And the Pumpkin Continues. This Time in Cinnamon Roll Form.

Last night I was wandering through links upon links and somehow came across a four year old recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  It was posted during 2007’s VeganMoFo, was written clearly enough for me to understand, and contained pumpkin.  (Also, the name of the blog that it comes from is Don’t Eat Off The Sidewalk.  I really like that title, because sometimes I’m temped to eat off the sidewalk, so a reminder is always good.)

I have never made cinnamon rolls, and when I looked around the internet, everyone talked about how long it took.  Today is my first day off work for Winter Vacation, so I decided to wake up early and give these pumpkin cinnamon rolls a try.

Cinnamon Rolls - Ingredients

Cinnamon Rolls - Ingredients

(It took me until several hours into the process to figure out that my bag of sugar had a tiny little hole, and that is why there were puddles of sugar all over my kitchen.  Messy.)

One of the few things I changed from the original recipe is that, instead of 2.5 cups of all purpose flour, I used 1.5 cups of all purpose and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour.

Pumpkin Mush

Pumpkin Mush

I mixed the pumpkin, sugar, melted Earth Balance, and soy milk together.  It looked kind of gross, but made it easier to pour into the yeasty water when it was time.

After I mixed all the ingredients and kneaded the dough, it was time to rise.  I had a problem, though.  Although I live in the desert, and it is blisteringly hot during the summer, in the winter the nights are quite cool.  My house retains the night’s cool temperatures really well.  So, even during the day it is a bit chilly inside.  It’s too cold in the kitchen for dough to rise.  So, I attempted a new plan:

Alternative Rising System

Alternative Rising System

I set the bowl of dough on the counter directly in front of the space heater.  I didn’t want it to get too close so that it would get too hot, but I needed it close enough that it would benefit from the heat.  I think it pretty much worked.

* * *          * * *          * * *

Unfortunately, the space heater came alive with an ominous glow.  It demanded that I give it the cinnamon rolls, or pay the price.  I refused, and we ended up at a stand-off.

Ominous Space Heater

Ominous Space Heater

I won the standoff by unplugging the space heater.

* * *          * * *          * * *

(I apologize for that strange interlude.  The photo of the space heater and the bowl of rising dough looked a bit evil at that direction.  So, I played with photoshop to make it look even more ominous. Oooooo.)

Okay.  So, anyway, I rolled out the dough.  The recipe said to roll it out to be 10×12 inches.  I used a cookie sheet, and just rolled it out to fill up the tray.  I don’t know what the size was.  Bigger than 10×12 inches, though.

Dough Rolled Out

Dough Rolled Out

(I have to say, I love the meta nature of this picture.  You can see the website with the recipe on my computer in the background of the photo.)

Then, I poured on the filling, and rolled it up.  (Or, I should say, tried to roll it up.  I had some issues at first, but eventually figured it out.)

Rolled End of Cinnamon Roll Dough

Rolled End of Cinnamon Roll Dough

On top of the recipe’s filling, I poured some chopped pecans.  I’m not sure how much…maybe 1/4 cup or so?

Front View of Rolled Cinnamon Rolls

Side View of Rolled Cinnamon Dough

You can see the escaped filling.  Oh well.

I cut it up, and crammed all 13 rolls it into an 8×8 the baking dish.  (The recipe called for a 9×9 vessel.)  After waiting for the cut rolls to rise some more, I stuck it in the oven.  Around half way through the baking, I sprinkled some more pecans on top of the cinnamon rolls.  It was about two tablespoons worth, or so.

When they were glowing orange, and the sugar inside the rolls was melted and bubbly, I removed the baking dish from the oven.

Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Then, I prepared the icing for the top, and poured it on.

Beautiful Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Beautiful Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Look at them!  They look like cinnamon rolls!  (Imagine, that.)

Gorgeous Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Gorgeous Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You can sort of see in this picture how bright and orange they are.  The pumpkin flavor is not very prominent, but it gives the cinnamon rolls a vivid and enticing pumpkin-orange color.  I love it!

These Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls were a success.  Both because they ended up delicious, and because I finally learned how to spell cinnamon.  (For the first 3/4 of this post, I spelled cinnamon wrong every time.  And wrong in different ways, too!  I finally figured it out though.)

