Introduction: Perfect Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall is here and it's time to embrace the change of seasons with pumpkin treats. Its hard to miss - pumpkin is everywhere. I find myself constantly making pumpkin impulse buys at Trader Joe's. Instead of spending three dollars on mediocre pumpkin cereal bars, I decided to make my own fall-inspired treat - pumpkin cinnamon rolls!


8 Tbs Unsalted Butter (to be divided)
½ c. Warmed Milk (not over 116°F)
2 ¼ tsp Active Dry Yeast (or one ¼ oz packet of yeast)
3 ½ c. Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
¼ c. Packed Dark Brown Sugar
¼ c. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
⅛ tsp Ground Cardamom
½ tsp Ground Ginger
¾ c. Pumpkin Puree
1 Large Egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

¾ c. Packed Dark Brown Sugar
¼ c. Granulated Sugar
⅛ tsp Salt
3 tsp Ground Cinnamon

6 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
2 Tbs Milk
3 c. Powdered Sugar
1 Tbs Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tbs Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg
⅛ tsp Ground Ginger

For baking you will need two round pans and some parchment paper. 

Step 1: Melt Butter and Warm Milk

On the stovetop, melt 8 Tbs (1 stick) of butter. I used unsalted, but I don't think it will greatly affect the taste of your cinnamon rolls. You can always cut back on the salt in the recipe if you have salted butter. Cutting the butter into chunks will help it melt faster. Once the butter is melted, simmer it for a few minutes on medium heat until the butter is lightly browned. You don't want to burn it - it will taste bad. As soon as you seen the butter turning a golden brown color, remove it from the heat. 

Set the butter aside to let it cool. 

Next, warm the milk in the microwave (or on the stove top). You don't want it to be hot or it will kill the yeast. If it is more than 116°F you will need to let it cool a bit. I microwaved my milk about 20 seconds and it was plenty. Check the temperature of the milk to make sure it's not too hot, then add the yeast. With a small whisk or fork, give the milk/yeast mixture a gentle stir, then let it sit for 5 - 7 minutes. If the yeast is working, you will start to see small bubbles or foam. 

Step 2: Combine Dry Ingredients

While the butter is cooling and the yeast is sitting, combine all of the dry ingredients together. 

In a medium to large bowl combine the flour, sugars, salt and spices and stir to combine. 

Step 3: Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients

Now that the butter has cooled a bit, you can add approximately ⅔ of it to the dry ingredients. You will use the rest of the butter during the roll assembly. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, thoroughly mix the butter throughout the dry ingredients. Then, add the pumpkin, egg, and milk/yeast mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are combined and the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. If you have a good electric mixer you can keep using it. The dough will get a bit stiff so it might be best to continue mixing by hand at this point. 

Step 4: Knead the Dough

If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, use the dough hook and mix for about 5 minutes on medium speed. 

If you don't have one or yours is temporarily broken (like mine!) you will knead the dough by hand. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Make sure you have flour accessible because you will need it throughout the kneading. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding flour as it becomes too sticky to handle. After 10 minutes, form the dough into a nice ball and place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. 

Step 5: Let the Dough Rise and Prepare the Pans

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean dish cloth and place in a draft free area. I placed mine on top of the stove (that wasn't on). 

The dough will rise (or ferment) for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. If your kitchen is cold, the dough will rise slower. In my experience a warm (but not too hot) place is better. 

While the dough is rising, prepare your pans for baking. I used two round 9-inch baking pans. I cut a circle of parchment paper  to line the pans. Then, using a brush I coated the bottom and sides of the pans with a little bit of butter. Oil or non-stick cooking spray would work well too. 

Step 6: Make the Filling

Also while the dough is rising you can make the filling! Make sure you are following the ingredients list for the filling (not the dough or frosting). 

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, salt, and cinnamon and stir with a fork or whisk until combined. 

Step 7: Assemble the Rolls

After the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to approximately 18" X 12". 

Spread the remaining melted butter over the rolled out dough with a brush or rubber spatula. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the entire surface of the rectangle, smoothing it out with your hands. Starting with the long side of the rectangle, roll the rectangle in a spiral, trying to keep it as tight as possible. This can be tricky, but starting the spiral tight will make the rest of the rolling easier. 

Now you have a cinnamon roll log. Cut the log in half (approximate is fine). Cut each half into 8 slices. I do this by cutting it into halves, then fourths, then eighths. That way they are uniform in size. 

Place 8 into each prepared pan - one cinnamon roll in the center with seven surrounding it. They won't be touching at this point. 

Step 8: Proof the Buns

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let them proof (rise again) for 45 minutes in a warm, draft-free place. They should look significantly larger and the sides of the rolls will be touching each other and the pan. 

Step 9: Make the Frosting

While the rolls are proofing, you can make the frosting.

Following the frosting recipe, put 6 oz of softened cream cheese in a medium bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer, mix and add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Then add the vanilla and pumpkin. Add the milk 1 Tbs at a time. If the frosting seems thin enough after 1 Tbs, don't add any more. If the frosting seems way too thin, add more powdered sugar. Lastly, add all the spices. Taste the frosting (yum!) and make sure the amount of spices and consistency is what you like. Some people prefer a thinner glaze, others a thicker frosting. Feel free to alter the frosting recipe to your needs.

Now is a great time to preheat the oven to 350°F, as the cinnamon rolls are probably almost done proofing. 

Step 10: Bake the Rolls

Bake the rolls for 25 minutes at 350°F, or until they are a medium golden brown. If you poke the rolls they shouldn't feel super squishy and they shouldn't look doughy in between them. 

Step 11: Frost and Eat the Rolls

I let the rolls cool a few minutes, then I removed them from the pan onto a plate. Using a spoon, I frosted the cinnamon rolls. You can frost them in the pan as well. 

Now it's up to you whether you share these or not!

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