The Sugar (& Cinnamon) To Sprinkle on Your Snow Day

Mother Nature is telling me its time for a repost of a recipe blog post I initially ran early January 2017. I’ve updated some details to make it more timely, and a few of the photos as well; but the truth is, not much smells better than a batch of cinnamon rolls in the oven. And, not much tastes better after a brisk walk or some fun outside romping in just fallen snow – enjoy, enjoy!

IMG_1693So, its Jan 17, 2018 and Charlotte is finally getting its first real snow of the year. That’s #SnOMG or #Snomageddon for those of you anxious to share the excitement on social media!

Although I’ve been Charlotte-based since 1975, I’m still enough of a Florida-raised girl that, for me, the words, “Snow Day” run synonymous with the term “Free”. Of course, now we have lap tops and can work from home; but for me, at least, the snow seems to lighten the mood and make everything more fun!

Snow in Charlotte, and often the accompanying ice, causes a run on the bread and milk aisles in local groceries and a bit of a local panic. Truth is, in 2-3 days its usually all melted and gone. So, while the “free” time does provide an unexpected opportunity to take a deep breath and to catch up on cleaning and paperwork, I’d prefer to  look at it through adolescent rose-colored glasses and take is as a day off to play, make footprints in the snow,  drink hot chocolate and in the case of today’s post make cinnamon rolls.

Snow or not, you’ll find this recipe makes for a fun morning of winter’s baking, filling your home with the sweet strong scent of cinnamon. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or as a late afternoon treat with your favorite cup of coffee or cocoa,  cinnamon rolls are one of those simple pleasures to enjoy with your family, your friends or all by yourself any time of the year.

make-it-a-cinnamon-roll

What you will need:  Keeping the recipe as local as I can, I try to use local eggs which I usually have on  hand. Its a regular weekly buy for me at Saturday farmers’ markets and I suggest you do the same. During the week, you can usually find local eggs in Charlotte at both locations of Pasta & Provisions and also at some farm stores.  In my case, I usually buy local chicken and duck eggs each week from  Rowland’s Row Farms at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market. The chicken eggs work well when you bake, but the duck eggs work better, adding a richer taste and texture. You’ll notice the duck eggs are larger, but for this recipe at least, you can measure them in the same way.  If you don’t have fresh eggs on hand, use what you have but put it on your weekend Farmers’ market shopping list to pick up local eggs this Saturday. Local duck eggs or chicken eggs really do  make all the difference! If you can’t get local eggs, buy organic free range or pasture eggs from most any grocery store.

As far as the remaining ingredients go, if I can’t find a locally raised or produced option, I turn toward organic choices whenever I can. In this case, the sugar I used in the recipe is organic, as is the butter; and the flour is local too – all purpose Southern Biscuit Flour,  brought to you by Renwood Mills in Newton NC. This trio of ingredients is available at almost every local grocer. 

If you don’t bake often, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Here’s the How-To when using yeast in a recipe. Proof the yeast ( to make sure it is good) when you first open the package or jar , by stirring the prescribed amount into water that is tepid. That is no hotter than 110 degrees F.

img_7819You can use an instant-read thermometer if you’d like, but if you want to go by feel, tepid water  is not as cold as what you would pour for a glass to drink; but not as hot as what you would use to wash your face. Think room temperature.  Stir the yeast in and wait for a bit of foaming of bubbling action to occur on the water’s surface, once that happens you are good to go. Store the remaining yeast in an airtight container in the freezer and use it as needed. Further directions in the recipe below…

Now about the cinnamon.  For today – use what you have on hand, but for the snow days in your future, my go-to spot for spice is the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte, NC.

img_7831No more buying big jars and then having them grow old and stale between recipes. It’s always good to keep basics on hand, but for specialty items, buy as is needed and know that you may purchase as much or as little as you’d like. While the Savory Spice Shop  carries several varieties of ground cinnamon and cinnamon chips ( ooh, wouldn’t those be a great addition to these rolls!) my favorite cinnamon for sweet and spicy culinary endeavors alike is the piquant, rich ground Saigon Cassia Cinnamon. Before you cook, go in and taste all the varieties on the shelves ( this is one of the pleasures of shopping at Savory Spice,  you may taste before you buy) and find the one that works best for you.

So there you have it – all that’s left is the fun that’s to be had in the baking. I fill my cinnamon rolls with a mix of the organic white sugar, cinnamon and my homemade brown sugar ( the how-to here is in the recipe) Be generous as you sprinkle for extra ooey-goo-iness. If you’re feeling adventurous, mix it up a bit with the addition of chocolate, cinnamon or butterscotch chips,  or cocoa nibs ( cocoa nibs are also available at Savory Spice Shop)

Heidi’s Homemade (SnowDay) Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup organic sour cream or  organic yogurt

½ cup organic sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup melted butter

½ cup tepid water

2 Tbsp. dry active yeast

2 local chicken or duck eggs

4 cups organic or local unbleached flour

For the cinnamon roll filling:

generous amounts of melted butter
, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar*

Of course you can buy regular brown sugar or organic brown sugar at most grocery stores. But, how much fun is it to make your own brown sugar as you need it?

*Here’s the Brown Sugar How-To: Make your own brown sugar by using 2 1/2 cups of organic sugar and 1/4 cup of local NC Sorghum Syrup molasses ( Forget the commercial blackstrap molasses and go local here – it really makes a delicious difference! I love the sorghum syrup molasses from Harrell Hill Farms in Bakersville, NC and you will too, but any NC sorghum syrup works well. Blend the two ingredients together  by using quick on-off pulsing motions in a food processor until the sugar dissolves into the sorghum and viola! – Your own homemade brown sugar – yum!

For the dough: Dissolve yeast in warm water with one teaspoon of the sugar. Stir and when a foam forms on the surface it is ready. If no foam appears within five minutes, then either your water was too hat or your yeast was old. Start again with cooler water and another package of yeast. 
Once the yeast starts to foam or proof, combine it with the other dough ingredients to form a soft but sticky dough.
 Let rise 1 hour. Turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead until smooth then roll dough out into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick.

For cinnamon rolls: generously spread the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugars and cinnamon. Roll up like a jelly roll. Cut the log of dough into 1 ½ inch thick slices. Place the slices in a buttered pan, cut side up. Drizzle with additional melted butter. 
Cover with a dish towel and let rise an additional 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 23-30 minutes.

Heidi Billotto Cooks | Heidi Billotto Writes | Heidi Billotto Teaches

THE HEIDILOGOCOOKSI can’t wait to see and hear how your cinnamon rolls bake up!  Post photos and then tag me on your social media posts – @HeidiBillotto and @HeidiBillottoCooks on Facebook; @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @heidibillotto on Instagram

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