Bacon Sweet Rolls with Maple Glaze

Bacon sweet rolls

Most everything is better with bacon.

In the South, bacon might as well be one of the five food groups, alongside vegetables, biscuits and/or cornbread, cheese dip, and sweet tea. It’s the basis of any true Southern side item, tops most casseroles, and makes a great afternoon snack with the aforementioned tea.

While reflecting on what I could post that epitomized a truly Southern breakfast, this recipe for bacon sweet rolls caught my eye. Could there  be a way to take a cinnamon roll- perfect with it’s warm cinnamon smell wafting from the oven, soft in the center with ripples of vanilla icing- to another level? Is there a way to actually upgrade nature’s most perfect fried pork product? Can I personally contribute to a breakfast roll awakening in the kitchens of bacon-lovers everywhere?

I do not claim to know the answers to life’s most serious questions. This one, however- can bacon and sweet rolls coexist in perfect unity?- I can answer. With a resounding yes.

These rolls are why bacon makes most everything better. Filling, rich sweet dough swirled around salty, applewood smoked bacon that folds with brown sugar and butter into a wheel of national championship caliber (Did someone say 11:00 pre-game tailgate food? The other team’s fans will cheer for you). These are a first-meal treat in its highest form.

So don’t let all of that bacon go to waste on the side of your eggs. Wrap it in dough, throw it in the oven, and celebrate the South’s most perfect breakfast roll.

Also, a huge thank you to the incredibly talented Stephen DeVries for taking these beautiful photos. I don’t think breakfast has ever looked this good.

What a polite breakfast eater's plate would look like.

What a polite breakfast eater’s plate would look like.

Bacon Sweet Rolls with Maple Glaze (Recipe adapted from this great food blog)

What You Will Need

1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 TBSP brown sugar
Sweet Dough (recipe below)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, warm room temperature
1 pound bacon, cooked (I liked this brand, applewood-smoked), crispy and crumbled
Maple Glaze (recipe below)

Sweet Dough

1 cup warm whole milk
2 envelopes (4 ½ tsp.) active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Stir milk (I microwaved mine until it felt pretty warm to the touch; typically it should be about 110-120 degrees), yeast, and 1/4 tsp. sugar in a small bowl. Let it stand until the mixture bubbles, about 6 minutes (you will see tiny bubbles rising to the surface). Stir it again.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just to combine.

Add yeast mixture to the flour and mix on medium-low speed until dry shaggy mass forms, scraping down the bowl occasionally, about 2 minutes.

Add egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed until well blended. Then add the sugar and beat until moist soft dough that resembles thick batter forms, about 3 minutes. (Keep on beating the batter here, even when it looks like it is already in dough form. It needs to become more like a silky batter than a thick dough.)

Add room temperature butter 1 tbsp at a time and beat on medium-low speed until almost incorporated before adding more, about 2 minutes (your dough will be sticky, not thick like a traditional bread dough). Beat dough on medium-high 2 minutes longer (make sure all of your butter is incorporated here).

Scrape dough out onto a work surface then gather together. Place it in a large bowl that is oiled or buttered. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Punch dough down; cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Peabody’s recipe was slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Maple Glaze

2 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (the darker the better, go for the real Vermont thing if you can)
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, melt butter and syrup together over medium heat (watch the mixture because it comes together quickly).  Whisk powdered sugar into the hot mixture until smooth. Let cool slightly…if too thick add a little more maple syrup. Pour over rolls.

To Bring It All Together

Whisk both sugars together.

Turn cold Sweet Dough out onto floured surface; sprinkle with flour. The more flour the better here; when you roll it out it gets a bit sticky.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out the dough to two 15 by 12 inch rectangles. I can never seem to make actual rectangles with my dough, it’s always more of a large oval, so whatever works for you will still be delicious.

Using fingers, spread the butter evenly over each rectangle. Sprinkle ½ sugar mixture and half of the bacon over each. Starting at one long side of each dough rectangle, tightly roll up dough jelly-roll style, enclosing filling. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each roll crosswise into fifteen or sixteen one inch-thick slices. Arrange your  dough slices on a cookie sheet, spacing evenly apart.

Cover with plastic wrap; let them rise in a warm, draft-free area until the buns are puffy and doubled, about 1 hour 45 minutes.

Bake buns at 375F until deep golden brown. The cooking time varies here. I used a dark metal pan, and it only took mine about 15 minutes to cook. If you use a light metal cookie sheet, it will probably be more like 25 minutes. Just watch your rolls-because of the sugar inside of them, it can become a syrupy pool around your dough and burn them the bottom. Let the buns stand 2 minutes. Then cover with glaze and say hello to the best bacon baked bun of your life!

Aunt Annie’s Strawberry Layer Cake

Perfect strawberry heaven

Spring strawberry greatness

I wish I had an Aunt Annie.

If I did, I would ask for her for her home address so I could show up every Saturday morning and listen as she lovingly taught me to bake cakes.

The unfortunate reality is that this recipe was not easy to come by. I did not find it on Pinterest, or google “best strawberry cake,” or ask Pioneer Woman. No, this cake took me by complete surprise. And the moment I tasted it, I knew the recipe had to be yours.

Cake on a platter

At a recent photographer friend‘s birthday party, a coworker of ours arrived with a strawberry cake. I love strawberry cake. There is a bakery in my hometown that makes impeccable strawberry cake. But I had yet to recreate anything like it on my own. And to be completely honest, I almost didn’t try this one. I had been let down too many times, sure that it was going to be another missed attempt at strawberry greatness.

