I love dates; they are natures ooey, gooey, sweet treat in one package. Not just for baked goods, they are also a fabulous addition to appetizers, salads and more. One of my favorite appetizers is this one I recreated from Ya Ya’s, a nearby restaurant that I love. It’s simply a date stuffed with a pecan that is then wrapped in bacon and grilled…perfect sweet, salty, crunchy heaven if you ask me. Maybe next in line? These Date and Nut Cinnamon Rolls. With a bit of boozy icing. Oh yeah.
Though I admit I have used those packages of date pieces you can buy in the baking section of the grocery store, you know, the ones chopped and then covered with sugar? They are convenient but ever since I started using whole Medjool dates, there has been no going back. With the whole dates though, you do have to remove the seed before using them in baking. A quick slice with your chef’s knife and the seed is exposed and easy to pull out and discard.
I wish I had a heartfelt tale of how these came about but I think it was subliminal; I did just have coffee the other day right across from DuffyRolls and they make the most amazing cinnamon rolls…yes, that had to be it; that’s what got me started on making some the next day in my kitchen! It was meant to be. I decided that a bit of bourbon added to the mix of dates, sugars and nuts might be nice and guess what? I was right! The final touch is a drizzle with some bourbon cream cheese icing; it’s lucky to see these rolls with that stuff; I could have eaten it all up with a spoon!
The recipe I used for the actual cinnamon rolls was something I got from a neighbor; I have no idea where she obtained it but it was easy enough to make and I loved the results. The filling is just an exaggeration of a standard cinnamon/sugar/butter mixture. Some dates, toasted walnuts and bourbon boost it a lot! If I had one point of contention I guess it’s that I took the ‘huge’ to heart and without the recipe including a recommended pan size, I put the rolls into a dish that turned out to be too large. They did rise fine but I think if they had been in a smaller pan, they would have risen higher instead of spreading out; I’ve made a point of indicating the pan size I would recommend after my experience but really, I’m not complaining, promise.
This should come as no surprise that I decided a bit of bourbon would be nice, right? I might as well leave that bottle of Maker’s Mark next to my stove; it gets used a lot for baked goods. A little bit mixed with the filling and a bit more used in a cream cheese icing. Yum. Delicious. Yes I said it. DELICIOUS!!
These were everything I expected but I have to admit that the first one was the best. I left them out while I did a photo shoot and then forgot to cover them right away. That’s a mistake in Denver, the dry environment here will start to dry foods out quicker than a dehydrator! Still, they measured up…yes, ooey, gooey, cinnamony, boozy, datey and deliciousy!! You want one huh?
For the Dough
- 1/4 ounce dry yeast
- 1/4 Cup + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup Milk, room temp
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the Date Filling
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup dates
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (Yes, toasted even though they're being baked into something. World of difference in their flavor).
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tbsps Bourbon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Cream Cheese Icing
- 3 oz of softened cream cheese
- 1 Tbsp softened butter
- 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp bourbon (optional)
- Finely ground walnuts for garnish (optional)
To Make the Dough:
- Put yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and water into your mixing bowl. Let sit for ten minutes until the yeast is dissolved and it looks foamy.
- Stir in milk, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt until combined.
- Add flour one cup at a time to the mixing bowl.
- Mix with a dough hook for 4-5 minutes until the dough is soft and thoroughly combined.
- Add the softened butter and let the dough hook beat it into the dough; this will be a very pliable and somewhat sticky dough so don't add a bunch of flour thinking it should be thicker.
- Beat with the dough hook for another 4-5 minutes.
- Flour your counter lightly; turn the dough out and make sure it's lightly covered on all sides with flour.
- Place dough in a clean bowl, cover and let rise for two hours until it doubles in size (I put mine into a warmed oven; it only took 90 minutes. And by warmed I mean 90-95 degrees approximately).
To make the Filling:
- Cut dates in half and remove pits.
- Put sugar and brown sugar into food processor along with dates, toasted walnuts, cinnamon, salt and bourbon and pulse gently until combined but still chunky.
- Cut cold butter into chunks and add to processor and pulse until just combined.
To assemble Cinnamon Rolls:
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle approximately 12"x24"
- Sprinkle date filling over the surface of the dough.
- Starting at the short end, roll the dough tightly into a cylinder of dough and filling; approximately 12-14" in length.
- Cut the roll into 8 even pieces, turn pieces cut side up and put into a large (9x13"") buttered baking dish.
- Cover and let rise for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees 15 minutes before rising time is complete.
- Bake for 15 minutes; open the oven and reverse the position of the tray. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the rolls are lightly browned.
- Let the rolls cool for 20 minutes while you make the icing.
To Make the Icing:
- Cream together the cream cheese and butter.
- Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until completely incorporated.
- Blend in bourbon and enough milk to create a smooth consistency.
- Drizzle the icing over the rolls; garnish with additional nuts if desired.
I decided to try making these at night and baking them in the morning and it worked like a charm. After putting the cut pieces in the baking dish, I covered it with plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator.
In the morning; I preheated my oven for a couple of minutes, turned it off when the temp was around 90 degrees and put the rolls into the warmed oven to proof for an hour.
Remove from oven, preheat it and bake.
Since posting I've had someone tell me that they proof the pieces first, then cover them and refrigerate them overnight. Those would be ready to bake in the morning first thing; I'm trying that technique next.
These are best served warm; reheat in the oven or microwave before serving if not served at the time they are made.