Homemade Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with cream cheese icing that can be frozen or overnight. Makes 12 soft, fluffy rolls. Perfect for fall baking!
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Let me start out by saying that making pumpkin cinnamon rolls is FUN. There are a few basic rules to know, but after that the sky is the limit! Never be afraid of yeast. It makes delicious things my children. I’ll answer some of my own bread making questions for you, to save you some time. This post is basically made up of everything that has helped me in my breadmaking. If it skips around too much for you, feel free to scroll down to the recipe, where everything you absolutely need to know is in the instructions.
What’s the difference between active dry yeast and instant (rapid) yeast?
Active dry yeast has a larger granule that needs to be activated by liquid such as water or milk before adding to other ingredients. I prefer to use this kind of yeast because the slightly longer process of fermentation makes more flavorful doughs.
Instant or rapid yeast has a smaller, finer granule can be mixed directly into ingredients. It is slightly more potent than active dry yeast however, and about 25% less is needed in any given recipe. 3/4 teaspoon instant (rapid) yeast = 1 teaspoon active dry yeast.
Any baker will also tell you to keep the instant yeast away from direct contact with the salt while mixing together though, because salt slows yeast growth.
Can I leave salt out of the recipe?
The rising time may be a little bit quicker as salt slows yeast growth slightly, but it will impact the flavor of the rolls. I don’t recommend it, but you may omit it if you wish.
Does it matter if I use bread flour vs all purpose flour?
I’ve used both and haven’t noticed a large difference. Bread flour has a higher protein content, which helps in gluten development and makes bread light and chewy. I use it more for whole wheat breads or soft pretzels.
Does bread dough really need to rise twice?
For best results, yes. It will have a better texture, be fluffier, and have a finer crumb. Also (I mention this a lot in breadmaking), the longer the yeast grows and ferments the more flavorful the dough will be. And did you know that bread rises faster on the second rise? Dough fillings can slow it down but yeah. It’s cool.
Can you make ahead and freeze cinnamon rolls?
Yes! The instructions are similar to frozen dinner rolls you can buy from the store, and I’ve put them farther down in the post underneath the overnight instructions. 👇🏻👇🏻
Tips for the best cinnamon rolls ever:
- Use 2% or whole fat milk instead of water in the dough and icing. Always. It tastes better and enriches the dough along with eggs and butter for soft and tender cinnamon rolls.
- Allow enough time for a good rise. The rolls will be fluffier and less dense, and the longer the yeast grows and ferments the more flavorful the dough will be.
- Sprinkle flour over the filling to prevent the butter melting out of the middles of your delicious cinnamon rolls! Many bakeries do this for maximum deliciousness and less mess.
When I make the dough, I add flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It only barely sticks to my fingers and is still soft. You may need more or less flour depending on the humidity, temperature of ingredients, and the room.
I also give it time for two rises; once in the bowl and once as made and cut rolls. Don’t ever skip the second rise unless you want dense, tough, cinnamon rolls.
Another nice tip I have for you is after the first rise, punch the dough down in the bowl and knead a little to work out the air bubbles but don’t knead it too much. Rising helps relax the developed gluten and protein structures from kneading earlier, and the more you work the dough, the tougher it will be to roll out.
Overnight Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Instructions:
- Follow recipe to make dough, fill, roll, and cut dough into 12 rolls and place cut side down onto a baking sheet or 9×13 inch pan.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Do not let rise first or they will deflate in the refrigerator. Cooling the dough simply slows yeast growth, it does not kill it.
- Place in fridge overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator and let rise for 30-40 minutes in warm place before baking. I like to turn on the oven to 200 F for 2 minutes, then turn off the oven and set the rolls inside to rise with the door cracked open.
- Bake at 350 F for 35-30 min. Glass pans will take a few more minutes to bake than dark pans.
How to Freeze Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls:
- Follow directions to make dough, fill, roll, and cut dough into rolls and place into foil lined pan so edges are not touching, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer immediately, do not let rise first or they will deflate in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bag or airtight freezer safe container.
- Freeze until ready to use up to 3 months. Do NOT microwave dough to thaw. It will kill the yeast.
- Regular rise method: Remove from freezer, thaw in warm place (covered) for 3-5 hours or until almost doubled in size.
- Quicker rise method: Turn ON oven to 200 degrees for 2 minutes then turn OFF oven. Place rolls in oven and let thaw and rise 2-3 hours until almost doubled in size.
- Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes. Glass pans will take a few more minutes to bake than dark pans.
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
For the dough:
- 1 cup warm milk – between 100-110 F
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or instant
- ¾ cup 100 % pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4-5 cups all purpose flour
For the filling:
- ½ cup (1 stick butter) room temperature
- ½ cup 100% pure pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3-4 Tablespoons flour
For the icing:
- 4 oz. cream cheese softened
- 4 Tablespoons butter softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2-3 Tablespoons milk
For the dough:
- In a small bowl combine warm milk (between 100-110 F), brown sugar, and active dry yeast and let sit 5 minutes or until foamy. If using instant yeast, simply combine all dough ingredients. Just keep the yeast away from direct contact with the salt when combining ingredients (salt slows yeast growth).
- In a stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand) combine pumpkin puree, salt, butter, egg, cinnamon, and 4 cups of flour. Pour foamy yeast mixture in and mix with dough hook on low speed for 5-8 minutes until smooth and elastic (if mixing without a mixer, simply mix with a wooden spoon until you can’t mix anymore and then begin kneading by hand 8-10 minutes). Add another ½ to full cup of flour to make dough consistency thick and only slightly sticky. Dough should pull away from sides of bowl and not stick to fingers very much.
- Oil a large bowl, place dough in it and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for one hour or until doubled in size.
For the filling:
- In a medium bowl combine softened butter, pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves and mix until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
- On a floured work surface, roll dough into roughly a 24 inch by 10-12 inch rectangle. I stop occasionally and shape it with my hands to keep a rectangular shape.
- Spread filling onto dough to coat entire rectangle, then sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the filling. Sprinkle 3-4 Tablespoons of flour evenly over filling last.
- Carefully roll dough lengthwise into a long roll. Use a piece of clean string or dental floss and slide the string underneath the roll. Pick up both ends of the string, cross them, and pull tight to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Place rolls cut side down into an oiled 9x13 inch pan, being careful not to crowd the rolls so they have room to rise. Cover with a dish towel, and let rise for 45 minutes to one hour until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown on top. Using a glass or dark pan may take more or less time. Cool 20 minutes.
For the icing:
- In a medium bowl combine cream cheese, butter and mix until most of the lumps are gone. I microwave them for 10-20 seconds to soften them enough to mix. Mix in powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, one Tablespoon at a time until smooth. I like my icing thicker like frosting. Add 2-3 more tablespoons milk if you prefer a thinner glaze. Generously spoon icing over rolls to coat evenly. Serve warm for maximum deliciousness.