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I have several friends and acquaintances who have to be gluten free for health reasons. I’ve thought about trying gluten free baking but it is vastly different from just regular baking. Recently a very good friend of mine and I went shopping and she confessed that there’s really only one thing she misses. Gluten free cinnamon rolls. It’s near impossible to find them in a restaurant or to buy them in a store. So I began several baking trials.
Gluten Free Baking for the Non-Gluten Free
Gluten free baking is completely out of my wheelhouse. As I began to do the research on the different flours and additives I felt completely overwhelmed. Little by little, I began to stockpile GF (gluten free) ingredients that could possibly find a place in these cinnamon rolls. Things like Xanthum Gum, and gluten free flours that I have never heard of before but I am very well acquainted with now.
What I have found is that as a novice, gluten free baking is completely foreign because you are trying to reproduce the effects of gluten without using it. And not all flours are made equally. I originally tried an all-purpose GF flour, which came out OK but not great. Then I tried a flour combo of my own invention which did not work at all. Finally I tried a different all-purpose GF flour by Pillsbury and I think it worked wonderfully! I also recommend having a stock of Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour, Xantham Gum, and Arrowroot Starch, all of which are in this recipe. If you’re doing any amount of gluten free baking, you’ll want these in your cupboard!
You also have to keep in mind that precise measurements with GF baking is extremely important. I can fudge around with measurements in my normal bakes because I’m comfortable with it. But here I was careful to measure exactly since it is so much more precarious.
I honestly made three different batches trying to find the perfect cinnamon roll. And I only allowed my friend to try the last one. Because if I didn’t think it was good enough, I wasn’t letting anyone else eat them. The first batch turned out way too hard and uneven. The second batch looked good but ended up being gummy and tasted almost raw.
By the third time I made these, I had a much better idea of what I was looking for and what was needed to really get a good quality dough out of the ingredients. I felt a lot more confident that I could master this one pretty well.
The final recipe was honestly a breeze compared to the first two batches. It came together so quickly and produced even and uniform rolls. Plus they are super tasty even by a gluten-fanatics standards. You can bet I ate one for “tasting” purposes before I ever gave them to my friend and I almost ate another!
Come to find out after I sent her home with what was left of them, her boyfriend was sneaking them without her knowing. He swore they couldn’t be GF. I’d say that’s a high point of praise for this recipe!
Two Big-Hitting Tips to Make These Perfect
The number one tip to make these fluffy is to beat the ough for at least 5 extra minutes after all the ingredients are incorporated. It’s the equivalent to boosting the gluten in a regular recipe. Mixing it extra helps the xantham gum fluff up the flours and create that airy dough you need.
The second most important tip is in rolling out the dough. This dough is so so so sticky! Most GF cinnamon roll recipes recommend rolling out the dough between two layers of plastic wrap. And you use something like flour or powdered sugar to help it not stick. I found this method to fail every time. My dough stuck to the plastic wrap and actually ripped. Not pretty.
The best way to roll out this dough and not deal with any sticking is to start with a mat. A pie roll-out mat, a silpat, or whatever you have will be best. If you only have plastic wrap, that’s OK but you need to have two pieces overlapping, making a 20×16 inch rectangle (or as close to that as possible). Weigh down the edges of the plastic wrap.
Put a very healthy layer of tapioca flour on the mat/plastic wrap. Dump out the dough and cover in a light layer of more tapioca flour. Make sure there is plenty of flour underneath as you slowly roll out the dough into a 12×14 inch rectangle, otherwise it will stick when you begin to roll the dough. And the best part is that I didn’t have one bit of dough stick to my rolling pin because of the tapioca flour. The tapioca flour coating will not disrupt the yummy flavor of the dough at all!
This recipe does use regular dairy products because it tastes much more decadent and like a normal cinnamon roll. However, you can make these vegan or lactose free. Substitute using vegan butter, cream cheese and almond milk in the preparation. While I haven’t done it that way, I’m pretty confident it would come out OK.
Perfect Breakfast Pairing
To make the most perfect decadent gluten free breakfast, pair a plate of these perfect gluten free cinnamon rolls with a good cup of coffee. I suggest trying something like Java Momma’s Sticky Bun coffee. It’s an amazing compliment to the cinnamon rolls!
And if you’re looking for another cinnamon roll inspired recipe, check out my Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Tarts (which could be made gluten free easily!). Or for another tasty GF recipe, check out my Gluten Free Mocha Cupcakes that I made for my friend when we celebrated my birthday.
Tell me, what gluten free treat do you wish tasted just like the regular things??
Perfect Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls
For the Dough
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 packet active yeast or 2 ¼ tsp
- ¼ cup tapioca flour
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose gluten free flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2½ tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp xantham gum
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
For the Filling
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp cinnamon
For the Frosting
- ¼ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ¼ cup cream cheese room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp milk
- 1¼ cups powdered sugar sifted
To Make Dough
- Preheat oven to 350° and generously spray a 10-inch pie plate with baking spray.
- Combine yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Heat milk and butter on the stove or in the microwave until approximately 110°. Whisk into yeast mixture and leave to proof for about 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, sift together AP flour, xantham gum, baking soda, baking powder, tapioca flour and salt. Set aside.
- When yeast is proofed (it has a foamy cap on it), beat in egg, oil and vanilla until just incorporated.
- Slowly add in flour mixture. Once incorporated, turn up speed to medium-high and beat for another 5 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a heavily tapioca floured mat/plastic wrap (see note in blog post). Make sure dough is coated in tapioca flour to prevent sticking as you roll it out. Roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 12×14 inches.
To Make Filling
- Take softened butter and spread carefully over the rolled out dough with a spatula. Leave about an 1 inch around the edges that is butter free.
- Sprinkle brown sugar in an even layer over the butter. If you have any clumps, use a spatula to gently spread it evenly over the butter.
- Very lightly sprinkle the cinnamon in an even layer over the brown sugar.
- Using the mat/plastic wrap, begin rolling the dough from right to left (one of the shorter sides). Go slowly and try to roll it as tightly as possible. This is where all of that tapioca flour will keep it from sticking and ripping.
- Once dough has been rolled into a log, use dental floss to cut into 8 even pieces. Pull the floss tightly between your two index fingers and gently push down from the top. Follow through each slice with a sharp knife to make sure the bottom of the dough has been separated.
- Carefully lift each piece and place vertically in the pie plate.
- Cover the pie plate with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise next to the oven for 15-20 minutes.
To Make the Frosting
- Beat together butter, cream cheese, and vanilla.
- Add in powdered sugar slowly. Once incorporated, add in milk and beat until smooth and creamy.
Finishing the Cinnamon Rolls
- Once rolls have risen, bake for 22-25 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are turning golden brown.
- Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before topping warm rolls in the pie plate with the frosting. Spread the frosting over ever nook and cranny of the rolls.
- The rolls are best served fresh from the oven. You can try warming them up in the microwave or putting them back in the oven for a few minutes to warm them bake up.
- Store in the covered pie plate in the fridge for 3-4 days.