Sticky Pecan Rolls for Christmas Morning

These are a winner, all the way around. Perfectly sticky, soft dough, just the right amount of spice all combine for a perfect Christmas morning cinnamon roll. The original recipe comes from Joy Wilson, via the Washington Post, 2020.

Sticky Pecan Rolls

    If you want a fresh-baked batch of rolls when you wake up, proceed with the recipe through the step when you place the cut rolls into the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan with lots of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, let the rolls come to room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes while you preheat the oven. Then bake as directed.

Ingredients

For the dough:
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons warm water
Scant 3 cups (360 grams) flour, plus more for dusting the counter
½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk, at room temperature, or more as needed
⅓ cup (65 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into medium chunks

For the filling inside the pecan roll:
½ cup (99 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the sticky topping:
½ cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
⅓ cup (113 grams) honey
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1¼ cups (125 grams) coarsely chopped pecans

Make the dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast with the warm water until combined. Add the flour, milk, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture into a shaggy dough.

Place the bowl on the stand mixer and mix on low speed, slowly adding chunks of butter as the dough comes together. [Note: This is kind of weird, and doesn’t look as if the butter will incorporate, but it does.] If the dough looks too dry, add an additional tablespoon of milk.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand into a cohesive, relatively smooth ball, about 3 minutes.

Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Make the filling:

While the dough rises, in a medium bowl stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt until combined. Reserve the room-temperature butter for use in assembling the sticky rolls.

Make the topping:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, honey, butter and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

Generously flour a work surface and unwrap the dough onto it. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 15 inches. Spread the reserved butter over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture on top. Starting with the long edge of the dough, lift and roll it into a tight log, seam-side down. Using a sharp knife, trim off the uneven edges. Slice the log into 9 equal pieces.

Pour the prepared pecan topping into a 9-inch greased square pan. Nestle the cut rolls over the topping. [Note: I slightly flattened out the rolls into a bit larger circle when I placed them in the pan.] Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest while the oven preheats, about 20 minutes. (To store overnight, skip the 20-minute rest, cover the rolls with lots of plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight. Let come to room temperature before baking.)

Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Uncover the rolls and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the entire pan onto a large serving platter. Scrape any nuts or caramel that remain in the pan on top of the rolls. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 420; Total Fat: 24 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 65 mg; Sodium: 130 mg; Carbohydrates: 48 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 23 g; Protein: 5 g.

Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes

This recipe originally comes from Bon Appetit, and was in their special Thanksgiving Issue from 2014. A classic issue, if there ever was one. It also had the Spatch-cocked Turkey recipe.

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2” pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
1½ cups whole milk
3 sprigs thyme (optional)
2 bay leaves
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1”. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but not saturated or crumbly, 20–25 minutes (boiling will lead to waterlogged pieces).

Drain potatoes, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid if making potatoes ahead. Return potatoes to pot and set over low heat. Gently stir until dry, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, heat milk, thyme sprigs, if desired, bay leaves, and ¾ cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat.

Pass hot potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl (if allowed to cool, the potatoes will become gummy).

Remove herbs from warm milk mixture; discard. Gradually add milk mixture to potatoes, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and smooth; season with salt and pepper. Serve mashed potatoes with a few pats of butter on top.

Hasselback Potatoes

The name of this potato comes from the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served: Hasselbacken. I used a giant russet potato, but I think this might be better with a Yukon Gold or other medium-sized thin-skinned potato.

Tip for cutting: Lay two wood-handled spatulas/spoons on either side of the potato, and slice the potato crosswise at 1/8″ intervals, cutting to within 1/4″ of the bottom.

Ingredients:
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed; leave skin on
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes, then cut as shown above in the photo, making sure not to cut through the bottom of the potato, as it will fan out a bit as it bakes.

Combine olive oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Mix well. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet (can line with foil, if desired). Spoon some of the mixture over the top of the potato, then carefully insert pinches of the mixture in between the slits of the potatoes. Rub the outside with any leftover mixture, or if needed, a bit more olive oil.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the inside is cooked through and the outside of the potato is a bit crispy. If olive oil pools in the pan, it’s possible to baste the potatoes with this one time, to assist in crisping. Garnish with additional parmesan and chopped chives.

Note: the giant russets took forever to cook, nearly 90 minutes, and the flavor is earthy (not buttery like the Yukons), so I won’t use them again.

