Pumpkin Apple Cinnamon Rolls


HIRING: hand model. must be able to hold things. hot things and cold things. light things and heavy things. multiple things or one thing. must have not-so-pretty, wise-looking hands with character, maybe some protruding veins to symbolize life. must have hands that can tell stories without words. hands must be chiral. short nails are a must because long nails = the chalkboard noise. 

BENEFITS: some hand lotion and maybe nail clippers.

What I realize is missing from my photos is some sort of presence of life. Shots of people tearing apart bread, rolling up the dough while basked in the dim evening shadows. The in-the-process-moody photos. The sort of photos that grip you with the lighting and mood, that stir up some memories of childhood or family, that conjure up aromas and tastes in your mind. You know, even if it’s something as simple as muffins on a cooling rack and one arm grabbing one, another unwrapping one.

It sounds weird talking about hands as separate entities. They very well could be.

IMG_1406 IMG_1417IMG_1419 IMG_1433-2 

So here are my photos, hands-free, because my home is a hands-free, people-free environment most of the time.

I can’t accurately judge how weird that sounds because I like writing when it’s late and half my brain is turned off and in actuality I end up rambling and whatever this is just about pumpkin apple cinnamon rolls in the end.

Which brings me to the point of feeling the need to explain why, in the midst of all these lovely fruits and berries coming into season, I made pumpkin rolls. It can be explained quite easily, actually– I’m a hoarder and I bought a can of pumpkin during pumpkin spice latte season (aka fall), which I hoarded and saved until now, yes, half a year later.


Or was it because October Colleen could predict that May Colleen would be craving some really mean, really moist, really tender pumpkin rolls? Because these rolls rise and bake up pretty “fast”, especially if you’re marathon-ing through your favourite TV series, and before you’ll know it, you will be experiencing the extreme satisfaction of tearing into a pan of these fresh out of the oven.

IMG_1440 IMG_1461

I must’ve struck yeast-gold, because they awakened much faster than in the past. and these rose up beautifully. It was active dry yeast, with 20 minute kneading time, 2 hour rising time, then shaping, then one last rise of 1 hour. Shaping and cutting takes between 10-20 minutes. If you’re sloppy like me (…I mean, if you’re trying to achieve a rustic look)  then you can go as fast as you care to.

The filling is more pumpkin puree (in addition to that in the dough), roasted saigon cinnamon, diced gala apples, dried cranberries and kaya (coconut milk jam). Slightly unconventional, but I also used coconut milk in the dough, which sort of ties everything together.


So you see, because there’s no butter in this, it automatically qualifies as breakfast food. #noregrets.

But honestly, they weren’t that sweet at all, and had some bitter, vegetably tones from the pumpkin. Note: if you do not want to taste actual pumpkin, please do not use pumpkin puree in the filling, because you will taste that. There will be no excess of spices to mask that.

So to bring this back to normal-sweetness-land, you could definitely up the sugar content in the filling by sprinkling a brown sugar-cinnamon mix, or do a cream cheese icing on top, or fling more coconut jam on top.

They say baking is scientific, but totally not even. puh. leese. You can roll blue cheese and walnuts into this pumpkin dough at this point and no scientist would stop you, I assure you.

Let me know how that goes, by the way.


For a butter-free dough, I’m pretty darn amazed at how soft and moist these turned out. It achieved that tear in the dough I was looking for. It’s milk-bread-esque, but without the hassle of making a roux first.

The recipe comes from Baked Elements, with a few minor modifications.


IMG_1488 So now you know your next job is to locate the closest can of pumpkin puree, and bake off some pans of these sunshine rolls asap! IMG_1492

Pumpkin Apple Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: 10 large rolls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

adapted from here and here; original recipe from Baked Elements


>for the pumpkin dough
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I omitted this, but used 1 tbsp to start my yeast)
1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup avocado oil
2/3 cup full fat coconut milk (or whole milk, or butter milk), warmed to <110°F
2 room temperature large eggs
2/3 cup pumpkin purée (I used generous portions and didn’t level off the cup)
1 egg, whisked (for egg wash)

>because I aim to please… choose your filling, apple or spiced: 

for the apple filling:
2 gala apples, diced
1/2 cup kaya (coconut milk jam)
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries

for the spiced filling:
3/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted and divided

>for the cream cheese icing (optional)
2 ounces of cream cheese
3 Tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Prepare the dough:

First, prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by greasing the bottom and sides lightly, and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Lightly oil a large bowl (for your dough to rise in), and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the warmed milk with 1 tbsp granulated sugar. Sprinkle the active yeast on top. If it doesn’t look foamy within 5-10 minutes, something’s not right with the yeast … just start over again 🙂

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar(s), salt and spices and mix with the paddle attachment to combine. Add oil, yeast-milk mixture, and eggs. Beat on low speed until combined. Add the pumpkin purée and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, and knead (speed 2 for KitchenAid) for 20 minutes. At this point, the dough should be well developed in its gluten in that it forms a ball, but it’s still soft and slightly sticky.

Transfer the dough into the oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1.5 to 2 hours until doubled.

Fill and roll them rolls:

If using the spice mixture: whisk together both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add 1 ounce of melted butter and stir until combined.

Flour a large surface. Roll out dough into an approximate rectangle (16 x 11-inch) with a rolling pin. If using the apple filling, spread out the pumpkin puree evenly, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Next, crazily drizzle the kaya jam all over. Sprinkle the cinnamon, diced apples and dried cranberries. Press gently into the dough.

If using the spice filling, brush dough with the remaining 1 ounce of melted butter and sprinkle the filling, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges. Press the filling gently into the dough.

Now comes the fun part– and don’t worry if it’s not neat– starting from the length (longer end) of the rectangle, roll the dough into a tight log, and keep seam-side down. Slice the log in half with a sharp knife. It will squish the shape a bit, but it’s easy enough to reshape it– it’s going to look rustic anyway, let’s not kid ourselves. For each half, make 4 even cuts to divide it into 5 pieces, for a total of 10 rolls. Place 5 rolls each into the two 9-inch prepared round cake pans. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place.

Bake them off:

Preheat the oven to 350°F 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them. Brush the rolls with egg wash. Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes or the buns are puffed and golden.

If desired, prepare the icing while it’s baking. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and buttermilk on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until combined.

Remove the pan from the oven and onto a cooling rack. If using, pour the icing over the rolls while they are still warm from the oven.

Serve while still warm and try not to cry tears of joy.


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