According to the internet, weekend brunches have been getting more and more creative with all of this time on our hands. Although I don’t bake for myself often, I decided I was going to hop on this cinnamon bun trend that has been taking over my Instagram feed during quarantine.
FYI this recipe is really simple and easy to make, and most of the ingredients you’ll use multiple times in the rolls, filling and topping, so don’t worry about the ingredient list. Most of these things you likely already have in your house if you ever bake.
Also, if you don’t have a rolling pin or exactly a 9×9 inch baking pan, see the “Pro-tips: Rolling and Cutting Your Rolls” section for common household alternatives.
Why you should make these
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely been indulging more than I usually would with all this time at home, so I made these as a “healthier” alternative to traditional cinnamon rolls.
This recipe uses half whole wheat flour (or you can use all whole wheat if you want), greek yogurt instead of eggs, and maple syrup instead of sugar in the rolls, which is lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar, according to Google. The only sugar used is in the filling.
The “icing” is just greek yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup and vanilla! At this point, they’re basically a health food (I realize I’m reaching, but please just indulge me). And best of all, there’s no yeast involved AND no extensive resting time needed to roll the dough.
Working with Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour can be a bit drier than white flour, apparently that’s because it contains both the germ of wheat and bran. I like it because the government tells us fiber is an essential nutrient, and whole wheat flour has more of it than white. Also, I just like the texture and nuttier flavor. One thing to note is it can be naturally drier than white flour. Resting the dough for a few minutes after kneading allows helps the flour fully absorb the liquids, and made a softer, more moisturized dough.
If you want to use all whole wheat flour instead of half, I’d recommend increasing the amount of yogurt used in the recipe. I haven’t tested this recipe using all whole wheat flour, so it may be wise to begin with ¼ cup more yogurt, gently knead the dough (but don’t get crazy!), and add more by the tablespoon after that if needed—especially if you are baking at a high altitude.
Depending on the brand of yogurt that you use, you may need a little more based on how liquidy (that’s a word, right?) it is. For reference on moisture level, I thought of the texture of the cinnamon rolls from a can (from the refrigerator section) that I used to make as a kid. I tested this recipe with both non-fat Chobani greek yogurt and 0% Fage greek yogurt, and found the Fage to be slightly drier (though I still didn’t feel the need to add more yogurt than the recipe called for).
Both times, they came out roughly the same as far as size and texture, though unsurprisingly, the batch with the Chobani had more moisture. If you are noticing that your dough is too dry, feel free to add more yogurt by the tablespoon, but ¾ cup should be a good starting point no matter what brand you use. If you are baking at a high altitude, you may want to start with more.
I did this once with canola oil and once with a mix of sunflower and olive oil. According to my findings, it really doesn’t matter what oil you use, as long as it’s relatively flavorless.
Rolling and Cutting Your Rolls
Flouring your surface: Another benefit to working with whole wheat dough I’ve found is that it’s much easier to work with when rolling out. It didn’t really stick to my table or my rolling pin. I was careful not to flour my surface too much to keep from drying out the dough.
Rolling the dough: Living in an NYC apartment, I know that kitchen storage (or, really any storage) is limited, so totally get it if you don’t have a rolling pin. Good news! You can still make these!! Use any wine bottle (full or empty) to roll out the dough, just make sure you wash it off first!
Cutting the dough: To make relatively even rolls, I started in the middle of the slab and made marks every inch/inch and a half. Also using a pizza cutter instead of a knife was a game-changer.
Baking pans: It’s best to use a 9×9 inch baking pan for this recipe, if you have one (can be square or round), but if your pans are too big, just place the cinnamon rolls so that they are lightly touching (or very close to) in the center of the pan. If your pans are too small, make in smaller batches. Because these may bake faster, check in on them after 10 minutes and every 5 minutes after that.
What baking materials do I need to make these cinnamon rolls?
Luckily, not many!
large stirring utensil
9×9 inch baking pan
Rolling pin (or wine bottle will do)
Knife or pizza cutter
Things I Haven’t Tried but Would Be Interested to See
I would appreciate to hear any insights into the following substitutions:
Using all whole wheat flour: How do you feel about the texture? Fluffiness?
Substituting butter for coconut oil: I’m not sure how much of a difference this would make nutritionally, but I feel like a lot of healthy recipes use it.
Substitutions for the sugar in the filling: I feel like this move would really be removing all the joy from the recipe, but I understand some people have dietary restrictions, so for their sake…
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour (can also sub for a 2nd cup of whole wheat flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup non-fat greek yogurt
- ¼ cup oil (can use any relatively flavorless oil, like vegetable or canola)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup real maple syrup (depending on desired level of sweetness)
- 2 tablespoons butter (or butter substitute--melted)
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 dash nutmeg (optional)
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Make your rolls. Add all dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, add all wet ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Then, dump onto a lightly floured surface (I used an 8x10 inch cutting board) and knead for 2-3 minutes. If dough is too dry Cover dough with plastic wrap and rest for 10 minutes.
- While dough rests, grease a 9x9 inch baking sheet with oil (can be round or square). If your pans are too big, just make sure the rolls are packed slightly toughing. Melt butter in microwave for about 15-20 seconds. Mix filling together in small bowl and set aside.
- Remove dough from mixing bowl, and roll out with a rolling pin to about a 8x10 inch rectangle (if you don’t have rolling pin, use a wine bottle—wash first).
- Cover with a thin layer of melted butter, then sprinkle HALF of filling evenly on top.
- Cut into 8-10 strips and roll up. Optional: once all rolls are formed, sprinkle remaining filling on your surface and gently roll the outside of each roll in the filling. Place each roll in the pan, touching. Optional: brush the top of each cinnamon roll with remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes.
- While rolls bake, mix your topping and clean up. When rolls are done, remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before topping with greek yogurt mixture and serving.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 353mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 3gSugar: 25gProtein: 9g
Nutrition information is a rough estimate.