2014 has started off on a good note. I can see great possibilities and changes for this new year - and hopefully a bit of luck coming my way! For me and many others, this year started off with the fiercest cold snap that I have felt in years. Due to excessive snow and a lack of competence at the Toronto airport, I was forced to pull out all of my patience and humor in dealing with a week-long flight delay.
Brent and I have spent many nights this year curled up on the couch, trying to process plans for the future, which is so hard when typically we can't see past today. We feel as though the next stage of our life, where we want to call home, is here in Seattle. Despite our current green card uncertainties and the long commute to our families, we have weighed the pros and cons and have decided that Seattle is where we'll stay. We are excited to make that next step in our life. One that involves cutting grass, patching holes, furniture shopping, and creating a little space that is for us.
Last week we were approved for a mortgage (which is an utterly terrifying experience). It involved dealing with a smarmy business banker trying to get us to overextend into our retirement savings, to actually writing numbers down on paper. It seemed all so real and overwhelming. It was, however, somewhat reassuring to know that interest rates are at the lowest they've been in a while, and tax benefits do sound like a good thing. We are a little terrified after meeting with our real estate agent, who tells us that many other people here in Seattle all have the same ideas as we do for 2014. I'm thinking that this year will be filled with a lot of uncertainties, and a true test of our patience and determination, but utterly exciting at the same time.
So when the day ends with a frenzied bidding war, and that dream house goes to another bidder for well over asking price, I will need to find solace and reassurance in life's little beauties, and it will likely be done through a hefty supply of butter and flour. I call this recipe the 'everything is going to be all right gooey chocolate pull apart rolls'. There is nothing serious about it, nor should there be. Sweet dough is one of the most satisfyingly easy doughs to make. The whole process is as relaxed as they come. You mix a few ingredients, then you let it rise. You roll and press, and then another rise. It gives you a forced opportunity to takes things easy in between each step.
I've made this recipe with both dark and milk chocolate. Each is unique in flavor, and really, it's up to you to choose your favorite. Once you've rolled out the dough into a tight tube, and carefully sliced it into perfectly beautiful rounds, your natural instinct is going to be to place them neatly and tightly into a large pan, where they can rise and puff into each other. Resist this urge, and surrender to chaos. It's cathartic to layer the rounds into the pan in a messy fashion. They pile on top of one another, defying the rules of tradition. Once the dough has a second rise, the messy rounds all form into one another, and as they bake they'll further expand to fill the empty spaces in the pan. As soon as you smell the sugars browning, you'll know that magic is happening inside that tiny oven.
One of my favorite things about this dish is the messiness in it all. We tend to be so proper around food here in North America. All of the proper etiquette, the fancy cutlery, the different forks for each stage of the meal. It just seems so unnecessary. The most exhilarating food related experience I can remember was in Malaysia, at a small family owned restaurant with just a few tables and chairs, and only a handful of Malaysian and Indian dishes on the menu. Lacking the ability to speak the local language, I walked in with a nervousness so obvious that the owner grabbed my hand, sat me at a table, and signed that everything would be okay. He laid a giant banana leaf on the table, followed by scoops from three different curries and a dosa, with plenty of dipping sauces. I looked around at the locals, and they looked back with curiosity. They were all eating with their right hand, and I quickly realized that there was no cutlery. This was something out of my comfort level. I reached down to tear off some dosa and scoop up some curry, and it was one of the most liberating feelings ever. This recipe was half inspired by my fond memories of eating with my hands, and half inspired by the need and desire to comfort myself in sweet baked goods, as we are in the thick of winter.
CHOCOLATE PULL APART ROLLS
makes 1 loaf
1 cup whole milk
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup + 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 oz butter, room temperature
6 oz chocolate (dark or milk), chopped
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream
zest from 1 orange (optional)
In a small saucepan, heat the milk to 100ºF on low heat. Remove from the stove and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar (do not stir). Let it sit until the yeast foams (5 minutes). Whisk in the melted butter and egg yolk.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and stir. Make a well in the flour and add the wet ingredients. With the dough hook set to low, combine the ingredients, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture becomes sticky. Turn the speed to medium and knead for 6 minutes until the dough forms a ball around the dough hook. If this does not happen by 5 minutes, add 1 - 2 tbsp of flour until it does. Remove the dough from the bowl, and form it into a ball. Rub the inside of a large bowl with butter and then roll the dough in the bowl to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for 1 hour and 15 minutes to let the dough double in size.
Once the dough has doubled in size, roll it into a large rectangle. Spread 3 oz of butter on the dough leaving a half inch border on all four sides. Sprinkle the chocolate onto the dough, making sure to leave the half inch border. With the dough in front of you, the longest side placed horizontally, begin by rolling the dough tightly from the bottom to the top. Once you have reached the top, spread a small dap of water on the top 1/2 inch border and then seal. Pinch the ends tight, and then with a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into 1-inch rounds.
Grease a loaf pan and then place the dough rounds into the pan in a messy fashion. The messier they are, the prettier it will look once baked. Cover with a cloth and let double in size for 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Place the chocolate rolls into the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until they are brown on top and soft on the inside. Remove from the oven.
With a hand mixer, beat 1/4 cup of cream cheese and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until combined. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 - 1 cup of heavy cream, until the icing has reached a pourable consistency. Stir in the zest from one orange.
Remove the chocolate rolls from the loaf pan and drizzle with the icing. Serve warm.