After I left for college, my parents began spending their summers in Big Sky, Montana. Next my brother decided to attend college in Montana (much to the chagrin of our California residency status). After that, summers turned into four or five months. And then a couple of years ago they (my parents…my brother never did come back) sold their house in San Diego and moved to Montana full-time. This means that three-quarters of my immediate family live in a place far, far away.
Which also means visiting is no longer as easy as hopping on the 405 freeway and heading South. Lucky for TD and I, we got to spend a week with them earlier this month.
There are lots of places that don’t quite live up to their names. Los Angeles is just about the best example I can think of. But, step off the plane in Montana and you immediately understand why it’s called Big Sky Country. Exhibit number 1: the view off of the backside of my parent’s property in the gloaming.
Or perhaps from a slightly different angle. One morning I came upstairs to see that during the night, someone had installed a sculpture of Bambi right in the middle of the picture window below. Then the sculpture moved…which was even weirder…until I realized that it was an actual fawn who was soon joined by it’s brother/sister as they happily bounced down the hill to meet their mother waiting in the tall grasses below.
Speaking of wildlife. Here is the view from their front porch. It took me a couple of days to get used to the sounds of horses kvetching with one another between nibbles of tall grass. I had no idea they made so much noise.
In the months leading up to our trip, my mother and I volleyed back and forth ideas for recipes and meal plans. The notion that the hostess apple did not fall far from the tree has never been more concerning our own family tree. Just ask TD. After much consideration we picked a couple of recipes to make for this special edition (and next week’s) of the Misanthropic Hostess goes on the road.
My parents’ live at about 5500 feet elevation so my mom thought it would be fun to experiment with yeast. In the form a cinnamon rolls. We looked through several recipe books and finally decided on one from the 2010 Sunset Cookbook. Yeast is added to warm water and left to sit and reconstitute (think sea monkeys).
Then flour, sugar, a bit of butter and salt are added and kneaded. Here is where we came upon our first high altitude adjustment. At sea level, the flour amount was perfect. At over 5,000 feet I needed to add in about a 1/2 C of additional flour (one TBS at a time). Even at this much additional flour, the dough was probably stickier than the original recipe intended. But, I happen to think a stickier yeast dough yields a more tender product. We weren’t making pizza dough after all.
We then let the dough proof in a warm corner until it doubled in size.
Once gently punched down, the dough was divided into two pieces and each was rolled-out to a bout 10X17 inches.
A layer of soft butter covered the entire rectangle followed by cinnamon and sugar.
After this, it was time to add the roll to the cinnamon (see what I did there?).
Roll from the long end.
Then cut into 6 or 12 equal pieces. In the photo below, we’re trying the six-piece method. I also tried it with twelve and much preferred the results of the latter.
Why yes, this was the latter. Once place on the baking sheet, the dough gets a second proofing.
Into the oven for just under half and hour and not only does your house smell good enough to attract Hansel, Gretel, all three pigs and the Big Bad Wolf himself, but you also get beautiful golden-brown pinwheels of heaven.
Oh, but we’re not done yet. A simple confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and water icing tops the whole lot.
It’s probably not appropriate to mention pornography in the same post as my parents but dude.
This is some serious food porn.
Big Sky Cinnamon Buns
Adapted from Grandma’s Carroll’s Cinnamon Rolls, The Sunset Cookbook (2010, Oxmoor House)
- 1 1/4 C milk (use what you have in the fridge)
- 1 package (2 1/4) active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 C plus 3 TBS granulated sugar
- 3/4 C plus 2 TBS butter at room temp
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 1/4 C flour plus more if needed
- 1/4 C cinnamon
- 3 C powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, add yeast to 1 C of warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Over low heat, warm milk in a saucepan.
- Whisk together 3 TBS sugar, 3 1/2 C of the flour and salt.
- Add flour mixture, milk and 2 TBS butter to rested yeast and water mixture. Mix until dough begins to look slightly elastic (will still be really wet and sticky).
- Switch to dough hook, add in remaining flour and mix 5-7 minutes, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. As a note–in high altitude, I had to add another 1/2 C of flour. At sea level the recipe did not need to be adjusted.
- Place dough in a clean, oiled bowl and either cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to double in size (1-2 hours).
- While dough is proofing combined cinnamon and remaining sugar.
- Divide dough in half placing first half on to a floured work surface. Carefully roll-out dough until it is roughly a 10X16 inch rectangle. Be sure to lift dough as you are working so that it does not stick to the board.
- Spread half of the remaining butter evenly over rolled-out dough.
- Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over buttered dough.
- Working with the long-end, carefully roll dough into a log.
- Divide log into 12 equal disks and place on to a 10X16 (half-sheet) parchment-lined baking sheet so that they fill up half the sheet.
- Repeat with second half of dough. There will be some spaces in between each roll. This is fine as the dough will expand during the second proofing and baking process.
- Wrap baking sheet tightly and let rise again (1-1 1/2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven.
- Unwrap baking sheet and bake rolls until slightly brown on top (about 25 minutes).
- Remove rolls from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
- While rolls are resting, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and enough water for desired texture of frosting.
- Frost rolls.
- Finished rolls can be wrapped in plastic and frozen. Just zap in microwave to reheat.
- This would be a great brunch dish. The evening before, complete the recipe up to the second proofing. Once the rolls have risen, place still covered in fridge. On the morning of, remove from fridge an hour before baking and then bake as directed.