Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Kiefer Cottage, 22 Days 'Till Christmas!!!

Hi there! It's nice to be visiting here at Type A Decorating. The Kiefer Cottage is where my husband Ryan and I document all of our house decorating and homemaking shenanigans (at great length, too. we're writers. words are our meat, photos our icing, metaphors our failures -- Ryan). We try to have a sense of humor about it all: the successes, the failures, the absolutely ridiculous (yes, mostly ridiculous failures -- Ryan). Anyway, on to Christmas...

It's our first Christmas in this little house in Roeland Park. Last year, we got home (in Historic Northeast Kansas City) from the hospital on December 22nd with the tiny bundle Andrew Meriwether (my brother would've named him "loud sack of potatoes"). The girls were visiting grandparents in Georgia, so we decided on no Christmas tree, and our special holiday dinner consisted of Honey Walnut Chicken from Bo Ling's. Delicious? Yes. Worth repeating every year? Well, Drew was the last addition to the family, making it unlikely we'll be bringing a newborn home again, and we can eat Chinese food any time, so it's hardly *special*. While I'm not a fan of decorating the whole house and playing Christmas carols ad nauseum, I do want to start building some traditions.

Did I grow up with strict Christmas ceremony? Not at all. I don't really remember most of what we did when I was young, so I called my mom.

Me: Mom, did we have any Christmas traditions growing up?

Mom: Not really, unless you count poaching Christmas trees from private property.

Me: Did we do that behind a mall once? I have vague memories of shivering in the back of the Jeep while y'all traipsed around in the woods.

Mom: Yes! You were four years old. You are such an elephant with that memory of yours. in RP it's more difficult to go steal, I mean, liberate trees because there just aren't that many evergreens lying around. I saw some on the side of I-35 this morning, but they were about 30 feet tall. Since I'm not going for a Griswold family Christmas fiasco, perhaps I should look for tradition inspiration elsewhere. Wonder what Ryan did growing up?

Ryan here. We didn't have any strict ceremony, either, but like the good southern baptists we were, there were a few things we could always look forward to each Christmas, and they generally revolved around food. My brother and I each had a gigantic knitted stocking hung on the brick wall surrounding the wood-burning stove. They would be filled to bursting (I think one actually tore once) with our favorite treats, both savory and sweet. We would generally get to those last, after opening all other presents.

My mother, who didn't do a whole lot of sweets-making the rest of the year, would suddenly turn into Betty Friggin' Crocker and turn out all sorts of goodies. My favorites were her peanut brittle and chocolate-covered pretzels. My dad would get in on the act and make these incredible casseroles he never bothered with otherwise because they were so much work (when you're off work for the holidays, you've got no excuse!). I still demand his squash casserole to this day. He also makes a very cheese-heavy baked mac n' cheese that is better than anything you've ever had at even the best "home cookin'" country kitchen eatery. One of these days, I'll get the recipes from him and see if I can make them as good.

Starr, again. So if we have to choose between my family's only "tradition" and Ryan's, I think we know the obvious choice. There's a nice evergreen I scouted a few blocks away. I just have to find an extension cord long enough for our chainsaw. No? That's not obvious to you? Oh, okay, I agree. Food, it is.

Since the girls were down in Georgia for Christmas last year, Ryan wants us to have a special Christmas morning this go 'round. And what better treat than a homemade breakfast concoction! For our open house, I emailed Jennifer Joe at Mama's Minutia for some brunch food ideas, and she gave me the key to happiness. From scratch sweet rolls. Even better, they can be made ahead, frozen, and then reheated whenever you want them. On demand goodness just can't be beat.

So that's how we found our new Christmas tradition. Before I get to the recipe, let's get your mouth watering.

Guys: this is the only time you can get caught staring at some hot buns and not get slapped.

Take note.

You ready now for the recipe?  I will warn you that even though your mouth is watering now, it will take a few hours to make them.  But the end result is so soul-satisfying that it will be worth all the effort.

First, the dough, adapted from Mama's Minutia.
3 T yeast
          1 c. warm water   

4 c. milk, scalded
2 c. plain mashed potatoes
2 sticks butter
1 ½ c. sugar
14-16 c. bread flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 T salt

For the filling:
6 c. brown sugar
3 sticks of butter (softened)
1/2 c. cinnamon

1. Stir together the yeast and water in a small container.  Let sit until frothy (yes, it's alive!).

2. In a saucepan, scald the milk (that means make it very hot without boiling it).  Take it off the heat and add the butter, stirring it until it melts.

