Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

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I first heard of & learned about Dia de los Muertos when I was in the eighth grade. There was an assembly where a traveling performance group put on a show for us that was supposed to be about a Mexican holiday in October that when translated into English, was called The Day of the Dead.

Basically, it’s a holiday that honors the passing of loved ones. The indigenous peoples who it originates from believe that on October 31st, the gates of Heaven are opened at midnight and the spirits of deceased children will be able to briefly reunite with their families for 24 hours. The spirits of deceased adults come next on November 2nd. Elaborate altars are made to both remember and honor the deceased loved ones with pictures, delicious food, presents and candles.

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I was intrigued by it then and I still am now. I love the idea of a holiday centered around honoring loved ones who have passed away. I love the elaborate, colorful sugar skulls that get decorated and sold. I love the beautiful face makeup designs; works of art in and of themselves , really.

And yes. Of course: I love the food aspect of it too.

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Probably the most well known food from Dia de los Muerto is the Pan De Muerto, translated into English as the bread of the dead. They’re sweet egg breads typically molded into large loaves with shapes of skulls and bones on top.

I made a loaf of Pan De Murerto for the first time two years ago, and posted it on the blog. This year I found myself thinking about it again and how I wanted to give it another go,  this time maybe giving it a different spin.

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So this year, instead of making one big loaf of pan de muerto, I decided to go ahead and make a batch of rollos de los muerto: rolls of the dead. This is a dough that in my research I’ve seen is often flavored with anise. I included a full tablespoon of anise seeds in mine to really make sure the flavor came through.  Although the original recipe for this calls of orange blossom water, I didn’t have any on hand and to be perfectly honest also didn’t feel like buying an entire bottle of the stuff only to end up using one teaspoon’s worth for just one recipe(because that stuff really packs a punch even in small doses). I found that the cheaper and much more readily available option to most people is just going with the option of using the zest from an entire orange. It isn’t the exact same floral flavor as the orange blossom water, but it’s still nonetheless just as yummy.

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Lastly, most pan de muerto just calls for white sugar to be sprinkled on top of the dough to finish. With this batch of rolls, I decided to add on an orange flavored syrup that gets brushed on them at the very end of their baking, THEN sprinkled with white sugar on top once they’re taken out of the oven. The flavor combination of the anise and orange is one that works EXTREMELY well. The dough has that subtle licorice flavor that’s then given a fresh citrusy aftertaste from both the orange zest and the orange syrup. The white sugar gives it a pleasant crunch on the outside to compliment the soft chewiness of the dough inside.

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With shaping, I decided to keep things simple. I rolled out individual balls of dough, then pinched off smaller balls that I split in half to form the crosses. In retrospect I was a bit concerned that they resembled hot cross buns a bit too much. Then I remembered that Hot Cross Buns are made for another holiday that celebrates a resurrection of the dead of sorts. In thinking of it that way, the resemblance seemed kinda ironic.

These really are delicious. The sugar on the top does give a sweetness to them, but they’re not overly sweet. I think they’d still work very well to eat alongside a salad for lunch or even a heavier main course for dinner.

Happy Dio de los Muertos/Halloween, and Fiesta Friday #143, cohosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Maggie @ Spoon in a Saucepan!!!

Rollos de los Muerto (Rolls of the Dead)

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 5⅓ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest from one large orange
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons melted, divided
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

For Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Granulated or coarse ground sugar

Directions

Mix yeast, 1/3 cup  of flour, 1/4 cup warm water in the bottom of a standing mixer bowl with a wooden spoon or spatula. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top. Let it sit uncovered for about 35 minutes, until the mixture is frothy and begins to form bubbles on top.

Whisk eggs, anise seeds, kosher salt, orange zest and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture starts to look foamy and sugar is dissolved. Then, add this egg mixture to the yeast starter along with the remaining 5 cups of flour. (Note: don’t add the flour all at once, about 1 cup at a time is what you want to aim for).  Using the dough hook attachment, alternate adding the flour with adding the softened butter, beginning and ending with flour until a soft dough forms, about 5 minutes.

Increase speed to medium and and continue to mix until sugar is dissolved and the dough is elastic, 8-10 minutes.

Take the dough out of the ball and lightly grease the bowl with 2 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil. Transfer dough back to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise in warm, draft free place until doubled in size, 2 hours.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Punch down onto a well floured work surface. Pinch off a piece of dough slightly smaller than a tennis ball and shape into a round. Pinch off a second piece that is about the size of a ping pong ball, the divide this piece in half. Roll each half into a long rope that will extend over the sides of the tennis-ball dough round. Arrange each rope in a criss-cross  shape over the dough and tuck the ends underneath the ball to keep from shrinking. Place the finished round on the parchment paper.

Repeat the previous step with the remaining dough. Brush the rolls with the 6 tablespoons melted butter, then cover them with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let rise for 45-minutes to an hour. (Note: they may not double in size during the proofing time, that’s okay. Mine doubled in size while baking.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While dough is proofing, make the glaze: Combine the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue stirring and cooking frequently until it has reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. If it bubbles up, just take it off the heat for a few seconds then put it back on. Remove from heat.

Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Brush generously with orange syrup then return to the oven for about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven (inner temperature should be 190 Fahrenheit degrees for fully baked rolls), then sprinkle immediately with white sugar so that it sticks. Allow to cool before serving.

   

Cranberry Clementine Sauce

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I’m an introvert.

