Recipe Redux: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls in the Slow Cooker

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 Whole grain pumpkin cinnamon rolls, filled with a paste of dates and pecans instead of sugar and served with a Greek yogurt frosting sweetened with pure maple syrup - all baked in the slow cooker. 

 I'm so excited to share with you my first post for Recipe Redux, a monthly recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians!  As a member of Recipe Redux, each month I'll be sharing a healthy recipe for their monthly theme.  Check out links to other members creations at the bottom of this post.  I was so excited when I learned about this group and even more excited when I accepted into the group!  It's such a great way to network with other bloggers and promote delicious food that just happens to be good for you.

As soon as I was accepted, I couldn't wait to find out the next theme so I could get cracking on a recipe that would blow everyone away.  Yes, my recipe would be so incredible Cooking Light would come knocking on my door, begging me to become their next recipe developer.  I know, my confidence was only slightly less overblown than Justin Bieber's.

So on the first of the month, I immediately signed in to find out this months theme.

Creative uses for slow cookers.

Seriously?  Are ya sure?  Because I hate slow cookers.

Hate is a strong word, but it absolutely describes my feelings towards slow cookers.  In theory, I understand the appeal.  But in reality, it is a silly piece of kitchen equipment that takes up way too much room.  I love the idea of having dinner ready by the time I get home from work.  But do I want to wake up 30 minutes early to make that happen?  Umm, no thanks.  Did the slow cooker inventors forget that different ingredients have different cooking times?  Every thing I've made in there comes out with some ingredients cooked to mush, others al dente (not in a good way).  The cooking times on slow cookers make no sense.  Four hours on high?  Helloo, I'm at work four hours before dinner.  Eight hours makes sense if you are 80 and eat dinner at 4:30.  Or if it's the weekend, but doesn't that take away the whole point of a slow cooker and it's easy weeknight meals?  Or maybe I'm just hating cause my slow cooker is a junky $20 one from Wal-Mart.

I was dreading coming up with a creative, healthy and delicious slow cooker recipe, until I ran across this recipe for pumpkin cinnamon rolls.    It made me think of another cinnamon roll recipe I saw for spelt cinnamon rolls using dates in lieu of a sugary caramel filling.  I remembered reading that you could bake bread in the slow cooker, so why not cinnamon rolls?

I had my idea and suddenly, I was excited again.  I knew these cinnamon rolls would be epic. How could they not be?  Yeasty, pumpkiny rolls filled with creamy dates and studded with crunchy pecans, slathered in a rich Greek yogurt frosting - I could barely wait for the weekend to make them!

So it's only natural I destroyed the first batch.  I overstuffed the slow-cooker (if you can't tell from the pictures) which basically steamed the rolls and turned them into a thick, doughy mess.  I picked the wrong flour, rye, after being inspired by two incredible desserts I tried at one of my favorite Columbia restaurants.  And to top it all off, I forgot to add salt.  Never forget salt.

I did not have a shareable, or for that matter, edible, recipe for cinnamon rolls.  But, I did have a great recipe for all natural play dough!

Normally, I'm not one to tinker with a recipe if it doesn't come out perfect the first time.  But this dish had so much promise, I knew I had to give it another try.  I am so glad that I did because the second batch was just as epic as I had expected  the first time!

I'm hard pressed to think of a more perfect healthy fall breakfast.   The rolls have the perfect amount of sweetness, mostly from the dates rather than added sugar.   The Greek yogurt frosting is light, creamy and nothing like the typical powdered sugar glaze.

Plus, these are healthy.  Like, about as healthy as a cinnamon roll can get and still be called a cinnamon roll.  They are 100% whole grain.  Each roll has just a little over 1 teaspoon of added sugar.  There is no butter in these cinnamon rolls, only a little bit of coconut oil.

So, has this challenge changed my mind about slow cookers?  How 'bout you buy me a fancy new one and I'll let you know.

Does this not remind you of when you're trying to squeeze that last letter in on the same line?  You can tell which size I started with.

Spelt Cinnamon Rolls with Greek Yogurt Frosting
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: 8
In full disclosure, most of these pictures were of my failed attempt. So please do not jam your rolls into the slow cooker as pictured above. On my second (and successful) attempt, I left about 1 inch between each roll and they expanded as they cooked. If you're like me and have a deep seeded prejudice towards slow cookers, you could bake them in the oven. The recipe suggests 20-25 minutes at 375.
Ingredients
  • [b](Rolls):[/b]
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond, coconut or lowfat milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • [b](Frosting):[/b]
  • 6 ounces plain nonfat or lowfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Warm pumpkin puree, milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar, coconut oil, and salt over medium heat in a small sauce pot. Once combined, turn off heat, set aside and stir in vanilla extract.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110 degrees), 1 tablespoon sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Let stand in a warm part of your kitchen for about 10 minutes until doubled in volume.
  3. Mix together the yeast and pumpkin mixture in a large stand mixer fitted with a whisk at medium speed for 1 minute. Stir in spelt flour and whisk for 1-2 minutes at low speed, scraping down sides as needed, until combined. Change to the dough hook on the mixer and knead for 2 minutes, or knead by hand 2 minutes.
  4. Place dough in a large, well oiled, bowl. Cover with a dish towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen.
  5. If you don't have a warm spot because your husband refuses to turn on the heat despite the fact that it's 65 degrees in the house and I don't care that we live in South Carolina it's still cold (!!), then set your oven to 200 degrees. Turn it off when it hits 200 and place the bowl in the warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup water and chopped dates on medium heat in a small pot. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and using the back of a wooden spoon, break up the dates until they form a chunky paste. Stir in a pinch of salt and more water if needed.
  7. Flour a small, rimmed baking sheet well. Place the ball of dough in the center of the baking dish and using well floured hands and/or a roller, spread evenly across the baking dish. Spread the date mixture evenly across the dough and scatter with pecans. Carefully roll into one large roll.
  8. Cut in half, then cut each half into 4 evenly sized rolls. Place into a well oiled slow cooker.
  9. Cover and set to high.
  10. Cook for about 2 hours until baked through. Keep in mind, this time was for a super cheap slow cooker, so yours might take less time. I suggest checking every half hour or so. It's done when a toothpick comes out clean and the center roll doesn't feel moist.
  11. While the rolls are cooking, mix together yogurt, maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon.
  12. Serve freshly baked rolls with yogurt frosting.

Inspired by My New Roots and this recipe from the New York Times