Cinnamon rolls are one of my favourite sweet treats. Is it because you can get away with calling them breakfast when they're really a delicious dessert in disguise? Possibly. Is it the spiced gooeyness of the filling and the fluffiness of the roll encasing it? Probably. Is it the lashings of cream cheese icing drizzled over the top? Most definitely.
But not all cinnamon rolls are created equal. Those that lack the essential roll-to-filling ratio can turn a potentially drool-worthy experience into, let's be honest, a bit of a let down. I conclude, cinnamon rolls with minimal filling are just not for me. And I won't stand for this.
So, I sent myself on a quest to create a cinnamon roll with a worthy roll-to-filling ratio. The filling of a classic cinnamon roll is usually butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. While this combo is obviously delicious, I decided it probably wasn't very responsible or healthy of me to just double the brown sugar filling in my quest to create the perfect cinnamon roll.
Now, I understand that if I'm looking to make a batch of cinnamon rolls in the first place then that's not going to be the healthiest choice. But, I'm a believer of all things in moderation and finding simple ways to make foods that you love just that little bit healthier.
So, I turned my attention to natural sweeteners and flavour enhancers. Enter, dates and bananas! I use these two ingredients in a lot of my baking. The reason? They just work so well to add a little natural sweetness and extra flavour to my bakes.
An added bonus is that bananas make an excellent substitution for eggs. This really was great news for me, because I also wanted to make these cinnamon rolls vegan-friendly. So, voila! Here are my vegan-friendly Sticky Date and Banana Cinnamon Rolls. Enjoy! (I certainly do).
Utensils: Medium saucepan, large mixing bowl, cling film, sieve, wooden spoon or spatula, food processor or blender, non-stick baking mat (optional), rolling pin, ruler, palette knife, dental floss or sharp knife, 10 inch x 12 inch baking tray, non-stick baking paper, a little oil for greasing, electric hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, cooling rack.
Top Tip: If you're making these rolls vegan, you may know that not all processed sugars can be regarded as vegan. Therefore you may want to do some research to find out what sugar you can use that aligns with your values. In the UK, the brands Tate and Lyle and Billingtons have confirmed that the sugars they produce are vegan because no bone char is used in the processing of their sugars.
For the cream cheese icing, if you're not able to find any vegan cream cheese then you may find it easier to make a glaze for the rolls consisting of icing sugar, unsweetened almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Adjust the quantities until you have your desired consistency and taste.
Spiced Banana Dough
240ml whole milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
40g unsalted butter (or vegan butter/margarine/spread), melted
1 packet (7g) instant yeast
20g golden caster sugar
120g ripe banana, mashed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon ginger
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
375g strong white flour, sifted
Sticky Date, Banana and Cinnamon Filling
75g dried dates, stoned
20g unsalted butter (or vegan butter/margarine/spread), melted
80g soft dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
120g ripe banana, mashed
Cream Cheese Icing *see top tip above for more vegan variations
50g unsalted butter (or vegan butter/margarine/spread), softened
100g cream cheese (or vegan cream cheese), softened
125g icing sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon whole milk (or unsweetened almond milk), optional depending on if you want more of a spreadable icing or a glaze
Makes: 12 generously-sized, deliciously-filled cinnamon rolls
1. Make the dough: In a medium saucepan (or in a bowl in the microwave at 30-second increments), heat the milk and butter until warm and melted, but not boiling. Remove from heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl and set to one side to cool until tepid (about 40°C).
2. Once the milk mixture is cool enough (it should be warm, but not too hot) add the yeast along with 1 teaspoon of golden caster sugar. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate for 10 minutes.
3. Add the golden caster sugar, mashed banana, salt, ginger and mixed spice and stir well. Then sift in the strong white flour in 3 batches, stirring as you go with a wooden spoon or spatula. When it is too thick to stir, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly for a couple of minutes until you have a loose, fairly smooth dough. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat with a little melted butter or oil, and place your dough back in. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge to rise overnight (this is preferable as cold dough is much easier to work with). Alternatively, place the covered dough in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
4. Make the filling: Place the stoned dates in a small bowl and soak in just boiled water for 10 minutes until soft. Drain the water and add the dates to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the melted butter, soft dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and mashed banana. Blend until a smooth paste forms. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge until ready to use.
5. Roll out and fill the dough: Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface or non-stick baking mat. Roll the dough out to 30cm x 50cm in size. Leaving a 1cm border around the edge, spread the filling out evenly across the dough.
6. Starting from one of the 50cm sides, carefully roll the dough up away from you as tightly (but gently!) and evenly as you can. Use a ruler to mark 1cm pieces of dough at each end of the log. Use a piece of unflavoured dental floss or sharp knife to remove the 1cm pieces (using dental floss helps to reduce how much the dough is squashed when cutting). Then mark out 12 rolls, each 4cm in width, using a knife to lightly mark where you need to cut. Use dental floss or a sharp knife to cut the rolls.
7. Place the rolls in four evenly spaced lines of three in a 10 inch x 12 inch baking tray that has been greased and lined with non-stick baking paper. Leave a little space between each cinnamon roll to allow them to expand. Cover the rolls loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until the rolls are almost double in size again.
8. Bake: While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 170°C. Then bake the rolls for about 20-25 minutes (or potentially a little longer dependent on your oven) or until rolls are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the baking tray on a cooling rack.
9. Make the icing: As the rolls are baking, make the cream cheese icing. Using an electric hand or stand mixer (or your strong arm and a wooden spoon), beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar in a couple of batches, beating after each addition until smooth. Finally, add the vanilla extract and maple syrup and beat to incorporate. If you want more of a glaze than a spreadable icing, add the milk until it reaches your desired consistency.
10. Now you can eat! Spread the icing over the rolls while still slightly warm to let the icing melt into all the nooks and crannies. Enjoy immediately.
Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature before eating. Rolls are best enjoyed slightly warmed up - either in the oven, or a quick 15-30 second blast in the microwave will do the trick!