Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

by Paulina Farro


...and the road to Death Valley

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I've been all over the world in the three years since I became a flight attendant, yet it was only recently that I saw the Grand Canyon for the very first time. There  are so many natural wonders I've yet to explore in my own backyard that I take for granted. So, in the spirit of spontaneity, armed  with nothing but what tiny amount of knowledge I had about Death Valley from having grown up in California, we mapped our route and decided to hit the road first thing the very next morning.  Maybe it's packing up the car and leaving in the pre-dawn light, or that it reminds me of the many road trips I took as a cild, but there is something so peaceful about a good ole' American road trip. Endless landscape, no civilization for miles, and the same question in nand endless loop in my head whenever it's time to stop for gas-"who lives in these small towns? and why?" Before entering the park, we stopped at a sleepy diner to eat and plan our itinerary. Diners aren't exactly known for their groundbreaking culinary works but that's exactly what I love most about them. They are comfortable and reliable and serve breakfast 24 hours a day. Or so I thought. I had already been planning my meal hours before I got there (i can't be alone in this) to spare myself the excruciating 15 minute  decision between sweet and savory for breakfast. French toast, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, waffles...whatever they had that fell under that category  I was getting. Unfortunately, what I ended up eating instead was a Disappointment Burger due to the fact that we stepped into that diner at half past noon, past breakfast time. Pfffft, this  is Amurrica! For crying out loud. I did, however, have a  root beer float that tasted like my chilhood which almost made up for it all.

The silence except for the sand whistling in the wind,  the barren landscape, salt formations, a cracked mud playa scattered with 700 pound sailing stones (whose movement has yet to be witnessed or explained) all made for one of the eeriest places I have ever come across. I'll never forget it.

So here 's a little  collage I made from odds and ends from the trip, and photos that hopefully capture the stark beauty that is Death Valley, followed by a recipe for the Cinnamon Rolls That Never Were. They are every part gooey, buttery, flaky cinnamon roll, and with the milky caramel smothered on top they are utter perfection. 

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The recipe for the Cinnamon Rolls is adapted from The Pioneer Woman, but with quantities for a smaller batch. Although I would love to have 50 cinnamon rolls in my house, it seemed too dangerous. The method for the Caramel/ Dulce de Leche comes from David Liebovitz. I cooked mine for a shorter period of time, which is why it's considerably lighter in color. The longer you cook the condensed milk the more caramelized and darker it becomes. It's up to you! 


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1

Mix 1 cup of whole milk, 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a large saucepan.Cook the mixture on medium heat until the point just before it starts boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 30-45 minutes, until it is no longer hot but still warm. Add yeast  let it sit  for 1 minute.

2

Add 2 cups of the flour. Stir until combined, then cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 1 hour.

3

Prepare your Caramel/ Dulce de Leche if making your own.

4

When 1 hour has passed, add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/8 cup of flour. Stir very well until combined. 

5

Heat oven to 375 degrees

6

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 On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle. The dough should be as thin as possible without breaking. Brush on melted butter, and sprinkle remaining sugar and cinnamon on top. Starting with the top edge, tightly and carefully roll the dough towards you. This is a messy process (melted butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, how could it not be?!) but don't worry. Seal the edge of the roll by pinching the seams together. Cut into 1- 1 1/2 inch slices. Butter a round pan and places rolls into the pan, giving them about 1/2 inch of space in between each one to rise. Allow rolls to rise 20-30 minutes before placing in the oven

**I also added some vanilla bean flecks to the sugar before sprinkling because I just happened to have them around, and wanted to use them before they completely dried out on me, but it's not absolutely necessary. 

7

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Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown in color.

8

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Drizzle generously with Caramel topping while the rolls are still warm.

Try mixing leftover caramel into your coffee for a nice morning treat. Or, just eat it with a spoon like I did.

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Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12 Rolls

Prep Time: 2 hours, Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1/2 package)
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup for kneading)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (scant)
1/4 tablespoon salt (heaping)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons melted butter, for pans

1 can condensed milk (for Caramel/ Dulce de Leche)

1. Mix 1 cup of whole milk, 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a large saucepan.Cook the mixture on medium heat until the point just before it starts boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 30-45 minutes, until it is no longer hot but still warm. Add yeast  let it sit  for 1 minute.

2. Add 2 cups of the flour. Stir until combined, then cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 1 hour.

3. Prepare your Caramel/ Dulce de Leche if making your own.

4. When 1 hour has passed, add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/8 cup of flour. Stir very well until combined. 

5. Heat oven to 375 degrees

6. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle. The dough should be as thin as possible without breaking. Brush on melted butter, and sprinkle remaining sugar and cinnamon on top. Starting with the top edge, tightly and carefully roll the dough towards you. This is a messy process (melted butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, how could it not be?!) but don't worry. Seal the edge of the roll by pinching the seams together. Cut into 1- 1 1/2 inch slices. Butter a round pan and places rolls into the pan, giving them about 1/2 inch of space in between each one to rise. Allow rolls to rise 20-30 minutes before placing in the oven

**I also added some vanilla bean flecks to the sugar before sprinkling because I just happened to have them around, and wanted to use them before they completely dried out on me, but it's not absolutely necessary. 

7. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown in color.

8. Drizzle generously with Caramel topping while the rolls are still warm.


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