Cinnamon Rolls (Vegan)

Some days you work, some days you rest. Some days you feel invincible, and others, invisible. Some days you walk for miles down city streets, and some days you can't seem to lift your feet off the earth. There are days when winning is losing. There are also days when loss turns to wisdom. Some days you walk with grace ('in your heart and flowers in your hair'). Some days are clumsy, and cluttered.  Some days you drop first your pen, then your heart, your smile. Some days the ink gets clogged in your throat and you forget how to write --- so you don't. 

There are days we feel such a spark in our hearts that we might set the world on fire. Days where you wake into a morning that feels pure and you know that what you are feeling is right. I hope you feel it all. I hope it makes your head spin. I hope your mouth produces so many words that you find yourself reaching for a voice recorder to hold all of the thoughts that can't make it onto paper in time. 

You are not going to want to hear this, but lately I've learned that it's the sad days that shape us. We rise above our sorrows, our heartache, our fears. There is no right or wrong way to let ourselves grow, but to do so, we must let things go. 

I've been taking a lot of yoga classes lately. One of my teachers taught me a breathing technique that I find soothing both on and off my mat. When I'm soaking in stress and tanged in anxiety, I stop to inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold.... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold... inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold...(etc.). I run through this exercise when I'm behind bar at work, when I'm sitting in LA traffic, and when I'm trying to put my thoughts to rest before bed. We must breathe to live, so why not breathe mindfully to live well?

It's so easy to a sort of let internal dialogue curl up and settle in the back of your throat. It takes effort and focus to breathe in such a way that fizzles and fades those burning words. "I didn't mean to push you away. Can we start fresh? Did you know that I'm doing my best? I am sorry for wanting more than I can give. I don't know how much longer I can stand to be here."

Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold.... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold... inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold... exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, hold...

The words grow faint and you start to remember that you are human with a beating heart, a spine to help you stand up tall, and the ability to let it all go. So why not let it?

What does everything I have written thus far have to do with cinnamon rolls? I don't have too much of a connection to make with how deep and steady breathing inspired this recipe. Actually, a friend of mine made a comment about how she really likes cinnamon rolls and it made me remember how much I like them too. One comment led me into a weekend of recipe testing and eating nothing but sweet cinnamon sugar until I managed to perfect this recipe (a spin-off of my pumpkin cinnamon rolls). Simple as that. 

These cinnamon rolls are mighty fluffy, a must in my rulebook. They require love and care. Give them your full attention and they won't let you down. They're perfectly sweet, "buttery", and sticky. I've doused them in a vegan cream cheese icing that is so freakin' amazing that you're probably going to need a few of the deep breaths I spoke of to calm yourself down. I recommend taking the time to enjoy these slowly, at the kitchen table, with a cup of hot coffee or tea. 

Here's a playlist constructed around the topics of breathing, letting go, and feeling simply inspired. Listen to it while you snack on a cinnamon roll (or two). I've included a couple songs by one of my favorite musicians, Kevin Morby, who's new album came out today, yay!

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing (Vegan)
Yield: 12 
Recipe adapted from: chocolatecoveredkatie


For the dough-
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar*
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or additional all-purpose flour)
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup earth balance, melted
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- extra flour for dusting

For the filling-
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the cream cheese icing-
- 3 tablespoons tofutti vegan cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons earth balance, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

  1. In a small measuring cup, heat the milk to 100-110 degrees. Use a fork to gently stir in the 2 tablespoons coconut sugar and the active dry yeast. Set aside for 7 minutes.* 
  2. In a large measuring bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to combine. 
  3. In a separate medium bowl, combine the melted earth balance, vanilla, and the yeast/milk mixture. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms and all of the flour is incorporated; be careful not to over mix. Form the dough into a ball and allow to rise in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 
  4. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for the filling and lightly grease a 13" x 9" pan with earth balance. 
  5. After the dough has risen, lightly flour hands and punch down lightly to deflate. Sprinkle flour on a flat surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a thin rectangle. Spread the filling evenly on the rolled dough. Roll the long side of the dough toward you to form a log. Use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 1 inch wide pieces. Place the rolls facing up in the pre-greased pan. Re-cover the pan with the damp towel and put in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the rolls are finished rising, bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add the almond milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the icing reaches a drizzle-able consistency. 
* Feel free to substitute brown sugar for coconut sugar.
* If the yeast does not activate (bubble up like a science experiment), it means that the milk was either too warm, too cold, or the yeast is expired.

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© A Little Baker
Maira Gall