I know that weekends are designed to include a good amount of relaxing, whether you're going to a leisurely brunch or planted on the couch watching the Patriots massacre whichever team they happen to be playing that week. Speaking of the Patriots, have I ever mentioned that I once met Tom Brady? I'm almost certain that I have, as I try to work the subject into as many conversations as possible (like now.) It was the year after his first Super Bowl win and, ironically, I had no idea who he was. I met him at a movie premiere after-party that I was attending with my brother, and the three of us chatted for maybe 5 minutes. Nice guy. Decent looking too.
Julie to Jay (brother): "Who was that again?"
Jay (incredulously) to Julie: "Uh, seriously? Tom Brady. He's the new quarterback for the Patriots. Where the heck have you been? You're embarrassing."
Julie in the corner, bragging on her cellphone to her new husband, a life-long Patriots fan: "You'll never guess who I just met....."
Today, of course, I'm a loyal Patriots supporter, especially since I've got a buddy on the team and all. I'm so glad that he's found himself a nice, marginally attractive girl. I was getting very concerned that he was hung up on me.
So now that I've gotten completely off target, I'll go back to my original point (and I did have one.) Despite the fact that you are supposed to kick back and be idle for at least part of the weekend, I'm just no good at it. Trust me, I've tried, and I acknowledge the fact that my inability to sit still can become very annoying. If I'm on the couch "watching" something, I'm also writing, reading, sorting, stacking.....you get the idea. I'll also spend at least a few hours in the kitchen each day, either working on a new recipe or trying one for the stacks of magazines and cookbooks that I've dog-eared (at this rate, I'll need to live to at least 175 in order to attempt them all.)
During the fall and winter seasons, I tend to spend an above average amount of time in the kitchen. There are just so many wonderful seasonal ingredients to experiment with, and there are oodles of baking-appropriate occasions. I never get it all done, so my stack of ideas from one season generally carries over to the following year. My Sunday strategy is to bake first, clean second (yes mom, I do clean on occasion.) That way, not only can I get rid of that layer of flour that has inevitably coated my kitchen counter, but the house smells fantastic while I proceed with the drudgery. It makes even housework seem a bit sweeter.
These surprisingly easy pumpkin cinnamon rolls did the trick yesterday afternoon. Not only was there a buttery-yeasty smell of baking bread throughout the house, but a sweet brown sugar and spice one as well. Who needs Yankee Candles? I decided to use a combination of whole wheat and regular flours, so that the rolls would be a bit healthier and the texture would have a bit more "personality." You can certainly use all regular flour if desired. My BFF Tom Brady would love these--I just know it. Here are my extra tips for preparing these sweet pumpkin treats:
- You can use fresh or canned pumpkin puree for this recipe; however, I have found that fresh puree can be a bit watery, so be sure to drain it first.
- If you don't own an electric mixer with a dough hook, then simply transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead it for 6-8 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
- Whenever I need to set dough aside in a warm place to rise, I place it in a warmed oven. I turn the oven on for a few minutes prior to the rising process, and then I turn it off just before placing the bowl in the oven (don't forget to turn it off or you will have a mess!!!)
- You can replace the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves with 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
- Feel free to add dried cranberries, figs, apricots, or golden raisins to the filling mixture. You can also top the rolls with a glaze. I was going to do this, but I was out of confectioner's sugar....
Pumpkin-Praline Cinnamon Rolls
Makes about 28
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cups whole milk, warmed to about 110F degrees
6 ounces butter, melted
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole wheat flour
2-3 cups flour
For the topping and filling
6 ounces butter, melted
2 cups golden brown sugar, divided
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the pumpkin with the melted butter, orange zest, and sugar at medium speed. Add the egg, spices, and salt, and mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture, beating until thoroughly incorporated.
Gradually add the whole wheat flour, beating until smooth after each addition. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, adding flour by the tablespoon if the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Spray two 10-inch round cake pans with nonstick baking spray. Pour 1/4 cup of the melted butter into each of the pans. Sprinkle each pan evenly with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon; stir to mix.
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured clean work surface and divide it in half. Roll one piece out to a 17 X 12-inch rectangle. Brush the surface with 2 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter. Sprinkle the surface with half of the pecan mixture, leaving a 1-inch border on the long side of the dough. Roll up the dough jelly-roll style, starting at a long side and pressing the edge to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1-inch sections. Place the sections in one of the prepared baking pans and repeat the procedure with the remaining dough and topping.
Cover the baking pans and let the rolls rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Bake the rolls for 20-22 minutes, until lightly browned. Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes and then invert the pans onto serving dished. Serve warm.