Dried Cranberry Cocoa Cinnamon Rolls

dried cranberry cocoa cinnamon roll

I think about food too much. Visions of sweet and savory foods never drift far from my mind. Sometimes I wonder if it is all I am capable of thinking of, as I plan my meals on the walk to school or mentally make a list for the market at the gym. I have some serious food on the brain.

cinnamon swirl

Sometimes I challenge myself to a little game. These games can be dangerous. Once I've got an idea in my head, it doesn't leave. The idea is to imagine a fruit or vegetable and think of as many recipes off the top of my head that feature them. Let's take pumpkins. Pumpkins become pumpkin pie. Pumpkin Custard. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin bread pudding. Pumpkin oatmeal. Pumpkin alfredo... And suddenly I have a list of recipes a mile long that I absolutely must make right now.

This is precisely the process in which these dried cranberry cocoa cinnamon rolls were conceived.

dried cranberry cocoa cinnamon roll

The rolls are full, dense, and delicious. They don't even need icing because the brown sugar mixture keeps the interior so moist (though I won't fault you if you decide to drown your roll in sugary goodness). Best of all, they keep well in the freezer. If you decide Sunday night your Monday morning might need a bit of a pick-me-up, you can toss a roll in the fridge to rise overnight, pop it in the oven first thing in the morning, and by the time you have to run out the door you'll have a hot, fresh roll to devour, fighting off those Monday blues.

Dried Cranberry Cocoa Cinnamon Rolls

Yields 12 cinnamon rolls

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup barely warm water
2/3 cup cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup dried cranberries

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast with 1 cup of the flour and the water. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Then, add the remaining flour, cream, egg, and salt. Knead by hand for 12 minutes (7 with a stand mixer) until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and allow it to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.

bread dough rising

Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 14 inch square. If the dough is too elastic to hold its shape, place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and try again.

14 by 14 inch square (kinda)

In a medium saucepan, mix together the butter and brown sugar and place over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the mixture begins boiling, turn the heat down to low and allow it to bubble and boil for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture smells like butterscotch. Remove from heat.

layers of brown sugar and cranberries

Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon, cocoa powder, and dried cranberries on top of the filling. Pinch along one edge and begin rolling the dough, trying to roll it up as tight as possible. Trim off the ends and cut the dough into 1 inch rounds.

cinnamon swirl

You can either place the rolls on an oiled baking sheet, leaving two inches between the rolls or you can place the rolls right next to each other in a small baking pan, such as a loaf pan (this is what I recommend). I prefer the second method because it kept the rolls more moist and gooey and delicious and prevented the rolls from drying out or hardening during baking. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for another 30 minutes, or until they appear puffy.

perfectly plump

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before devouring.

dried cranberry cocoa cinnamon roll