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Hi Bold Bakers!
NOTE FROM GEMMA: Welcome back Vedika! She’s here again with another one of her fabulous recipes for us — Cinnamon Rolls inspired by baklava. Make sure to check out her Salted Caramel Fudge, Dirty Chai Brownies, and Cinnamon Roll Muffins too.
My local grocer in the Netherlands sells small boxes of baklava, neatly cut diamonds of syrupy, flaky pastry filled with finely chopped nuts, such as pistachios. I have yet to attempt making baklava from scratch, but its flavor combination has inspired me in many of my own creations.
The cover photo of my cookbook, 52 Weeks, 52 Sweets, showcases my baklava-inspired palmiers, a crunchy, sticky cookie drizzled with honey and filled with chopped nuts. I also decided to combine elements of baklava with a cinnamon roll. In addition to cinnamon, I added cardamom, pistachios, and walnuts to the filling, and drizzled the rolls with a honey cream cheese glaze. The result yielded a fluffy cinnamon roll, but with a slightly non-traditional flavor profile.
I have a disclaimer: These cinnamon rolls do not taste exactly like baklava. They can’t because baklava is a whole other kind of pastry. If you’re looking for actual baklava, you’ll have to have the real thing. Instead, these cinnamon rolls adopt some flavors found in baklava.
What You Can Expect From These Baklava-Inspired Cinnamon Rolls
- A fluffy roll packed with cinnamon, cardamom, and sugar
- A more textured roll, thanks to the addition of pistachios and walnuts
- Sticky honey and cream cheese glaze that finishes the rolls, and adds something new to your traditional cream cheese topping
- Note that this recipe has slightly less sugar than a classic all-American cinnamon roll (the glaze is not quite as sweet)
What You Need To Make Baklava Cinnamon Rolls
When it comes to ingredients, you’re not going to run into anything unusual here. Here’s a look at some of the ingredients you’ll need.
- Instant yeast. This is faster-acting than active dry yeast and does not need to be proofed.
- Whole milk. Make sure it’s not too hot, as that might kill the yeast
- Butter. Along with the whole milk, butter makes these rolls richer, more flavorful, and softer.
- Eggs contribute to the soft, rich texture of the dough.
- Sugar. A touch of sugar adds a bit of flavor, and allows the yeast to ‘feed.’
- Salt is a must. Without salt, you won’t have much flavor.
- Bread flour. Bread flour has a higher content of protein, adding more structure to the rolls. Using bread flour produces a fluffy dough, that pulls apart easily, but it can be replaced with all-purpose flour if you can’t get your hands on bread flour, or if you’re craving cinnamon rolls and only have all-purpose on hand.
For The Filling
This is really what makes these baklava-inspired! The spices, the nuts, everything comes together in a way you’re going to love.
- Cinnamon. This is a necessity in any roll that claims to be a ‘cinnamon roll’ although it may not be a requirement for traditional baklava.
- Cardamom. Like cinnamon, some baklava recipes call for cardamom, others don’t. But cardamom is a delicious, warm spice that pairs perfectly with cinnamon, so why not try it if you have some on hand?
- Pistachios. The baklava I buy is full of pistachios. Pistachios are soft, subtle, and delicious. And the green color is nature’s perfection.
- Walnuts. Walnuts are just delicious in the oven. I like to use a combination of walnuts and pistachios, but feel free to replace the walnuts with more pistachios, pecans, or even almonds.
- Sugar. The sugar melts and merges with the nuts to produce a sticky, sweet interior. It is perfect alongside the subtle flavors of the bread.
- Salt. A pinch of salt brings everything together.
- Butter. Butter acts as the glue, holding everything in, making the rolls richer and deliciously gooey.
For The Topping
- Cream cheese. Definitely something you won’t find in traditional baklava, but something you will find in a classic cinnamon roll.
- Honey. Honey adds a sweet, fragrant undertone to the cream cheese topping. It can be added to baklava but is not a common ingredient in cinnamon rolls. That doesn’t mean it isn’t welcome!
- Note that this is much less sweet than a traditional cream cheese glaze, I felt that the interior of the rolls had adequate sugar especially if you’re enjoying these for breakfast. If you prefer a sweeter, more traditional roll, swap the glaze with cream cheese frosting).
Tips For Making Cinnamon Rolls
- Make sure the yeast you are using is still to date and hasn’t gone off. If it’s instant yeast, there shouldn’t be a problem, especially if it is within the expiration date and if the package is unopened and stored according to the package specifications. If using active dry yeast, you’ll know if it is no longer working if it doesn’t froth in the milk.
