Caroline's boyfriend, Drew, has a family tradition of eating cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Since he was going to be spending Christmas with our family instead of his it was very important to Caroline that Drew still get his rolls. The only caveat being that they be vegan cinnamon rolls so that Caroline, Chris, and I could eat them, too - no milk, no eggs, no butter. At first we thought we'd buy them from a local vegan pie shop but upon discovering that an uncooked log costs $50 (!!!) we chose to make them from scratch.
Using a very simple recipe that Caroline found from the blog Minimalist Baker , Drew, and the rest of us, ate delicious cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. So good we each had two.
1 packet of instant yeast
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (I don't know if other non-dairy milk would work but probably)
1/2 cup of vegan butter (we used Earth Balance), *divided
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of all purpose flour (we used wheat flour because I didn't realize there was a difference and I just wanted to use up what I already had in the kitchen. We were a little nervous at first that the recipe wouldn't work as well with the wheat flour because the dough didn't rise as much as the photos on the Minimalist Baker recipe showed but they turned out really good anyway. I believe we used fewer than three cups, too, because the wheat flour is denser and became too thick to stir after the second cup. Again, this had no affect on the final tastiness of the product.)
1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of sugar (we used Turbinado sugar), *divided
* Don't dump all at once; will be used a couple of times throughout the baking process*
With all our ingredients at hand and with Chris serenading us from the dining room we were ready. My sister did most of the baking and I just made sure she had everything she needed since I know where everything is and it takes time to familiarize yourself with someone else's kitchen.
First, in a saucepan heat the almond milk and three tablespoons of vegan butter until melted but not boiling. Remove from heat and let it cool until it's comfortably warm to the touch - as in put your finger in it and if it feels like a warm bath then you're good. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast - which is a very sensitive ingredient and one I hardly ever use because of this.
Next, pour the almond milk and butter mixture into a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of it, and let it activate untouched for ten minutes. Then add a tablespoon of the sugar and all the salt.
Then stir in the flour, half a cup at a time. The dough will become very sticky and thick. Once it gets too thick to stir remove it from the bowl, knead it on a lightly floured surface for about a minute until it can form into a loose ball. Rinse the large bowl you already used, coat it with a thin layer of oil (we used Canola), place the dough ball into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area for an hour where it will grow in size.
While the dough rises you can either play with your dogs, make the vegan frosting, or both. Just don't forget to wash your hands if you elect to go the dog route.
For the frosting you'll need: 4 tablespoons of vegan butter, 1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 4 ounces of vegan cream cheese, softened (we used Tofutti), and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is thick and spreadable.
Once the dough has plumped take it out of the bowl, place it on a lightly floured surface, and flatten it into a thin rectangle shape using a rolling pin. As evidenced below, the rectangle doesn't have to be perfect...it may not even resemble a rectangle at all. Then spread three tablespoons of melted butter all over and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sugar and the half tablespoon of cinnamon.
Now you need to tightly roll up the dough into a log formation and place it with the seam down.
With a serrated knife cut the roll into 1 and 1/2 inch slices and place them into a buttered 8X8 inch square pan or something of similar proportions. You should get about 12 slices. Brush the last two tablespoons of butter over the tops of the rolls, cover with plastic wrap, and set it near the oven while it preheats to 350.
Once the oven is ready, remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until they're golden and puffy. Remove, marvel, and let them cool for just a few minutes.
Oh, and most importantly, these were stamped with Drew's cinnamon-roll-expertise seal of approval for you non-vegans.