I usually love to spend my Sunday afternoons baking something new in the kitchen so that I can give my kids a homebaked dessert after Sunday dinner. Well–I say it’s for my kids, but in actuality, I don’t mind nibbling on some new sugary treats as well! I spent a few minutes scrolling through my Pinterest feed and then digging through my pantry cupboards to come up with some ideas. I noticed that I had accidentally bought a package of macadamia nuts instead of my usual almonds (my snack during the work week) and wanted to try them out in a dessert. I figured that they would go well with a citrus element, but I had run out of fresh lemons. I didn’t want to use the bottled lemon juice alternative (shudder at the thought) stashed in the deepest, darkest corner of my pantry closet, so I started to rummage through the refridgerator drawers. I found some beautiful navel oranges, and figured that my older son wouldn’t miss one. He tends to snack on oranges after school or before dinner during the week, and I am proud that he chooses oranges over the more indulgent options such as ice cream bars (also kept in the deepest, darkest corners in the freezer for hiding purposes!).
Now, I had two not-so-common dessert ingredients which helped me narrow my recipe search. I came across several recipes for nut rolls. I decided to improvise and make tweaks on several recipes to come up with one of my own. The results turned out scrumptious! We had some with our afternoon snack while playing board games and sipping iced and hot tea (hot tea for myself and iced beverages for the kids), and we even had them again the next morning with a side of sausages.
The recipe was not super easy since it required several steps; however, the results do pay off. As long as you have yeast and eggs on hand, the type of nuts and citrus can be substituted with what you have on hand. To be honest, you can skip the citrus altogether, but it would be hard to skip the nuts since the texture makes the dish.
First of all, I always am OCD about pre-heating my oven. I never want to wait for my oven to heat up once I go through the whole process of dough making. I set it at 375 degrees F.
I started wanting to bloom the yeast in warm milk that I had nooked in the microwave for about 45 seconds (the time for the milk to be lukewarm can vary depending on the strength of your microwave). The recipe called for one cup of warm milk and one tablespoon of yeast. I added in one tablespoon of sugar for the yeast to “feed on” (or so my mother says), and let that mixture sit for a few minutes.
While the yeast was blooming, I took out my food processor. Unfortunately, this recipe does call for the processor to grind the nuts. If you are lucky enough to already have some nuts pre-ground, then you don’t need to bring out the one of the top “bulkiest” appliances. I wasn’t so lucky, so after hauling it out from my closet and finding room on my counter top, I plugged it in. I poured in about 2 cups of whole macadamia nuts (fortunately, it was the entire package that I had) and ground the nuts into a consistency that resembled wet, coarse sand.
I tipped the ground nuts into a sauce pan along with two cups of sugar and one cup of room temperature water. I have always been taught to add in a pinch of salt in everything sweet, so I tossed in about a teaspoon of salt.
I also wanted to play around with the flavorings of the fillings. I do so enjoy a cup of chai tea on a regular basis, and wanted the filling to be reminiscent of the warm spices. I added in two teaspoons of cinnamon, one teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. I didn’t have fresh nutmeg on hand, so I used the pre-ground kind. I won’t tell if you don’t!
I set the mixture on medium heat and , while that was carrying on, I turned back to my bloomed yeast-milk concoction. I put the mix into my electric mixer . and you are supposed to fit the mixer with a dough hook. You can use the paddle if you don’t have the hook attachment, since I had misplaced my hook when I made this recipe.
I put in four sticks (2 cups) of soft, room temperature butter along with 6 cups of all-purpose flour. I started the mixture on low, while I broke seven eggs. I separated the yolks from the whites, and put the whites back in the fridge for a yummy omelette on another morning. I tipped the yolks gently into the spinning flour-butter mixture and then added one teaspoon of salt. While that was mixing, I slowly poured in the milk-yeast combination. To match the flavor to the filling, I added in the same amount of spices into the dough that I had into the filling (see above) plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. The dough was relatively wet, so I added in a 1/2 cup of flour one at a time until the dough became a more pliable consistency. It took a whole other cup addition of flour. Of course, I almost forgot to add in my one tablespoon of orange zest and 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice!
While the mixture was mixing, I had to remember to keep going back to my nut-sugar mixture on the stovetop. It was now bubbling away, and I did have to remember to keep stirring it regularly to prevent it from burning. I turned the heat down to medium-low, and it had almost reached a syrup consistency (which is what you want). I finally turned the heat off (it took about 10 minutes total, give or take a few) and wanted to see if it would thicken more at room temperature. To my pleasure, the loose liquid did become more of a syrupy texture within 5 minutes of sitting at room temperature. While I was waiting for the liquid to come to room temperature, I had turned out my dough onto my island top and started to roll it thin.
For most nut roll recipes, the recipes call for forming balls out of the dough. I was too lazy, so I made mine more like cinnamon rolls. I I added the syrup mixture on top of the dough but actually left about a one inch boundary that was syrup-free. I had to put in a thin layer of the syrup mixture so that it wouldn’t leak as I rolled up the dough. I used the “typewriter” method of rolling up the dough as Ree Drummond has so aptly named this common method. However, I had to be very careful so as not to have the syrupy filling leak out. Fortunately, everything came together with minimal leakage (dough is so forgiving that I was able to pinch up any leaky spots), and I was able to cut the dough into one inch sections using a serrated knife.
I put the sections about 1/2 inch apart from eachother onto my favorite tried-and-trusted silpat mat , and laid the mat on top of my baking sheet. After making this dish without an egg wash, I do highly recommend it to make the dish look even more inviting. Just mix up a splash of water with one egg, and using a brush, dab it on each of the sections. I then put the baking sheet into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes, checking on it every 5 minutes or so to make sure the filling didn’t leak and burn (usually, just my luck!).
After the oven timer beeped, I removed the “buns” from the oven allowing a heavenly scent to permeat the kitchen. Of course, my teens decided that was the best time to come out of their “caves” (i.e. their rooms) and start hunting around for food.
All in all, I do recommend this recipe but be sure to allow plenty of time and room on your countertops. It is well worth the effort! Feel free to add an icing or a type of glaze if you prefer, but with the nut filling, I feel that the buns are sweet enough. They have a middle eastern flare since the filling resembles that of baklava , so be sure to let the taste testers know that they are not the typical cinnamon roll!