This is one of my all time favourites. The smell of these chai cinnamon rolls baking gives my whole body a hug, and eating one, freshly baked, is such a delight for the taste buds. I’ve enhanced the classic cinnamon roll here by adding some chai spice into the mix and aquafaba is the star of the show here, helping us to create a light and springy dough without the use of eggs.
You’ll find the full recipe and instructions below, but here’s a quick glance at some of the steps which I hope will make it easier for you to follow along.
First up, before getting started on the rolls, prepare your chai spice. I spent over a year living in India and have been hooked on chai and Indian spices ever since! Not only can you make a milky hot chai with this spice mix (my favourite plant milk to make it with is coconut) but it’s a great blend to have on the kitchen shelf as you can add it to sweet bakes, curries and even your hot chocolate or coffee for an extra special kick!
To make it, simply place all the ingredients in a high powered blender or spice mill and blitz until it’s a fine powder.
Label, date it and store in an airtight glass jar. We'll use this soon in the filling for the rolls!
Aquafaba, the starchy juice leftover from cooked chickpeas, is a wonder ingredient when it comes to plant-based baking and it's taken the world by storm in the last few years. It can whip up just like egg whites and be used to make meringue, macarons and a host of other treats. You can get your hands on some by simply draining off the strarchy liquid that your chickpeas come in. (If you soak and boil your chickpeas yourself you may need to reduce down your left-over liquid to thicken it up!) Aquafaba also freezes really well so I usually pour it into an ice-cube tray and freeze it for easy use later, whenever the moment calls.
Besides the aquafaba, the ingredients for the dough should all be pretty familiar. I use coconut sugar in both the dough and the filling instead of caster or brown sugar to reduce the overall sweetness. If your sweet tooth is calling, or you can't easily find coconut sugar, you can sub in brown sugar in the dough and filling, and icing sugar for the icing on top!
The other ingredients here are all pretty standard fare. I use a mix of plain flour and strong white flour which gives the rolls the strength and elasticity required for nice, bouncy dough!
When mixing your dough, whether it be in a stand mixer or by hand, it's really all about the consistency. You want a nice elastic dough that is not sticky to touch! Use your intuition and add a little more flour if necessary.
When leaving the dough to rise, make sure you pick a nice warm spot. The temperature is important here! Irish winters can be tough for getting dough to rise and over the years I've left bowls of dough rising in all sorts of places ranging from the hot-press to wrapped up in my bed with the electric blanket on!
Regardless of temperature and the spot you choose to leave your dough, make sure you leave it long enough to double in size. On a colder day this might take longer, be patient!
When making the filling, soft butter is the key. I recommend taking it out of the fridge when you start preparing your dough and making the filling only when your dough has suitably risen. I have tried making this with a number of different fat substitutes - coconut oil, soft margarine and vegan block butter, both salted and unsalted. The salted block butter works best! I use a brand called Naturli, that is readily available now in Ireland. To me, it's as good as the real thing!
When rolling out your dough, be sure to go gently so that you don't tear it. Same goes when spreading your filling!
If you've ever made sushi or a swiss-roll, you're probably well practiced for the next step. Roll up the dough from the bottom to create a nice, tight log.
Once done, score the top to mark ten even pieces! Cut the log with a clean, sharp knife to create ten rolls.
Put them on a prepared baking tin and leave them to rise again in your favourite spot, this time for about 30 minutes. They should double in size again!
Once they have proofed a second time, brush the rolls with a little more aquafaba and then bake for 14-16 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with your oven or it's unreliable, check them after ten minutes. At home, I usually turn the tray half way through just to get a more even bake. They are done when they are nice and golden brown!
Finally, when the rolls have cooled, and if you've managed not to eat them in the meantime, it's time to make your icing for the top.
Blend the coconut sugar in a high powered blender to create a coconut based powdered sugar! Add the vanilla and very slowly add the soya milk to the bowl. You want quite a thick paste so that it does not run off your finished rolls!
Drizzle your rolls with icing or fully coat the top if you prefer.
They're best eaten fresh on the day of baking alongside a cup of tea or coffee whilst having a chat with someone you love. Share them out with family and friends or leave some on the doorstep for someone who needs a pick me up! If saving some for the next day you might want to heat them up a little again to spruce them up.
Thanks for reading, for being here and for wanting to bake something plant-based & delicious!
Wild Sage Bakery
Chai Spice Blend
To make the dough
Add the warm water, coconut sugar, agave and yeast to a bowl or jug and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. When the yeast has a nice layer of foam on the top, add the aquafaba and sunflower oil and mix.
Place the plain flour, strong flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the yeasty mix. Stir with a spatula until combined and then tip out the whole mixture onto a lightly floured work surface.
Now give those arms a workout! Knead the dough for about 5 to 7 minutes until it is soft and springy to touch, adding a little more flour to the work surface as necessary. It will become noticeably smoother as you knead. You can use a kitchen mixer here, to mix and knead the dough, if you have one.
Form the dough into a ball, place it a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Leave it to rise in a warm place for approximately one hour or until it has doubled in size.
To make the filling
Put your softened butter into a bowl with the coconut sugar and chai spice and mix well with a spatula until you make a paste. If your butter is not soft enough then heat it a little in the microwave (10-15 seconds at a time) but don’t overdo it so that it's fully metled! You want a consistency that you will be able to spread easily.
To assemble the rolls
Once your dough has risen, it’s time to roll it out. Tip it out onto a floured work surface and roll into a rectangular shape, about 40cm x 25cm. Try to have an even thickness throughout. The long edge should be running along the bottom of your work surface. Gently grab each corner of the dough and pull gently so that it becomes more angular and you have a nice rectangle.
Scoop the filling onto the dough and spread it across in an even layer with a palate knife or spatula, all the way out to the corners.
Starting from the bottom, slowly and carefully roll the dough upwards into a log shape. Once you have made your log, gently push it in from both ends and smooth out any parts that seem a little uneven. We are looking for a nice, uniform log here.
Mark out ten even pieces and then carefully cut the log and place into a lined baking tin. You may want to clean the knife between cuts so the sides of the rolls are not too messy. Cover again with a tea-towel and leave the rolls to rise for a further 30 mins. Don’t be tempted to skip this step, it’s very important to allow the dough to rise a second time to ensure that you have light and springy rolls!
Preheat the oven to 180 C and once your rolls have risen a second time brush the tops and sides of each roll with a little aquafaba. Pop them in the oven to bake for 14-16 minutes. Turn the tray halfway through to ensure they brown up nicely on each side!
To make the icing
Put the blended coconut sugar in a bowl and add the vanilla essence. Slowly add the plant milk, half a teaspoon at a time, and mix well until a thick paste is formed. Drizzle your icing over the rolls once they have cooled a little and enjoy!