When a Vermont girl (Zoe Francois) meets a Trinidad boy, and moves to Minneapolis, you wonder what life would show them. Certainly you think of unsavory comments and stereotypical prejudice et al, but this girl has found just the opposite. Go Minneapolis! What she has also found is critical acclaim as a baker, and this last week, we were lucky to have eaten Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls made by her, using Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. WOW!
In our pajamas, early in the morning, waking up after having spent hours the day before (Zoe and Charlie did the work, as I watched) preparing bread dough for the class Zoe was to teach in the evening, the Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls she made without any fuss, were just the wake up call we all needed. I ate three, and could have eaten all 8 that she made. I could have licked the cast-iron pan clean, and enjoyed doing it immensely. Not a big fan of most breakfast pastry found across the US, somehow, this is one of those breakfast rolls, that I think ONLY Americans do well. And Zoe's version maybe one of the best interpretations of this classic.
On this particular morning, Zoe used the refrigerated Brioche Dough she had made the night before. The pecan rolls came out light, fluffy, buttery, sweet and salty, and STICKY all at once. They were also just the right size, and not undercooked or dried out. I have enjoyed this roll in Manhattan at Taylor's and never found a better in the city. Then I was brought to Hells Kitchen in Minneapolis, before they moved to their new and larger location, where I fell in love with them, and found them as good as the great version at Taylor's. But the last time Charlie and I were in Minneapolis, and I made the production of taking Charlie to Hells Kitchen for a taste of these rolls, the version of the old-classic they have had for years at the old and smaller location, was shockingly far from nice at this new locale. In the translation of the honest cuisine from small to epic'ly' large locale, they lost their mojo and with it my respect for their pecan rolls. Luckily for Minneapolis, one of their own, Zoe, has come to my rescue and yours, by gifting us her book, her easy recipes and these great sticky pecan caramel rolls.
You can see that the caramel somehow manages to moisten the inside of the roll, and just enough that it has the stickyness but does not feel raw. The nuts are baked before being worked with, and so are nice and nutty and crisp, even as they are sticky and gooey in caramel. What I loved most about Zoe's rolls is the lack of too much spice. Often in American breakfast confections, chefs/cooks go overboard with spices and make everything cloyingly sweet and sweeter still because of copious amounts of cinnamon. Not in this recipe. Luckily she has a restrained hand with spice. It is there, but something you wonder about, and nothing you taste or discover immediately. This is the sign of a master chef or baker. Creating layered flavors, that are subtle yet stated. Buy Zoe and Jeff Hertzberg's books and you will bring great bread and also some wonderful baked goods into your life. Theirs is a food philosophy grounded in practical wisdom that is honest and straightforward. No wonder that their books have revolutionized home baking.
PS: Nope, the plates we chose were not chosen with our pajamas and outfits in mind. They are our everyday tableware. Emile Henry plates that are as sturdy as they are beautiful. It just happened that the sleepware matched the dinnerware and the baked treat.