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An amazing woman AND … Gluten-Free Cinnamon-Raisin Rolls

Gluten-Free Cinnamon RollsToday I will take the time to honor the person who has truly inspired my passion for food… my mother.  In my very first post, I mentioned how memories of growing up revolved around experiences in the kitchen.  My Mom found (and still finds) such great joy in spending hours perfecting a recipe.  No recipe is off limits to her.  She is not afraid of endless steps.  Nothing seems too daunting.   In fact, she has always been the happiest with her apron on, her sleeves rolled up, and hands full of wonderful sticky promises of what is to come.  And from the time I was little, I remember great things emerging from her kitchen. She has the confidence in the kitchen that I can only inspire to cultivate myself.

Growing up, we did not eat many things out of a box – if it was not fresh, or made from scratch, it usually did not make it to our table.  Now I only try to do the same for my children.  It does not always work out. Sometimes convenience trumps fresh. However, I’m just going to give myself the credit for making the effort the rest of the time.

The other day, I was watching the last hour of the Today show and the staff  had been asked to sum up what a mother means to them, in six words or less.  I thought Hota Kotb worded it most perfectly when she said that a mother is “a warm hand over your heart”.   In dealing with my Mother’s own battle with breast cancer in the last couple of years, I realize that nothing is more true.  Facing her mortality was nothing short of breath-taking (and not in the good way).  I have always loved, adored, and been so grateful for my mother.  It is just that the smack-in-the-face reality that life can be taken from you at any moment makes relationships even more precious.  You stop taking for granted that life will remain as it is – in this wonderful and comfortable state of peace.  You begin to realize that you should not let moments go by without appreciating the relationships that have truly defined you-the ones that have created the “warm hand over your heart”.

In writing this, I know my Mom is not going to be able to read this for a couple of weeks.  She is in the middle of the ocean on an amazing 4 week cruise of a lifetime through Eastern Europe.  But she already knows how I feel.  She knows that she was my inspiration in embarking on this journey.  She tries not to take the credit, but I know that deep down she is truly proud to know that she was, in a very large way, responsible for a continuation of this tradition and for the passing on the eternal quest for wonderful meals.

So… on that note, I am actually going to celebrate being a mother myself and post a recipe that is really one of my favorites.  Before our home went gluten free, one of my favorite secret vices was cinnamon rolls. There is just something about the way that the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, raisins, and all of the other gooey components come together to create sheer magic in your mouth.  My mother used to always joke that there was a mouse in the kitchen because after she would place a hot plate of fresh cinnamon-raisin rolls on the counter, dripping in sticky cream cheese icing, I would sneak in and eat the centers out of all of the rolls.  After all, all the yummy goodness was at the heart of those rolls – in the same way that my mother has always been the sticky yummy goodness at the heart of our family (and just as I hope to be for my own sons).

This Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Roll Recipe is actually really a variation of  a recipe on Ellen’s great blog  I Am Gluten Free that she got from Jenn at the listserve, who got it from Roben Ryberg’s coobook The Gluten Free Kitchen.  This recipe is amazing in-and-of itself, but in trying to recreate the flavors that I remembered, I played around with it just a bit to create a variation of it that reminded me of the flavors of my youth and, in my non-gluten-free Father-In-Law’s words has resulted in the “best Cinnamon roll I have ever had.”

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing (with Allergen-Free substitution options as well)

2/3 cup milk, warmed to 110 degrees-but DO NOT let boil (I have used both rice milk and coconut milk as substitutes for dairy-free version)

1 packet of  yeast (or about 1 tablespoon) – make sure your yeast is active.  If no bubbles/foam form after 5-10 min when mixed with the warm milk., throw out and start with new yeast

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter (or organic shortening, such as Spectrum’s)

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg (or can use either 1 1/2 tsp Ener G egg replacer whisked with 2 tbsp rice milk/ OR 1 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp HOT water – letting sit for a few min.)

1/4 cup potato starch

3/4 cup arrowroot starch

1/2 cup millet (I have also used 1/2 cup buckwheat or 1/2 cup super fine brown rice flour when I am out of millet)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda (make sure not expired)

2 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure not expired)

1/2 teaspoon salt


1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons cinnamon

1/3 cup butter, softened (or 1/3 cup organic shortening softened in microwave for dairy free version)

1/2 cup raisins, or more to taste (I use more because that’s just my taste)


4 tablespoons butter (or 4 tablespoons organic shortening, softened in microwave)

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened ( or dairy-free cream cheese alternative such as Follow Your Heart or Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk (or any dairy-free alternative), or less, to reach desired consistency


1.  Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl of mixer and let sit for 5-10 minutes (checking for bubbles/foam for active yeast). Then add the sugar, butter, oil, and vanilla to this yeast mixture, stirring to combine.  Then add egg and whisk again to combine.

2.  In medium bowl, sift/whisk together potato starch, arrowroot starch, millet, baking soda, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Then slowly add flour mixture to active yeast/milk mixture in the mixing bowl and mix slowly to combine. Dough will seem sticky (this is right).

3.  Place dough in a greased bowl and put in warm place to rise for about an hour.

4.  After dough has been allowed to rise, place a piece of plastic wrap (about 14×14 inches) on counter sprinkled with sugar and a little oil and then place dough on top, then another equal sized piece of plastic wrap on top and roll out dough until about 1/4 in thick.  Remove top piece of plastic, then spread softened butter (or shortening) on top of dough. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and sprinkle evenly over butter, leaving a 2 in. edge free of the filling so it won’t squeeze out when rolling.

5.  Using the bottom piece of plastic wrap, lift the douch and begin to rolling into a log, without squeezing too tightly.  Once rolled, to slice it, take a 12 inch piece of dental floss and slide it under the roll.  Bring ends up and and holding ends above roll, cross them over as if you are about to tie them.  Pull tight and you will have a perfect cut.  Repeat 7 more times to slice the log into 8 pieces.  Dental floss cuts perfectly without squeezing out your filling.  Place rolls into greased 9 inch round cake pan.

6.  Okay, here is my trick.  I make these the night before up until the end of step 5.  Then I put them in the fridge covered with saran wrap until the next morning.  In morning, I bring them to room temp for about 30 minutes and then cook in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 22 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

7.  While rolls are baking, mix together all icing ingredients with hand mixer until reach desired consistency.  When rolls are ready, allow to cool for a few minutes, then drizzle with the icing.  AHHHH! Heaven!

For Dairy-Free version: Replace Butter with Organic Shortening (such as Spectrum’s); Replace milk with any dairy free alternative (both rice milk and coconut milk have worked well for me); Replace cream cheese with Dairy-free alternative (such as Follow Your Heart/ OR Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)

For Egg-Free version: Replace egg with Ener G Egg Replacer or Flax Gel method.

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