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Sweet Potato Walnut Cinnamon Rolls 02

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family. I love the fall and Thanksgiving, the cool fresh air, the changing of the leaves. Its heaven for a baker in a house with no AC. It means I can finally have the oven on without turning the house into a furnace. A midst the planning and cooking I decided to bake up something special, to start off the long weekend on a quieter, more relaxing note.

Sweet Potato Walnut Cinnamon Rolls 01

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

Food blogging has become a great way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of Holiday prep and slow down my pace. You really can’t rush picture taking or recipe testing, believe me I’ve tried, and the results are usually mediocre at best. Cinnamon rolls are one of my all time favorites, especially in the fall and winter months where their pallet of warm spices seems all the more appropriate. Warm centers with a gooey, sticky filling, peeling apart the layers like a kid unwrapping a gift until you get to the best part, the core. Yes, they are a labor of love and require some advance prep. If you’re looking for something speedy, then yeast based rolls are definitely not the way to go.

There is something extremely therapeutic about working with dough. Kneading it, rolling it out, watching as it rises into pillowy goodness. Over time I’ve worked on adapting most of my roll recipes so that after the initial rise and shaping, the second rise can take place overnight in the fridge. It makes them much easier, and keeps me from having to get up hours before the rest of the house so that we can actually call it breakfast and not lunch.

Sweet Potato Walnut Cinnamon Rolls 03

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

Usually I turn to pumpkin rolls this time of year as a go to recipe. However, to avoid the redundancy of pumpkin and pumpkin spice recipes over the blogger-sphere, as well as another half full can of pumpkin puree sitting in the fridge, I opted for sweet potato. I’ll admit I really don’t bake much with sweet potato, despite the abundance of delicious recipes available online. Truth be told, I very rarely give enough advanced thought to recipes to cook them up the night before so they’re ready to be used. Fortunately, I was making sweet potato pie to serve as dessert for our Thanksgiving meal, and cooked way more sweet potato than needed. Mostly because I really can’t eye ball weight measures very well. 1 1/4 pounds turned out to actually be closer to three pounds. Oh well, when life gives you extra sweet potatoes make cinnamon rolls.

Sweet Potato Walnut Cinnamon Rolls 05

© David James Di Pardo – 2015

This recipe makes 4 giant rolls, however you could divide it in 6 to make standard sized cinnamon rolls. Personally I felt bigger was better, no need to go for seconds, or the stares yet get when you do so. You can double the recipe if needed but considering there where only two of us sitting down to breakfast, 4 seemed like more than enough. In a small household, a pan with a dozen rolls is a dangerous thing, one way or another they’ll get eaten… 3 meals a day plus snacks, that’s about half a dozen each right?


Sweet Potato & Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 4 giant rolls
  • 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cashew milk, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (about 100°F)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Vanilla Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cashew milk, or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

To make the dough: In a small saucepan, whisk the mashed sweet potato, cashew milk, 1/4 sugar, margarine, salt, and vanilla. Stir over medium low heat until warm, and the margarine has completely melted. Remove from the heat and let cool until barely warm to the touch (about 100-110°F).

In a small bowl stir together the warm water, remaining sugar, and yeast. Side aside for about 10 minutes until the yeast has activated, the mixture will become foamy and double in size.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the sweet potato mixture and yeast. Beat at medium speed for about a minute until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add 1 cup of flour. Continue to mix on low until incorporated adding the remaining flour. Change to a dough hook and knead on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. The dough will be smooth and slightly sticky to the touch.

Transfer the dough to a medium sized bowl that has been lightly oiled, and rotate the dough so it has been completely covered with oil. Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and set in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.

Note: If you kitchen is cool or drafty, place the dough in the oven (turned off) with the light on. Depending on your oven settings you can also preheat the oven to 170°F, then turn off the oven and place the dough inside to rise.

Remove the kitchen towel and punch down the dough so that it deflates. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and let it rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

To make the filling: In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Use a fork to stir the mixture and break up any clumps of brown sugar.

Lightly grease a small 6 x 6 inch pan (8 x 8 would work too).

Roll out the dough to a 12 x 20 inch rectangle.

Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough and sprinkle with the sugar mixture and chopped walnuts.

With the shortest (12 inch) end towards you, roll the dough up evenly into a 12 inch log. With the seam side down, cut the log in half and then again into quarters. Place the rolls cut side up in the prepared pan, leaving space between them. Lightly cover the pan with an oiled piece of plastic wrap, making sure to keep the plastic wrap loose so the rolls have room to expand. Place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

The next morning: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the rolls from the fridge and discard the plastic wrap. Bake, uncovered for 35-40 minutes until golden brown on top. You can insert a tooth pick into the dough to ensure they are fully done before removing from the oven.

Let the rolls cool for about 10-15 minutes before glazing.

To make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, cashew milk, vanilla and salt, until smooth.

Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and serve warm.

Note: These are pretty rich and sweet rolls, if you prefer you can reduce the brown sugar in the filling from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup.
Sweet Potato Walnut Cinnamon Rolls 04

© David James Di Pardo – 2015