- Be patient. These baklava-inspired cinnamon rolls take a long while, but they are worth it.
- These taste best the day they are baked. Like a loaf of fresh bread, they won’t taste as good the next day, so enjoy them warm.
If you want to make these far in advance, bake for 10 minutes then cool completely, cover, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze. Once you are ready to serve them, thaw completely (in the fridge or on the counter) and bake for around 15-18 minutes or until they are golden.
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Make Some Of Gemma’s Cinnamon Rolls!
- Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls
- 1-Hour No-Yeast Cinnamon Rolls
- Best-Ever Cinnamon Rolls (No-Knead, No-Machine)
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Baklava-Inspired Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
For the Dough
- 1 cup (8 fl oz/240 mL) whole milk (110°F/45°C)
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz/86 g) granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- ⅓ cup (2 ½ oz/71 g) unsalted butter (melted and slightly cooled)
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 ½ cups (22 ½ oz/639g) bread flour
For the Filling
- 1 cup (6 oz/170 g) light brown sugar (packed)
- ½ cup (roughly 2 oz/60 g) unsalted pistachios (shelled, finely chopped, and packed)
- ½ cup (roughly 2 oz/60 g) unsalted walnuts (finely chopped and packed)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup (2 ½ oz/71 g) unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
For the Cream Cheese Glaze
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 3 tablespoons honey*
For the Dough
- Begin by warming the milk until it reaches 110°F or 45°C. I like to do this in the microwave, then check with a kitchen thermometer to make sure it’s the right temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, what you’re looking for is a tepid temperature, the kind you can comfortably place a finger in without feeling too much heat.
- Whisk together the milk, sugar, and yeast, until combined.
- Next, pour in the melted butter, eggs, and salt, continuing to mix.
- Finally, add the flour. I like to do this a cup at a time, stirring first with a whisk and then switching to a wooden spoon when it gets thick.
- When all the flour is incorporated into the dough, you can tip the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it with your hands (if the floured surface doesn’t suffice, you can oil your hands to prevent the dough from sticking- essentially you want to make sure you don’t add too much extra flour) until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball and no longer sticks. It will take around 7-10 minutes of kneading. If you prod/press the dough slightly, it should spring back.
- Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl (I grease it with flavorless oil), then cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a relatively warm place. The countertop at our house suffices. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, around one and a half to two hours (keep an eye on it).
For the Filling
- At this point, you can prepare the filling. Start by combining the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, walnuts and pistachios, and salt. Set aside.
Assembling the Rolls
- Begin by preparing your baking tray. I use a 9x13 inch (approx. 23x33 cm) tray. Grease it with butter or baking spray, and/or line with parchment paper. An aluminum tray tin is best for this to ensure even baking, but I have also used a ceramic baking dish, and that works fine too.
- Once the dough has risen, gently peel the plastic wrap from the bowl and tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a large, rectangle approximately 12 x 18 inches (it doesn’t need to be perfect). If you’re having trouble rolling out the dough (it keeps pulling back), stop what you’re doing, let the dough sit for 10 minutes, then try rolling again. This relaxes the gluten.
- Spread the rectangle with the softened butter, then sprinkle atop the cinnamon-sugar leaving a ¼ inch margin of the dough un-sugared.
- Starting with the longer side, tightly roll the dough into a log, working from the middle and then outwards the edges, using your fingertips to make sure it is tight.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 12 pieces, each roughly 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long. I like to start in the middle, then divide the log into quarters, and each quarter into thirds.
- Place each roll into your prepared baking tray, and if you like, spoon any filling that escapes in transit back into the roll.
- Cover the rolls with a tea towel or plastic wrap, then let them rise again for 45 min to an hour or until doubled in size. It’s okay if they stick together, that ‘pull apart’ texture is what you are looking for!
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Place the rolls in the middle rack/lower third of your oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are golden. Just to be sure, you can try to remove one of the rolls to check for doneness (depending on your oven the rolls may brown before the bottom cooks). If the rolls are browning too quickly, place a sheet of foil then back into the oven for a couple of minutes. Let the rolls cool for around 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.
For the Cream Cheese Glaze
- For the glaze, stir together the honey and cream cheese until smooth. Note that the mixture will be quite thin (at least if you use a more spreadable variety of cream cheese). I found that 3 tbsp was perfect for the consistency, any more and it became too thin. However, if the consistency is too firm or not sweet enough, add more honey as needed.
- Drizzle the rolls with the cream cheese glaze when they are still warm and enjoy fresh. These are best the day they are made.