One of the best things about my winter in Arizona was that I had so many girl friends in town for coffee dates and afternoon walks and, most importantly, girls’ nights.
I hosted one big girls’ night dinner at my place and, since I was accommodating a variety of tastes, I went with something ethnic, but also classic:
Chicken Tikka Masala.
Also, homemade naan (because what Indian meal is ever complete without naan?).
For the Chicken Tikka Masala, I used this recipe, but I cut the onions down by about 25 or 30%.
For the naan, I used this recipe and cooked only enough for the meal, then reserved the rest of the dough and made and ate it throughout the next few days. I also added one last step that made a huge difference: when you’re mixing the dry ingredients, add about 1/2 a teaspoon (or more, to taste) of cumin and a small handful of chopped cilantro. It changes everything.
And just to shake things up and be a little crazy, we had chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to make homemade cinnamon rolls.
I am, really, more of a cook than a baker, an artist rather than a scientist. And my sweet tooth runs more toward good, warm chocolate chip cookies.
But then I met a guy whose first food confession to me was that he’s in love with cinnamon rolls. So it was time to make an attempt.
I chose to follow Pioneer Woman’s basic cinnamon roll recipe (in part because it incorporates maple flavoring—another favorite of the guy I was trying to impress), but I’ve since adapted it quite a bit, so I’m going to post my own version below.
The following recipe easily satisfied five of us and I made the dough a few hours before finishing off the rolls and frosting. Total baking time, including all the time the dough needs to sit between steps, is about three hours.
1/2 quart whole milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 package dry yeast (.25)
4 cups flour (plus 1/2 cup reserved and some extra for flouring your surface and rolling pin)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (overflowing)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (exact)
1/2 tablespoon salt (overflowing)
1 1/2 cups melted butter
2 – 3 tablespoons cinnamon (I used Vietnamese cinnamon)
2 1/2 – 3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 melted butter
1/4 cup brewed coffee (I used instant coffee of the Starbucks variety)
1/8 teaspoon salt
To start the rolls:
1. Heat milk, oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan on medium heat until it’s just below boiling, then remove from heat, let it cool for a couple minutes, and sprinkle the dry yeast on top of the liquid. Let it sit for about a minute.
2. Add four cups of flour and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit for an hour at room temperature.
3. Once that hour has passed, add baking powder and soda, salt, and that final 1/2 cup of flour. Mix.
4. Once it’s well mixed, let the dough sit in the fridge for an hour or two.
5. Set the oven to 375 (F) and flour one of your kitchen surfaces and a rolling pin. (Pro tip: if you have a large enough cutting board or a built-in cutting board in your kitchen, this would be a good place to do this so that you can roll and cut in the same spot.)
6. Roll the dough out on the floured surface into a rectangular shape. Try to get the dough pretty thin.
7. Pour about a cup of melted butter over the dough and spread it across the entire surface. Cover with cinnamon and 1 cup of brown sugar and try to spread it relatively evenly.
You can add more butter or sugar if you feel like you need it.
8. Once the surface is covered, use your hands to roll the dough toward you, keeping it as tight as you can (gaps are problematic).
9. On a cutting board, take your now-rolled cinnamon roll log and cut the rolls into relatively equal (and thick) portions. Turn them upward and place in a circular baking pan (or, if you don’t have one, a cookie sheet works).
10. Drizzle or drench the rolls with the remaining melted butter and let them sit on the counter (covered in a towel) for about 20 minutes before tossing them in the oven.
11. Take off the towel and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. The rolls should be browning a little and you can cut into the middle of one if you’re not sure if the dough has cooked through.
12. While they’re in the oven, focus on the frosting: whisk powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt.
13. Once they’re looking good and combined, add the maple flavoring and whisk again. Then taste and add more butter, maple, sugar, etc. as needed.
14. Once the rolls are done, take them out of the oven and drench them in the icing, letting it run down the sides and soak into every nook and cranny.
15. Cool and enjoy.
The dough doesn’t keep well, so I recommend making it the same day. The completed rolls do keep well and I ate the last of the second batch about a week after I made it.
Finally, a kitchen tip for the traveler: one of the downsides to constantly being on the road is that every kitchen I cook in is equipped differently. Sometimes I have an epic blender, sometimes none at all. Sometimes I have a cheese grater, sometimes not. And in this case, I was doing without circular baking pans and without a rolling pin. To replace the rolling pin, I used a wine bottle, which works just as well (but do keep a good grip…you don’t want that thing falling off the counter). And instead of the circular pans I just used a cookie sheet (and made a bit of a mess with the frosting as a result…but it worked).