A cool, rainy morning. There are grasshoppers outside singing, hiding beneath browning grape leaves, watching droplets explode like tiny bombs. My windows are just barely cracked to let in the exhale of fresh, stormy air. On the kitchen counter sits a shiny sheet of parchment paper dusted heavily with sorghum flour. A long rectangle of pastry is waiting to be patted down with spiced coconut sugar. Logan is boiling water for coffee in a sauce pot. We left our kettle, tarnished with frequent use and love, at my parents beach house.
I’m bleary-eyed, following along with my recipe, hopeful that this trial will turn out. I want cinnamon rolls that feed my spirit as much as my belly. That remind me of yellow gingko leaves drifting through crisp air. Of reading late into the evening cozied up in a soft sweater. Of driving along back roads to watch the autumn mountains turn amber and gold. I have high expectations.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I always want to create real food recipes that are both delicious and approachable. Including baked goods. Why post a recipe for such a thing unless I’m sure it’s a contender?
I pop a glass plate of cinnamon-laced swirls into the oven. 20 minutes (give or take) later, I’m smothering them in frosting. I dig in. My knees buckle with happiness. And Logan gives the teary eyed oh my god of approval.
I know what you’re thinking. There are too many “frees” in this recipe for it to be good. Yes, these cinnamon rolls are gluten free, dairy free, egg free and gum free. But let’s not focus on that. I like to think of these cinnamon rolls as a reboot. This is a recipe for the 21st century. These cinnamon rolls are fuel for adventure. Designed with the health-and-fitness-conscious human in mind (aka, me). And they just so happen to taste decadent and delicious.
If you’ve started raising your eyebrows suspiciously, I understand. I would too.
I’m the pickiest, snobbiest gluten free dessert taste tester that ever was. These gluten free, vegan cinnamon rolls pass the test with flying colors.
They’re crisp on the edges and gooey soft on the inside. Swirls of autumn-spiced coconut sugar caramelize in the oven. The rolls gain a sticky, brown-sugar-like depth as they’re baked. The pastry itself is like a whole wheat pastry: soft, pliable, and subtly wholesome. The maple-sweetened frosting is smooth, thick, and rich.
I couldn’t help myself with the frosting. I seem to be adding hemp hearts to just about everything these days. If I’m going to be eating thickly frosted sugary pastry I might as well get some protein while I’m at it.
Did I mention that they only take 40 minutes?
You know why you aren’t eating cinnamon rolls every day? Because they’re time-consuming. Aka annoying. Even your average cinnamon roll requires proofing, usually overnight. Gluten free cinnamon roll recipes are worse. I’ve yet to find one free of an extensive ingredient list, weird binders, and a complex process. The time commitment is usually exorbitant.
To me, the whole point of cinnamon rolls is to eat them doing lazy morning things. Like brewing coffee and binging on New Girl.
It’s true, cinnamon rolls are a show-offy type of food. They’re always impressive. Something you make for your new in-laws or frenemies. But I don’t make cinnamon rolls for other people. I make them to share with my husband. And he doesn’t care if what I make is impressive. He only cares that I made something. Preferably with peanut butter involved.
So why go to the effort? Why create a kitchen explosion? Why wait a whole day for a cinnamon-laced breakfast?
File those questions under why I didn’t make cinnamon rolls for 2 years.
I can’t bring myself to give a damn.
Until these. I’ve been playing with Cara’s cinnamon roll recipe — adjusting for my tastes and insight into gluten free baking. I added almond flour for a softer crumb and coconut oil for moistness. Coconut sugar gives the recipe a low glycemic spin. Psyllium husk is the sole gum-free binder. I tweaked this and that. And voila. An easy (yes easy) healthy twist on a classic breakfast treat.
- ¾ cups coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- pinch fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup almond meal
- ½ cup arrowroot flour
- ¾ cups mochiko sweet white rice flour
- 1½ cups sorghum flour + ¾ cups
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons psyllium husk (whole or powdered both work)
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- pinch fine sea salt
- 1½ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- Hemp Cashew "Cream Cheese" Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Grease a 9" glass baking pan lightly with coconut oil (I used a pie pan). Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and sea salt. Stir in the melted coconut oil, working it in until the sugar becomes sandy and moist. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, arrowroot, sweet white rice flour, 1½ cups sorghum flour, baking powder, baking soda, psyllium, ¼ cup coconut sugar, and sea salt. Mix evenly.
- In a separate mixing bowl (I like to do this all in my 2-cup glass measuring cup), combine the almond milk and the acid (vinegar or lemon juice). Set aside to curdle, about 5-8 minutes.
- Once curdled, add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.
- Add the wet mix to the dry flour mix and fold everything together until just incorporated.
- Set aside for 10-12 minutes (this gives the psyllium time to moisten which activates its binding powers).
- Cover a surface with about 20 inches of parchment paper. Add ¾ cups sorghum flour to the parchment paper and spread it out.
- Scrape the sticky cinnamon roll pastry out onto the floured parchment paper.
- Using the edges of the parchment paper when you press into the dough, gently knead the flour into the pastry until all of the flour is incorporated.
- Using another rectangle of parchment paper on top of the mound of dough, flatten the pastry out into a 9" by 13" rectangle (approximately). You want it at about 1" thickness. I like to use a rolling pin to make it really even, but you could also press it out with your hands.
- Remove the parchment paper from over top of the pastry.
- Evenly sprinkle the sandy spiced coconut sugar mixture over the pastry. At this point, I like to place that rectangle of parchment paper back over the pastry and press the sugar into the dough by rolling over it gently with the rolling pin. I think this makes rolling the pastry into a tight log easier.
- Remove the parchment paper from the top of the pastry and discard it.
- Roll the pastry into a log, starting at the short end. Keep the log as tight as possibly while you roll it.
- Working quickly, cut the log into 2" wide rounds using a sharp, wide knife. I use the wide edge of the knife to transfer each round to the greased glass pan, cut side up (so the end pieces look pretty).
- The rolls will all fit snugly together in the pan.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes. At 10 minutes, remove the cinnamon rolls and brush with the 2 remaining tablespoons of coconut oil. Place back in the oven and continue to bake until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown and bubbly.
- If not frosting, let cool at least 15 minutes before digging in.
- If frosting, let cool until gently warm to the touch. Then frost and serve.
- Store covered in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Best served warm.
- ½ cup cashews, soaked overnight or at least 8 hours
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- Drain the cashews of the soaking liquid.
- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a high powered blender: cashews, hemp hearts, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and unsweetened almond milk.
- Blend on high until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
- Frost away!