Dinner with Kirsten

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(Almost like Grandma’s) Cinnamon Rolls

March 27th, 2008 · 86 Comments

I discovered, through the course of random conversation, that Geoff had never had a homemade cinnamon roll. This boggled my mind! When I was young, my Grandma Lois would alternate between making cinnamon rolls and kolaches almost every weekend.

Grandma Lois was not a recipe filer by nature. She owned hundreds of cookbooks full of dog-eared pages and sticky notes, she had drawers and drawers of hand-written recipes and clippings from newspapers and magazines stuffed into books and “filed” randomly. Grandpa Ernie complained that she could never make the same recipe twice, even the good ones—they would get lost in the shuffle. Luckily, she knew family favorites by heart (with maybe a cheat sheet or two taped inside a cupboard door). But now that she’s gone I’m constantly on the look-out for Grandma-Lois-like recipes, and Geoff’s cinnamon roll predicament posed a new challenge.

Strictly speaking, what Grandma Lois usually made were pecan rolls, since the dough bakes on top of a layer of pecans, sugar and butter. When they come out of the oven all golden and hot, you invert the pan onto a plate so the caramelized pecan sauce comes out as a topping. I was thrilled to find this Bon Appétit recipe on Epicurious . It’s minimalist, with only a few key ingredients (I had to run to the corner store for pecans) and easy-to-follow steps.

They taste almost like Grandma’s, and Geoff liked them. He doesn’t say too much when he likes food (I’m more of an “ooo” and “ahh” person than he is), but they were gone in less than a day.

I should mention that I halved the recipe and baked them in a round cake pan. (There’s only two of us, after all.) I also decided to include milk for half the water the original recipe called for. Happy baking!

Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans
Adapted from Bon Appétit.

3/4 cups warm water (about 110°F)
3/4 cup warm milk
(or just 1 1/2 cups warm water)

1 3/4 cups sugar
2 envelopes dry yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pecan halves

Combine 3/4 cup warm water, 3/4 cup warm milk and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over and let stand until foamy, about 6 minutes. Mix in vegetable oil and salt. Add enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to form soft dough. Turn dough out onto floured work surface, and knead until it’s smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky. (This should take about 10 minutes.)

Lightly oil a clean large bowl. Put the dough in and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then cover with kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. While you’re waiting, beat the butter, cinnamon and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in medium bowl to blend.

Turn dough out onto floured work surface (do not punch down). Roll out or press dough gently (I like to just press it into shape with my hands) to a 16×10-inch rectangle. Using a spatula, spread 1 cup butter mixture evenly over dough. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Starting at 1 long side, roll up dough jelly-roll style, forming log. Pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut log crosswise into 12 equal pieces.

Spread remaining butter mixture over bottom of 15×10x2-inch metal baking pan. (I used a round cake pan for 6 rolls, so for a full recipe I would just use two cake pans.) Sprinkle 1 cup pecan halves evenly over butter mixture in pan. Arrange rolls, cut side down, in prepared pan, spacing evenly. Cover pan with plastic wrap. Let rolls rise in warm draft-free area until light and puffed, about 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Bake cinnamon rolls uncovered until tops are golden brown, about 35 minutes. (Since I consider over-baking the cardinal sin of baking, I set my alarm for 20 minutes and then stalked the rolls for the last few minutes they stayed in the oven.)

Remove pan from oven. Using sharp knife, cut around sides of pan. Place large baking sheet over pan. Using oven mitts as aid, hold baking sheet and pan together and turn over, releasing cinnamon rolls onto sheet. Serve cinnamon rolls warm or at room temperature (with a glass of milk!).

Tags: baking · dessert · recipes

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