Venice Spice

A couple years ago I went to Venice. Like, the Venice.
I always assumed Venice would be a little corny and very touristy because there’s about as much hype around this city as there is around the Magic Kingdom and – spoiler alert! – MK is not all that. When you finally make it to a place everyone talks about like the greatest place on earth, it always just seems kind of blah, you know? Your expectations are higher than heaven and when you finally see that thing for yourself, it’s usually a lot less sparkly than it was before you actually met that thing in real life.

Not in Venice. I was speechless with my jaw on the floor most of the time I was there. I was stunned at the magical, ancient, mysterious beauty that filled this place, it’s buildings and streets. It was poetic, even. It was one of those times in life you have few words to describe what you’re looking at. I felt bad for wasting adjectives like, “beautiful” on stupid things like nail polish and tea towels. Any words I could conjure to describe it just seemed inadequate.
Anyway, all this to say that I’ve basically found the kitchen’s version of Venice. I can’t believe I’ve ever written positively about any other food than what I’m about to share with you. I know you’re all like, “Erin, have we had enough of the dramatics already?” And my answer would be No! The dramatics are necessary because you need to try these today. I’m like, about to start a fundraiser to spread awareness about them…

Meet my new favorite food group, the Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll.
It doesn’t even look pretty, right? Just a sticky blob of doughy goodness, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla-creamcheesyness… oh, and warm right out of the oven? I just… I… I can’t. Despite the fact that it took me six packets of yeast before I got one that was active and would rise, and DESPITE THE FACT that all this yeast business made the process take almost 4 hours, I will definitely be making these like every day of my life. Or at least again this weekend.

Here’s a slight variation of Deb’s recipe… I always end up cutting the sugar content in desserts and I got a little butter-happy, so excuse my edits on this 😉 All credit for original recipe to Smitten Kitchen!


6 TBSP unsalted butter + 3 TBSP more melted for brushing on rolled out dough
1/2 cup water, warmed between 100-110* F; 1/4 cup half and half, room temp (didn’t have milk)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree, canned
1 large egg
Non-stick spray for coating rising bowl

3/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons half and half (again, didn’t have any milk)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Make your dough: Melt your butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down to room temperature.

Combine your warmed water and yeast in a small bowl with a dab of honey and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you probably have some annoyingly finicky yeast and should start again with a newer packet. <– sixth time’s a charm! 

In the bottom of the bowl of an electric or hand mixer, combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Stir lightly to combine. Add your melted butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-water mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix til combined. Switch out your hand mixer blades to the hook-looking ones (if you can’t find those, it’s no big deal – just use what you have) and run it for 5 minutes on low. It was here that I saw my dough was too dry and where I started drizzling in the 1/4 cup or so of remaning half and half to moisten it. The dough should be sticky and kind of wet feeling… do not want too many flour bits floating around in there.

Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place until it rises to twice its size.

While it is rising, butter/spray with non-stick spray the bottom of two 8-inch square pans (any size works – I only had one so I stuck the rest of the buns in a pan way over-sized and they tasted identically delicious).

Assemble buns: Drop dough onto a very large, well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted butter over dough. Stir together filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Press it down so it sticks to the dough just enough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. If some of the filling stuff spills out a little, it’s no biggy and won’t affect the taste.

Per SK: “Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 1-inch sections.” <– love this tip!

Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar (and mix while giant white clouds of it puff all over your hair, face, and kitchen – yay cooking!). Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for.

Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 18 minutes (the original recipe said 25 minutes but my oven would have turned them in to hockey pucks if I let them go that long; I stuck with 18 mins and they cooked to perfection), until puffed and golden.

I dug them right out of the pan and ate them like I was forced to at gun point.