
- Place the rolls in a greased pan, with some room between rolls, as they will continue to grow.
- Cover and let them rise for 30-60 more minutes.
- Bake for about 25 minutes.
- While baking, mix up the frosting ingredients.
- As soon as you take these beauties out of the oven, spread the frosting on them! This allows the frosting to melt and ooze down into the roll, making them even more moist and gooey and irresistible. I found it worked well to put a large dollop of frosting on top of each roll. When I finished dolloping, I went back to the first roll I’d dolloped (whose frosting had now softened), and spread it over the top of the roll. Work your way through the batch.
Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
5 – 5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 package of dry active yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp cup all purpose flour
3 Tbsp cinnamon
6 oz. softened cream cheese
½ c. softened butter
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
- In mixer, mix 2 1/2 cups flour and yeast together on low speed.
- In small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat together milk, sugar, butter, and salt until it reaches 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Slowly pour milk mixture into flour, and mix on low speed. Add one egg at a time, then add in
- Add more flour (about 2 1/2 cups to 3 1/2 cups – enough to create a cohesive, yet still slightly sticky dough) and mix until incorporated. Change to bread hook, and knead bread dough for 10 minutes.
- Place in an oiled bowl, and turn dough to oil both sides. Cover dough with a damp towel, and let sit for 1-2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size. (If you stick it in the oven with the oven light on, 1 hour should be enough.)
- Once dough has risen, grease two 9×13 pans (or your large baking dish of choice)..
- In separate bowl, mix together butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon.
- Divide dough in half. On floured surface, roll out first half of dough about 1/4 inch thick. Spread out 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, then spread half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of the pumpkin puree (I found it easier to just use my hands to spread/press it on). Roll up dough, starting on a long edge. Using string or a sharp knife, cut each roll about 1 inch in width. Place on greased pan. Repeat with 2nd half of ingredients.
- Optional: Cover pan(s) with a towel and let rise 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- While baking, combine all frosting ingredients in mixer.
- When rolls come out of oven, immediately spread with frosting. Delicious warm or cold!