From Too Many Chefs -

November 26, 2009
Cracking the Cranberry Roll Code

cranberryroll.jpgAs I write this, cooks in the U.S. are waking up and facing a full day of Thanksgiving fun: baking and cooking and gossiping with family and friends, looking forward to a feast. Living outside the US, I don't think I've cooked a Thanksgiving feast on the actual day in, well, 17 or 18 years. This year was no exception: we had our bird last Friday, before the Critic flew off for meetings in Tobago. (It's a hard life he leads.) We enjoyed a lovely bird from a local farm, with cornbread stuffing (each year the recipe is getting closer to perfect), bags of gravy and creamed corn. And cranberry rolls. There are always cranberry rolls. However, I have to say that in the interest of saving time, I committed sacrilege. I used a bread machine. And the really scary part? It worked better than when I've made the dough by hand. Yes, this is no compliment to me as a baker. But yes, I will be doing it again. And I will also now know that when I am making the dough by hand, I should go easy on the flour. Because this is the crux of the matter: in the past I have always used much more flour than the original recipe called for. When you are kneading the dough by hand, it tends to stick to your hands and so you reach for the flour bin. When it's in a non-stick machine, you don't. The recipe calls for 4-5 cups of flour; I put in precisely 4 1/2 cups. And when I turned it out to punch it down and form the rolls, I kneaded in no more than half a cup more. The rolls were light and pillowy and just plain heaven with a dollop of cranberry sauce. So if you are in a hurry this Thanksgiving morning but happen to have a bread machine, I highly recommend you give this recipe a spin. Your taste buds will thank you, as will your friends and family. I just took a couple dozen to my youngest son's nursery and introduced the children and staff there to them and came away with far fewer than I expected. Actually, the best compliment is this: of the children who were willing to try the rolls (toddlers are extremely suspicious of unknown food) only one left any roll on her plate. And oddly enough, it was the cranberry filling - and her mother snatched it up and ate it for her!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We have much to be thankful for this year including (but not limited to by any means): good health, good friends, good food, a President and first family we can look up to and be proud of, money in the bank and people who still come back and read this blog, however slow I am to post theses days. Thank you all!

Grandma Kehoe's Cranberry Rolls, as adapted for a bread machine
Makes 24 rolls, plus dough left over to make an apple coffeecake or other rolls of your choice.

1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (60 ml)
1 cup milk, scalded (240 ml)
1/2 cup butter (115 g)
1/4 cup sugar (60 g)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups of flour, plus a tiny bit extra (585 g, plus extra)

2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup water (120 ml)
1 cup sugar (240 ml)
1/4 cup flour (30g)
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp lemon juice

Scald the milk, and while it is still hot add the butter. As it is cooling, combine the 1/4 cup warm water with the yeast and the sugar in the bread machine. When the milk has cooled to lukewarm, stir in the salt, sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add the flour to the bread machine and pour the milk/sugar/butter liquid over it. Put it in the bread machine and choose the setting "dough".

While the dough is being made, combine the ingredients for the filling in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until a thick red jam is produced. Turn of the heat and set aside to cool. This should be done well before the dough is ready so that it's nice and thick when you form the rolls.

When the beeper signals that your dough is ready, take a look at it. Dough with lots of butter in it takes longer to rise, so if the dough is not up to the edges of the container, leave it another half hour to forty minutes. When the dough is finally ready, turn it out onto a floured surface. Give it a punch or two and a bit of a kneading and then let it rest for a couple of minutes. Cut off a hunk and start to roll it out with a rolling pin. When it is no more than half a centimeter thick and even all across, use a round biscuit cutter to form the rolls. Mine is a bit smaller than the saucers my grandmother used to use (sacrilege again!) but I think it has the perfect ratio of dough to filling at 7.5 cm. For the larger rolls, she would use a custard dish to make the impression in the middle of the rolls, but I found the rounded cap of a spice jar was perfect. One other tip: to retain that nice circular shape, roll the dough out to slightly thinner than you want. Then gently lift the edges so that the dough relaxes into a slightly smaller, thicker surface. This way, when you cut the dough it won't immediately relax and get thicker and funky shaped. Actually, the roll I used for this photo is an example of what happens if you don't do this. At 42 I'm still learning.