Honey-Garlic Roast Carrots

Ingredients
2 pounds carrots washed and peeled
1/3 cup butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
3 garlic cloves minced
Salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking oil spray; set aside. (If you choose to line the pan with foil, it may stick, so be generous with your cooking spray.)

Trim ends of carrots and cut into thirds. If the end of the carrot is thick, cut in half lengthwise, so that all carrots are about the same size. Place into large bowl.

Melt butter in a pan or skillet over medium-heat. Pour in honey, oil, garlic and cook while stirring, until garlic is fragrant.

Pour over the carrots, tossing so the carrots are well coated. Transfer carrots to baking sheet, and arrange into a single layer so they cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until carrots are fork-tender. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

Optional: Broil for 2-3 minutes on high heat to crisp/char the edges. (I did not do this.)

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Crust

I served this to my pumpkin-pie-loving son Peter, a bit nervous to see if this new version — with a shortbread crust — would pass muster. It did, and it will be a long time before I go back to the other pie crust.

Prepare Pan:
Lightly butter/grease the bottom of a 9″ square metal cake pan. Using a longer length of parchment paper, line the pan so there is an overhang of paper on two sides of the pan (to facilitate the easy release and removal of the bars after baking).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Crust: Into the bowl of a food processor, place 2/3 cup whole pecans. Pulse a couple of times to break them up.

Add:
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Pulse a few times to further chop the pecans and to blend.

Cut 6 Tablespoons of stick butter into smaller pieces, distribute around the flour mixture in food processor bowl. Pulse until butter is smaller than pea size. It will be loose in texture. Dump into the prepared pan, and with the back of a spatula, press into pan evenly. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, but do not let it burn. Remove from oven.

Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.

Filling (can be made while crust is cooking):
Mix together dry ingredients in a small bowl:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt

Into separate, large mixing bowl, blend:
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, yokes broken

Add in dry ingredients (sugar and spices). When blended, add in 1 12-ounce can light evaporated milk (see notes below). Carefully pour over prepared crust.

Place in 350 degree F oven, and bake for about 55 – 60 minutes, or until knife inserted about 1-1/2″ from the center comes out clean.

Let cool on rack to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, gently loosen edge of crust from pan, then lift out and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, to which 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar has been added before beating it into soft peaks.

Note: Instead of light condensed milk, regular condensed milk may be used. The original recipe called for 1 cup half-and-half along with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, a shake of pepper and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I just went with the regular Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, and it worked just fine.

Charred Carrots with Orange/Balsamic Glaze

This is originally a recipe from Ina Garten, but as I didn’t have any “syrupy balsamic vinegar” that she calls for in the recipe, I made some modifications.

Ingredients
   1 ½ pounds rainbow carrots, scrubbed (about 8 large or 15 medium carrots)
   3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
    1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
   Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  ½ orange, zested and juiced
  1 tablespoon high quality balsamic vinegar (if you have the aged syrupy kind, all the better)
   Fleur de sel or sea salt

Preparation
   Position an oven rack 4 inches away from the broiler and heat the broiler.
   Cut the carrots crosswise into 4-inch lengths. Cut the larger pieces lengthwise in half or quarters so the sticks are roughly 1/2-inch wide. Place in a bowl, and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.
   Place the carrots on a sheet pan and grind 1/2 teaspoon pepper over everything. Spread the carrots out in an even layer.
   Broil the carrots for about 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes, until they are tender and randomly charred. Top the carrots with the orange zest, orange juice and vinegar, return to broiler so juice/vinegar mixture thickens up a bit and coats the carrots. Sprinkle with some fleur de sel, if you have it, or kosher salt/grind some salt, if you don’t.

Taste for seasonings, then serve warm or at room temperature.

