caramel pecan cinnamon rolls

As promised in my first post of the new year, the recipe for my Aunt Sarah’s cinnamon rolls, aka the best cinnamon rolls ever.

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She told me the original recipe came from the back of a bag of flour and she has tweaked it over the years to get it right.  In fact when I asked for the recipe she had to translate it for me because she was still using the original cut-out from the back of the flour bag which was in rough shape and didn’t have any of her modifications noted on it.  Point is, this recipe is time-tested and a proven winner.  Trust me on this one.

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You begin by making the sweet dough which then gets divided in two and is kneaded and then sits for a little while to rise.

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Next you roll the dough out into two rectangles and spread with softened butter (I microwaved the butter for about 30 seconds so it was partially melted and that seemed to work well) and then sprinkle with a brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

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Then you roll the dough up.

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Once the dough is rolled up you use a sharp knife or kitchen twine and cut the dough into 1 1/2″ sections.  I got a little too generous with a few rolls and they wound up being closer to 2″ which messes up the caramel-to-roll ratio in the end so I advise you get don’t cut them any wider than 1 1/2″.

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Next you put 4 to 6 tablespoons of melted butter in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan, then drizzle 1/2 of light corn syrup over the top, followed by 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and finally pecans if you are using.  I decided to make half the pan with pecans and half without.  Another tip here that I wish I had thought of before I baked the rolls: butter the sides of the pan so the rolls don’t stick and therefore drop out of the pan easier when you get that point.

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Then you place the rolls into the pan on top of the buttery-sugary goodness and let rise in the fridge for 2 to 48 hours.  Once they have risen in the fridge you then take them out and let them rest on the counter for another 1 to 2 hours.  Do not do as I did and stuff the pan quite as full as the below picture shows.  I forgot to take into account that the dough nearly doubles in size so it threw off the baking time of the rolls since they were too close together and a few rolls in the middle of the pan did not cook all the way through.  I think I would have been okay if I had taken 3 rolls out of the 9″ x 13″ pan and placed them in a separate pan to bake.  Live and learn.

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After the rolls bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes (I recommend checking after 20 minutes and if they are browning already, cover with aluminum foil for duration of baking time) you flip the pan over (away from you) into prepared foil with upturned edges so you do not get caramel all over your counter top.  The caramel from the bottom of the pan coats the rolls in a beautiful golden brown and the scent is heavenly.

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Alas, because I did not butter the sides of the pan and then stuffed a few too many in, my rolls did not come out the pan in an attractive manner.  They still tasted wonderful but were not so much photo-worthy so I am instead substituting with a photo of the rolls my aunt made at Christmas.  As they say, practice makes perfect…

Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls (CoolRise Rapidmix Sweet Dough Recipe)

Dough:

  • 4 – 5 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup (1 stick) soft butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups very hot tap water
  • 2 eggs at room temperature

Filling & Caramel:

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
  • 1 ½ brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup pecans, optional

Make dough:

Combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar & salt in large bowl (use pedestal mixer if you have one).  Stir well to blend and add softened butter.

Add hot tap water to ingredients in bowl.  Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape sides of bowl occasionally.

Add eggs and 1 cup more flour.  Beat with electric mixer at high speed for 1 minute or until thick and elastic.  Scrape sides of bowl occasionally.

Stir in remaining flour gradually with wooden spoon.  Use just enough flour to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl.  (I only used about 4 and ½ cups bread flour.)  Turn out onto floured board.  Round up into a ball.

Divide dough into two equal portions.  Knead 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic

Cover with plastic wrap & then a dry towel.  Let rest 15-20 minutes and punch down.

Make pecan rolls:

Roll each ball into a 12” x 18” rectangle (approximate size).  Spread with 1 stick of softened butter and sprinkle with a mixture of ¾ cup of the brown sugar and all of the cinnamon.  Starting at the longest side, roll up the dough leaving the seam side down.  Using a sharp knife or twine, cut each roll about 1 ½ inches deep.

Butter sides of a 9” x  13” pan and then put 4 tablespoons of melted butter in the bottom of the pan, swirl light corn syrup over butter, and sprinkle remaining ¾ cup brown sugar on top.  Add whole or chopped pecans to the pan and then lay cinnamon rolls on top.  Lightly brush rolls with melted butter, cover loosely with plastic wrap, then a dry towel and refrigerate 2 to 48 hours.

Remove rolls from the fridge and uncover, letting them rise at room temperature for approximately 1 to 2 hours, or until nearly doubled in size.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until done (making sure the rolls aren’t doughy in the center).  Cover lightly with foil if they brown too quickly while baking.

Remove from the pan onto a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil with edges that have been turned up (to prevent hot caramel from spilling onto the counter).  Make sure to tip the pan away from you to prevent caramel from splashing on you.

rosemary bourbon pecan sweet potato pie

This pie is full of all kinds of things I like: sweet potatoes, rosemary, pecans, bourbon.  What’s not to like in there?

I must warn you that this pie is not for the low maintenance baker wanting to whip up something quick.  There are multiple steps and they take some time.  But the end result is well worth it, and as with the other pies I have posted in recent weeks, this would be great for Thanksgiving.  Especially if it’s the only thing you are responsible for bringing to the meal!

The early steps involve roasting sweet potatoes until they are tender enough to puree.  You also have to candy up some pecans and let those cool while you work on the rest of the pie.  (Try to resist the urge to eat them all or you’ll regret that when it comes time to place them decoratively on top of the pie in a few minutes.)  You have to roll out a crust and fit it into a pie pan and then put that in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.  The one kind of high-maintenance step that is never my favorite to do involves separating the eggs and beating the egg whites until foamy and then folding them in with the rest of the batter.  I don’t know why it’s not my favorite thing to do because it’s really not that difficult but it does add a little extra time to the process.

As I said above though, all the extra steps are well worth it.  The resulting pie is light (which is not an easy feat for a sweet potato pie) and the rosemary adds a hint of savory, while the candied pecans add a nice sweet crunch, and the bourbon and maple syrup add a certain depth to the flavor.  And if you artfully arrange the candied pecans (which I didn’t so much do) it’s also a very impressive-looking pie.  Wow your guests this Thanksgiving!

Rosemary Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • ½ recipe Basic Pie Dough (see below)

Pecan Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Filling:

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan.  Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively.  Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping and filling.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the pecans, maple syrup, bourbon, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and gooey.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Prick the potatoes 3 or 4 times apiece with the tines of a kitchen fork.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, leaving the oven on and reducing the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Let the potatoes stand 10 to 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins and put the flesh in a large bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until softened and smooth.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until billowy peaks form.  Set aside.

Add the heavy cream and butter to the bowl containing the mashed sweet potatoes.  Whisk until the butter melts and the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the egg yolks until fully combined.

Place the bourbon in a medium-size saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the maple syrup and brown sugar.  Boil 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the brown sugar melts.

Remove from the heat and pour into the potato mixture.  Whisk until well combined.  Add the rosemary, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk to blend thoroughly.

Add the beaten egg whites to the potato mixture.  Fold in gently with a spatula until the whites are fully incorporated.

Pour the filling into the chilled crust, using a spatula to distribute it evenly.  Arrange the candied pecans decoratively over the filling in a pattern that you like.

Bake in the 350 F oven for 1 hour, until the filling is set and doesn’t jiggle when the pie pan is gently shaken.

Cool at least 50 to 60 minutes before serving, so the pie has time to set up and firm throughout.

Basic Pie Dough (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ vegetable shortening, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.

Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter and shortening when you’re done.)

Slowly drizzle in the ice water and stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats.  The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.

Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a ½-inch thick disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.