i’ve clearly spent too much time away from the kitchen (and this blog) since the Thanksgiving holiday. while leftovers can be divine, i need to get off the sofa and back to cooking. but before i move forward (or upward), i want to share one more holiday tradition that’s cherished above all others: the pecan roll.
when i recall childhood Thanksgivings at my uncle’s home (the family gathering place), two food-related items come immediately to mind: drumsticks, one of which my uncle embossed with my name each year (i kind of think the other leg was allocated to my cousin Pete), and pecan rolls, which arrived in delightful boxes, fresh from a local bakery. fixated on this delicious duo, i remained unconcerned about anything else my aunt worked lovingly and laboriously to serve.
i’d generously slather the sticky, sweet pecan rolls with butter—taking a gooey little bite with my left hand, then i’d turn my attention to wrestling the too-big turkey leg with my right hand. ever tidy, in a lovely (and prissy) velvet dress (my mom and sister had dresses of matching fabric), i’d genteelly dab the corners of my mouth with my napkin. (the entire experience an apparent catalyst for spending most of my undergraduate years and beyond in flannel, jeans and hiking boots; i did keep a bandana in my back pocket to maintain my fastidious demeanor.)
whatever the genesis for your family holiday traditions, Thanksgivings with my uncle (an incredible jazz musician, sculptor, radio and television pioneer, Corvette-empassioned bohemian) set the annual baking of pecan rolls at my house into motion. these sticky, rich, easy-to-make rolls disappear fast, so grab one for yourself before it’s too late. not even Nancy, George and Bess will be able to unearth a single one.
a variation based on combined recipes from Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook and Better Homes and Gardens Old-Fashioned Baking
for the dough
2 cups scalded milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), plus some to butter bowl, pans
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
for the topping
2/3 cup butter
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
48 pecan halves or 1 1/3 cups chopped pecans
for the filling
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
- combine the scalded milk, sugar, butter and salt (i just throw all these together, then microwave); pour into bowl of stand mixer, and cool until lukewarm.
- add the yeast and beaten eggs; beat well.
- with the dough-hook attachment, gradually add the flour until a smooth dough forms.
- place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until double.
- butter two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pans.
- while the dough is rising, prepare the topping by first melting the butter in a medium-size saucepan.
- stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup, and cook until just blended.
- divide the mixture evenly between the two baking pans.
- place the pecan halves or chopped pecans on top of the mixture; set pans aside.
- punch dough down, then turn out onto a floured surface.
- divide dough in half.
- roll out the first half of the dough into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle.
- brush the rectangle with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.
- combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- sprinkle one half of the mixture evenly over the dough.
- tightly roll up the rectangle, jelly-roll style, beginning with one of the 12-inch sides.
- pinch the seams to seal.
- cut into 10 to 12 pieces, and place into one of the baking pans.
- repeat the process for the second half of the dough.
- cover both pans and place in a warm place to rise until nearly double.
- preheat oven to 350F.
- bake for about 20 minutes or until done.
- let the rolls cool slightly, then invert pans onto serving plates (if the rolls are too hot, the gooey topping will slide off when you flip the pan onto the plate; the voice of experience).
serve warm, any time.