Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Potluck Picnic and Cinnamon Rolls

Tonight was the Christmas picnic I've been ranting about for the last week or so, so naturally after lots of nice (or at least tolerable) weather, today it was rainy. On and off, but definitely more on than off and in a very temperamental and soaking kind of way. Clearly not picnic weather.

On the bright side, my disorganisation didn't matter so much as I was able to finish my cinnamon rolls with guests already present - which also meant they were hot and extra delicious when we came to eat them.

This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, though I have pared back her staggering quantities - today when I made it I halved her recipe, and have halved it again for you guys because it still made tons (okay, so she was making these in foil pans to give as gifts) - of course, if you are feeding a crowd rest easy in the knowledge you can double, triple or quadruple it. These things are glorious - even though I've been reading other bloggers' ravings about them for yonks I've sort of thought they were overdoing the praise - I mean, sugar, butter, and fresh bready things are all good, and I am definitely a cinnamon fan - but these take it to a whole new level of sugar-butter-bready-cinnamony glory which will have you wanting to eat them all in one go. Which is why I'm recommending the smaller batch size. ;-) (you guys are probably way better at the willpower thing than me but I'm trying really hard to forget there are still a bunch of buns on the bench which I could eat, despite already having had two)

The recipe is pretty straightforward, though since it's a bread-based thing there are big waiting periods - so plan in advance, and you'll be all good.  It's lucky it's pretty simple, as I was in a bit of a rush and the stages I've photographed don't quite cover the whole process - so hopefully it all makes sense (but you know you can ask away if anything doesn't!).

Step one is heating the milk, oil and sugar, and then you let it cool for a while. I'm curious as to whether this is really necessary, or whether heating it less and not having to wait would work fine, but as I haven't tested doing it that way I'm not going to take the step out of the recipe - it might help dissolve the sugar or something. Sciencey folks feel free to chip in. ;-)

Step two is adding the yeast and leaving it to develop for a minute, then the bulk of the flour gets mixed in and you leave it to rise - something that happens readily when your apartment feels like a sauna (worlds away from trying to get dough to rise in mid-winter in our delightfully breezy student flat in Christchurch).

This is where my photos get scarce. Once the dough has risen you mix in a little more flour, some baking powder, baking soda and salt. And then turn it out onto a floured surface to roll.

The aim is to get a nice, big, flat rectangle, over which you smother butter, sugar, and cinnamon - the more the better! Well, I'm pretty sure there's an equilibrium actually, and the recipe is pretty generous on all of these, but feel free to up the quantities if you're so inclined. 

Isn't that a beautiful sight? Reminds me of making cinnamon toast on the grill when I was a kid - white bread, a generous coating of marg (butter was too hard to spread!), lots of sugar and cinnamon (actually, Mum always had a pre-mixed container of cinnamon sugar in the pantry, how fantastic is that?) and then grilled until the sugar began to melt and just before the edges of the bread actually caught alight.

These rolls definitely beat cinnamon toast, though - you definitely should try them. Once you've applied your lavish coating of good tasting stuff the dough gets rolled into a log and sliced up to make individual rolls. These get laid in a baking tin of some sort - whatever you have, round or square or rectangular - and left to rise until they expand to fill the gaps. I did one of our trays and Mr Cake did the other - look at the difference: 

It's kind of funny, because I am normally the everything-must-be-just-so one, but my tray is the one on the left. That's because most often when you see these in food-blogger-land they are a bit higgledy-piggledy, and I allowed my preconceived ideas of higgledy piggledyness to dictate how I put them in - but Mr Cake just did it logically, and I think his look much nicer.

Once they're baked they need to be smothered in more deliciousness (this really does make them, don't leave the icing off!) so some icing sugar, butter, maple syrup, coffee (you don't taste it) and milk goes in a bowl and gets mixed up.

Then you just pour the icing over the buns - generously - and it sort of puddles and seeps into the cracks and creates this spectacular-tasting bun.

So how was our picnic? Well, once we settled on our living room floor - with blanket, of course! - we had a great time, with many delicious treats (and a good helping of salad, which made it a nice, not-too-heavy start to the eating festive season).

All pretty civilised, really! What's your favourite picnic recipe?

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
240ml milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup Sugar
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups plus 1/4 cup (separate) flour, plus extra for rolling
1/3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Salt
50g melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cinnamon
Maple Icing
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp cup milk
40g melted butter
2 Tbsp brewed coffee
⅛ tsp salt

Mix milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a saucepan. Heat until just on the edge of boiling, then remove from heat and leave to cool for about 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to touch, sprinkle the yeast in and leave for one minute.

Add the 2 cups of flour and mix to combine. Cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

When risen, add remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Form a rough rectangle with the dough. Roll the dough to a rectangle about half a cm thick.

Spread the dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough towards you, keeping the roll as tight as possible. Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Grease a brownie pan or a cake tin, and cut rolls about 2.5cm thick from the dough. Lay them in the pan so the cut edge faces up. Leave to rise for 20-30 minutes. Bake at 160 C for about 15 minutes, until light golden brown.

For the icing, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Makes about 10 rolls.


  1. I hope you had a wonderful time, stupid rain notwithstanding. Those rolls look delicious! Thanks for a great blog - one of my favourites! Merry Christmas and happy New Year, Mary

  2. Thanks Mary! You're too kind - I hope you have a wonderful Christmas also. :-) It's always lovely to hear from you!

  3. They look delicious. Think I may have to make some when the Xmas madness is over!

  4. So cute with your blanket inside. My picnic recipe is usually individual quiche. Just puff pastry arranged into muffin tins and then filled with stuff. It means I can cater for different a few different diets as I just fill each quiche with whatever. Merry Christmas and I hope you manage to eat a bit heavier over the holidays :)

  5. Merry Christmas to The Cakes,and thanks for your prolific and always interesting blog.Over the months you have steadily risen closer to the top of my Favourites list.

    The rolls look like we would like them very much - did you use plain or high grade flour ?

    Are you taking time off from posting over the holidays - in my experience it can sometimes be easier to get things done when very busy than when one is just coasting along.


  6. Megan - definitely do - it's totally worth it.

    bunnyeatsdesign - thanks, I figured we had to get the picnicness inside somehow. ;-) The quiches sound yummy!

    Cheryl - thank you! Merry Christmas to you too! I used high grade flour for my rolls. I'm not planning to take time off - I have a few things up my sleeve - but might be out of blog-zone for a couple of days so we'll see - perhaps transmission will be slightly patchier than usual. ;-)

  7. Those cinnamon buns were so light and delicious! I might have to give them a go myself! Interesting recipe with yeast, baking soda and powder.

  8. I know, the old triple raising agent combo - I was bemused too, but I guess maybe that's why they were so light. Definitely a keeper of a recipe!


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