Sunday, November 30, 2014

Swirly Cheese Buns

Growing up, Christmases spent with my dad's side of the family were events I looked forward to all year. The week would be spent sitting around the tree, rarely doing anything other than reading, watching movies, and sneaking off into other rooms to discretely wrap presents. We also spent a lot of time every single day in the kitchen; by the time the 25th came around, my grandmother, my aunts and I had churned out enough varieties of cookies to satisfy all my older cousins (who, strangely enough, would still rather eat raw dough than wait for the cookies to come out of the oven).
Waking up Christmas morning, the house was always filled with the smell of my great-grandmother's coffee cake (which is the most prized recipe I have and will most likely never be making its way online), along with the sweet scent of cinnamon buns. Hers were small and not at all like what you can buy at a mall food court, but they gave me a fondness for small, swirly rolls.
Around this time of year, I always start thinking of those cinnamon buns. They are a sacred tradition to me and I don't ever make them before December, but until then, I have to find substitutes. Last weekend, I threw together this savory variation. The dough recipe is similar to that of a traditional cinnamon bun, but they are filled with lots of gooey cheese, along with some shallots and herbs for extra flavor. They might just have to join in for this year's Christmas breakfast.
 Swirly Cheese Buns

for the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing the rolls

for the filling:
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups grated fresh Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix briefly to combine. In a medium measuring cup, whisk the yeast into the milk to dissolve. Add the yeast mixture and the melted butter to the mixer and beat on low speed just until a rough dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the filling. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a rectangle measuring about 12×16-inches. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch border at the edge. Starting with a short side, roll the dough into a tight log. Cut the dough into 12 rolls, each about 1-inch wide. Place 6 of the rolls into each of the prepared pans, spacing them out evenly. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and gently brush it over the rolls. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 F when the rolls are nearly done rising.
Remove the plastic wrap from the pans, and bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and the cheese bubbles. Serve warm.