A few weeks ago we were in Polcari's Coffee, which is a tiny Italian shop in Boston's North End that sells spices from apothecary jars and has big buckets of loose grains sitting around and on the counter there is an old-fashioned, clanking metal cash register that does not take credit cards. My sister and I call Polcari's "the vanilla dealer" because, when we first moved to Boston, I stocked up on their high-quality vanilla beans, which you can buy for one or two paper dollars. They also have 00 flour, candied citron, vanilla powder and black squid ink pasta which looks like electrical wire when cooked and can be served with an orange butternut squash alfredo sauce for Halloween.
While we were there, a guy came in saying, "Excuse us, excuse us, there's going to be a tour group coming through in a moment, excuse us." Twelve or so people then followed him into the store, which is the about the size of one of those plastic toy castles people have sitting in their backyard for children. This must have been some sort of weird, New-Agey health tour because they all listened politely as he talked about how the various ingredients in the store could be used to cure headaches and stomach aches and allergies and the like (as someone who has eaten many of the items sold by the store for food purposes, I have not personally noticed any health effects, but I haven't really been paying attention).
In the front window, a young couple was asking what dried chervil was. "It's a spice," the guy behind the counter said.
At one point, a firefighter came in and asked another guy behind the counter if he had any aspirin. He gave him a cinnamon stick to suck on instead, on the house (regularly a dime).
As this was around Easter time, the store had all kinds of ingredients for a proper Italian Easter, including Jordan almonds and big bags of almond paste, the latter of which was too good of a deal to pass up. And the other day our neighborhood smelled like cinnamon rolls, for whatever reason. So our neighborhood smelling like cinnamon rolls (probably some type of gas leak or something) and the almond paste sitting in the pantry (well-kneaded, because playing with the squishy almond paste through the bag is very fun) meant orange almond cinnamon rolls were born. Or risen. Easter. Risen. Yeast. Do you get it? You get it.
This is adapted from the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook and is actually based on their monkey bread recipe. I added grated orange zest to the dough and mixed together the almond paste with some butter, dark brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Instead of the cream cheese icing, I made a simple icing from powdered sugar and the juice from the orange. I ate them with a fork.
The recipe is written for use in a stand mixer, but if you don't have one you can also mix the dough by hand or with a wooden spoon or not make it at all.
orange almond cinnamon rolls
adapted from neiman marcus taste: timeless american recipes
ingredients for the dough
+ 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
+ 1 cup skim milk
+ 1 package active dry yeast
+ 1/4 cup sugar
+ 1 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
+ zest of 1 medium orange
ingredients for the almond cinnamon filling
+ 8 ounces almond paste
+ 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
+ 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
+ 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
ingredients for the frosting
+ 1 cup powdered sugar
+ juice of 1 orange
Use the stick of butter to lightly butter the sides of a 9" x 11" or 9" x 13" baking dish or cake pan. Set aside. Melt the remaining butter and set aside.
For the dough, pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium until the milk reaches about 110 degrees F. Pour the milk into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast and a small pinch of sugar over the milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast has dissolved and is a bit frothy.
Add the remaining sugar, kosher salt and melted butter to the bowl. Stir just to mix. Keeping the mixer on low, gradually add the flour until a soft dough has formed.
Lightly oil a medium bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 - 1-1/2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
While the dough rises, prepare the almond cinnamon filling. In a small bowl, mix together the almond paste, butter, dark brown sugar and cinnamon until completely combined. Set aside.
When the dough has doubled, start preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll the dough into a 18" x 14" rectangle (it should be about a 1/4-inch thick). Sprinkle bits of the almond cinnamon filling evenly over the dough. Starting at one of the short sides, begin rolling the dough up into a long log.
Cut the dough into 12 even rolls, each about 1-1/2 inches wide. Lay the slices, cut side up, evenly into the cake pan. Let the cinnamon rolls rise for about 20 minutes in a warm place.
Bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes, until they are a nice, golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.
In the meantime, prepare the icing by mixing the powdered sugar with a tablespoon of the orange juice at a time. Continue adding juice and mixing until you have a thick, liquidy icing.
Spread the icing evenly over the cinnamon rolls and serve warm.
makes about 12 cinnamon rolls