Baby-Friendly Cinnamon Rolls
I would be lying if I said these were super easy, but they are pretty much foolproof. I’ve NEVER made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I nailed it on the first try! So if you’ve got a little time to keep watch on the dough as it rises, then there really isn’t much hands-on time.
All together, it probably takes about 3 hours, 45 minutes. But about 3 hours, 15 minutes of that is letting the dough rise or letting the rolls cook.
I had all of the ingredients on hand, including a small packet of active yeast. I knew I wasn’t adding sugar, so I assessed what I had as a substitute. To replace the sugar, you can use dates, unsweetened applesauce, or mashed banana. I didn’t have dates, but I did have the other two. Since I’m not a big time chef and don’t know what fancy cooking terms mean, I’m going to share this recipe two ways.
The first way, which I’ll share first, is IN MY WORDS. I’m going to break it down exactly how I did it. Then, at the end, I’ll share the recipe in more technical terms, concise, for those of you who know your way around a kitchen.
IN MY WORDS
I’ll put the ingredients in bold so make sure you’ve got everything before you start. (Check the list at the bottom to see them all in one place!)
1. I dissolved a .25-ounce packet of active yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. I heated a bowl of water in the microwave for about a minute, then used a fork to swirl the yeast around until it dissolved.
2. In a second bowl, I microwaved 1/2 cup of milk for 1 minute so it was really hot.
3. In a mixing bowl, I microwaved 1/3 cup of butter (that’s a little more than 5 tablespoons) until it was melted. It took a little over a minute.
4. I poured the melted butter into the bowl with the milk. I added 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce to the mixing bowl, a tiny pinch of salt, and 1 egg. I mixed all that together really well.
5. Next, I added 2 cups of flour (I just used all-purpose) to the mixing bowl and mixed that in. Then I poured in the water+yeast bowl. Then I slowly add another 1 cup of flour (so that’s 3 cups total) and stirred as I poured. At this point, the dough should be holding together in a big ball.
6. Dump a little flour onto a surface. Then knead the dough on the floured surface for a few minutes. Any time the dough stuck to my hands, I would add a little flour to my hands or the dough. I would just add a spoonful at a time so that it didn’t stick. Once I felt tired of kneading, I sprayed the mixing bowl with some nonstick spray and plopped the dough ball back in. I placed a kitchen towel over the bowl while it was rising.
7. You want the dough to rise twice as high. I took a “before” picture so I would have a reference! For me? It took more than 2 hours to double in size.
8. Once the dough was doubled in size, I rolled out the dough. Make sure the surface has a lot of flour! Otherwise it will stick and tear. I tried rolling it nice and even, but I couldn’t. It was not a perfect rectangle at all, but I just trimmed the ends once I rolled everything up. I rolled it pretty thin (maybe 1/4 inch?).
9. Then I made my filling. Remember, I didn’t want to add sugar so here’s what I did: I puréed 1 banana in a food processor. I melted 1/2 cup of butter (8 tbsp) in yet another bowl (at this point, you might have washed some of the earlier bowls!). BEFORE I mixed anything, I brushed a little of the melted butter onto the dough. Then I dumped the banana into the remaining butter. I sprinkled in a heaping spoonful of ground cinnamon (probably 2 tsp), 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter (about 2 tbsp), and about 1 tsp of ground nutmeg. (see my note at the bottom about peanut butter)
10. I stirred my filling and then spread it all over the dough. Remember, you aren’t making a pizza. You don’t need to leave an edge! Spread the filling all over.
11. I rolled up the dough (starting on the longer side), then I cut it into pieces. I made them about 1-1.5 inches thick. The ends weren’t pretty because my dough wasn’t perfect. So I called them scraps and threw them away. You could probably make two ugly cinnamon rolls with the ends!
12. I sprayed the baking dish I was going to use with some nonstick spray and carefully placed all the rolls inside. They were smushed up against each other and barely fit. (There were about 12 rolls total.)
13. I covered the rolls at this point to let them rise a second time. I set a timer for 35 minutes. When the timer went off, I preheated the oven to 350F. When the oven was preheated, I put the rolls in the oven for 30 minutes.
14. At 30 minutes, I thought they still looked a little doughy, so I added another 5 minutes to the timer.
15. When I took them out, and while they were cooling, I made a sweet glaze to drizzle on the grown-up versions. It was just some melted butter and sugar. You can use brown sugar or powdered sugar or maple syrup or whatever you’ve got. You could add cinnamon to the glaze, too. OR if these are for the baby only, then don’t add any glaze.
