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This particular recipe is one of my better efforts in recreating pretty much exactly what Sean missed (and, for that matter, what I expect out of a good cinnamon roll!). They are not so syrupy as what you’ll get from the cinnamon roll place in your local mall, but quite frankly, having good fresh sweetbread makes it unnecessary to drown the roll in syrup. All that extra sweet is to hide how dry the roll is from being reheated so much. These are sweet and satisfying, and the cream cheese topping positively indulgent :-). When I wanted to make these rolls (Sean kept mentioning how much he missed cinnamon rolls), I went to the La Leche League cookbook to see if they had anything. That particular cookbook often uses natural sweeteners instead of sugar (I have the earliest publication, but the one released now is fundamentally the same, and Amazon carries it. Be forewarned that these are not precise recipes at all–they tend to give ranges on measurments of ingredients, multiple options per ingredient, and there are many variations listed for each recipe. This can be very useful, but it can also be very intimidating to a new or unsure cook. Likewise, most of the recipes require some tinkering with to figure out which set of adaptations, or pieces of several adaptations, will result in tasty food). However, the recipe even there didn’t look likely to yield something that actually tasted like a cinnamon roll–honey is NOT the flavor one associates with cinnamon rolls! Not even cinnamon laced honey. And, of course, their alternative for the filling was to just use brown sugar. That won’t work for me, or Sean, so I pretty much struck out on my own. If I do say so myself, the first round turned out amazingly well for such an improvisational effort. I’ve tweaked a few things since then, but overall this is the same recipe I first invented. Remember that brown sugar is just white sugar with some molasses added back in, so the touches of molasses throughout this recipe is what helps it to actually taste like a cinnamon roll. If molasses is a problem for you, well, I’m not sure how much luck you’ll have. Though I haven’t tried it, I’d suggest using agave nectar in place of the molasses. It won’t taste quite right, but it should be less oppressive than honey, flavor-wise. You might have some luck using brown rice syrup, at least in the dough, for the heavier flavor is more like molasses. However, I’d shy away from using it in the filling as I’m not sure what sort of flavor you’d get when the syrup isn’t dissolved in something.

So, here are the fruits of my labor so far :-). I hope you enjoy them–I know we certainly do! Jennifer and I plan to experiment with combining our cinnamon roll recipes into something that is both gluten and sugar-free, and we’ll let you know if that turns out when we get a chance to do it. I know that sounds perilously close to “food free food,” but rest assured that we won’t post it if it doesn’t work :-)!

Cinnamon Rolls

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 packet yeast (appx. 2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 TBS molasses
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • *scant 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, plus more for kneading

Filling Ingredients:

  • *scant 1/3 cup Stevia powder
  • generous 1/3 cup finely diced walnuts or pecans
  • 1 1/2 TBS molasses (or a little more if you think it needs it, but not much more)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Cream Cheese Topping Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. plain cream cheese (that’s half of a usual plain cream cheese pack), softened
  • 4 oz. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. Baking Stevia (or to taste)
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla

*When a recipe says “scant” it generally means to level the measuring device, then shake a little back out of it so that the measure is just a little bit less than exact. Conversely, “generous” usually means to heap up the measuring cup a bit. In this recipe, the salt and stevia are “scant” because you don’t really quite need the whole amount. If you just level it it’ll probably be fine, I just don’t.


Put the cup of milk into a large microwave safe bowl and warm until it is just a little warmer than skin temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit or a little warmer). You should be able to stick your finger in a leave it for a few seconds and not have it burn at all, just feel pleasantly warm. Yeast will die if the milk is too hot, and take an eternity to activate if it is too cool. Add the molasses and yeast to the milk and stir a bit to mix it all together. Let sit 5 minutes in a warm place, or until the yeast is foamy or bubbly looking (this may take less or slightly more time, but five minutes is the average).

Melt the butter while the yeast is activating. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, add the melted butter, egg, and salt and whisk it all together well. Then add about half the flour and mix until well combined. Add the rest of the flour and mix until you get tired of mixing and the dough is pretty much combined.

Flour the counter or other flat working surface and turn the dough out on to it. Flour the top of the dough as well and knead until it is nice and smooth and very well combined. You will probably work a lot more flour into the dough in this process–that’s fine. Just put more down on the counter when you need to to keep the dough from sticking. When you are done kneading the dough should be smooth, rounded and a little bit sticky on your hands still (there is molasses in it, after all! Likewise, you want it to be a soft dough so it’ll puff nicely in the oven).

Wipe out your original bowl (no need to get it all the way clean, just get the loose flour and bits of dough off) and butter the inside of the bowl lightly (that is, smear butter in a very thin layer over the bottom and sides of the bowl). Set the dough to rise until doubled in a warm, draft free place (covering the bowl with a hand towel helps with the draft free part). Set a timer for about 30 minutes. If it is very warm where you are you may need less time, and if it is on the cool side you may need a bit more.

While the dough is rising, mix up the filling. In a small mixing bowl combine the stevia powder, nuts, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well and set aside.

When the dough has risen enough, flour the counter again, dump the dough out on it and roll the dough out into an approximately 16″ x 10″ rectangle. The dough will be about 1/4″ thick. Spread the molasses over this surface as evenly as you can, and sprinkle the stevia mixture evenly over that. Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a log (the filling should be getting rolled into this, making a sort of stripey look on the ends).

Cut the log into 1″ – 1 1/2″ slices with a sharp knife. The closer they all are to the same size the more even your cinnamon rolls will turn out. You should get nine slices out of the log overall.

Grease an 8×8 baking pan (preferably glass–metal really tends to overcook the edges of the rolls touching the sides). Make three rows of three in the pan. The rolls will be quite snuggly in there, with edges touching a lot. This is good :D, since these will be pull-apart cinnamon rolls. Let these rolls sit under a towel in a warm place until they have doubled in size (about 30 min. again, though it is often less on this second rise). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt some extra butter and brush it over the top of the rolls once they are risen. Put them in the oven to bake for 15-20 min., or until golden brown.

While they are baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting. In a mixer blend the cheese and butter together. Add sweetener to taste and the vanilla. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Remove rolls from oven and let them cool until they are just barely warm to the touch. Apply frosting and serve when you want, be that still warm or entirely cooled. Don’t apply the frosting when the rolls are still really warm because it will go liquidy and drip ALL OVER and soak into the rolls and mess with the texture of your otherwise wonderful rolls. Plus, they’ll reheat for the next day better if the frosting stayed mostly solid the first time around. Enjoy!