If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I thought this past Sunday was Easter, so I woke up early to make cinnamon rolls. Quarantine is really getting to my sense of time! This happy accident was a delicious reminder of how much I love baking and how easy this celebratory breakfast is to throw together. It also gave me a chance to refine my recipe for these vegan cinnamon rolls with date filling.
Have you noticed anything strange about these vegan cinnamon rolls with date filling yet? Zucchini! Yes, grated zucchini is worked into the dough; that lovely bright green makes me think of spring, even as it pours rain here in LA. And if you’re worried about adding veggies to your pastry, let me assure you, it has zero flavor, just added moisture. Have picky kids who are afraid of green? Just run a peeler over the outside of the zucchini before grating.
You will need about 3 hours from start to finish for these vegan cinnamon rolls with date filling. I got mine started at 7am, and we were sitting down to a gooey warm roll at 10am. As advertised, the filling is made from dates with walnuts and cinnamon as well. I could eat that with a spoon. This recipe is also very forgiving, just be patient, and the dough will do the rest!
Vegan Cinnamon Rolls with Date Filling
Yields 9 rolls
Ready in approx. 3 hours
1 cup coconut milk
3 T. vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 T. coconut sugar
1 zucchini- grated
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
12 dates- pitted
3/4 cup raw walnuts
1 t. cinnamon
3 T. vegan butter- room temperature
1. Begin by preheating the oven to 170 degrees. Once it preheats, immediately turn it off. We will be using that warm space to let the dough rise.
2. Heat the coconut milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour the hot mixture into a large bowl and let it cool for about 15-20 minutes, until it feels like lukewarm bath water. Too hot and it will kill the yeast and your rolls won’t rise.
3. While the milk cools, grate the zucchini and squeeze out as much water as possible. Next measure the flour and salt into a small bowl and whisk gently to remove any lumps.
4. Once the milk is lukewarm, add the coconut sugar and yeast, stir once or twice then allow to rest for 10 minutes while the yeast wakes up (as my kindergarten teacher used to say).
5. Add in the zucchini, followed by half a cup of the flour, stirring as you go. Keep adding the flour in half cup increments. Once you reach two cups, kneed in the last 1/2 cup with your hands, creating a smooth ball.
6. Grease a large mixing bowl with coconut oil, then set the dough inside, turning once to coat with oil. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl, and put the bowl in the oven. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour. It will double in size. I like to set a timer, it helps with the next steps.
7. When the dough has twenty minutes left to rise, begin making the filling by pitting and cutting the dates in half. Boil 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan. Once the water boils, turn off the heat and add the dates to soak for 10 minutes.
8. After 10 minutes, drain and spoon the dates into your food processor. Pulse a few times, scrape down the edges and continue until the dates are diced. Add in the walnuts and cinnamon, and continue the process. It is not quick and requires some patience, stopping and scraping every few pulses.
9. By now, the timer for the dough should be ringing, so take the dough out of the oven. Use the dish towel covering to roll out the dough, first sprinkling generously with flour. Pat the dough first with your hands to shape, then give it a few passes with your floured-rolling pin. The dough is very soft and doesn’t take much convincing to spread into a large rectangle.
10. Use a basting brush or rubber spatula to spread the room temperature butter; cover the entire rectangle. I found that my hands were the best tools for the filling. Spoon it onto the dough in large dollops, then carefully press and spread until it fills the space.
11. Butter a cast iron skillet or pie pan and set aside.
12. Beginning at one of the long ends of the rectangle, roll the dough slowly. Place the rolled log seem-side down and score into nine pieces with a sharp knife. Cut along your scored lines.
13. Place one piece in the center of your dish, the remaining eight pieces around the edges. Cover again with a fresh dish towel and set near the oven, but not on it. Let the rolls rise for 20 minutes.
14. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees after the rolls have been rising for 10 minutes. It should be ready right around when the rolls are ready to go in.
15. Bake for 35 minutes or until deep golden brown.
16. Optional: when the rolls come out of the oven, whisk together a tablespoon of coconut milk 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and drizzle it over the hot rolls. They don’t need the extra sweetness but it sure looks yummy.