Vegan cinnamon rolls

When we were kids and my mother’s best friend, Rozana, would come to visit us, we would ask her to make her specialty, and we called it ‘Rozanichki’, after her name.  Later it turned out to be called cinnamon rolls. If I remember correctly, there was also a family tale that calimed that, judging by her appearance, Rozana probably made and ate too many Rozanchki in her life. For us, however, it was never a problem and it was never too many.

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I miss the taste and the comforting smooth texture of cinnamon rolls from childhood. So 2 years ago I called Valentina Nelissen who is an amazing baker and together we made our own version, vegan and sugar free Rozanichki. We were chit chating, mixing, measuring, kneading, rolling, baking and in the meanwhile dreaming about writing a baking cookbook together. Was it the chit chating, the dreaming or our back then inexperience with yeasted dough, I wouldn’t know, but there was nothing comforting or satisfactory in what we made and we decided to bring this recipe back into the draw.


While writing my last cookbook Vegan for Friends, I got more familiar and acquainted working with yeast and had some time to make some beginner’s mistakes quietly and secretly in my own kitchen until I got the perfect Russian piroshky that went straight into the cookbook and became a tribute recipe for my mother’s famous piroshky. But that’s another story, perhaps another blog.

After writing the cookbook I felt I was empty and exhausted and it seemed to me like I would never be able to come up with new recipes again. I thought that I gave all my recipes a way. But then slowly Autumn came and for those of you who read my blog, you must know already that for me autumn feels always like a spring and that I get very inspired during this period. So at the moment my mind and imaginary mouth pallet is buzzing with ideas for new recipes, ambition to make things I didn’t dare to try for years and reinventing what I’m doing again.

So that’s how the longing for this comforting childhood taste of Rozanichki kept on knocking on my tongue. And now after I made friends with yeast, I could exactly spot the mistakes I made 2 years ago and I decided that it is time to get back into the craft of making Rozanichki again. And this time it also worked well. And oh so tasty, comforting, crispy and wet at the same time they are. This recipe is a classic to cherish. And if you have a best friend with kids, please bring it to her the next time you come to visit and I can promise to you that her kids will remember you for the rest of their life and might even call the recipe on your name.

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In the Netherlands, where I live, it is mostly common to find instant yeast in the shops.  You can mix it directly to the dough and it will get activated just by adding it to the dough. You need to look at the instructions of use if you choose to use granulated yeast (dry yeast) or bakers yeast (fresh yeast) which work slightly differently.

In this recipe I chose to use sucanat which is made from boiled down cane sugar juice. It is a healthier alternative to white sugar because it is not highly processed and because it contains all the vitamins and the minerals of cane sugar that help in the digestion of sugar.

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For the dough:

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 cup of almond milk

1/2 cup of sunflower oil (preferably the mild one, if you can find it. In the Netherlands I often use biological ‘Frituurolie’)

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 cups of all purpose unbleached wheat flour (In Dutch: tarwebloem)

pinch of salt

For the filling:

1 cup sucanat (In Dutch: Oerzoet or Oersuiker)

1/2 cup maple syrup

4 tbsp cinnamon

For the cream topping:

1 cup almond milk

1/4 cup rice syrup

1/4 cup soy cuisine

1 tbsp lemon

pinch of sea salt

2 full tbsp maizena (corn starch)

Mix well all the ingredients for the dough. Place on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes with floured hands. Brush some oil in the bottom of a large bowl and place the dough inside of it. Cover with a plastic foil and set to rise in a warm place in the house like next to the radiator or in the kitchen cupboard. The temperature in the room should be above 20 degrees or preferably above 22 degrees. Allow the dough to rise for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until it doubles its size.

Mix the ingredients for the filling. Place the risen dough on a floured surface and roll with a dough roller into a flat rectangular (roughly) shape of max 5 mm thickness. Spread the filling on top on the dough and roll the dough from the bottom to the top like a snail or rather like a sushi. Now you get a long cinnamon roll. Cut it with a sharp and wet knife into 2 cm rolls. some of the filling will escape a bit from the sides. Don’t worry about it. We will use it soon.

Place the rolls on a baking tray with about 1-2 cm distance between them. Use the extra filling that escaped from the sides and brush it on top of the rolls. Cover loosely with a plastic foil and allow the rolls to rise again for about half an hour. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Place all the ingredients for the cream topping in a sauce pan and whisk shortly until smooth. Place on a medium high fire and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. The mixture should thicken when it comes to a boil and the consistency should be of light patissier cream. If it is too thick add a little bit of almond milk and bring again to a boil while mixing. If it is too thin, mix 1 table spoon of maizena in a separate bowl with few table spoons of almond milk, add to the pan and bring again to a boil while whisking.

Spread the white cream on top of the cinnamon rolls in a rough manner or with drizzle bottles.