We held our annual holiday brunch last Sunday. This has been a tradition dating back to 2004, and it’s our household’s biggest celebration. This year 14 people were able to make it, and we enjoyed a mix of sweet and savory foods along with gifts and company.
Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of our spread—too busy cooking and welcoming!—so you’ll have to take our word for what was on our kitchen counter buffet. Applewood-smoked salmon and condiments; Baked Brie en Croute; Broccoli Cheddar Cakes; Pan Roasted Mini Sweet Peppers; Spicy Mango Jalapeno and also Caramelized Onion Chicken Meatballs; Berries and Persimmons and Greek Yogurt and honey. For our baked goods, we offered Will’s Poppyseed Tea Ring; Caramelized Apple Gateau; Gingerbread mini-muffins with Dark Chocolate; Thomas Keller Cinnamon Scones. Whew! We sent back food with the guests as they left, so we didn’t have too much left over.
In fact, by Christmas Eve breakfast, we were finished with all the rest of the baked goods. Luckily, we planned it that way so that we could try out a new recipe for our Christmas morning breakfast. We saw a recipe for Pioneer Woman’s Caramel Apple Sweet Rolls. We figured that if they were good, then we’d offer them possibly for our next holiday brunch. (Click here for the original recipe that we found first through the December 2013 issue of Costco Connection.)
Having now made and consumed the rolls, we have some mixed reactions. They are tasty, to be sure, but tasty in a way that most recipes are tasty when they include—in the filling and icing for 3 round cake pans’ worth of rolls—2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 cups packed brown sugar, and 2 cups powered sugar. When we read the ingredients list, we wondered whether the Pioneer Woman is in competition with Paula Deen to see who could pack more fat and sugar into a recipe!
But it wasn’t really the fat and sugar that most concerned us. We had two major problems:
1) The dough was too wet.
Will is no stranger to making sweet rolls, so he was in charge of that part. He thought the ingredients for ½ batch of “basic dough” seemed a little too liquid-y, requiring 2 cups milk and ½ cup canola oil for 4 ½ cups flour. (The picture above shows the risen dough under plastic wrap.) He hoped that some magical transformation would make the dough workable despite his fears…
2) The Apple Caramel filling wouldn’t solidify.
Partly, the fault was ours since she called for Granny Smith apples and we used Galas, the apples we had on hand. But that aside, the directions called for the apples to be sautéed for 3-4 minutes, and we did so for over 6 minutes (to make up for the extra juiciness we saw in the Galas). The caramel sauce itself was fine and nicely thickened, but once we put the apples back in the sauce, the mixture became instantly runny. Instead of the “another 1 to 2 minutes” on low heat we were supposed to use to thicken the sauce after the addition of the apples, I let it cook down for 10 more minutes on medium high heat in an attempt to cook off some of the moisture. When I finally took the mixture off the heat to cool, the sauce appeared spreadable (pictured above).
Alas, the combination of the too-wet dough and the too-wet filling made for a soggy mess when Will rolled the mixture. The “roll” was more like a flattening mound of oatmeal. It took all Will’s expertise to be able to somehow cut slices which he quickly transferred to pans before they could dissolve, as you can see above. (And, not to be too picky, but it’s not clear to us how 3 pans of “7 to 8 rolls” “makes about 30 rolls” instead of 21-24.) The recipe also made too much “Caramel Icing” but that was easily taken care of by not using all of it.
Fortunately, the rolls still rose and baked well, and they were tasty (albeit somewhat translucent in the dough saturated with butter from the caramel filling). However, we will be more skeptical of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes from now on.