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My grandma made the most amazing cinnamon sticky rolls, but her recipe was not only made with traditional wheat flour, it was also lost somewhere along the way. Or perhaps it was just always one she remembered how to make by feel and by look, without even using a recipe. Either way, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I knew I had to re-create her recipe, as gluten free cinnamon sticky rolls, so the memory of those treats wouldn’t also be lost.
If you’re searching for a pull-apart gluten free cinnamon bun recipe, click here!
If Cinna-bon type Cinnamon Rolls are what you’re craving, click here!
For years (ok, decades) I thought that there was NO way I could ever replicate my Grandma’s cinnamon sticky rolls. No way. And thank goodness I didn’t have to! Christmas came and went every year, and Grandma’s rolls were something we could all count on.
I remember as a young girl lingering in Grandma’s kitchen, but I had already missed the true excitement: the kneading of the dough, the hours of rising and covering and baking. Nothing to see here … move along.
All I distinctly remember from those Christmas mornings was that I and my younger cousins were relegated to being served the “hard” parts of Grandma’s rolls — the crispy outsides. The coveted insides (the yummy soft rolls) were fought over by the older generations, and there were certainly none left for us young-uns! Not that we complained (much), since the outer (crunchy) rolls were still awesome, it’s just that in comparison to the supreme deliciousness of those inner rolls …. (ok, I apologize … I am seriously digressing into family issues/rolls.).
To hear my radio interview with Shirley (GlutenFreeEasily) about gluten-free holiday baking & more on my Grandma’s Cinnamon Sticky Rolls, click here for the podcast!
Back to the point: to me these rolls were up there with every other Christmas tradition. Of course we would always have Grandma’s rolls! It was unthinkable to contemplate the possibility that Christmas could occur without them!
… I know, I understand. This sounds really bad. Christmas isn’t about rolls!!?! What were we thinking!?? Agreed. But you know what? Looking back at my Christmas memories (what Shirley’s “Home for the Holidays, gluten-free style” is all about!), my Grandma’s cinnamon sticky rolls were IT!
I was with my extended family (which only happened once or twice a year), and we all congregated Christmas morning to share the ritual pecking order of who got the soft, gooey insides of Grandma’s cinnamon sticky rolls. That was our tradition.
So when Shirley asked each of us GF bloggers to think of what recipe meant the holidays to us — of course this recipe was my choice.
Christmas couldn’t really be Christmas without Grandma’s rolls.
Except that Christmas somehow happened without those rolls when Grandma got sick, and after she passed away. But Christmas took on a totally different taste to us all since Grandma didn’t leave a recipe for her famous rolls, and no one in the family had a clue how to start over. So we all made due on memories, which frankly, didn’t cut it.
About that same time, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, so I was obviously out of the “how to recreate Grandma’s rolls” loop. It was just another in my long line of emotion-laden foods that I could expect to never enjoy again. It was also another reason for my multi-year food depression which marked my first several years post-CD-diagnosis.
At some point (a story for a different day), I parted the curtain of my despair and determined to recreate the most important of my family’s recipes. Of course, Grandma’s rolls were a major challenge, considering that none of us even had a glutenous recipe starting point–just the vivid memory of the taste of those amazing rolls, as you closed your eyes and slowly savored the unmistakable flavors of Christmas….
This is where my mother stepped in again, as the amazing inspiration she has always been for me. She was also a cinnamon roll addict (weren’t we all?!) and she challenged me to figure out how to replicate Grandma’s rolls, but to do it gluten-free. So we worked and worked (the taste-tests were brutal!) until we achieved sweet success!
I think it’s because these rolls mean so much to me, sentimentally, that I am so touched whenever readers share their photos of this recipe and their reports of widespread happiness with whomever they share.
Here’s Taylor O’s Christmas morning success. And here’s to wishing you and your family the happiest of holidays.
1- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, except yeast. Cut the shortening into small pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a dough paddle attachment on an electric mixer or a pastry cutter by hand.
2- In a smaller bowl, stir together the liquid ingredients until combined. Slowly add liquid mixture to the dry ingredient bowl and mix with the paddle attachment. Add in the yeast, mixing on medium-high until smooth. The dough will be very wet.
If baking in the oven, lightly oil then line with parchment and 8×8 or 9-inch round pan.
Prepare the topping ingredients and distribute in the bottom of the prepared pan OR in the bottom of a large crock pot.
If using oven method, preheat oven to 200º F, then turn off.
4- Gently pat into a rectangle shape, about 1/4 inch thick.
5- Melt the butter and mix with remaining crumble ingredients. Spread on top of the dough.
6- Cut the dough in half, leaving two approximately equal squares of dough. Slowly roll the dough from one end to the other so that the crumble mixture is spiraled inside itself. Repeat for the other half of the dough, so that you have two long logs of rolled dough. Slice each log with a knife to form approximately 8-12 rolls in total.
7- Lay each roll onto the topping-lined pan, spiral-side down. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and place inside the warmed oven for 25 minutes to rise.
After rising, remove the parchment paper and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Turn oven up to 350º F (static) or 325º F (convection).
When oven has come to temperature, bake for approximately 30-35 minutes (remove the foil after 20 minutes). The rolls will be light brown and have risen nicely; a toothpick inserted into the center of the rolls should come out fairly dry — if it’s wet with dough, keep baking with foil on top. When done, turn the oven off and open the oven door to let the rolls cool slowly for about 5 minutes.
8- Remove from the oven to cool for 5 minutes, then pull up on the parchment and turn upside-down on a plate for another 5 minutes. The rolls will drop onto the plate and the pan can be removed. Scrape any toppings out from the parchment and onto the rolls if they don’t come out with the rolls.
7- Lay each roll on top of the toppings in the crock pot, spiral-side down. Cover with the lid and let the rolls rise on the low setting for 30 minutes or cover and set in the fridge overnight, remove to come to room temperature then rise before baking.
After rising, turn to high setting and bake for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted into the rolls comes out clean. Crockpots vary significantly — one I used took 2 hours; another took 6! If your crockpot high temperature is in the 212° F range, it will take more like 6 hours to cook through. (Although it’s a long wait, the good news is that it smells amazing and it is hard to overcook them inside the crock pot!)
8- Once cooked, turn crock pot bowl upside-down on a plate; the rolls will drop onto the plate and the bowl can be removed.
(This method is particularly helpful if you make the rolls and let the crock pot do the work for you so that they are ready after church or a last minute holiday shopping trip!)
Serve warm, but be sure to grab a roll for yourself before they’re all gone!
Yields 8-12 rolls, depending on how small you cut them.