16. I separated the rolls and put them onto parchment paper to cool. When they cooled, I tossed them into a freezer bag to freeze and eat later. I’ll update this post in a few weeks, whenever I try a cinnamon roll from frozen! Hopefully they’ll turn out just as tasty!
Total time: about 3.5 hours
Hands-on time: about 40 minutes
Yields about a dozen cinnamon rolls
OKAY for 8 months and up (pending allergies… see my notes at the bottom), or once grains have been introduced
(This recipe was adapted from this recipe.)
Ingredients for the dough
- 0.25-ounce package of active yeast
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup butter (about 5 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 3-4 cups of flour (plus some for flouring the kneading surface)
Directions for the dough
- Warm the water in a bowl and dissolve the yeast in the water.
- In a second bowl, heat the milk so it’s super hot.
- In a mixing bowl, melt the butter. Then add the milk, applesauce, salt, and egg. Mix that together.
- Dump in 2 cups of the flour and stir it in completely.
- Add the water+yeast bowl. Then add another cup of flour, slowly. It starts to get very thick and doughy, so it gets harder to stir.
- Dump a little flour onto a surface, then put the dough on the surface. Knead the dough for a few minutes. (I added extra flour as I went because it kept sticking to my hands or the surface.)
- Spray the mixing bowl with a little nonstick spray, and put the dough ball back in. Cover it with a towel and walk away for at least 2 hours. You want it to double in size.
- Once it’s doubled in size, put a little more flour on the surface. Roll out the dough to a giant rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. If it’s not a perfect rectangle, that’s fine! You can trim it if you want.
Ingredients for the filling
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 banana
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp peanut butter (sugar-free… just peanuts or just peanuts and salt) << see my note at the bottom
Directions for the filling
- Melt the butter.
- Purée the banana.
- Use a brush or spoon to spread a little of the butter onto the dough.
- Mix the banana, remaining butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and peanut butter until it’s a nice smooth paste.
- Spread the filling onto the dough (go to the edges!).
- Roll it up, cut your slices (about 1-1.5 inches thick). Mine made around 12 rolls.
- Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray, then carefully lay the rolls into the dish.
- COVER with a towel again (!) and let them rise to double-size again.
- Preheat the oven to 350F and cook 30-40 minutes.
If you want to add a glaze, you can! I added a glaze to some of the rolls but not all of them. I melted more butter (so much butter! But these are just a treat, right?), then stirred in some sugar. You can look up “cinnamon roll glaze” and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of options for ways to make a glaze. Butter and sugar is the simple version. Butter and powdered sugar will be less grainy.
- This is a lot of processed stuff! Flour and butter to the max. So treat this as a treat for baby. A half of a roll for a young baby is good! Even though there is no added sugar, I wouldn’t call them healthy or wholesome!
- If you don’t have banana or applesauce, you can swap puréed dates or puréed apples or pears. You can swap the banana and the applesauce in the recipe I used. I have only tried them one time, in the above way, but since they are sugar replacements, they should both be fine in either the filling or the dough.
- I am going to freeze some of them, but since I haven’t done it yet, I can’t say how these hold up in the long run. Check back, though! I’ll update this post once I do try out the freezer.
- Gluten free? You should be able to safely swap the flour with GF flour.
- Egg free? Try a flax egg. They are a fine substitute for baking.
- Dairy free? Almond or hazelnut milk would be great here. UPDATE: I forgot that butter is dairy! I don’t know what you could swap for so much butter. A vegan butter (like coconut or almond-based, maybe?). Oil or veggie shortening works for the dough, but for the filling, the butter adds to the flavor and texture too. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know so I can add it in!
- That tiny bit of salt amounts to about 5 grains of salt per roll!! So it’s nothing I would stress about. (The allowed sodium intake under 1 year old is 400 mg daily.)
- The peanut butter! If your baby has a possible peanut allergy, obviously don’t include peanut butter! You could use a second banana. You just need something that’s sticky. PB isn’t sweet, so it doesn’t have to be sweet, but it also doesn’t matter if it is. You could use another nut butter if that’s all you’ve got. But YES it’s okay to give peanut butter before a year old, unless there’s a family history of the allergy. See THIS ARTICLE from the American Academy of Pediatrics!