If I baked them again, I would increase the percentage of whole wheat pastry flour, and perhaps add a bit more pecans.  But, both of those are just superficial changes.  These are perfectly amazing as they are.  I’m hoping to freeze some of them (if I can stop eating them long enough to wrap and put in the freezer…)  That way, I’ll have amazing cinnamon rolls any time I want, without having to go through a three-hour long process.

What pumpkin concoction will I make next?  You’ll have to check back to find out…

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My ode to pan dulce

When I first became vegan, I was concerned about missing two things.

One, sort of obvious, was cheese.  I mean, cheese is kind of magical.  I had an obsession with string cheese.  There were some days when my consumption would reach three sticks of cheese.  I would buy these huge 48 packs of string cheese at the store and go through them quickly.  String cheese was the perfect portable protein source (love alliteration!).  It fit in a pocket, a purse, or a lunch bag.  I also loved to eat queso Oaxaca, which is closely related to string cheese/mozzarella cheese, but slightly different.  I first was introduced to it in Mexico, and found that you can buy it at any Mexican market here in the desert.  Aside from those cheeses, I also occasionally enjoyed a nice creamy goat cheese.  I guess my cheese love wasn’t wide, but it was deep.  However, interestingly enough, I haven’t craved cheese at all since I stopped eating dairy.  I also have absolutely no desire to try any of the vegan cheeses out there.  Any cheese-like concoction that I can create at home is good enough for me, right now.

However, in addition to the cheese, I was very concerned about missing Mexican pan dulce.  Pan dulce is an all-encompassing name for a wide variety of sweet Mexican pastries.  While there are a lot of different kinds of pan dulce, they are all bread-based, and they are all sweet (hence the name; pan=bread, dulce=sweet).  In many cases, the name of the pan dulce describes its appearance.   My favorite varieties of pan dulce were always las conchas (shells), las orejas (ears), and las banderillas (a dart stuck into a bull).  There is a panadería (bread store, or, Mexican bakery) near my work that I used to stop at every other Friday, or so.  I would buy three or four pieces of pan dulce, and eat them with hot chocolate or coffee throughout the weekend.  Just walking through the door of the panadería reminded me of my time living in Mexico, and the many wonderful panaderías there, ubiquitous on every major corner in the city.  Unlike bakeries in the United States, in Mexico you enter the panadería, you take a large metal tray and a set of tongs, and walk through the bakery smelling the breads and using the tongs to select what you want.  The panaderías in the US work the same way.  I’ve been to US panaderías in Chicago, Omaha, Rural Iowa, and Phoenix.  No matter where you go, there are the ever-present dented metal trays, the metal tongs, and the trays and trays of fresh, delicious, sweet-smelling Mexican pan dulce.  Sometimes, it’s a mystery as to what you’re buying.  The label might say that an empanada is filled with piña (pineapple), but when you take a bite, you discover that it’s actually filled with crema (sweet custard-like creme).  Whatever you end up eating, the pan dulce experience is always a sweet one. (Ha ha.  Get it?)

So, this is to say, that while cheese may have seemed like my biggest “sacrifice” when going vegan, in all actuality, it was really pan dulce.  The only times in four months that I have contemplated eating anything non-vegan were the occasional Friday afternoon as I was driving past the turn off to go to the panadería, or Monday mornings when I would go make photocopies at work, and be offered sweet pan dulce by the parents who volunteer at the school.  Cheese, I have never craved.  Pan dulce though, I’ve dreamed about.

So, I went on a search for vegan pan dulce.  No matter how I googled it, only one recipe appeared: Vegan Explosion’s Conchas.  This recipe was posted way back in 2008, but both the recipe and the photographs looked great.  So, I decided to give it a try.

I was so excited to finally eat pan dulce, for the first time in six months, that I measured out the dry ingredients the night before, so I could get right to work with the mixing and rising and making and baking and eating the next morning.

Pan Dulce - Pre-measured dry ingredients.

The ingredients on the left are for the dough, the ingredients on the right are for the topping.

