Whole Wheat Gooey Cinnamon Rolls and Healthy Icing

Valentine’s day is this weekend and this gooey cinnamon roll recipe is sure to bring a smile to your loved ones hearts!

Weekend mornings at our house are a special time for breakfast.  We typically have a savory, egg based dish on one day and then a sweet dish on the other day.  For our sweet day, I usually make french, toast, pancakes, waffles or my son’s favorite dish, cinnamon rolls.

In the grocery store you will find a wide array of prepared, refrigerated cinnamon rolls enclosed in the classic cylinder pop open container.  Most of these refrigerated cinnamon rolls are full of oils, corn syrup solids, preservatives, dyes, artificial colors and flavors.  Sure they are very convenient and hard to mess up, but I wanted a healthier option for my family.  I found cinnamon roll powder mixes in the baking goods aisle of my grocery store.  When I read the ingredients I was taken aback by the amount of sugars and oils it had in it.  I guess I was hoping that since it was a powder mix it wouldn’t have the same oils that were used in the refrigerated kind.

After crossing off both cinnamon roll types, I decided I needed to make my own cinnamon rolls from scratch.  I knew I wanted the dough to be wholesome so I decided on whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour has a higher protein content than all purpose flour.  It also has more fiber, will not raise your blood sugar as much and has more vitamins.  Whole wheat flour generally comes in three forms; stone ground, regular whole wheat and white whole wheat.  White whole wheat flour comes from a different strand of wheat, it is still a whole grain but milled differently.  I generally like to use the white whole wheat in most of my recipes.  White whole wheat flour is not as gritty as regular whole wheat flour or the stone ground whole wheat flour.  White whole wheat also has a less bitter taste than its whole wheat counterparts.

In order for the wheat to rise properly and for the cinnamon roll to have a nice flavor profile, I decided to make my rolls using a fairly standard yeast roll recipe (with some modification of course).  Yeast is easier to work with than one might think.  I was somewhat hesitate to work with yeast when I first started baking because I heard how temperamental yeast can be to use.  However, after I worked with it a couple times, making garlic rolls and other yeast based items, I quickly realized it is easier to work with than I had originally thought.  For a cinnamon roll recipe I was reluctant to use yeast because I had always been under the presumption that you needed sugar in the dough in order for it to work properly.   Much to my surprise, after quite a bit of research and testing, I found that yeast does not need sugar to “grow”.   I do, however, add a drop of molasses into the yeast, while it is activating, which I have found helps it move along nicely.

Most cinnamon roll recipes have a copious amount of butter.  The butter helps bind the ingredients and keeps the roll moist.  Butter is typically used in both the cinnamon roll dough and in the roll filling.  Unsweetened applesauce is usually the first go to ingredient to replace butter in baked good recipes.  In my cinnamon roll recipe I figured unsweetened applesauce would work nicely as a binder and moist agent.  Furthermore, the unsweetened applesauce would give the cinnamon roll a nature sweet touch.

Because I was using unsweetened applesauce as the butter in my cinnamon roll dough, I wanted to find something similar that I could use as the butter in the roll filling.  I did not want the applesauce flavor to overshadow the entire roll, after all cinnamon should be the star.  I remembered, awhile back, I read that cinnamon pairs very nicely with prunes.  Prunes are the dried version of the plum fruit.  Prunes are considered to be a “superfood”.   They are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Furthermore, prunes have a low glycemic Index and are low in carbohydrates.  For the filling of the cinnamon roll I decided to use pureed prunes instead of butter.

You can make pureed prunes or you can purchase prune puree in the grocery store.   To make your own prune puree I have included a recipe and directions at the bottom of this recipe page.  On the other hand, purchasing the prunes already pureed is simple, easy and cost effective.  I have found the best prune puree can be found in the baby food aisle, yes you read that right, the baby food aisle.  The baby food prune puree comes in small packages (perfect size for this recipe) and the only ingredients are usually prunes with water.  The prune purees you find in the jelly and jam aisle are typically filled with sugar, so stay clear of those.