Barbara’s Texas Roadhouse Rolls

Ingredients
4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar (to activate the yeast)
2 cups milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
3 tbsp butter unsalted, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup sugar
7 – 8 cups all-purpose flour (start with less, then add as you go)
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter unsalted, for brushing over the finished rolls

Instructions
Add the yeast, warm water and sugar to the bowl of your mixer and lightly whisk. Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes until the yeast dissolves and starts to foam.
    To the bowl of the mixer add the milk, butter, sugar, eggs and salt. Lightly mix everything together, using the dough hook of your mixer, for about one minute. Add the flour, 2 or 3 cups at a time, and mix.
   Add additional flour as needed and mix until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl and forms a soft dough. (The total flour could be anywhere from 6 to 8 cups, depending on your environment.)
Don’t overmix as roll dough should be softer than bread dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until double in bulk.
   Brush two baking sheets with melted butter.
   Punch down the dough and turn it onto a floured surface. Divide into two portions for shaping. Roll out the dough so that it’s about 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut into squares or rectangles; some of the edges will be triangular. Re-roll those, or just enjoy the shape. Repeat with remaining dough.  Yield is roughly 30 to 35 rolls. Place onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the rolls rise until doubled in size.

    Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Bake the rolls for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush immediately with melted butter.

If desired, serve with Cinnamon Honey Butter.
Prepare while rolls are baking, by whisking all the ingredients together:
1 stick butter unsalted, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Peppermint-Chocolate Layered Dessert

This uses three ingredients.  Now that’s a quick dessert.  However, it does need to spend some time in the freezer.
So, please, begin this the night before your event, in order to let this freeze solid.

Ingredients
One 14 oz. package chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreo type)
1/2 cube (4 ounces) melted butter
One 1-1/2 quart container of peppermint ice cream

Preparation

Prepare the pan by lightly greasing the bottom only of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Fold a length of parchment paper in half, creasing well.  Use that crease to center the parchment paper, then smooth out, letting the paper overhang the long edges by about 2-3.”  Set aside.

I’m crushing them more!

Put all the cookies into a zipper plastic bag, OR into a bowl OR into your food processor (easiest).  Crush them thoroughly, or if you have a food processor, pulse until the texture of fine gravel, or chunky sand.  The crumbs should be small, with no obvious big chunks of cookie.

Reserve one cup of the this pulverized mixture for the crumble topping, and if it’s not really fine, do some more crushing.  Set aside.

Place the remainder of the crushed cookies into a mixing bowl, and add 1/4 cup melted butter.  (I like the real thing.)  Mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan, and press firmly with the back of a spoon to even out the crushed cookies.  Place in freezer until solid, about 2 hours.

Set out one carton of ice cream on the counter for about 15 minutes, or until the carton yields slightly when squeezed.  Dump (squirt, sort of ) into a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle beater, let sit for about another 10 minutes.  Turn on mixer slowly, then up to medium, while you beat the ice cream into a creamy mixture.  If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle attachment, use a bowl and a sturdy spoon.  You don’t want the mixture to melt; it should be creamy, not runny.  Work fast if you are doing it by hand.

Spoon it out onto the frozen layer of crushed cookie in glops; spread evenly.

Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs, and refreeze.  It will take at least four to six hours for the ice cream to freeze properly.

Why the overhanging parchment paper?  When you are ready to serve, lift it out onto a board, cut with a knife, then replace remainder back into the pan. Store dessert in the freezer, either with the lid to your 9 x 13, or with foil.  (This is shown just before it received its crumb topping.)

Cranberry Curd Pie

I first saw this on the New York Times website, then saw it again on the Bon Appetit website, then about a bajillion other bot-driven websites (all looking the same, all “authored” by a single-named woman, who promised hearth and home and happiness while inundating the viewer with ads-ads-ads).  What is it with these robot websites??

I read about 90% of the comments on the NYTimes recipe site pertaining to this recipe, and have incorporated my changes below.  This pie is gluten-free because I wanted to make it for a woman at my church who can’t eat gluten, and has not had a dessert at a church dinner in a millenia.  This is my holiday gift to her, and to you.  First, the recipe, then the photos (reverse of the usual).

Cranberry Curd Pie

Almond Crust
2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Place in medium bowl, stir to mix (or use food processor).

Cut in 6 Tablespoons of softened butter, until crumbs are fine, and you can gather the dough together in your hands.  If too dry, add 1-2 Tablespoons water, a bit at a time.  Press dough evenly into a 10-inch tart pan with removeable bottom; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom.  Prick all over with a fork.  Tear off a piece of aluminum foil the size of the tart pan, and butter the dull side.  Press onto your tart butter-side down; freeze for at least 30 minutes.  This can be made a couple of days ahead.  Just make sure the aluminum foil seals the tart well. (photos below)

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chilled tart shell with the foil into the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully take off the foil.  Finish baking for another 5 minutes.  Cool.

