Friday, November 5, 2010
couverture, and we would each make a small chocolate sculpture. I was rather looking forward to it . . . but the minutes ticked by and Chef Roger failed to appear.
Still in waiting mode, I'd barely opened my textbook to review our latest reading assignment when the chair of the culinary school popped his head in the classroom door and, with an apologetic expression, informed us that our teacher had taken ill--his classes for that day were being canceled. I absorbed the news with a flash of mild disbelief. Well, this is a first! I thought to myself. The standard perception among students is that all the chefs have constitutions of iron. Unless they can't walk, talk, or they're deemed too contagious to stay, they always show up for class.
So, now the question was how to take advantage of this mini-windfall of free time? My mental gears slid easily out of attentive-student mode. I could be home within 45 minutes at the latest, and I didn't want to waste the next few hours on something as uninspiring as housework or errands. The natural conclusion, then? I should bake--of course!
Driving home, I tossed around the possibilities. Madeleines? Apple dumplings? Maybe that savory onion tart I've been pondering for months? How about a new cookie recipe? And then I remembered the ripe quinces that were languishing, albeit patiently, in the fruit compartment of our basement fridge. That set the wheels of my morning in motion, turning it into a pleasant and productive one indeed.
About this recipe . . .
This is a sweet-roll dough formula that my mom used for years. Because it's just slightly sweet she made not only sweet rolls from it, but also dinner rolls like clover leafs and crescents--you name it, she probably tried it. She'd typed the recipe carefully onto a lined index card, crediting it simply to a 1971 book by the editors of Farm Journal.
The filling recipe is one I whipped up on my own. It's composed of a couple of apples, a couple of quinces, and one pear, all of which are peeled, cored and diced small. ( I'm sure this would be equally good, though, even if made only with the apples; I was just eager to work with the quinces, as they're new to me. Besides the quinces, I used Granny Smith apples, and an Anjou pear.) The pieces are tossed with sugar, a bit of flour, and a squeeze of lemon juice. In a big saucepan the filling slowly stews and bubbles, reducing until the mixture has thickened. Spices are added in and, once cool, it makes for a flavorful filling.
This cozy combo of autumn's fruit, nestled in the slightly sweet and golden-baked yeast dough, is drizzled with a cream-based vanilla icing. You can shape this dough in a variety of ways. Among the possibilities are individual twirls, like cinnamon rolls, or go with one long roll that gets nipped with scissors to expose the filling. Out of one batch of dough, you could try both options--that's what I did.
These treats are definitely best the first day, when extremely fresh. On day two, you'll probably want to warm the rolls up a bit before serving; the long roll, sliced as needed, doesn't seem to dry out quite as quickly.
Autumn Sweet Rolls with Apple, Quince, and Pear Filling
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
To make the filling:
2 small firm apples (I used Granny Smith)
2 medium size quinces
1 medium size pear (I used Anjou)
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Peel, core, and dice the fruit into small pieces; put all of it in a medium size heavy-bottom saucepan. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir the fruit. Stir together the sugar and flour in a small bowl, then add that to the fruit and toss to combine and coat.
Heat over a medium-low flame, stirring periodically, until mixture looks very juicy and the pieces begin to soften. If there's not much juice at all, add in a few tablespoons of water or apple juice. Raise the heat and cook until the mixture boils, checking it frequently and stirring, then turn it down and let it reduce until it's thickened. All of this may take up to half an hour or so--just use your own judgment (the only way to wreck it, really, is to burn it!). Pour the mixture into a bowl, stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, and let it cool completely before using it as filling (it's okay to cool it off in the fridge).
To make the dough:
3/4 cup scalded milk (the milk is heated, but is not allowed to boil)
1/2 cup softened butter, unsalted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 tsp. salt (I used regular salt)
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees, about what lukewarm feels like)
4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg, mixed with 1 Tbsp. of water, to use only as an egg wash right before baking
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the milk, butter, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour and all of the instant yeast; add this into the mixer bowl. On low speed, beat for 1 minute, then add in the two lightly beaten eggs, mixing just to combine. A little at a time, still on the lowest speed, add in the remainder of the flour. Mix just enough to make a soft dough that eventually leaves the sides of the bowl. Now, switch to the dough hook, and knead on low speed for 4 minutes (or, if you prefer, knead entirely by hand for 8 minutes).
Then, take the dough out of the bowl, and finish kneading it by hand on a lightly floured surface; knead until it feels elastic, satiny, and it's no longer sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough over to grease both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then with a lightweight dish towel, and place it in a warmer-than-room temperature spot to rise until it doubles in volume; this may take up to about 90 minutes.
Remove the risen dough from its bowl and divide it in half; put half the dough back into the bowl and cover it with the plastic while you're working with the other half.
To shape the dough into individual twirls (versus one long roll), use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular shape about 12" by 9". Spread half the filling onto it, pushing it toward the edges with the back of a large spoon or a spatula.
Beginning at the long side of the dough, carefully roll it up, pinching to seal the long seam as best you can; place seam side down on a cutting surface (it may seem pretty floppy and soft, but don't worry). Using an extremely sharp knife (like a chef's knife, not a bread knife), cut the roll into pieces about 1 and 1/2 inches thick. Lift the pieces gently and place them on their sides, evenly spaced, into a well greased baking pan (I used an 8" square metal pan and I sprayed it first with Pam, then I used a combo of butter and Crisco to grease it--sounds like overkill, but you can't be too careful--that's my motto!).
Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and a dish towel, and let it rise again for about one hour, until almost doubled.
Brush the tops of the rolls lightly with the egg wash. Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet to help prevent the bottom of the rolls from burning. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, at 375 degrees in a preheated oven. Remove from the oven when golden brown and no longer wet looking. Let the rolls cool for just a few minutes, then cover the pan with a cooling rack and quickly invert it. The bottom becomes the top; you should see a lot of fruit on the rolls as you pull off the pan.
Let them cool on the rack until slightly warm, then drizzle them with the icing.
Alternately, if you'd prefer to shape your dough (meaning, half of your entire batch of dough) into one long roll, follow the above instructions for shaping (roll out a 12" x 9" rectangle, spread the filling on it, roll it up lengthwise, pinch the seam closed, and place seam-side down on a generous sheet of parchment paper), but instead of slicing the roll into individual pieces with a knife, take a sharp pair of scissors and nip little "V" shapes into the top of the roll at intervals of about 1" or so, to make little windows that will allow the fruit to be seen and steam to escape.
Cover the long roll with greased plastic wrap, then with a dishtowel, and let it rise again until almost doubled (about an hour).
Bake on a sheet of parchment that's been placed onto 2 layered cookie sheets (again, 2 sheets will help prevent the bottom from burning), at 375 degrees in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes; at that point, if the top is already quite golden, cover it lightly with foil and keep on baking until the roll feels kind of firm and the bottom is deep golden brown, but not dark brown. Let it cool on a cooling rack, and when it's still slightly warm, drizzle it with the icing.
To make the icing:
In a small bowl, stir about 1 and 1/2 cups of confectioners' sugar together with a couple tablespoons of heavy cream or half-and-half, along with 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract. Adjust the thickness by adding more sugar, or more cream. Stir until completely smooth.
Best eaten while really fresh!
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