Friday, December 10, 2010

Cinnamon-Spiced Sweet Rolls with Pecans and Cream Cheese Frosting

The secret to the golden-glow, is the pumpkin!

My grandmother's homemade, caramel-pecan sticky-buns, where a staple on every holiday dinner table.  My brother and I were always on the look-out for seconds and thirds, and would gladly have made them our entire meal.

I followed Grandma's recipe for the gooey, golden yeast rolls for years, but was disappointed when I'd find myself having to toss a half-eaten, or slightly picked-at sticky-bun in the trash.  I finally conceded that Grandma's vintage recipe produced a roll that was heavy and dense by today's standards.  My family just didn't seem to care for them.

Unwilling to give-up on the family sticky-bun tradition, I tried several different contemporary recipes, but none seemed special enough to accompany a stuffed roast turkey, or standing rib roast.  I'd nearly given up, when I stumbled across this very different recipe in our local newspaper.  While not a true sticky-bun (no caramel) these sweet, cinnamon-infused spirals, are a delightful accompaniment to any holiday meal.

This no-knead recipe is incredibly easy to follow, and produces an extraordinarily light, and tender yeast bread. The secret to the golden glow, is the pumpkin.  I topped mine off with a cream cheese glaze.  Unlike many homemade yeast breads, left-overs stay fresh-tasting and moist for a day or two, after the main event!  Pop one in the toaster oven the morning after, and enjoy it with a cup of chai-tea or a lightly spiced holiday coffee.

1/4 cup water
1 package yeast (one level tablespoon)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups finely chopped, toasted pecans, divided in half

powdered sugar
cream cheese

For dough:
Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and mix to dissolve.  Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted.  Pour the milk mixture over the sugar, in a large mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk/sugar mixture is still very warm, but not hot, stir in the dissolved yeast mixture.  Add the pumpkin puree and stir to combine.  Finally, add the salt and 5 cups of the flour.  The dough should form a shaggy, moist ball when all the flour is combined.  If it appears to be too wet, add up to 1/2 cup of additional flour (too much flour will make the rolls heavy).

Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 to 3 hours (until doubled in size).  Punch the dough down and refrigerate until ready to use (overnight or up to 18 hours).

To continue:  Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Pat it into a rough rectangle (the dough will be soft and tender).  Using a floured rolling pin, shape into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick.

For filling:  Melt the butter.  Add the brown sugar, and spices.  Spread filling mixture over the rectangle of dough, to the ends of both short sides and one long side.  Leave a 1 inch band of dough free of filling on one long side (the top of rectangle).  Sprinkle one cup of chopped pecans evenly over top.

Beginning with the bottom of the rectangle, roll the dough into a cylinder.  Pinch the dough together at the top of the rectangle to seal.  Coat two 9 x 11 glass casserole dishes with butter.  Cut the cylinder into individual 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Place each piece in a casserole dish, spiral side up, leaving a little wiggle-room between each piece.  Continue until the casseroles are both full.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for for 30 - 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let baked rolls cool for about 10 minutes.

For glaze:    Place about 2 cups of powdered sugar in a small bowl.  Add 3 ounces of softened cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Carefully, blend until all lumps disappear and glaze is smooth (add more milk if necessary).

Beginning at the center of each roll, spread a dollop of glaze.  Quickly, sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans on each casserole.  To serve, remove rolls from casseroles using a spatula, and place each on an individual bread plate to the left of the dinner plate.  Serve with additional soft butter for a real treat!

Note:  After further contemplation, I bet these could easily become sticky-buns, with the addition of a simple caramel syrup in the bottom of the casserole.  The buns would have to be inverted onto a cookie sheet immediately after baking.  I think I'll try this variation at Christmas, and let you know how it turns out! 

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