Spiced Orange Cranberry Morning Rolls

Cranberry Orange Rolls

Over the next few weeks, I will be participating in a series of Willow Bird Baking Challenges. Challenge 1: Morning rolls filled with cinnamon or any flavor combination of our choice. My choice: spiced orange and cranberry.

As I prepared for this challenge, I watched the Chow Obsessives marmalade video. Near the end, featured marmalade maker June Taylor remarked she craved precision when she first started preparing jam. She wanted to know exact measurements, “not this go by sight and feel” nonsense. But she learned that it really did take time to learn all there was to know.

I think baking gets an unfair reputation based on this same premise. Known as the precise sibling to the happy-go-lucky cooking, people shy away from baking before they give it a fair chance. Am I suggesting we all just throw in a pinch of baking powder and a dash of baking soda in lieu of measuring out teaspoons? No. But I am  suggesting we all give baking our best effort.

Case in point, I had no idea how these rolls would turn out. Are they perfect? Not by a long shot. Do I now have knowledge I can rely on the next time I try a similar recipe? You bet.I hesitated with the dough and made small rolls instead of the more traditional, large rolls. I also noticed the jam wanted to squish out when rolling the dough. Using a thickener like King Arthur Flour’s Instant Clearjel probably would have been a wise choice.

Be sure to click on over to Willow Bird Baking to check out all of the lovely rolls created by challenge participants. It is not to late to join in the fun should you be so inclined!

Spiced Orange and Cranberry Rolls
  • For the Rolls
  • 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm (not hot) water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups milk minus 2 tablespoons, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup cold shortening (butter flavored Crisco works well)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, for after baking
  • For the Filling
  • 2 cups high-quality orange jam or marmalade
  • 1½ cup (3 sticks) butter, melted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • For the Glaze
  • 1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk to thin the glaze to a drizzling consistency
  1. Mix the warm water and yeast in a medium bowl and let the yeast foam for about 10 minutes.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a measuring cup and then add milk up to the 2 cup line. Set aside.
  3. In a separate large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook), whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Cut the shortening into the mixture using a pair of forks or a pastry cutter until the shortening looks like small peas.
  5. Stir the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the dry ingredients.
  6. Mix well, but knead the dough for only a few turns to fully incorporate.
  7. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  8. The next morning, turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle about ⅛-inch thick. Cutting the dough in half to work with just half at one time makes this step much more manageable.
  9. Stir together the orange jam, melted butter, sugar and cardamom.
  10. Spread this mixture over the top of the dough. (If you halved the dough, remember to reserve half of this mixture for the second batch.)
  11. Sprinkle the chopped cranberries over the top of the the filling mixture.
  12. Lightly spray two 9 x 13-inch baking dishes with cooking spray.
  13. Gently roll the dough into a spiral and cut it into rolls, placing them close together in the prepared baking dishes. (This is where you may wish to wrap and freeze - see Notes).
  14. Cover the rolls you wish to bake with a piece of plastic wrap or clean dish cloth and allow them to rise in a warm spot until nearly doubled, about 1½ – 2 hours.
  15. Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  16. Bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes or until browned on top.
  17. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter and return to the oven for 1 additional minute.
  18. Whisk together the glaze ingredients (adding milk to get it to drizzling consistency) and drizzle the glaze over the warm rolls. If you want the glaze to harden rather than sink in, allow the rolls to cool nearly to warm temperature.
Note from Julie at WillowBird: I don’t recommend halving yeast recipes; instead, if you don’t want 24 rolls at once, consider freezing some for later. To freeze some of the unbaked rolls, just wrap them well before the second rise and freeze them. Once frozen, pop them out of the pan all together and store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and in a zip top bag or wrapped in foil. When you want to bake them, stick them back in a greased pan, thaw them in the fridge overnight, proof for the instructed amount of time, and bake like usual.

Sweet and Crunchy Slaw Salad

Sweet & Crunchy Slaw Salad

When you need to take a dish to a party, what do you bring?

During the winter holidays, I expect various family members to bring spinach dip, taco dip, and those addictive water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and slathered in barbecue sauce.

Summer gatherings with my friends requires I bring dessert (sigh); Dawn to bring her warm cream cheese, jalapeno, and corn dip; and Cindy to bring her signature side called…well, I don’t know what it is called. We all just call it good.

Sweet & Crunchy Slaw Salad

Up until ten minutes ago, this delightful side dish did not even have a name, so I have decided to call it Sweet & Crunchy Slaw Salad. Referring to it as “Cindy’s Salad” as written on my recipe card is fine too, it’s just not all that descriptive if you do not know Cindy.

The dressing gives the slaw a sweet flavor, but the slaw keeps it tasting clean. Sunflower seeds, almond slivers, and Ramen noodles provide a nice crunch. Every now and then, a green onion gets in the mix to give it some bite. The flavors just work.

I tweaked the original recipe ever so slightly by substituting broccoli slaw for a portion of the cole slaw mix, so feel free to play around according to your own tastes. I can’t help but think some dried apricots thrown into the mix would taste great too. Enjoy!

Sweet & Crunchy Slaw Salad



Cindy's Sweet & Crunchy Slaw Salad
  • 2 packages Ramen noodles
  • 3 cups shredded cole slaw mix
  • 2½ cups broccoli slaw
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • For the Dressing
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  1. Crumble the Ramen noodles into a large salad bowl. (Discard the flavor pouch.)
  2. Add the remaining salad ingredients - slaw through green onions - and stir to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the sugar, oil and vinegar.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and give a quick stir to coat.
Once dressed, the salad does not keep well. Prepare to enjoy immediately.

