Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns
This Lower-Sugar Dessert Tastes as Close to the Real Thing as You Can Get
Going gluten-free? Ricki Heller's cinnamon buns are a lower-glycemic and yeast-free version of the classic recipe, but will satisfy the hungriest sweet tooth.
"The buns are slightly denser than yeast-based ones, but they bring back all the joy of eating a 'real' cinnamon bun for me. While the recipe appears long, the only challenging part is rolling out the dough and carefully spreading the filling over it. The rest comes together very easily! Don't be alarmed by the three tablespoons of cinnamon in the filling. It's not overpowering in the final product, I promise!." -- Ricki Heller
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Line a 9-inch (22.5-cm) springform pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray. (Alternately, you can use a large pie plate). Have ready a rectangular cutting board, plastic place mat, or piece of waxed paper that's about 13 x 10 inches (32 x 26 cm).
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the coconut sugar, tapioca starch, flour, and cinnamon; mix well. Drizzle the oil over the top and stir to combine and coat as much of the filling as possible. Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water and mix it in completely to create a thick but spreadable paste.
IMPORTANT: It will seem FAR too thick at first, and you'll wonder if the sugar will absorb all the liquid. Before you add more water, let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then stir again. You do NOT want the filling to be pourable, but more the consistency of a thick nut butter, so that it won't ooze out of the roll too easily. If, after 10 minutes, the mixture is still too thick, add more liquid, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) at a time; be careful not to add too much liquid, or the filling will be too thin! Set aside.
Make the dough:
In a large bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, sorghum flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum; use a whisk or fork to mix together. Drop the cold coconut oil by teaspoons (5 ml) over the surface of the dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter or wide-tined fork, cut the mixture by pressing through the lumps of coconut oil and into the flour, just enough to create pea-sized pieces of oil (some bits may be smaller, but none should be larger). Toss the flour mixture with a fork to distribute the oil throughout. Resist the temptation to pinch this together with your fingers as you would a crumb topping; the oil should not be completely blended into the flour mixture, but just scattered throughout in little lumps, as with pie crust.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk the juice with the coconut sugar until the sugar dissolves. Pour this wet mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and toss with a fork until it comes together in a ball. You should have a very soft and moist dough; this is as it should be. If it is too moist to hold together, add an extra 2 tablespoons (30 ml) all-purpose flour and mix together quickly.
Form and bake the buns:
Flour the cutting board, place mat, or waxed paper with about . cup (35 g) more all-purpose flour. Place the mound of dough on the board, pushing it into a ball with your hands, and dust the top of the ball with about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) more all-purpose flour. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough so it more or less covers the rectangle, starting in the middle and rolling toward the edges. (If you don't have a rolling pin, a clean, tall, empty glass or jar — or wine bottle — makes a good substitute).
Using an offset spatula or rubber spatula, gently spread the filling over the rectangle, taking care not to tear the dough. Come right to the edge on three sides, leaving a 1-inch (2.5-cm) border of dough on one of the longer sides. Begin to roll the dough, starting at the long side that has filling right up to the edge, and roll toward the long side with the 1-inch (2.5-cm) empty border. Once you get to the end, keep rolling so that the last long edge (the "seam") is underneath the roll. Cut the roll into 3 equal pieces (you can measure them, or just estimate — it doesn't need to be perfect). Then cut each piece into 3 more qual pieces, for 9 pieces total. Each piece will become 1 bun.
Place the pieces cut side up in the round pan with the seam facing the side of the pan. Start with 1 in the center and place 8 more around the outside of the pan (they won't be touching each other at this point). Place the springform pan in the center rack of the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through baking, until the rolls puff up a bit and the area around the filling is lightly browned. The tops of the buns should be dry and firm when done. Remove from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes before topping with the glaze, if using.
While the buns bake, prepare the glaze, if using:
In a small bowl, combine the coconut sugar and potato starch. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon (15 to 30 ml) of the soy milk; mix well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes or so for the sugar to dissolve. If the glaze is still too thick at this point, add more milk, a teaspoon (5 ml) at a time, until the glaze is pourable but still thick; you want it to run off the tops of the rolls, but it should not be so thin that it pools at the bottom of the pans. (I always make it a bit thicker than I think it should be, and it works out perfectly that way.)
Drizzle the baked rolls evenly with the glaze. Allow to cool before cutting or pulling apart. Serve straight from the pan or remove to serving plates. Store, covered, in the refrigerator, up to 4 days (bring to room temperature before serving). May be frozen.
For Ricki's All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix:
I created this mix after examining the protein (i.e., gluten) content of regular wheat-based all-purpose flour; I wanted a product that would approximate the same ratio of protein to starch as exists in the wheat-based product. This mix of grain, legume, and starches matches the values of wheat flour almost perfectly. I usually mix up a double batch of the flour at a time (I bake a lot!), then store it in a covered plastic food container for easy scooping.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk until the flour is evenly blended. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you won't be using it within a week or 10 days (will keep up to 6 weeks in the fridge). Measure as you would wheat-based all-purpose flour. Makes 4 cups.
Note: you can easily make your own millet flour by grinding whole millet grain in a coffee grinder until powdered.
Recipe courtesy of "Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free, Allergy-Friendly, Vegan Desserts," by Ricki Heller. Photographs by Celine Saki.