It’s the day after Thanksgiving. You just had a turkey sandwich with a few slices of apple and a schmear of cranberry, but there’s still a lot left. Why is it that of all the Thanksgiving side dishes, it’s the cranberry that hangs around for days? Whether it’s brandied cranberries, a basic homemade cranberry sauce or the one from a can, it’s always the last to go. This year, I’ve got an idea for you. Cranberry Black Pepper Sweet Rolls.
I’m not planning on lining up for doorbuster deals or braving the crowds at the mall the day after Thanksgiving, so we’re starting from scratch here. The dough takes a little time, but most of it is just waiting, so there’s no reason you can’t mix up the dough, leave for two hours and come back to it after a little shopping, which is what I did last weekend.
Having made three batches now, I can tell you the dough is a little different every time. In the course of a couple of days where the weather wasn’t much different from one day to the next, the dough took a little extra milk on rounds one and three, but not two, so see how it goes. Above all else, make sure you have fresh yeast. The first batch I made with yeast that was a few months past its date, but I’d kept it in the fridge. The difference between that batch and the second, made with brand new yeast was worlds apart. That’s to say, the thing actually doubled in size on the first rise.
On the cranberry, whatever you’ve got will do as long as the sauce itself isn’t too runny. Whole berry is preferred, but if all you’ve got is the jellied from the can, go for it. My initial batches were made with the jarred sauce from Trader Joe’s and the final batch, the one at the top of the post, was made with Pacific Foods’ Whole Berry Cranberry, which they provided as a sample. The Pacific Foods version is closer in the flavor to canned version we all grew up with (a plus in my book, with the added benefit of only cranberries, sugar and water as ingredients). Meanwhile, the Trader Joe’s is more of a purple-ish ruby color, jam-like in texture. Both work well.
Instead of the usual powdered sugar glaze, I opted for a combo of orange juice, sugar and vanilla reduced down to a syrup. It doesn’t strictly need it, but it provides a nice, sweet stickiness without going overboard.
- 2½ c. all-purpose flour
- 1½ t. instant yeast
- ½ t. table salt
- ⅓ c. granulated sugar
- 2 T. butter
- 1 egg
- ½ c. milk, plus more as needed
- ½ c. cranberry sauce or jam
- 1 t. cinnamon
- scant ⅛ t. freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 medium orange
- ½ c. fresh squeezed orange juice
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- ¼ t. vanilla extract (optional)
- In a food processor, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar, pulsing 4-5 times until evenly mixed. Add butter and egg and pulse again until well combined. With the machine running, pour in the milk and let it run until a ball forms. It may take 1-2 additional teaspoons of milk.
- Lightly flour a cutting board (or your countertop) and knead the dough for 1-2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Be careful not to incorporate too much flour, the dough will become tough.
- Put the dough ball into a medium bowl sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, cinnamon and black pepper. Set aside.
- On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle about half an inch thick. Resist the urge to roll it thinner.
- Spread the cranberry sauce mixture evenly across the dough, almost all the way to the edges. Zest the orange over the dough. It's easier to get more even coverage if you tap it off the microplane or zester as you go rather than trying to sprinkle it with your fingers.
- Roll the dough into a log. Make sure the first turn is tight. Using a sharp knife (really, the sharpest one you've got) cut the log into 1 - 1.5 inch slices. You should get 8-10 slices, not counting the end pieces.
- Spray a 9-inch round cake pan or muffin tin with non-stick spray. Arrange the rolls in the pan with a little bit of space between them. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.
- To make the glaze, combine orange juice, sugar and vanilla extract in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until the glaze begins to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Let cool. The glaze will thicken further.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Brush the rolls with glaze while still warm.