Counter Action: Orange–coconut sweet rolls

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It’s November 16? What the heck? Where did autumn go?

I don’t know if it’s the new weather scheme, or the new crazed schedule, or the longer commute, or what … but ever since I moved here for grad school 14 months ago, time has been whizzing past me like a caffeinated peregrine falcon.

My default source for life allusions is Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I, and here, as at many times, I will step back and let it explain how I feel.

Our spring and summer had been strenuous to the point of exhaustion and I, at least, having read many books about farms and farmers, had looked forward to winter as a sort of hibernation period. A time to repair machinery, hook rugs, patch quilts, mend harness and perform other leisurely tasks. Obviously something was wrong with my planning, for it took me sixteen hours a day to keep the stove going and three meals cooked. I leaped out of bed at 4 A.M., took two sips of coffee and it was eleven and time for lunch. I washed the lunch dishes and pulled a dead leaf off my kitchen geranium and it was five o’clock and time for dinner.

If you’re in a similar predicament, maybe you’re gulping down dried fruit and instant mac-and-cheese in the ten free minutes you have per day. But at some point in the near future, I hope you have the time to make something slowly — maybe a bean soup, maybe a pan of roasted vegetables, maybe these yummy rolls. Whatever it is, don’t feel guilty about taking the time to make it. Savour every minute it takes to prepare … and then savour every bite when it’s finished.

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Orange–coconut sweet rolls

(using the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll dough as a base)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. (or 1 packet) yeast
  • 4 + 1/2 c. flour (divided)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 T. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3/4 c. coconut
  • 2 oranges
  • splash of orange juice
  • about 1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine milk, oil, and sugar in a large pot. Heat and stir until comfortably warm (but not too warm to stick your finger in).
  2. Sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Mix in 4 c. flour. Cover pot with tea towel and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  4. Stir in 1/2 c. flour, along with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Transfer dough to fridge while making filling.
  5. In small saucepan, brown butter. In toaster oven or conventional oven set to 375°F, toast coconut until golden-brown. Zest oranges and set zest aside, then peel, seed, and dice orange pulp.
  6. Turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into flat rectangle, roughly 12″ x 24″. Pour browned butter over dough, then sprinkle liberally with coconut, 3/4 of the orange chunks, and 1/2 of the orange zest.
  7. Starting from nearest long edge, roll dough and filling into a log. Cut into 1-1/2″ sections and place in casserole dish.
  8. Let rise 20 minutes, then bake at 375°F for 15–18 minutes.
  9. In small bowl, combine remaining orange zest and pulp with powdered sugar, splash of orange juice, and pinch of salt. Adjust powdered sugar:liquid ratio until you have a reasonably thin glaze.
  10. Remove rolls from oven. Top with glaze. Best right after baking, or keep covered at room temperature for 2–3 days.

 

Counter Action: Baked oatmeal with pear and raspberries

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Five years ago, I was not much of a cook.

I didn’t need to be, really. I had to eat most of my meals in the college cafeteria, and for the rest of the time, I could get by with toast and fruit.

Everything changed when I moved to Poland for a year. All of a sudden, I was not only living on my own in a tiny village, I was also earning a modest stipend and in serious need of a hobby. Cooking was really my only option.

Well, cooking or shopping.

Cooking or shopping or romping through Eastern Europe on my own.

But I went with cooking.

home

How many people can brag that their dining room, their living room, and their bedroom are all the same room? Yeah, be jealous.

When I was packing for Poland, I hadn’t planned on teaching myself how to cook while I was there, so I’d only brought one cookbook. Fortunately, my flat had fantastic wifi, so I figured I could find some good recipes online.

I was wholly unaware, you see, of the concept of food blogs. You can imagine my delight when I discovered first Joy the Baker, then the Pioneer Woman, and then Smitten Kitchen, whose recipes formed the majority of my “to try” list.

This baked oatmeal, from Joy the Baker, was one of the first things I baked in my tiny oven. That appliance would go on to host scores of other experiments, from granola to calzones to rosemary challah rolls, and the baked oatmeal was a delightful christening. I topped it with some fresh gruszki (“GROOSH-kee” — pears) and maliny (“mah-LEE-nee” — raspberries) I picked up at a farmer’s stand down the stand, using my extremely fractured Polish. It was mid-September, I was nervous about teaching, and I knew the winter would be no picnic. But for the time being, it was enough to have something warm and fresh and delicious to look forward to.

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Baked oatmeal with pear and raspberries

(based on Joy the Baker’s baked oatmeal with fresh raspberries and pistachios)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 c. old-fashioned oats (not the quick-cook kind — they’ll get soggy)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 pear, cored and diced
  • 1 c. fresh raspberries
  • milk for serving

Directions:

  1. Combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In separate bowl, combine milk, butter, egg, and vanilla.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 20–25 minutes, or until the middle is pretty firm.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with pear, raspberries, and milk. Leftovers will keep in fridge for 1–2 days.