Dinner with Kirsten

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(Almost like Grandma’s) Cinnamon Rolls

March 27th, 2008 · 85 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

85 responses so far ↓

  • 1 juan // Mar 27, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    But where are the pictures?!! Kirsten, in order to have a food porn site you need juicy pictures of the glaze dripping off the freshly baked cinnamon rolls next to a sweatingly cold glass of whole milk. Mmmmmm….that’s better.

  • 2 Kirsten // Mar 27, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I know! :) I’ll have some pictures next time!

  • 3 Jiayang // Mar 27, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    do you want to hire me for taking the pictures? I just want turkey legs as payment.

  • 4 Annie // Mar 27, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Oooooh, I want pictures of turkey legs!! I love salty, smoky, meat on a stick. Yum. Kirsten, I think you should do an entry (or week of “entrees” - ha, get it?) dedicated to MEAT!

  • 5 Kirsten // Mar 28, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Lol! Weren’t you worried California was going to turn you into a vegetarian??!

  • 6 Annie // Mar 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Ha! I guess I’m a midwestern girl through and through. =)

    I have a food-question for you - what to do with leftover tomato paste? I always have tons leftover after making a sauce or something that only requires 1-2 Tbsp. Any good recipes that you’ve run across to finish it off?

  • 7 juan // Mar 28, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Annie, you just multiply the recipe until you’ve used the whole can! Then you can cook for your whole intern class!

  • 8 Kirsten // Mar 28, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I would recommend doing what Juan suggests! :) Only instead of trying to eat it all in one day, I would make extra and freeze it. Especially sauce. I always make extra tomato sauce and stick it in the freezer for a day when I don’t feel like cooking.

    I’ve also heard people say that they like to freeze the tomato paste by itself, sometimes in portioned out cubes. (You just put a tablespoon or two into ice cube trays and then pop them out and put them into a bag when they’re frozen.)

    Oh, and I’ve been meaning to try tomato paste that comes in a tube! I’ve seen Food Network chefs use it. If you try it out, let me know how it works!

  • 9 Kelsey Vala // Mar 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Great. Now Mom is making me make these. Thanks a lot.
    :-D

  • 10 Kathy C // Apr 1, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Kelsey, I have a great plan. Since your mom is going to have you make these wonderful cinnamon rolls (I don’t know if they are really wonderful, but it Geoff says they are than I am sure they are) you can just drop them off at my house. I would hate to see them go to waste. I am doing this only as a favor to you since you ‘have’ to make them.

  • 11 Kelsey Vala // Apr 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Haha. These are really, really good. Zach and I made these, and we both love them…they are almost all gone! We might just have to make these for the pumpkin patch some day.

  • 12 Christina // Apr 4, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Regarding tomato paste, you need to definitely get your hands on tomato paste in a tube, it’s life altering and exactly the same as the stuff that comes in the little cans. You just keep it in the fridge until you’re in need again. :)

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