Big Sky Buns

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


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add yeast to 1 C of warm water.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Over low heat, warm milk in a saucepan.
  3. Whisk together 3 TBS sugar, 3 1/2 C of the flour and salt.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. While dough is proofing combined cinnamon and remaining sugar.
  8. 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.
  9. Spread half of the remaining butter evenly over rolled-out dough.
  10. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over buttered dough.
  11. Working with the long-end, carefully roll dough into a log.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Wrap baking sheet tightly and let rise again (1-1 1/2 hours).
  15. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven.
  16. Unwrap baking sheet and bake rolls until slightly brown on top (about 25 minutes).
  17. Remove rolls from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
  18. While rolls are resting, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and enough water for desired texture of frosting.
  19. 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.

Nutella Cookies

Why yes, I do sit around thinking about ways to incorporate Nutella into unsuspecting recipes.  Would you expect any less?

Actually, I originally planned to tackle Pierre Herme’s infamous Nutella tart for this post.  However, as I was reading through the recipe one last time I realized that the finished product would have to be refrigerated.  Generally this isn’t a big deal but. Refrigerated items don’t travel well to work.  Also not usually a big deal but.  TD was going to be out of town leaving me all alone with what is effectively Misanthropic Hostess kryptonite.  As I stood there with the bag of hazelnuts in my hand I had a vision of TD returning from travel to find me passed-out in the kitchen with an empty tart pan and hazelnut crumbs as evidence. Now that would be embarrassing.

So, I made a quick U-turn and decided to use the same ingredients for cookies.  There are quite a few recipes out there for cookies with Nutella as a main ingredient.  But, I couldn’t be bothered to look them up and so came up with my own.

It starts with toasting some hazelnuts.

Now, if you can, get them without the shells.  If not, once the nuts are toasted you will need to remove the hulls.  To do this, gently rub each one (yes, each one) between the folds of a kitchen towel.  Trust me, it’s worth it. Once naked, the nuts get a good chop.

Then of course there is the Nutella.  For the longest time I had the willpower to limit my Nutella intake to Europe or stays in Sofitel hotels.  We’d go to Europe (doesn’t matter which country), I’d eat the stuff everyday while there and then valiantly ignore it when in the U.S. (unless staying at an aforementioned Sofitel).   Alas, like my first kiss, I can’t even remember how the domestic seal was broken.  All I can tell you is that in our household, we go through jars of Nutella  much faster than we consume jars of peanut butter.  And.  I’m the only one who eats it.  Oops.

Oh.  Want to hear a secret about Nutella?  Even though it says not to, try putting it in the fridge.  Instant Nutella fudge. And, it takes longer to eat because you have to sort of scrape it gently with a spoon to get any leverage.  Oh wait.  Did I just say that out loud?

Here is the deal.  Butter, sugar and Nutella gets creamed together.  Then dry ingredients are added along with the chopped hazelnuts and chopped chocolate (chocolate chips would work just fine of course).

The result: Oooh Nutella-la!

Nutella Cookies

The Misanthropic Hostess


  • 16 TBS butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 C Nutella
  • 2/3 C granulated or superfine sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg plus one egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 2/3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 C chopped chocolate or chocolate chips


  1. Toast hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  While still warm, remove hulls from nuts using a clean dishcloth.  Once cool, give nuts a rough chop.
  2. In a standing mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt.
  3. Add in Nutella and beat until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  4. Add in egg, combine, then add-in yolk and vanilla.
  5. Mix-in flour until just incorporated.
  6. Fold in nuts and chocolate pieces.
  7. Refrigerate for at least an hour (I like to do it over night).
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Spoon or scoop-out dough to desired size and place on cookie sheets.  Bake for 6-10 minutes.

Watermelon Salsa

Yes.  You are in the right place.

Nope, we’re not turning on the oven today.

Just chopping up some colorful treats.

Then throwing them together.

For a surprising take on salsa.  Just add pita chips!

Watermelon Salsa


  • 1 English cucumber, seeds removed and cubed
  • 2-3 C seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 large or two small shallots minced (purple onion would also work)
  • 3 TBS (or to taste) fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2-1 C feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil and a mild vinegar to taste
  • Other tasty add-ins
  • Olives, tomatoes, basil, the kitchen sink


  • As you can tell, this is one of those, “there isn’t really a recipe recipes.”  Oh, I’m sure you could find a recipe for watermelon salsa if you looked, but, I’ve never looked. Once everything is cut, combine, gently toss and let marinate for several hours.  Yep…that’s pretty much it.