sugar and spice

Posted on by MK Carroll


Almost-vegan apple-apricot-date-almond-flax-cinnamon rolls.  Half whole wheat pastry flour, half white flour.  I believe that vegan baked goods do not have to be dense whole grain health bombs - I've been tinkering with this recipe for years to strike a nice balance that is vegan, relatively healthy, and still fluffy, flavorful, and sweet.  I think there will be more tinkering.  The brown sugar glaze on this batch (which keeps it from being strict vegan) is a little too sweet to my taste, so I might try doing a fruit syrup glaze instead.  Half the batch was done without glaze and they aren't quite sweet enough for me - the only sweeteners are the fruits and the water that the dried fruit soaked in, along with a smidge of organic cane juice from the soymilk.  If you are not concerned with making these vegan, you can use butter instead of margarine and two small eggs instead of the flax/soymilk mix. 

I didn't really measure the ingredients for the filling and glaze.  I'm like that.  If you have any interest in trying this recipe, read it all the way through first, as I tend to throw in ingredients and instructions as I remember them.

Prep the fruit filling:
two big handfuls dried fruit (I used half unsulphured apricots* and half pitted dates - dates are pretty important for this recipe; they have a very high sugar content and help the yeast rise and give the rolls most of their sweetness).  Other dried fruits I've used include cherries, juice-sweetened cranberries, and tropical fruit mix.
soak in hot water to barely cover
when fruit is plump, drain (reserving water) and chop.

one handful chopped dates in oat flour
soak in hot water to cover
mash into a paste (or cook over low heat until you have something resembling applesauce)

I used one pink lady apple, chopped roughly, for half the batch.  This recipe also works well with pears and pineapple.

1 1/3 cup warm water (use the water reserved from plumping fruit, add more water as needed)
1 cup ww pastry flour
2 tablespoons baking yeast

blend together and let sit until bubbles appear on surface (time will vary depending on factors like temperature).

Meanwhile, combine 1/3 cup ground flax seeds, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup soymilk (I used vanilla flavored).  Let it sit.  It should become kind of goopy.

When the bubbles have appeared on the surface of the sponge, stir in the flax/soymilk mixture.

Stir in 1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil - yes, olive oil - the extra-virgin stuff is so mild you won't taste it)
Add in a cup at a time:
1 1/2 cups ww pastry flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Knead, adding more flour as necessary (leave dough a little sticky).  Pat into a ball and let rise until double.

Roll out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick.  Spread about 1/4 cup soy margarine over the surface.  Follow with the date paste, then the chopped fruits.  Sprinkle with nuts if desired (I used toasted chopped almonds) and sprinkle on cinnamon (and any other spices you like - nutmeg, allspice and cardamom are all nice in this).  Roll, starting from the wide end, and pinch the seam closed tightly.  Slice into 2" thick rounds and place on greased cookie sheets with sides nearly touching.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Let rolls rise until nearly double (or, if you are like me, until you can't stand it any longer and want a hot cinnamon roll now now now).  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and quickly spread with glaze (half a stick of soy margarine mixed with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract will be enough for the entire batch) and return to oven for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack (or prop up rolls on edges of cookie sheet so they won't get soggy as they cool).  At this point, I make a fool out of myself trying to eat a blazing hot roll without suffering severe burns to my hands and mouth.  All baked goods taste best still warm from the oven!

*unsulphured dried apricots are usually dark brown, hard, and leathery (there are softer ones, which might be found in a refrigerated section of a natural foods store).  When soaked, they will probably look kind of gross - brown with lumpy dark spots.  They have a stronger, more distinct flavor than the bright orange sulphur treated dried apricots, and once they are baked, nobody cares about the color.