(Image credit: Samantha Seneviratne)

I was recently flipping through my copy of Deborah Madison's beautiful book Vegetable Literacy. Besides those tempting Madison-style recipes that can create new cravings for any vegetable, including those you've scarcely ever heard of before, this book includes lovely stories of her vegetable adventures and a bit of backstory on each plant. Beyond the recipes, it's a great read.

(Image credit: Samantha Seneviratne)

When I got to the section on the convolvulaceae family, I was enchanted to learn that sweet potatoes and morning glories are in the same plant family. Sweet potato plants even grow those gorgeous, delicate pinkish purple blooms that morning glories are known for.

(Image credit: Samantha Seneviratne)

A little daydreaming later and I started to think that sweet potatoes could in fact add to the making of a glorious morning. We don't naturally think of sweet potatoes for breakfast, but I've been known to eat leftovers with a fried egg and a little bit of Sriracha for my first meal. Breakfast sweet potatoes make me happy for hours afterwards. Ms. Madison got me thinking that it might be possible to make sweet potatoes an even bigger part of the morning's glory.

(Image credit: Samantha Seneviratne)

Cinnamon buns make all mornings better. Knowing that standard potatoes do wonders for the texture of plain white bread, I assumed that sweet potatoes might add something special to my morning bun recipe. A little roasted purée in the mix gave the dough a beautiful burnished-orange color, just the right amount of moisture, and a hint of earthy sweetness. These are the squishiest buns I've ever been proud to call my own.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Buns

Makes 10

2/3 cups whole milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing the bowl
1 large egg
1/2 cup sweet potato purée, from 1 roasted sweet potato
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface, if necessary
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt
3 to 5 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature

To prepare the dough, in a small pot, bring the milk just to a boil over medium heat. Watch closely to ensure that the milk doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat and add the butter to the pot to melt. Add the mixture to a small bowl and let it cool to 105°F to 110°F. (It should be warm to the touch, but not too hot.) Add the egg and sweet potato purée and stir to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the warm milk mixture and mix just until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a buttered bowl, cover it, and leave it in a warm, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

To prepare the filling, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Butter a 12-inch cast iron pan. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a 12- by 11-inch rectangle. Spread the 3 tablespoons butter evenly over the surface and sprinkle with the reserved filling. Tightly roll up the dough and pinch the top seam closed. With a serrated knife, cut the roll crosswise into 10 equal pieces. Set them in the pan with the topping, spirals facing upward. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let them rest until the dough has almost doubled again, about 1 hour to 90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the rolls and bake until golden-brown and puffed and a thermometer inserted into the center reads 185°F to 190°F, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is the desired consistency.

Let buns cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then frost. Let cool slightly before eating.

Recipe Notes:

If you'd like warm buns for breakfast, follow the recipe through the first rise, then fill and shape the buns. Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, a few hours before you plan to eat, let the chilled buns come to room temperature and double.

More posts in Sweet Veggie Treats from Samantha Seneviratne