Clean-out-the-freezer week. Don’t you love it?! It’s like a meal-time lottery ticket. You dig to the bottom or to the back of your freezer and pull out Lord-knows-what; it’s a lose-win situation. My favorite is the unlabeled ziploc filled with the freezer burned mass of something. Once it thaws, it goes through a not-so-selective process to determine if it’s human, dog, or chicken worthy. Most of the time, it goes to the not-so-picky chickens, so long as it’s not chicken.
Last year, we picked a couple gallons of berries to get us through the winter, and after making a few smoothies and a couple pies, they managed to get pushed to the bottom of the freezer. On Saturday, I happened upon them and might as well have found buried treasure.
The way to Chris’s heart is through berries. He is a Pacific Northwest boy through-and-through.
Should I mention that the way to my heart is through bacon–I’m a North Carolinian through-and-through? Izzy takes after both of us; she loves berries and bacon equally.
On the verge of fall every year, usually in late August, the most delicious blueberries you will ever put in your mouth fill the wild patches around Alaska. They range in tartness and sweetness, depending upon when you pick them, but they are out-of-this-world compared to their cultivated cousins which you find in grocery stores.
When thinking about what I could make with the forgotten berries that was bloggable, my mind immediately went to cinnamon rolls. I consulted my copy of America’s Cookbook (which belonged to my Mom-Mom) and found an easy-to-make dough. Since neither of us have a sweet tooth, I wanted to make a sweet treat that showcased the berry flavor more than the overpowering taste of goopy, sugary, candy-like pastry we get out of cans or shopping mall kiosks.
To add more flavor without the loads of sugar, I kneaded the zest of one lemon into the dough after it rose for a couple hours, followed by filling, rolling, and cutting it into 1.5 inch pieces. I placed the rolls in a buttered pan and let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before covering and putting them in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I put them in a cold oven uncovered with a pan of boiling water directly under the rolls, and proofed them for about 40 minutes before baking. They looked as though they were going to bust the pan they were in because they were so puffed up and fat. I took them out, long enough to preheat the oven, and baked them for 30 minutes.
I just have to say, this dough is the most amazing when it comes to texture and taste. Maybe this is a little hyperbolic because it’s been a year and a half since I’ve handled and tasted a sweet bread dough. Long story short, we tried the gluten free gig because of potential gluten insensitivities. Luckily, we’re both in the clear and are indulging in flour again.
When the once-frozen berries sit in the fridge over night, they secrete a lot of juices. As they bake, the juices bubble and create a very blueberry-rich and juicy glaze on the bottom of the cinnamon rolls, something I wasn’t anticipating. I was little worried that the juice would burn because of all the sugar, but they ended up baking beautifully.
I used a butter/powdered sugar/lemon juice icing on these, and if I had it to do over again and knew how perfect they’d be with the juicy, tart perfection that was on the bottom, I would have left them unfrosted.
- For the dough
- 1 cup milk, scalded
- 1 tsp. salt
- ⅛ cup sugar
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 packet yeast
- 3 cups flour, sifted +1/4 cup for rolling
- Zest of one lemon
- For the Filling
- ½ cup melted butter
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- For the Glaze (optional-see note in post)
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 3-6 Tbsp. hot water
- For the dough, combine scalded milk, sugar, salt, and half the butter in a large mixing bowl, and cool a bit. Once lukewarm, add yeast. Let sit in mixture until yeast is active and frothy, about ten minutes.
- Add two cups of flour to the mixture and beat thoroughly. Gradually stir in remaining flour, adding just enough to form a light dough (a little softer than bread dough).
- Turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth, adding more flour as necessary 1 Tbs. at a time.
- Place dough in a greased bowl and brush with melted butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
- Once risen, knead lemon zest into dough. Roll out dough into a rectangle.
- Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, thyme, zest, and salt in a bowl.
- Brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar-aromatics mixture all over.
- Add frozen blueberries evenly over the surface of the dough.
- Beginning with the long side of the rectangle dough, roll and pinch the edge to seal.
- Cut into 1.5 inch slices.
- Coat the bottom of a square or round pan with melted butter. Place cinnamon rolls in pan and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Cover and throw them in the fridge. These can be made up to 12 hours in advance.
- When you're ready to cook the following morning, start with a cold oven and put rolls on middle rack.
- Take a shallow dish and fill it with boiling water. Place the dish on a rack directly under the rolls and close up the oven. Forget about them for 30-45 minutes.
- Take the rolls out of the oven after this time. Preheat oven to 350. Once heated, cook cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
- For the glaze, mix butter, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Add water one tablespoon at a time until it is the consistency you like.
- Spread on cinnamon rolls once they have cooled slightly.