While it's true that preparing fresh cinnamon rolls in one's own kitchen requires a little extra elbow grease, requires some patience, some time, and that generous sprinkle of love, let me tell you that it's well worth every bit of effort.
Homemade Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls For The Holidays
Once I finally “mastered the art” of homemade cinnamon rolls, there was truly no going back to the store-bought or pre-packages ones—there's simply no comparison! The process can actually be quite pleasurable and encourage one to stay in the present moment and enjoy a slower pace for a little while, which is something that I know that I personally can benefit from.
And during the holidays, when fragrant, homemade baked goods are something that my family and I seem to crave the most, there's nothing quite like the aroma of cinnamon rolls made from scratch baking away in the oven—that spicy-sweet, rich fragrance that speaks of nurture, love, and an abundance of care, that unmistakeable fragrance that is like nothing else in the world.
The Secret To The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls is Love and Patience
I bake homemade cinnamon rolls because my family, my boys, love them—they are one of my son's and my husband's favorite things that I bake; and that, for me, is reason enough to prepare a slightly more time consuming yeasted dough.
I let it rise once, roll it out and fill it with fragrant and sweetly-delicious ingredients; then I cut it, allow those rolls to rise again, and then, finally, bake them off.
The end result is magical, and the sheer pleasure I see on their faces as they enjoy bite after warm bite is what love and family is all about for me, and why I cook in the first place.
They get to enjoy a freshly-baked, homemade treat that they relish, and I get to take pleasure in their joy... along with taking pleasure in my own cinnamon roll of course! 😉
And so in wanting to bring my guys a holiday flavored version of this favorite of theirs, I tinkered a bit to create these fragrant, slightly citrusy, slightly spicy, cranberry orange cinnamon rolls with a thick and rich spiced cream cheese frosting to take some comfort in on a cool weekend morning when we're all home together.
These sweet, tender, warm and pillowy cinnamon rolls are studded with plump cranberries and a generous hint of orange zest for that unforgettable aroma. There's also a touch of mashed sweet potato in the dough itself for a bit of added tenderness and color.
These are something we can share and take pleasure in together, which is the most delicious thing in the world to me.
Tips & Tidbits for Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls:
- Use a sweet potato for extra moisture and texture: I always use a potato (usually a russet) in my dough for cinnamon rolls, as potatoes provide extra moisture, and a tender texture to cinnamon rolls. I prefer a sweet potato for this recipe, since it adds just a hint of color, and a bit of extra sweetness. Here's how to prep the potato:
- Poke a sweet potato a few times with a fork.
- Place into the microwave for a few minutes until tender and cooked.
- Scoop the flesh and put through a ricer, or mash very well with the fork until lump-free; allow to cool.
- Add to recipe.
- Knead the dough by hand, or use your stand mixer: I've done it both ways when it comes to kneading the dough; I typically have always kneaded it by hand, but it does get a little tiring. So I use my stand mixer more these days, fitted with it's dough hook, and allow it to mix on low for about 4-6 minutes, until elastic.
- Allow dough to rise in warm, quiet place: Once your dough ball is placed into its oiled bowl and covered loosely with plastic wrap, place it into a quiet and warm spot to double in size. I like to use my microwave (dark and quiet), or even preheat my oven to 200° for a couple of minutes, then turn it off and place my bowl with the dough inside.
- Bake just until rolls are a pale golden color: Take care not to over-bake your cinnamon rolls (watch that they don't get too dark—only a pale, golden-brown on top), so that they don't become dry. Mine typically take 25 minutes, then I turn off the oven and leave them in for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 16 rolls
Prep Time: 25 minutes*
Cook time: 25 minutes
(*Note that there is a 1 hour 20 minute initial “proofing” time for the dough, then a second “proofing” time of 45 minutes for the cut rolls for a total of 2 hours and 5 minutes of “proofing” time.)
