These vegan blood orange sweet rolls are made with unrefined sugar and enhanced with the citrusy flavor of blood oranges. Free of eggs and refined sugar.
Growing up, my mom would make me orange sweet rolls for breakfast every once in a while. It was a treat I always looked forward to. I would unravel each roll, eat the outer edge first and work my way to the center, which was my favorite part. Each time, I would save the soft, doughy middle section for my last bite, which I savored as I did my “happy dance.”
I literally had a happy dance I did, unintentionally, whenever I ate my favorite foods. I would teeter my head from side to side and swinging my feet as they dangled from the kitchen chair to some unknown beat (I seem to have always marched to the beat of a different drummer 😉 ) Since I was little, any foods consisting of bread have always been my weakness, which I partly blame my mom for, since she told me she couldn’t get enough doughy bread while pregnant with me.
This strange bread addiction has also passed to my children, who both have the same obsession for bread as I do. They don’t seem to have inherited a love for any of their father’s favorite foods…but his silly sense of humor, now that’s a different story!
I’ve been working on a recipe to recreate those yummy rolls that I grew up enjoying and used blood oranges, since they’re in season right now, but you can definitely use regular oranges if you can’t find these particular oranges in your area. Blood oranges look like a lot like regular oranges on the outside, but when opened, often have a beautiful red to reddish-purple color flesh. They are sweet with a slight tart flavor, like berries, and usually less acidic than regular oranges.
I tried making this gluten-free as well, but just couldn’t quite get that soft and fluffy, bread-like texture with a blend of gluten-free flours. I did come close, however, so I will continue to work on a recipe for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll. We eat mostly gluten-free because my son and I have a sensitivity to gluten when eaten in abundance, but on occasion it has been fine. Of course those occasional indulgences are usually something bread-y, since I can’t.get.enough. This recipe is made with regular flour, but it’s free of dairy, eggs, and refined sugar!
To top these rolls, I experimented with a couple of different glazes that didn’t rely on powdered sugar. At first I used the glaze from my Eggnog Cinna-Muffins as a base, and although tasty, I felt like the slight tang from the cream cheese competed too much with the citrus flavor, which was what I wanted to shine.
Since I’ve had success creating a creamy texture with cashews, like in my Raspberry No-Bake Bars and Vegan Cheesecake, I tried them in lieu of the cream cheese. I like cashews because when blended the have the creamiest texture and a very mild flavor, which is perfect for incorporating any flavor you’d like.
The cashew glaze was hands-down my favorite, but I included both in case you have an allergy or aversion to cashews. A soft, fluffy cinnamon roll with a hint of citrus and a creamy glaze make these rolls hard to beat, especially since they’re made with healthier ingredients! I promise you, your friends and family will never even notice! Enjoy!
- ½ cup water or milk (I used almond milk)
- ¼ cup Pure Maple Syrup (or Honey, if not vegan)
- 3 tablespoons butter or dairy-free margarine, softened
- 1 packet Active Dry Yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- 2¾–3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
- ½ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (3-4 oranges. Can also use regular oranges)
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (1-2 oranges)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 tablespoons softened dairy-free butter (regular butter can also be used if not vegan)
- ¼ cup Coconut Sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon, or more to taste
- 1 cup Raw Cashews, (pre-soaked in purified water for at least 2-3 hours)
- 3-4 tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup or honey, to taste
- zest and juice of 2 blood oranges, more juice may be needed (about 1.5 Tbsp zest and 6-8 Tbsp juice)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (can use dairy-free)
- ¼ cup Pure Maple Syrup, more or less to taste
- zest of two blood orange
- juice of 2-4 blood oranges
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Combine milk/water, sweetener, and butter into a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Heat until mixture is heated to 110-115ºF. Remove from heat and stir until butter is melted. Sprinkle yeast over the warm milk and gently stir to combine. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until yeast has dissolved and is foamy. Be careful mixture is not too hot or you can kill the yeast. It should feel like warm bath water.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add 1.5 cup flour, orange peel, orange juice, and salt. Mix gently to incorporate and then add in the yeast mixture. Mix until smooth, about 2-3 minutes (if using a stand mixer, change to the dough hook.) Slowly begin adding flour ½ cup at a time and mix until blended. The precise amount of flour needed will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Continue to add flour just until it forms a soft dough, be careful not to add too much.
- Place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- *TIP: If your home is on the cooler side, turn your oven on to the lowest setting for 2-3 minutes (mine is 170ºF) and then turn the oven back off. Place a small pot of boiling water onto the bottom of the oven. This warm and moist environment should be the perfect place for your covered bowl of dough to rise.
- Take the risen dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface (I also like to use a large piece of parchment or plastic wrap to keep it from sticking.) Roll dough into a 10x15-inch rectangle. Brush or rub softened butter all over the top of the dough. Mix together coconut sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the butter. Starting on the longest side, begin rolling dough the dough into a tightly wound log.
- To cut the rolls, I prefer to use plain dental floss instead of a knife. It cuts them easily without squishing the rolls. To do this, cut a piece of floss about 12-16 inches long. Slide floss under the roll and bring the ends up and cross over each other to cut each slice cleanly. Place rolls, cut side up, in greased or parchment lined 9x13-inch pan. Cover and let rise for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover pan and place into the preheated oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes, just until lightly golden. Do not over-bake. Drizzle with orange glaze.
- I gave two options for the glaze. Pick one or the other.
- For the cashew glaze (My preference for taste)–place rinsed and drained, pre-soaked cashews into a food processor or high powered blender. Add syrup, zest, and half of the juice, vanilla extract, salt and process until creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add more juice as needed just until you get the desired consistency. Drizzle on top of the orange rolls and serve.
- For the cream cheese glaze–Place softened cream cheese, maple syrup, orange zest, half of the juice, vanilla, and salt into a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth and continue to add orange juice until it reaches the desired consistency. Drizzle on top of rolls and serve.