May 24, 2008

Overnight Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Being out of town often as I have been for the past few months, I've had little chance to bake. So my boyfriend's birthday provided the perfect opportunity, and having only two days at home wasn't going to stop me. Luckily this recipe requires minimal effort. Like any yeast recipe, though, it does require time, patience, and some planning ahead.

This recipe will make a small batch of rolls, perfect for 2 or 3 people. Double it if you need a bigger yield. The dough is prepared the night before and has its final rise in the fridge overnight--then in the morning, they just need to come to room temperature before they're put in the oven. This is perfect for someone like me, who lacks the motor skills and mental alertness needed to bake until after noon at least. I am not a morning person.

Orange Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from this recipe

Makes 6 rolls


Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


powdered sugar
orange juice

see step 12 below.

The night before:
1. Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F,

2. Pour into a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, zest, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

3. Add remaining flour. Mix until flour is absorbed and dough is a coherent mass, but still a bit sticky. If dough is too sticky to handle, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.

4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour (sparingly) if sticky, about 8 minutes.

5. Lightly oil large bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, 1.5- 2 hours.

6. Meanwhile, prepare filling by mixing brown sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.

7. When dough has doubled in volume, gently deflate and transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 8x11-inch rectangle.

8. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over surface. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 6 equal slices.

9. Butter a pie pan or 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. Arrange rolls in pan, cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover pan with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Put dough in refrigerator and let rise overnight.

The next morning

10. Remove rolls from refrigerator an hour before baking and allow to come to (near) room temperature and complete their second rise.

11. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

12. Make glaze: Put some powdered sugar in a bowl- a cup or so. Add orange juice, a little tiny bit at a time, mixing until desired consistancy is achieved. Once rolls have cooled a bit, drizzle glaze over top. (Sorry for the imprecise directions- I improvised the glaze).

This is my entry for Bread Baking Day #10: Breakfast Breads, hosted by Melissa of Baking a Sweet Life.

May 10, 2008

Bizarre Historical Landmarks of California: Nit Wit Ridge

When driving through Cambria, CA, I came across a sign pointing to a California State historical site called "Nitt Witt Ridge". What?

I had to find out what that was. I drove up a steep hill and there it was: Nitt Witt** Ridge in all its bizarre glory.

Since I can't find the appropriate words to describe this place, I will quote from a brochure I picked up by the front gate:
"Art Beal, [also known as Captain Nit Wit or der Tinkerpaw], born in Oakland of Irish and Native American parentage, spent much of his childhood in orphanages.

He built a three-level fantasy environment from collected materials in Cambria, which locals call the Poor Man's Hearst Castle. This has a literal basis, as some construction material was scavenged from the Hearst estate. It helped that Beal was a local trash hauler, and had trouble discarding things...With a pickax and shovel, he hollowed out a 2.5 acre hillside in Cambria, using collected trash as landfill, to create an intricate network of terraced gardens, buildings, ornamental stone arches, fountains and walkways."

Unfortunately, the house was fenced off and closed to the public, so I didn't get to see the interior. But the exterior alone is pretty cool. Beal used found materials, both natural and manmade, to both construct and decorate his "castle", using beer cans, car parts, abalone shells, old stoves, toilets, and other unusual elements. Beal began construction of his house in 1928, and built it up over the next 5o years. Beal died in 1992 at the age of 96, and the house is now listed as a California Historical Landmark, considered representative of "one of California's remarkable folk art environments".

one of many toilets

I especially like the contrast between Nit Wit Ridge "- built from local scrap, over a 51-year-period, by a single trash hauler"- and the Hearst Castle, "only six miles north on the Pacific Coast Highway, made from expensive artifacts collected from around the world by a wealthy publisher, who hired architect Julia Morgan and a small army of construction workers, all of whom labored for 28 years to build an estate on 127 acres with 41 fireplaces, 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms", in addition to two pools, and a zoo filled with exotic animals shipped in from all over the world.

The brochure would have it that "history makes all things equal: today, both Nit Wit Ridge and the Hearst Castle are state historical landmarks".

However, the Hearst Castle clearly still benefits from the advantages that money brings: compare its fancy new visitors center, gift shop, and online tour reservation system to the dilapidated, fenced-off and clearly less frequently visited Nit Wit Ridge. You can still take tours, however, if you arrange it in advance.

**"Nitt Witt" and "Nit Wit" both seem to be acceptable spellings.

Abalone shells inlaid in the stairs