Counter Action: Orange–coconut sweet rolls


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.


Orange–coconut sweet rolls

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


  • 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


  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: Plum cobbler with browned butter

plum cobbler i

It’s done!

I’m all moved in to my new place!

Holy moly, this is a good day. My old place is finally sparkling clean, my books and kitchen gear are finally upstairs in my new place, and I am a happy muskrat.

All together now! "When life is naught but boxes / And heavy packing tape, / When moving seems to swallow you, / Sit down and eat some grapes."

All together now! “When life is naught but boxes / And heavy packing tape, / When moving seems to swallow you, / Sit down and eat some grapes.” CHORUS! “Sit down and eat some grapes, / Sit down and eat some grapes. / A durian might do the trick, / lychee will give you quite a kick, / But really to get out of scrapes, / sit down — and — eat — [cymbal] some grapes!”

In celebration of this frabjous day (callooh, callay), I give you this plum cobbler made with browned butter. If you feel guilty about eating it for breakfast, skip the sugar on top and add a couple of spoonfuls of cornmeal to the batter to give it a nice healthy-feeling crunch. Otherwise, put a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on that bad boy and dive in. In either case, I won’t judge you a bit.

plum cobbler ii

Plum cobbler with browned butter

(from Joy the Baker, who adapted it from the Pioneer Woman)


  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 c. + 1 T. white sugar (divided)
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt
  • 3 medium plums (black or red — your choice), sliced into 8 pieces each


  1. If you already know how to brown butter, do it and move on to step 2. If not, read on. Cut the butter into small chunks and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. The butter will melt and start to crackle; this is a good sign, as it means the water is being cooked out of the butter. When the butter starts to turn light brown, remove it from the burner and pour it into another bowl. (If you let it stay in the hot saucepan, it will keep cooking and might burn.)
  2. In another bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add browned butter and milk to dry ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Pour batter into greased pie pan and arrange plum slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 T. of sugar.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until golden-brown. Keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.


Photo credits: Accordion player from music4life on Pixabay.

Counter Action: Butterbeer cake

butterbeer cake i

Welcome to D.A. Days, a celebration of all things Harry Potter! I’m deviating from my usual schedule to post every day this week, so feel free to check back every morning and join in the merriment.

Today’s installment features a cake I made for a party in my junior year of college. The summer before that year, I had been living in that hot, dusty, snoozy college town, with not a lot to do except work, read, and try not to get heatstroke. Fortunately, there was a classmate I knew slightly — we’ll call her Liz — who was also in town, living in an air-conditioned house. Merlin’s beard.

I feel your pain, kid. Unless you get any closer.

Most kids cool their mouths with popsicles, but Edna Mae is what you’d call an innovative thinker.

As Liz had just come back from nine months in England and I’d recently spent a delightful seven weeks rummaging around the same country, we agreed that we should get together immediately at her house and wax nostalgic about that royal throne of kings, that scepter’d isle, that earth of majesty, that seat of Mars, that other Eden.

(Ten karma points if you can name that play.)

During that kaffeeklatsch, we quickly discovered that we had other things in common, including a serious cooking habit and a love of all things Harry Potter. And where should those two things intersect, we decided, but in periodic movie/dinner parties. This cake made its debut at our very last party, for Deathly Hallows Part II. Or perhaps I should say our last Harry Potter party, because Liz and I have been roommates now for two years and heaven knows we’ve had enough Merlin parties, Firefly parties, Castle parties, and It’s Finals Week And We Seriously Need A Break parties since then to fill a shelf of scrapbooks.

But without further ado, the cake.

butterbeer cake ii

Butterbeer cake

(Based on this recipe at Amy Bites. Just a heads-up: the original recipe is super cool, with a butterscotch filling and a fancy topping. In other words, if Amy’s recipe is a Peter Jackson epic with a budget of $34 million, my version is a video someone shot with their phone in a vacant lot. Use her recipe if you really want to make a splash at a gathering; try my version for something more everyday and budget-friendly.)


  • 2 c. flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • ½ c. cream soda


  1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Mix in sugars and vanilla. Add eggs and continuing mixing.
  3. Combine flour mixture, butter/egg mixture, buttermilk, and cream soda in stages, beating well after each addition.
  4. Pour into greased 9″ x 13″ cake pan. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.
  5. Garnish with butterscotch icing (recipe below).


Butterscotch icing

(Made from this recipe at Simply Recipes)


  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • c. heavy whipping cream
  • up to 1 T. vanilla extract
  • up to 1 tsp. salt


  1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add sugar and stir to mix. Continue to heat and stir until sugar is melted.
  3. Add cream and lower heat slightly. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat mixture to a boil. Whisk periodically for 10 minutes or until quite thick.
  5. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and salt to taste.
  6. Pour over cake.


Photo credits: Child and fan from Andi_Graf on Pixabay.