Once the rolls have all been cut out, as mentioned, use a slightly smaller round object (come to think of it a pestle would work well too) to make a depression in the middle of the dough and fill it with the cooled cranberry sauce: a generously rounded teaspoon in each.

Leave the rolls in a warm place to rise for an hour. Bake at 375/180 for 15 minutes precisely. Set a timer on your phone or your kitchen timer if you have one. Because this is also crucial: if you leave them in longer, they will most likely look the same and be perfectly edible. The first batch I made this year, I turned on the TV and forgot them for 35 minutes. They were edible. But they were nothing compared to the light, chewy morsels that came out after 15 minutes.


Posted by Meg in Sussex at November 26, 2009 8:56 AM

hi, great site! your "cranberry rolls" are actually kolaches. these Czech pastries can be filled with almost any type of fruit, cheeses etc. my wife has family in the state of Nebraska where I have encountered a passionate following for these pastries as a 'go-to' item for breakfast or snacktime. mix up the fillings sometime and try out tart cherry, apricot or even poppy seed in addition to your yummy cranberry version. thanks for the post, i have never tried making these but will likely give your recipe a shot!

Posted by colin on November 26, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Colin, I think you are right about the origins of the rolls. However, the odd thing is that it was my Irish-American grandmother, not the Austria-born-Czech-speaking one who taught me how to make them.

Funny old world, eh?

Posted by Meg in Sussex on November 26, 2009 at 6:21 PM

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Lots of things to thank this time of the year! After all the problems, we are still all here! Enjoy!

Posted by dining furniture on November 27, 2009 at 12:08 AM

I made these for our Mexican Thanksgiving, kneading with the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid and they were outstanding. But the best part of our "traditional" dinner was the turkey - selected that morning by the mother of one of the guests, neck duly wrung, plucked, cleaned, boiled, then smothered in spices (mainly achiote), and cooked over hot coals, turning constantly. Best I've ever had; served with pickled Yucatecan onions and, of course, all the usual trimmings. Grandma Kehoe would have loved our stories.

Posted by Marianne on November 28, 2009 at 7:47 PM

Oh, Mar, you have my mouth watering! I don't suppose anyone noted down the precise recipe?? If so, I think it's your duty to share with me so I can share with the world! The Critic is always happy to eat another turkey...

(Especially when we are having - gasp - lasagna for Christmas dinner!!)

Posted by Meg in Sussex on November 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM

Hey, hey, hey... nothing wrong with the Italian Christmas, now. A little different, perhaps, but still very tasty. I think Annie said she was going to do a more traditional Turkey-based meal on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I wanted to say that yes, I, too, have found that a wetter, stickier dough does create better bread. I make bread every weekend, and it has taken me a while to come to grips with the fact that less flour makes a better result. It just gets a little tricky handling it; I now use parchment paper to lower it into my Dutch oven, which helps immensely. I think it has something to do with the proteins being better able to align themselves into chains in a wetter dough; Cook's Illustrated wrote up an article explaining the science behind no-knead bread a year or so ago, and I think that was their explanation.


Posted by Big Brother on December 9, 2009 at 6:34 PM

This looks like the perfect breakfast item to wake up to and not just for thanksgiving. Cranberry Rolls are my next project.

Posted by Liz @ Comfortisse Bra on December 5, 2011 at 11:59 AM

I love cakes!! look very appetizing! .. For sure I test ... more .. I know what to do when the bread dough left over .. Thank you for your recipe!

Posted by Mikaela W on June 13, 2012 at 3:14 PM