Monday, December 25, 2006

Deck the Rolls

In my youth, my Wonderful Parents and I had certain specific Christmas traditions: when and how to decorate the tree, who got to arrange the crèche (that would be me, thank you), in what order presents were unwrapped (cards off the tree, stockings, then presents under the tree).

But no tradition was taken more seriously than Christmas breakfast. Some years we had homemade tea rings from my aunt (the one not renowned for her baking, save for this), some years we had a giant bread, egg, and cheese casserole. But it was always understood that no presents were to be opened until we had eaten a good breakfast.

After fifteen years out on my own, I've had to modify some of those traditions to suit my own lifestyle. And while the few presents I've received have already been opened in advance of the holiday, one thing remains constant: a special breakfast.

It's no secret that I love breakfast foods, especially the fancier sweet and bready dishes like coffee cake or cinnamon rolls. It usually requires a weekend for me to indulge in making anything out of the ordinary... or perhaps a long holiday break.

In considering the possibilities this year, I kept coming back to the idea of pecan rolls, loaded with butter and spice and nuts. But I also kept wondering what those pecan rolls might taste like if I exchanged some of the milk in the recipe for eggnog.

Sounds too decadent, too lush, too rich, even for Christmas morning, you say? Bah humbug! Once I get a baking notion in my head, I have to try it out, no matter what.

So yesterday afternoon, I pulled out the necessary ingredients and got to work. Using the eggnog allowed me to cut back the eggs in the recipe from three to one, and I decreased the sugar as well, so it wasn't quite as rich as you might expect. I also added nutmeg to the dough and to the filling, just to enhance that traditional eggnog flavor.

Instead of melting the butter, pouring it over the rolled out dough, and sprinkling a sugar and spice nut mixture on top, I creamed the butter with the sugar and smeared it on the dough before adding the spiced nuts. It seems to make less of a mess, and I think it actually covers the dough more evenly. Whatever the case may be, it worked well, and the dough cut smoothly into rolls.

I decided to distribute the rolls into two pans and to freeze one pan for eating later. After all, if I'm going to have a rich breakfast, I'd better spread it out as much as possible! The rest I wrapped up and popped into the refrigerator for this morning.

After a brisk walk (my new tradition) and a shower, I slid the pan of rolls into the oven, and while they baked, I squeezed some fresh orange juice (courtesy of My Wonderful Parents) and brewed a cup of good coffee. And when the timer chimed, breakfast was served.

Warm, tender, buttery, spicy, crunchy… everything I could possibly want in a breakfast roll. The eggnog flavor definitely added a rich feeling to the rolls, and it's not something I would want all the time, but for a Christmas treat, it was perfect.

Why mess with tradition? Except to improve it, of course...

Eggnog Pecan Rolls

On Christmas morning, I look forward to having a little something of my own after a month-long baking spree dedicated to other people. This year, while sipping my favorite local eggnog, I got to wondering what cinnamon rolls or pecan rolls would taste like with eggnog incorporated into the dough. I've taken the recipes for Norwegian Coffee Cake and Pecan Rolls from the Tassajara Bread Book and modified them extensively to make use of my favorite local ingredients and to create a tender, buttery, but wholesome roll that will satisfy every child, from 1 to 92, on Christmas morning. (Save one for Santa, too!)

3/4 c eggnog
1/2 c milk
2 T active dry yeast
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c unbleached flour
1/2 c maple sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c whole wheat flour
2 to 2 1/2 c unbleached flour, as needed

1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c maple sugar
1/4 c honey
1 c chopped pecans
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat eggnog and milk together in pan over low heat just until lukewarm. Place yeast in large mixing bowl, and add eggnog and milk, allowing yeast to dissolve. Stir in 1 c whole wheat flour, 1/2 c unbleached flour, and 2 T maple sugar, mixing well. Set aside to rise, 15 to 30 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter. Add remaining maple sugar and cream until well mixed and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Add butter mixture to yeast sponge along with salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add 1 c whole wheat flour and mix until blended. Add remaining unbleached flour as necessary to form a soft but still slightly sticky dough.

Turn dough onto well-floured counter and knead in enough remaining dough until dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.

For filling, cream together butter, maple sugar, and honey. In a small bowl, combine pecans and spices. Set aside.

When dough has risen, roll it out to a rectangle approximately 1/4" thick. Spread butter mixture over the dough and sprinkle spiced nuts on top. Starting at one edge, roll up the dough fairly tight. Cut the roll into sections about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Place the sections on a greased baking sheet or in a greased pan. Let rise about 20 minutes (or refrigerate overnight and allow to come to room temperature the next morning).

Bake at 375 F for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.


At 12/28/2006 6:00 PM, Blogger Tina said...

*drool* I'm definitely going to have to try that recipe one of these days!:-)

At 1/02/2007 7:35 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Make sure you make it to share... these rolls are very rich, and you can get tired of them really fast! (Ooof!)


Post a Comment

<< Home