Cranberry Curd Filling
12 ounces cranberries, washed and picked over (almost 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
Peel of one orange, removed with a vegetable peeler, in strips (then rip into about 2″ pieces)
Juice of one orange, or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1-1/2 Teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, softened

Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, and liquid has diminished, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove orange peels.  Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until berries are not noticeable in the pan.

Set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl, and spoon the cranberry mixture into the sieve, pressing it into the bowl. (See note below about what remains in the sieve.)

Wash the pan (or get another).  Break in the two eggs, then add in the two egg yolks.  Stir to break up yolks.  Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons (1/2 Tablespoon) cornstarch until blended.  You may see some white bumps; ignore.

Spoon cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.  Set over low heat, and constantly whisking/stirring, bring mixture to a temperature of between 140 and 160.  The commenters noted that when properly cooked, the curd should coat a spoon.  This took me about 15 minutes.  I did keep it constantly stirring, but I wasn’t beating it.  I didn’t want to incorporate any air into the mixture and disrupt the anticipated color.

Remove from heat, and stir in the butter a bit at a time, whisking well in between each addition.  Again, don’t incorporate air in your mixing.  Let cool to room temperature (mine was a little warmer), and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, in order to set the curd.  Cool on a rack.  Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Sugared Cranberries for topping

Boil together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water until mixture is at a full boil and looks clear.  If you have time, let the syrup cool.
Wash and pick out your best handful of berries (3/4 to 1 cup), and stir into the syrup, making sure they are well coated.  Remove to a fine rack (or into a strainer).

Sprinkle some sugar onto a square of waxed paper, and sprinkle some more over the top.  Then roll the berries in the sugar.  If they are well-drained, you won’t get clumps of sugar, but a nice, even coating.  Let cool and dry, then decorate the top.  I meant to clip some mint sprigs to place at the center berries; you might want to consider this.

Cooks Notes:

After all was said and done, I had about 1/2 cup left of the cranberry mash in my sieve from making the curd.  This went nicely with a slice of Cranberry-Orange Bread that I had in the freezer, as it’s like a jam. Store in the refrigerator.

If using the almond crust, best eaten on the day you make it.
Day One: it was perfection.
Day Two: crust was really soft, but curd was still good.

Alternate crust: Sweet Tart Dough (more like a shortbread cookie)

Curd can made be ahead.  Cover curd with plastic wrap (pressing it against the surface of the curd) and refrigerate up to one week.

Now the photos!

Roasted Root Vegetables (for Christmas Dinner)

vegetables before roasting

Roasted Root Vegetables

12 – 13 cups red potatoes chunks (4 lbs.)
6 cups sliced carrots (2 lbs.)
8 cups chopped onions (4 medium – about 2 lbs.)
2 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Cut up the vegetables (and photo, above):

  • Scrub potatoes.  Leave skins on but cut off any bad spots. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Slice each half lengthwise again and slice once crossways.  (If a potato is unusually large or small, adjust cuts accordingly.) In other words, you’ll end up with 8 chunks per average size potato.
  • Peel carrots.  Trim small end on the diagonal.  Cut each carrot on the diagonal about 1 1/2” long and about ¾” wide. (Do not include the top end.)
  • Peel onions.  Cut each in half lengthwise.  Cut each half lengthwise two or three times so that the cuts are about 1” apart.  Cut these pieces across into about 1” pieces.  Don’t worry.  These will all cook down.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and toss together along with melted butter,  olive oil and seasonings.

Meanwhile, place two large rimmed baking sheets in oven and preheat to 450F.  When oven is ready, remove baking sheets and spread half of vegetable mixture onto each one. (NOTE: If the vegetables are too crowded, they will steam, not roast.  Please give them room.)

Use a pancake turner or wide spatula to turn vegetables over and mix around about every 15 minutes for about an hour until nicely browned.  Switch the top pan to the lower rack and the bottom pan to the lower rack about midway to promote even browning.  Some of the onion pieces may get quite dark.  Don’t worry about.  It adds flavor and an earthy look.

Cover the pans with foil or combine the batches into one container to deliver to the church kitchen by 5:45 p.m..  From there we will combine all of the contributions into roaster ovens to keep warm. Please take your own pans to your car to take home to wash.

Thank you!