Darsie obediently got up, took the sugar bowl and went out to the kitchen. After a long long time he came back to the breakfast table with a plate of cinnamon rolls.
"What are these for?" his father said. "And where is the sugar?"
"Sugar?" said Darsie. "What about sugar?"
"I told you to fill the sugar bowl," said Mrs. Burbank.
"Oh," said Darsie, "I thought you said, 'Get the cinnamon roll.'"
from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald
The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series is full to the brim with references to classic American foods like sugar cookies, root beer floats, and peanut butter sandwiches. I read all of the books (multiple times) as I was growing up, and true to my foodie tendencies, I was often distracted by the foods described at the characters' mealtimes, parties, or garden club meetings.
Written in the 1940's and 1950's, it's no surprise that these classics pop up through all the books. This was a time of economic abundance and the growing popularity of pre-packaged foods. The most vogue recipes were the ones that included brand names. So it was a time when a lot of American classics were born.
And it doesn't get much more classic (or delicious) than cinnamon rolls.
My rolls are stuffed with plenty of cinnamon and pecans, so they are reminiscent of pecan spinwheels. Made completely with whole wheat flour, I was afraid these would be a bit too heavy or chewy. But while they're not as cake-y as their white flour counterparts, the texture is actually really lovely, like a soft bread.
Um, also? Vegan.
I couldn't bring myself to make them without real icing and a candied center though, so you'll find that these call for brown and powdered sugar. But compared to a typical recipe, they require only about half of what's usually used. And if you'd like to make it even healthier, you could substitute palm sugar for the brown sugar, and try this date syrup as icing.
I'm pretty sold on this version though. Even J, who is notorious for his rejection of sweet snacks, couldn't keep his paws off of these.
For the dough...
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 packet active yeast
2 tbsp, + 1 tsp brown sugar
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature
For the filling...
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp, + 2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup pecans
For the icing...
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
small amount of almond milk
1. Heat the milk in the microwave until 100-110 degrees (about 1 min). Sprinkle 1 tsp of the brown sugar and the yeast over the milk. Stir, then set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Form a well in the mixture, then pour in the yeast and applesauce. Stir until holding together, then add the rest of the flour a couple of tablespoons at a time. When stirring is no longer possible, begin kneading the dough, adding more flour until you have a ball without stickiness. I needed the full 3 cups of flour...you might even need a bit more.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 12" by 18" rectangle, about 1/4" thick. Combine the four filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Spread evenly over the dough, leaving about 1" empty on a long edge. From the opposite edge, roll the dough up, then pinch to seal. You will have a long tube of dough.
4. Cut the ends off, then cut the dough into 12 pieces. Grease a baking dish and carefully place the pieces in it, with the cinnamon spirals facing up. Cover with a warm dishtowel and place in a warm place to rise, about 45-60 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes. Allow rolls to cool for at least 10 minutes before icing.