But my first bite was a game changer. This cake was pure strawberry; fresh, light and moist with chunks of strawberry, delicately sweet and airy. The frosting was whipped, dense with a strawberry punch. A perfect precursor of spring on a plate. With light streaming in from the cafe windows where we ate, I thought for a brief moment I was living and breathing happiness. And before I left my dream state, the slice was gone.

I think something's missing

My obsessive quest for the recipe began. The owner of the ingredients list did not want to share it (see egg salad dowry entry last week), and so there was one thing left to do: I stalked her. I came by her desk every day and told her I wouldn’t give up. I pled, whined, hid behind office doors to pop out and remind her I wanted it . Then one day, a lovely slip of paper appeared at my desk. A lovely piece of newspaper.

Newspaper recipes are a lost art. I know my generation has passed them over for quick reviews and input from social media sources; I can’t tell you the last time I read a local paper on a Sunday. But the great thing about recipes in the Food section is you know they were loved. Someone took the time to type it out from most likely a handwritten card. They knew it was worth printing and putting on everyone’s front door step. And that’s what I want for this blog- to share with you recipes that are loved, known, and appreciated.

And so, without further ado, I present to you the infamous (stalked) Auntie Anne’s Strawberry Layer Cake. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

A slice of strawberry

Aunt Annie’s Strawberry Layer Cake

What You Will Need:

1 cup fresh frozen strawberries, thawed (I washed two pints of strawberries, sliced a cup of them in half, then put that cup in a freezer safe bag for the cake. I then froze and thawed the rest of the berries to make sure I had enough juice for the frosting.)

1 box white cake mix

1 box strawberry Jello

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

1/2 cup water

2 batches strawberry butter cream frosting, recipe below

Fresh sliced strawberries and white chocolate coconut truffles for garnish if you like

What You Will Do

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray two (9-inch) metal cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set them aside.

3. Drain your cup of strawberries well, reserving the juice for the frosting. I would go ahead and drain the rest of your frozen strawberries separately at this point to make sure you have enough juice.

4. Combine the cake mix, strawberry Jello powder and flour in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil, eggs, water and drained strawberries. Mix well on low for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for two minutes (make sure NOT to overmix here; it messes with the jello texture), scraping the sides of the pan as neccessary.

5. Divide the batter equally among two prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes. Check these at about 28 minutes to make sure they don’t over-bake. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 mintues in the pan, then turn it out onto wire racks to cool for another 30 minutes.

6. At this point you can go ahead and frost the cake with buttercream. However, BAKERS ALERT– you will have a moister cake if you take these rounds, wrap them in plastic wrap first then aluminum foil, and freeze them overnight. Take them out of the freezer the next morning and let them sit at room temp until you need to frost them.

7. Garnish to your heart’s content with strawberries, white chocolate truffles, sprinkles, marshmallows, edible glitter

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

What You Will Need

1 stick butter at room temperature (This is important for your frosting to whip up to it’s peak fabulousness)

1/4 cup strawberry juice (Please, please, please don’t skimp on this; the juice makes this frosting!)

1 pound powdered sugar

What You Will Do

1. Using an electric mixer, mix the butter, juice, and sugar together on low until blended. Then cream the mixture on high until light and fluffy, about two minutes. The icing will start to form peaks and feel like a dense buttercream when it is ready.

2. Scrape the sides of the bowl and/or taste frosting as necessary.

BAKER ALERT (These are way too much fun) If you dip your icing knife or spatula into a bowl of warm water, it will help smooth the frosting without tearing the cake. Also, it is easier to make one batch of frosting for the layer between the two cakes, then make a second batch for the top and sides of the cake. This ensures even frosting in the center and on the outsides of the cake.

A New Look

Lots of yumminess on a table.

I get bored easily.

And I crave beauty. As much as chocolate, Cheez-Its, and (insert-chewy-candy-here).

Luckily I am surrounded by incredibly Creative people on a daily basis. In fact, my friend Todd Helzer has a fantastic design eye and started his own photography/design business. So, I begged, pleaded, and convinced him to take photos of my food (Ok, this is not true. Todd is such a great person that he volunteered to do this for me.)  I also promised in return for his help all of the leftovers from the shoot he and his wife Amy could take home in a baggie. We had a deal.

This is where the hard part comes in. I love to cook. I love cooking-inspired bookmarks, cookbooks, and (insert sigh) Pinterest. Here-in was my dilemma.  How was I going to boil down years’ worth of great recipes into one single photo? What was my “look?” I can’t even decide on a definite way to wear my hair. So, I have experienced the most bittersweet editing process of my life over the past seven days. The internal dialogue went something like this.

“Could I make a chocolate cake ahead of time? What about the icing? Will it look weird sitting out? What if it gets lumpy? Yes, I should feature the sweet potato biscuits- but what about powdered sugar on top? Is that too much white? Oh, and I love Mexican food. Salsa? Noo, too much red- cilantro-I like basil- what about Italian food? Ohhh what if Mario Batali finds this photo and loves it? Asks me to design a whole new line of kitchen clogs?  I must eat at Eatily!”

And so on. You see where this is going.

And this is why I need people to reign me in. Shout out to the hubs!

Anyway, I managed to reign myself in and stick to the things/foods that I know and love. The ones that make me feel good, pack a punch of color, and make life a bit brighter. Long story short, LuvCooks is about to get, like we say in the South, “a whole new” look. A change that, despite my overzealous food mania, will be a move in a simpler- and more beautiful- direction.

Insert teaser photos here!

Todd, aka photographer extrodinaire, captures the look.

Todd’s lovely wife Amy was the best photo assistant/reflection-creator ever!