I made a few modifications*, but mostly followed the recipe as posted on Vegan Explosion:

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 2/3 cup water, warmed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegan spread (like Earth Balance)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 Tablespoons water (since ground flaxseed goes bad so quickly, I always grind it myself in the Magic Bullet)
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm soymilk, warmed up and then cooled in the freezer for 3 minutes

To make the dough, I first dissolved the yeast in warm water, and mixed the ground flaxseed with water (these two mixings happen separately).  I allowed both to sit for a few minutes to do their thing.  (That is, the yeasties needed to wake up from their long slumber, and the flaxseed needed to get thick and gooey in the water.)  While the yeast and flax were busy at work, I warmed the soymilk on the stove.  Unfortunately, I got distracted and the soymilk burned and boiled over and made a mess.  I washed out the pot and tried again – the second time experiencing liquid-warming success.  As I put the soymilk in the freezer to cool, (I’m not sure what the reason for the warming and cooling are, but the recipe said to do this) I sifted together the flour, sugar, and salt, and poured in the Earth Balance, yeasty water, flaxseed mixture, and the now-cooled soymilk.  I mixed and kneaded everything until it was pretty smooth.  Then, I rolled it into a ball, put it on a piece of parchment paper, and covered it with an upside-down bowl.  I let it relax for about two hours.  (I would have done 1.5 hours, but my kitchen was pretty cold and I wanted to make sure it rose enough.)

The dough that took over Manhattan.

The dough that took over the city. (Or my kitchen. Or maybe just that piece of parchment paper.)

Then, I punched down the dough, kneaded it a tiny bit, and rolled it into 12 balls which I put on two parchment-lined baking sheets.

Next, I prepared the topping.

Ingredients for the topping:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated vegan spread (like Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon orange extract

I put the sugar, Earth Balance, and flour together in a bowl and mixed until they were well combined.  Then, I divided this mixture into three separate balls.  With one ball, I kneaded in the cinnamon until it was well incorporated.  With the next ball I kneaded in the vanilla until it seemed mixed in.  With the last ball I kneaded in the orange extract until it was well mixed.  (In the original recipe, it said to add a drop of red food coloring in with the orange flavored topping, but I didn’t have any food coloring, so my orange topping, like my vanilla topping, is white.  The cinnamon topping is brown.)

I divided each of the balls of topping into four tinier balls.  The original recipe said to put each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll them flat under the plastic wrap, and then drape them over the balls of dough.  I, being too lazy to get out the plastic wrap and rolling pin, chose to just flatten each ball as best I could without having too much of the topping stick to my hands, and then draped these sort-of circles over the dough.  It was messy, but it worked out okay.

Finally, it was time to transform these from just balls of dough into real conchas.  I carefully used a knife to cut a shell pattern into the topping.  There are different ways to do it, but I just made three or four cuts in one direction, and then three or four more crossing over in the other direction.  Really, you can make any design or pattern you want.

I then covered the trays of dough and let them rise for another 40 minutes.

Pan dulce - risen and ready to go in the oven.

Pan dulce - risen and ready to go in the oven.

Then, into the oven for 15-17 minutes (that’s what the recipe said to do, though I think I baked mine for more like 18-19 minutes).  During these loonnnggg 15-17 minutes, I sat in my kitchen and smelled the delicious aroma of baking bread, cinnamon, orange, and vanilla.  It’s almost as good as actually eating the conchas!  Then, to pass the time, I took out a small pot and warm up some soymilk.  In a mug, I mixed together a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder with an equal-sized spoonful of turbinado sugar and and the same amount of soymilk, to form a paste.  Once the soymilk on the stove was warm, I poured it into the mug containing the chocolate paste, and mixed again until everything was well combined.

By this time, the conchas were done.

Conchas!

Cinnamon, vanilla, and orange conchas.

First, before doing anything else, I just sat and admired them.  They’re beautiful.  And they smell wonderful.

Then, I took one off the pan, put it on a plate, and sat down with my mug of hot chocolate.

Concha with Hot Chocolate

Pan dulce con chocolate!

I took a bite.  I sighed.

It’s settled.

I can continue being a vegan.  As with everything else, these conchas are even more satisfying than the kind from a panadería, because I know exactly what went into them, and I did it all myself.  And, they’re delicious.

(*Some of the modifications I made may have contributed to a slight texture difference.  The recipe called for all AP flour, instead of the mixture with whole wheat pastry flour.  Also, the recipe said to use egg replacer, (like ener-g egg replacer) but I prefer to use the flaxseed mixture, which also may have contributed to a slightly less smooth texture than traditional pan dulce, as well as a slightly “healthy” taste.  The texture was surprising at first, but after I finished eating the first concha, it didn’t bother me at all, and I might even increase the whole wheat pastry flour next time I make these.)