Decreasing the sugar in the dressing by ½ cup does not have a lot of impact on flavor. If you are looking to reduce your sugar intake, feel free to give it a try.

Oktoberfest: IPAs & Fried Beer Battered Apples

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip

As Oktoberfest draws to a close, this series concludes with a beer that remains an enigma to me: the IPA. I do not particularly care for IPAs, yet of all the beers we tasted in Beer School, an Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Lake Erie Monster was actually my favorite. I liked this beer so much that I sent my mom, who lives in Ohio, on a search for it. LEM is a seasonal beer, so there was not much left here in North Carolina by the time I had my first taste of it in July.

I suppose now is as good a time as ever to come clean that, sometimes, my sister and I like to send our mom out on little quests. We drop a casual hint like, “Gee, I’d really like to try such-and-such but I can’t seem to find any here.” And off she goes. We like to think we are doing her a favor by keeping her active. Not to mention, she is really good at finding things!

So that is how it came about that I asked Mom to check out just what Great Lakes’ beers were available at Kroger the next time she stopped by. There was no Lake Erie Monster available, but for whatever reason, the search did not stop there.

Fast forward to a lovely August afternoon when I get a text message from my sister that reads, “Look what we found in Honor, Michigan!” And lo and behold, accompanying the message there was a picture of a fairly beat-up four-pack of Lake Erie Monster. Apparently, Mom had never stopped looking for it. I have been told my sister got down on her hands and knees to look at the back of a bottom shelf where she found the lone remaining beer available. I have a great family.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip

I saw the Lake Erie Monster once. I was probably 10-years-old, and I was fishing for Walleye with my dad on Lake Erie. I was probably doing more tagging along that actual fishing, but that’s beside the point.

This next part is a little embarrassing to write, but it’s a true story. You see, we are in the middle of lake, practically in Canada, and I had to pee. Boys are so lucky. Anytime they have to pee, they just tell you to turn around and let it fly. But when sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake with no hope of going to shore anytime soon, girls have to get in the water to pee. So as I creeped in to the water, I saw a little head pop up about 20 yards out. It was the monster.

I got back into the boat and held it the rest of the day. I was not about to get sucked under and drowned or eaten alive by that thing. Now at this point, I know you are probably thinking, “what an idiot-kid with an over-active, paranoid imagination.” Say what you will, but I saw that sucker’s head.

I also heard Big Foot messing around outside of my bedroom window when I was about the same age. Mom insisted it was just a tree branch and the wind, but she was not in the room when I heard him. (That little episode got me banned from ever watching Unsolved Mysteries again.)

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip

Would you get in the water if you saw that thing in there?
I should certainly hope not.

So, now that I’ve completely destroyed any credibility I may have once had, allow me to tell you about these delicious fried apples. Like I did with the lambics, I had a hard time figuring out what to make with an IPA. They are so bitter that baking was out. But as I looked around for recipes and got to thinking about my options, I thought an IPA would work nicely in a beer batter.

When I was much younger, my family would occasionally go to a restaurant that served fried pickles and fried apples. That was a pretty novel thing for the childhood version of myself to experience, and I have never forgotten it. So, after a lovely trip to the farmer’s market on a beautiful fall day, I decided to fry up some beer battered apples.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip

India Pale Ales, or  IPAs, originated not in India but in England. Brewers added extra hops to preserve the pale ales being sent to British soldiers in the India. The soldiers liked it so much that they kept asking for it when they got back home, and eventually, brewers decided to make it a permanent thing. Today, there are English IPAs, American IPAs and Imperial – or Double – IPAs.

English and American IPAs are similar in terms of bitterness, color and alcohol-by-volume. English IPAS range from 40 to 60 IBUs (international bittering units), while American IPAs range from 40 to 75 IBUs. With a SRM (standard reference method) of four to 15, one will find a wider range of colors in American IPAS. English IPAs run from eight to 13 on the SRM scale. Both have an alcohol by volume content ranging from five to 7.5 percent.

The Imperial or Double IPAs up the ante with an ABV that starts where the others leave off at 7.5 percent and goes up to 10 percent. They land between 60 and 120 on the IBU scale and eight to 15 on the SRM scale.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip

So with that, I conclude my 2012 version of Oktoberfest. I have received feedback from some that they have not liked this series at all. Others have said they enjoyed it. If you fall in the latter camp, reside in the Charlotte area, and would like to stay up to date on beer education opportunities, Like the Charlotte Beer Babes Facebook page.

This whole venture was based upon my experience at  World of Beer where Preston coordinated a summer beer school program. As I mentioned when kicking this whole thing off, any errors, omissions or severe miscommunications of the information he provided and I have re-shared are most definitely my own. Until Oktoberfest rolls around again, Cheers!

Beer Battered Apples with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip
  • For the apples
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup India Pale Ale
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 small to medium apples
  • For the dip
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat while you prepare the apples and batter.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour in the beer and stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. Core the apples and slice into rings, or simply slice them into thin wedges. Peel the apples prior to slicing only if desired.
  5. Dip the slices or wedges into the beer batter one at a time, then gently drop into the hot oil.
  6. Fry until lightly golden brown, using a slotted spoon to remove and place on a paper-towel lined plate.
  7. Repeat until all apples are fried.
  8. Keep warm by transferring to a baking sheet in the oven (for heaven's sake, do no put the paper towel in the oven - this is likely something I would have done as a kitchen novice.)
  9. Prepare the dip by beating all ingredients - cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon - until well combined.
There is definitely room for experimentation in this recipe. One idea is to add a teaspoon of cinnamon and use a different type of beer for the batter. Same goes for the dip. Mix it up a bit by adding ginger or nutmeg in place of cinnamon.