It goes without saying that a cinnamon roll is traditionally sweet and sugar (white and/or brown) is usually the ingredient that is most commonly used to accomplish this flavor profile.   Sugar is used in both the cinnamon roll dough as well as the roll filling.  As you may have seen from my other recipes I am not a huge fan of sugar.  I like to substitute sugar whenever I can.  For my cinnamon roll recipe I have substituted the sugar with pure Stevia extract.  If you are not fond of Stevia I have included sugar alternative options in the recipe.

The recipe I have listed below makes about 6 good sized cinnamon rolls.  The recipe can be cut in half or doubled to fit your needs.  For a vegan recipe, the egg white can be left out or an egg white substitute can be used.  Since the recipe uses white whole wheat flour, the final cinnamon rolls are denser than the traditional cinnamon roll.  If you want a lighter, fluffier cinnamon roll than all purpose flour can be used instead.

Whole Wheat Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour if you want a fluffier cinnamon roll)

1.25 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 egg white (can be left out for a vegan recipe)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup water (warm – around 90 to 100 degrees)

1/8 teaspoon pure Stevia extract + a dash for the dough (or 3 tablespoons cane or coconut sugar + 1 teaspoon for the dough)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 drop of molasses

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup prune puree (homemade – see recipe below or store bought)

In a small bowl, add 1 drop of molasses to the warm water and mix well.  Add the yeast to the molasses water.  Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes.  In large bowl, combine the egg white with the unsweetened applesauce.  Add the activated yeast water to the egg white/applesauce mixture.  In another large bowl, shift together the white whole wheat flour, a dash of the pure Stevia extract (or 1 teaspoon of cane/coconut sugar), baking powder and salt.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.  Mix well while adding the flour to the yeast.  Continue mixing until a sticky dough forms in the bowl.  On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is well combined, fairly smooth but still has a tacky feel and texture.  

Lightly coat the inside of a large bowl with spray oil (I prefer to use spay coconut oil).  Place the dough in the bowl (use an oven safe bowl if using the oven proofing method listed below) and cover the bowl with a cloth.  Allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Easy Method to Help Proof the Dough – I have found the most effective way to allow the dough to rise is to use your oven.  To use your oven to help proof the dough, preheat your oven to about 130 degrees.  Once the oven reaches 130 degree, turn your oven off.  In a small microwave (and oven) safe bowl add a couple cups of plain tap water and heat it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Remove the warm water from the microwave and place the bowl one of the bottom racks in your oven.  Take the covered kneading dough and place on a rack above the warm water (close to the oven door) and close the oven.   Allow dough to rise in the oven, about 30 minutes maybe less depending on your dough and oven.  After dough has risen, remove from the oven and set aside.  

Using spray oil, lightly grease a 9″ circular pie pan.  Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle. The thickness of the dough will depend on how thick you want your final cinnamon roll.  If you want a doughier roll, than keep the dough thicker.  If you want a gooier roll than roll the dough out to be fairly thin.  

In a small bowl, combine the prune puree, cinnamon, vanilla extract and pure Stevia extract (or cane/coconut sugar).  Spread the prune mixture evenly over the dough.  Roll the dough tightly into a log shape.  Press firmly on the seam to seal the log.  Cut the log roll into 6 equal size pieces. Place the rolls next to each other into the prepared greased pan. Please note that for 6 rolls you will not be using the whole pan.  

Damp a clean cloth by soaking it under warm water from your kitchen faucet.  Ring out the excess water and cover the pan with the warm damp cloth.  Once again let the dough (now in roll form) rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls, uncovered, in the preheated oven until slightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Allow rolls to cool slightly before removing from the pan.  Rolls can be enjoyed plain or topped with icing.  Below I have a recipe for an amazing healthy Greek yogurt icing.  

Homemade Prune Puree

1 cup dried prunes

1/4 cup water

In a blender or food processor combine water and dried prunes. Pulse the ingredients until it has the texture of a sticky puree.  

Healthy Greek Yogurt Icing

3/4 cup Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage 0%)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons almond or coconut milk (or cow’s milk)

a dash of pure Stevia extract (or 1 tablespoon of cane sugar)

In a medium sized bowl, whip together ingredients.  Add more milk if you want a thinner icing, less if you want a thicker icing. Drizzle icing over warm cinnamon rolls and serve.  

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