Saturday, January 24, 2009
It's below zero again in Minnesota (that is below zero on the Fahrenheit scale for readers who don't live in the U.S.) I figured that the intrepid band of coffee-breakers who were willing to trudge over to our house this morning deserved something special for their trouble, so I made fresh-from-the-oven caramel rolls.
While I was considering how to make these rolls without getting up at 3:00 a.m., I remembered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I haven't used for a while. I am going to go out on a limb here, and say that these rolls are probably worth the cost of the book. They will give you a (possibly undeserved) reputation as a baker. I heard, "Where did you get these rolls? You made them? That's amazing!" so often that my store of modesty was quite used up. Granted, these people have an interest in encouraging me to keep providing them with food, but this was genuine enthusiasm.
The 5-Minute-a-Day method requires you to make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until you want to use it. The authors, Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, say you can keep most of the doughs in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. The brioche dough, which I wanted to use for the pecan rolls, could be kept for only five days, so I mixed it up Wednesday night, let it rise for a few hours, and stuck it back in the refrigerator. That part was easy.
You really can't make these rolls in five minutes, however. No step is really hard, but it is time consuming. I still had to get up a 6:30 (a.m.!) (on a Saturday!) to make sure these rolls were ready on time.
This is the dough as it's dumped out of its plastic container. It doesn't look that promising, does it?
But it rolls out nicely.
As I roll out the dough, I realize that I'm a sucker for any recipe that asks you to roll out the dough, strew good things on top of it, and roll it back up, jelly roll fashion, although I've never made a jelly roll. I don't think I've ever even seen a jelly roll in the flesh, but without it, how would we know what cookbook authors were talking about when they instruct, "jelly roll fashion." I guess if they didn't exist, someone would have to invent them.
In this case, the aforementioned good things are butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans. Usually this kind of roll just has you sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the dough, but in the 5-Minute method, you cream the sugar and spices with the butter. This makes it harder to spread, and there's already so much butter in this recipe that I'm not sure that more is needed, but I have to say that nobody complained that there was too much butter.
Now you roll it up, you know how.
You cut slices off the roll and put them in a pan that's already been prepared with butter and brown sugar, creamed together, and then covered with pecan halves. More pecans than would be on anything that you might buy.
At this point, I had to punt. The recipe uses 1 1/2 pounds from 4 pounds of brioche dough. But I cut the brioche recipe in half, and I decided I might as well just turn all the dough into rolls. This gave me two pounds of dough for a recipe based on 1 1/2 pounds, so I increased all the ingredients in the pecan roll recipe by about 25%. This process overtaxed my math skills, so I'm going to give you the proportions in the original recipe, not as I fiddled around with them. The recipe says to put the rolls in a round cake pan, so I used an bigger oblong pan, figuring it would be about right. I was left with a lot of leftover dough, so I had to quickly grab a smaller cake pan, cream so more butter and sugar for the caramel part, and cut smaller rolls. I didn't tell anyone that these were makeshift, inferior rolls.
Then they had to sit for about an hour. I was so happy that I'd read the recipe the night before and allowed for this period of resting time. Otherwise, I might have had to lock the front door and hide when people started to arrive. As it was, I pulled the big pan of rolls out of the oven seven minutes before Robert, our first guest, arrived.
They looked nice and brown and fluffy in the pan, but inverting something like this is always an iffy proposition. There was so much butter that they could hardly stick. The worst that happened is that some buttery caramel sauce puddled out on the counter before I could completely get the rolls out of the pan.
Joe, our neighbor from across the street, told me they were the best sticky rolls he'd ever had, and he's had many. (Joe's wife Lela is the one who flattered my scones last week. I love Joe and Lela).
One more week of doughnut open houses, so I have to think of one more breakfast treat to make. I should have saved either this recipe or the chocolate babka as the final piece de resistance, because I'm not sure what I can bake next week that will be up to snuff. Any ideas?
BRIOCHE DOUGH (full recipe, makes about 4 1-poundloaves)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container.
Mix in the flour, using the dough hook on a mixer, or just use a spoon, until all of the flour is incorporated.
Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours
STICKY PECAN CARAMEL ROLLS
Makes 8 rolls.
1 1/2 lb. premixed brioche dough
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
30 pecan halves For filling:
Flour for rolling dough
4 tbsp. salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped and toasted pecans
Pinch of ground black pepper
To make caramel topping: In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream together butter, salt and brown sugar. Spread evenly over bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Scatter pecan halves over butter-sugar mixture and set aside.
To make rolls: Dust surface of refrigerated dough with flour and cut off 1 1/2-pound piece. Dust piece with more flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching surface of dough around to bottom on all four sides, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thick rectangle.
To make filling: In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream together butter, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread mixture evenly over rolled dough and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Starting with long end, roll dough into a log, jelly-roll fashion. Using a serrated knife, cut log into 8 equal pieces and arrange rolls over pecans in cake pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest and rise 1 hour at room temperature. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and set well in center. Remove to a wire rack. While still hot, run a knife around inside of pan to release rolls and invert rolls immediately to a serving dish.