Over 28 years ago, I became “Best of Friends” with a cookbook. It was a wedding shower gift from my mother-in-law and is the single cookbook I gravitate toward first, especially when planning a holiday or family gathering. I have discovered so many favorites between the two covers, recently they had to be laminated and re-bound. Countless pages are stained from nuggets of goodness being dribbled or splattered upon them. The good news is there are two additional editions from Darlene Glantz Skees; Best of Friends, Too! and Best of Friends, Festive Occasions. Unfortunately, all editions went out of print following Darlene’s death in 1998. A few copies can be found online using the second hand market. I know this because several times I have considered buying spare copies, concerned my books will become un-usable and then, what? I said they were my favorites!
I want to share Darlene’s absolute best recipe for “caramel” or butter pecan cinnamon rolls! It is a recipe I have perfected over the years, often keeping a dozen rolls in the freezer, specifically for guests or to share as a hostess treat when we travel to the homes of friends & family.
Millie’s Sweet Roll Dough
2 packages dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp. rapid rise yeast)
1/2 cup warm water (110-115º F)
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
8 1/2 – 9 cups bread flour
Dissolve the 2 packages of yeast in the warm water. Add 1-2 tsp. of sugar and lightly stir; let the mixture stand until yeast begins to foam vigorously (5-10 minutes). This is the one step that will either make or break your recipe! If the water is too hot, the yeast will not rise. After many failed attempts following Darlene’s recipe exactly and only mixing the yeast with the warm water, I learned to add the touch of sugar and use a thermometer to check the water temperature. Since then, perfect yeast every time.
Combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan and heat just until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl – beat the eggs with a fork until completely mixed, add the yeast mixture to the eggs, then add the slightly cooled milk mixture. Using a mixer with a dough hook, add the flour gradually so that it becomes a soft dough. Do not knead. Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place (cover with a tea towel) – until double in size, at least an hour. Punch down and proceed with any kind of sweet rolls. (Yield: 2-3 dozen rolls depending on how you roll them out or the recipe you follow)
Butter Pecan Rolls
Recipe is for 1 dozen rolls, so you may want to double or triple the following ingredients depending on your choices above…
3 tbls. butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbls. light corn syrup
1/4 c. chopped pecans
Roll out one-third (or one-half) of Millie’s Sweet Roll Dough into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Brush with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Combine granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the dough. Roll up the dough, starting with the long side; seal seam. Slice into 12 equal pieces using a serrated bread knife.
In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter and corn syrup. Cook and stir just until the butter melts and mixture is blended. Distribute the mixture evenly in the baking pan. Top with pecans. Place rolls, cut side down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover with a tea towel in a warm place; let rise until double (about 30 minutes).
Bake at 375º for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for about 30 seconds; invert onto a sheet of foil.
Note: If I don’t plan to freeze any rolls, I frequently reduce the dough recipe in half and make just one dozen. I have made both two or three dozen rolls with the recipe as printed. I can’t say it makes much of a difference in the taste or fluffiness of the rolls. It really depends on your preference and the quantity of ingredients you have – as well as how much time you have to devote to baking bread. I have made a traditional cinnamon roll version or a berry flavored sweet roll with the dough and all are equally good. I will follow another recipe for the filling only but Millie’s dough is perfect just the way it is. My son prefers the “caramel” rolls, so those I make them the most.
I hope you enjoy these rolls as much as we do!