3. Peel, chop, and boil two or three large potatoes until very tender. Drain well and then, using a hand-held mixer, beat the potatoes until they are smooth. Don't worry about a few lumps--we had some and there was no problem.

You might not think the best cinnamon rolls on the planet (the PLANET) would start with potatoes.

Man, my gut looks big.

Suck it in! That's better. Anyway, you'd be wrong. Potato dough is totally the way to go.

Rhyming on the other hand, definitely is not. I apologize.

4. Before going any further, find the biggest bowl in the house. In the past to make bread, I've used large stockpots if I didn't have a real bowl. In our case, we used a wedding present--the biggest bowl on Earth.  Rinse out the dust bunnies from the bowl and dry it. Then measure out 2 cups of the potatoes and put 'em in that glorious bowl.

After boiling to oblivion and beating the snot out of them with a hand mixer, dough can start happening.

5. Add the hot milk mixture. Add the sugar, three cups of the flour, and that yeasty water.

6. Add the eggs and salt, stir well, and then add the remaining flour. Knead the dough until it is soft, sprinkle the bowl with flour, and then return the dough to the bowl and cover with a cloth (or plastic wrap) and let rest until it has doubled in volume (about two to four hours).

Pound it like you're the big kid with problems at home taking lunch money from the tiny,

smart kid with glasses that won't stay up who doesn't shy away from eating his boogers

while solving math problems for the whole class on the blackboard.


Yea, and therefore doth it rise up like Lazarus.

You won't need Jesus for this, though -- the yeast'll do the trick.

7. Punch the dough down. At this point, the dough might be a little sticky. That can easily be fixed by putting some flour on your counter and doing some kneading. Add more flour (just a tiny bit at a time). Yes, this should work.

8. At this point, divide the dough in half. This is an optional step. If you have a huge countertop or island, you might be able to do this in one go.

9. Roll the dough out into a rectangle.

10. The original recipe called for melted butter, but I thought softened was easier to work with. Ultra-softened. I spread the butter over the dough, then put plenty of sugar, and then the cinnamon. If you have strong cinnamon like we did, use a little less. Use your hands to spread everything.

11. Roll the dough from the top down to the end of the counter into one long tube. Cut the tube into pieces (some use unflavored floss or a pastry cutter--just experiment. You don't want to smush them!).

When was the last time you rolled something so grin-inducing?

Heh. Heh.

12. Place them (touching each other) into greased pans. Let them rise until they've grown 50% more.  

Gods those are beautiful...

13. Bake @325 (160C) for 12-20 minutes. Huge variation, I know, but we had some pans bake quickly and others take a long time. We used glass and aluminum pans (just about every last one in the kitchen), making variation a foregone conclusion.

They plump when you cook them. Like a hot dog, except awesomer.

14. At this stage, either let cool, wrap 'em in foil and a ziploc and freeze...or start eating them right then and there. Without any glaze. If you want, you can make a quick glaze with powdered sugar and a teeny bit of milk, pouring it over the rolls. Ooooh, so good. Only caveat? Don't frost them if you're planning on freezing them.

15. To defrost, put 'em on the counter for a few hours, leaving them in the foil (we did it overnight). 10 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees will warm them up nicely. Then pour the glaze over them.

Please let us know if you make these, and send pictures! We love sharing our [few, occasional, rare] successes with others.

Awkward side-hugs and air-kisses,
Starr and Ryan
The Kiefer Cottage


Jenny @ Simcoe Street said...

What a great post. And YUM!

Jil Casey said...

Great tutorial - they look DELICIOUS!

Sommer said...

Holy smokes those do look delish! Too bad they aren't Paleo. I wonder if I could tweak this??

The other Starr said...

i ate those on turkey day at starr's house. they ARE delicious.

Rebecca said...

Those look so tasty!

Aubrey {All Things Bright and Beautiful} said...

Yum-o!!! I definitely need to make some of these guys! Cinnamon rolls are some of my absolute favorite!


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