Buttery, sweet yeast breads are the essence of winter holidays for me. When I was growing up, my mother would devote an entire Saturday in early December to baking her mother’s Dresden stollen, a traditional German Christmas bread made with rum-soaked raisins, almonds, and a whopping pound of butter. To my utter agony, she’d immediately freeze the loaves, saving two for Christmas morning and two for New Year’s Day. Now our son’s dairy, egg, and nut allergies preclude us from carrying on this particular family tradition, but my quest for an equally wonderous and wintery sweet bread ended with the quintessentially American cinnamon roll. This recipe is egg-free, so it’s easy to make vegan or adapt for the dairy-allergic by substituting soy or rice milk for the cow’s milk and a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I like Earth’s Balance) for the butter. As with all yeast breads, these rolls are time consuming, but most of that time is spent just waiting for the dough to rise.  Believe me, they’re worth the wait.

Egg-free, Dairy-free Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from a terrific recipe found here.

Yield:  Makes 12-14 rolls

For rolls:

2 c. cow’s or soy milk, or 1 3/4 c. rice milk

1/2 c. safflower or canola oil

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1 envelope active dry yeast

4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

For filling:

5 tbsp. butter, melted (or use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, or dairy-free margarine, or even palm shortening)

1/3 c. brown sugar

cinnamon, to taste

1/3 c. raisins, soaked in hot water to plump, then drained

For glaze:

2 c. confectioner’s sugar

2 tbsp. milk, any kind


If you’re using soy milk: In a medium saucepan, combine soy milk, oil, and granulated sugar.  Warm over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until scalded (meaning just below a boil – don’t worry if it starts to simmer, just add a few minutes to the cooling time). Remove from heat and leave to cool until lukewarm, about 40 minutes.

If you’re using rice milk: In a medium saucepan, combine rice milk, oil, and granulated sugar.  Warm over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is just dissolved (no need to scald).  Remove from heat and leave to cool until lukewarm.

When soy or rice milk mixture cools to lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast.  While the yeast settles into the milk, measure 4 c. of the flour into a bowl.  Add the flour to the saucepan with the milk mixture and stir to combine. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and leave to rise for an hour or two, or until doubled in volume.

To the risen dough in the saucepan, add the remaining 1/2 c. flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir until incorporated.  Let the dough rest while you measure the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Use half the melted butter to grease two 9’’ round baking pans. Generously flour a work surface and press the dough with your fingers into a rectangle. Roll rectangle out to roughly 12’’ by 24’’, adding a bit more flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Brush remaining butter over dough, then sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.

Roll the dough lengthwise into a long log, cut in half to make two shorter logs, then cut each half into six or seven equal pieces. (Here’s a tip for slicing the rolls without squashing them: slide a length of thread or dental floss under the roll, cross the threads over the top of the roll and pull quickly.) Divide pieces between the two buttered pans, arranging them cut-side up. At this point, you can cover the pans lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them overnight, cover tightly with foil and freeze, or let them rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, then bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

When rolls come out of the oven, make the glaze. Stir the confectioner’s sugar and milk together until smooth. Drizzle glaze over rolls while still warm.

To bake rolls from the fridge: Let them come to room temperature before baking, or at least let them sit on top of the stove while it preheats.

To bake rolls from the freezer: Let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Continue as above.