An undeniable waft of nostalgia hits you with sweet and spicy scent of fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Maybe it brings back memories of your Grandma's homemade cinnys on Christmas morning. Or perhaps, if you're like me, it takes you back to your high school job at the mall.
I worked long holiday shifts while being taunted by intermittent whiffs of under-baked Cinnabon drifting through the mall corridors. While these Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls don't smell quite like a mall, which is probably a good thing, they do take me back to those wintery days working at Northtown Mall.
Let's set the scene. I was working at a shoe store that sold knockoff versions of trendy 90s shoes. Think Spice Girls white platform sneakers, Clueless inspired, Cher-esque baby doll heels and dip dyed bridal shoes to match the occasion. It was a real scene. My best friend and I would drive our late 70's Toyotas 40+ minutes in the snow only to be forced to park at another, less popular mall, and ride a shuttle to our mall. We worked grueling holiday hours under a non-stop loop of cherry holiday music from Black Friday to Christmas Eve.
Our only solace from the long lines and demanding customers were Cinnabon dates on our 15 minute breaks. We'd meet up, split a micro-warmed, ooey-gooey, 1000 calorie cinnamon roll and exchange customer horror stories. Then we'd head back into the retail battlefield with the weight of the Cinnabon to keep us grounded.
As I read through this, it all sounds pretty awful, but there was something about the cinnamon rolls and collective misery that now brings a twinkle to my eye.
I just can't help but reflect on my mall days anytime I make or eat a cinnamon roll. It's high time to make some new memories! Enter my Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls. This recipe is robust. I have included all kinds of step-by-step images so you can successfully recreate these rolls. My partners from Bob's Red Mill even helped me put together a recipe video to show you how fun it is to roll out these rolls! Watch below.
The rolls start out like start standard cinnamon rolls, but take a more seasonal and festive twist with a cranberry sauce filling. The base starts with 2 of my favorite tried and true Bob's products, Bob's Red Mill Organic All Purpose Flour and Bob's Red Mill Active Dry Yeast. Bob's flour is the baseline for 90% of my baked goods and the yeast is what gives these rolls their perfect puff.
There are 3 components to the Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls
- The Dough - a yeasted dough enriched with butter and mascarpone cheese.
- The Filling - a quick and easy, homemade orange cranberry sauce spiced with cardamom and cinnamon.
- The Icing - a creamy, mascarpone icing tinted pink with reserved cranberry sauce.
I'm not going to tell you that these Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls are the easiest of recipes. But, I will say that they are totally attainable and absolutely worth the effort. They're just the right amount of challenge when you want to step outside of your cookie comfort zone and try something different.
The dough needs to go through 2 rises but don't worry, it's easy.
Because the dough needs to rise twice, it takes some planning. The simple, enriched yeasted dough comes together quick with the aid of a stand mixer. Once it's shaped into a boule (or ball) it will need to hang out for 90+ minutes for the first rise. That's almost enough time to run to the mall.
Once the Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls are shaped, they'll need to proof again for about 30 - 45 minutes before baking. So, they do take some time, but the actual hands-on time isn't much.
The filling is just an easy homemade cranberry sauce.
The cranberry sauce filling gives these rolls a tart and fresh flavor. The simple filling cooks up in just 10 minutes. All you do is simmer down some fresh or frozen cranberries with the juice of an orange, water, brown sugar, cardamom and cinnamon sticks. The juice of the fresh orange and brown sugar balance the tart cranberries with sweetness. Fresh orange zest is stirred in post-simmer for a bright punch of citrus.
The Mascarpone Icing is a hybrid of a classic cinnamon roll icing and Cream Cheese Frosting. AKA, the best of both worlds.
I find myself torn between classic, simple glazed Cinnamon Rolls and Cream Cheese Frosted Cinnamon Rolls. These Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls have a Mascarpone Icing so they are like a hybrid of the two. The best of both worlds! The creamy mascarpone isn't as heavy as cream cheese but it adds something a little more interesting than just a sweet, thin glaze. It's got just a bit of tang from the mascarpone and a sweet pink hue thanks to a kiss of reserved cranberry sauce.
Assembling these Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls is bound to get messy. Just roll with it.
Don't let the assembly scare you. This part is the most fun! The dough is sturdy and rolls out easy peasy into an 18" x 12" rectangle. Then, all you have to do is spread it with that cooled cranberry sauce.
When you go to roll, you just start from the bottom and roll on up. Move slow and try and keep that roll as tight as possible. Before you know it, you'll have a Cranberry Orange Spice Roll log. Just slice the log into 12 rolls and place them in the prepared pan to proof up before baking.
Once baked, you ice those cuties up while they are still a little warm. That way you get the full, served-warm Cinnabon experience without messing with the mall.
This year, I say skip the mall and roll your own. Maybe keep the 90s vibe alive with a Spice Girls playlist while you bake? If you're feeling festive, turn up Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" on repeat. I don't want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need...Cranberry Orange Spice Rolls.
This post was made in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill. Follow Bob’s Red Mill on Instagram and Facebook or check out bobsredmill.com to shop their impressive lineup of flours, whole grains, seeds, and so much more.
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