• 1/4 cup warm whole milk (110°)
• 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
• 1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• Zest of 1 large orange (about 1 heaping tablespoon of zest)
• 1/2 cup (slightly heaping) riced or well-mashed cooked sweet potato
• 2 large eggs
• 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon ground pumpkin pie spice (I like to use organic, here's the link: Simply Organic Pumpkin Spice Organic, 1.94 Ounce
• Zest of 1 large orange (about 1 heaping tablespoon of zest)
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
• 1 1/4 cup dried cranberries (rehydrate in hot water for 5 minutes, then drain and dry off with paper towel)
-To prepare your dough, add the ¼ cup of warm milk to a small bowl, add in the teaspoon of sugar, and mix to dissolve; next, sprinkle the yeast over top in an even layer, and using a fork, mix to dissolve; allow the yeast mixture to sit for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
-While the yeast activates, add the 1 cup of milk, the butter, the ½ cup of sugar and the salt to a small sauce pan, and gently heat the mixture until the butter is melted; whisk to blend, and allow to slightly cool.
-Next, add the milk/butter/sugar/salt mixture to a large bowl; add in the vanilla extract, orange zest, mashed sweet potato and the eggs, and using a hand mixer (link: Hamilton Beach 62682RZ Hand Mixer with Snap-On Case, White), mix on low until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.
-Add in 2 cups of the flour, and mix that in until blended.
-Pour in the yeast mixture, and mix that in to incorporate.
-Now, working with a wooden spoon, add in the remainder of the flour, and mix that in until a shaggy dough forms.
-Turn the dough out into the bowl of an electric standing mixer (link: KitchenAid KSM75WH Classic Plus Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, White) fitted with a dough hook, and mix on medium speed for about 4-6 minutes (you may need to add some additional flour if too sticky); alternately, you can turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled with more flour, and knead the dough by hand for about 4-6 minutes (you may need to continue to add sprinklings of flour), or until elastic.
-Lightly oil a large bowl, add the dough in, turning it to coat it lightly in the oil, and cover with plastic wrap; place the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen (I place mine in my microwave oven with the door closed, or a lightly warmed oven), and allow it to double in size, or “proof”, for about 1 hour 20 minutes.
-While dough is rising, prepare your filling by adding the ¾ cup of brown sugar, the orange zest and the pumpkin pie spice to bowl, and using a fork or your fingers, blend to combine well; set aside.
-Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down; turn it out onto the lightly floured work surface, and roll out into a rectangular shape about ¼” thick (it will be fairly large), about 15” x 9”, roughly.
-To fill, spread the ¼ cup softened butter over the dough leaving about a 1” border; then, sprinkle over the brown sugar mixture.
-Next, sprinkle the cranberries over in an even layer.
-Roll the dough starting from the top downward, rolling as tightly as possible, and pinch the seam closed.
-Cut the dough in half, then in half again, to have 4 equal portions; cut each portion into 4 rolls (to make 16 rolls), and place the rolls into a buttered or cooking spray-misted baking dish, or a couple of 9” cake tins; cover with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to double in size, about 45 minutes.
(Note: If preparing the rolls the day before, just place the rolls in your baking dish or pans, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours; when ready to bake, take the rolls out about 1 ½ hours before hand, then bake as directed below.)
-Bake at 350° for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden (mine take about 25 minutes); turn off oven leave them in for 1-2 minutes longer.
-Remove from oven and allow the rolls to cool for about 10-15 minutes before frosting.
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
• 6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temp
• 6 ounces unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), softened at room temp
• 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• 12 ounces (roughly 3 cups) powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed orange juice (from the zested oranges)
-Add the softened cream cheese and butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and add in the pumpkin pie spice, and cream those together until fluffy.
-Add in about 1/3 of the powdered sugar, and cream on low until combined.
-Add another 1/3 of the sugar, and combine.
-Add the rest of the sugar, plus the 1 tablespoon of orange juice, and mix until fluffy.
-Use immediately, or store in a covered bowl/container in fridge until ready to use