I’m told that I don’t seem that way online, but it’s the truth. Just cause I’m super open and friendly with you guys doesn’t mean that translates into real life. It doesn’t. I’m actually kinda uncomfortable around strangers and my default reaction is to fall completely silent. You know one of those girls you saw inn public once that you think are ‘stuck up’ because they don’t talk to anyone and have a mean ‘resting face’? Yeah, I’ve probably been that girl you saw once or twice somewhere.

I can’t help it. And frankly, I don’t want to. 9 times out of 10, I’d rather be the person that no one ever hears from because they don’t talk rather than the person that you hear from ALL THE TIME because they just don’t know how to stop talking.

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However, starting tomorrow, all of that is going to change. I’m gonna become the super outgoing girl that always seems to have something to say and kinda sorta maybe doesn’t know how to shut up. At least online. And for the next 12 days.

Know why?

Because tomorrow will mark the start of the 12 Days of Christmas on Cooking is My Sport.

What’s the 12 Days of Christmas, you ask? It’s the series I started last year where I share 12 Christmas-themed recipes of sweet, sugary goodies to commemorate this holiday season. I’m doing it again this year, and have been working my behind off in the kitchen to try and make sure I’ll be on time for each post.

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It’s not an exaggeration, guys. I said “12 Days of Christmas”, and 12 days is what y’all are gonna get. 12 straight days of me, my rambling posts and a crap-load of high sugar cookies, cake, candy and other Christmas treats. Think you can handle it? Cause I’m not so sure.

Actually, I’m not even sure if I can handle it myself. Most of you are bloggers, so you can appreciate how…challenging it’s gonna be to bake, photograph, edit and write up posts for 12 sets of goodies. I’ve already said a prayer and knocked on wood. Hopefully I’ll be successful.

Anyway, this series basically means that for the next 12 days (by blogging standards) I’m gonna be the annoying person that never stops talking, because my goal will be to put a post a day until Christmas Eve.

Hopefully the content of  the posts will make up for me constantly popping up on your blog reader….I kinda think they will.

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Oh, that’s right. You’ve been looking at cranberry sauce for the past several paragraphs. Isn’t it pretty? It’s also friggin delicious. I first made it for our Thanksgiving dinner this year and my grandma announced that it was good enough to eat all by itself on a spoon. I concur.

In fact, I concurred so much, that I went ahead and made a second batch of it soon after (which is what you’re looking at in the pictures). That second batch gave me an idea for the first post in the 12 Days of Christmas series….

Which you guys will have to wait until tomorrow for.

For now, let’s  just sit tight and focus on the cranberry sauce itself. It’s sweet, tart and ‘citrus-y’ all at once. The addition of cinnamon and star anise cuts through both the sweetness and tartness by giving it an earthy, licorrice-y after-taste. The consistency of the sauce is also key here- it’s gotta stay on the spoon all by itself so that you can almost chew it. Anything else just isn’t acceptable.

Right now this is my favorite cranberry sauce- especially when it’s versatile enough to transform into a completely new, delicious recipe.

But like I said: that’ll have to wait til tomorrow.

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Cranberry Clementine Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Anne Burrell

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Ingredients

  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 6 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan combine fresh cranberries, clementines, orange and cranberry juices, sugar, cinnamon stick, and star anise.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add the dried cranberries and simmer for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

Orange Spice Banana Bread

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It seems strange for me to think of now, but there was a time when the thought of cooking really and truly intimidated me. The idea of actually cooking something that wasn’t a pre-made mix, or didn’t involve using the microwave was crazy. I knew that the raw meat that I saw my mom, grandmother and older sister buy from the grocery stores ‘somehow’ turned into delicious cooked dinners like fried chicken, roast, stews, and stir fries- but I didn’t have a clue how it was accomplished.  Baking was a complete enigma filled with things like measuring cups and spoons, ovens, cake tins and flour- things I didn’t want to have any part of, for fear I would mess something up.

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Cooking became to be almost like math to me- I was in awe of the people that were good at it, but was fairly convinced that it would always be something that was completely beyond me. It was something that I would only embarrass myself at when attempting to do,  and that try as I might, I just didn’t get it.

It didn’t bother me at first, but when I got older and went to college, it did. I know that this may sound anti-feminist or sexist, or whatever politically incorrect terminology that you want to use, but not knowing how to cook began to make me feel like ‘less’ of a woman. That’s not to say that men can’t be great cooks (I know some myself) it’s just that I come from a line of traditional Southern women and in my family, the women cook. And they cook well. Not being able to share in that tradition kinda got under my skin for a while, until one day I just decided to swallow my insecurity and try to do something about it.

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I remember when I first started to really try to learn how to cook, my mom told me that cooking boiled down (no pun intended) to one all inclusive rule: follow a recipe, then when you get confident in your knowledge of ingredients and spices, change it to whatever you want. So that’s what I did. And I practiced. A lot. I wish I could say that there was more to it, but there really wasn’t. Beginning cooks just need to stick to those 2 rules, and you’re bound to get good: practice, and follow recipes. Then when you get comfortable enough with spices and ingredients, do whatever you want with them.

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This bread is a prime example of those rules. I had a bunch of brown bananas sitting on my table that I knew I didn’t want to let go to waste, but I wasn’t in the mood for straight banana bread. I wanted to do something a little bit different. I also happened to have a small bottle of orange juice in my fridge, and the idea of bananas with oranges was an interesting flavor combination to me. I found a recipe on Taste of Home that seemed to suit my purposes, but I still wanted to add more flavors to the bread to give it a kind of ‘kick’. So I decided to add in some spices that I would normally see in a spice cake- ginger, cardamom and coriander- and hoped for the best.

It was a winner. In fact, even now as I am writing this post, I’m rather pleased to announce to all of you that the bread you see in the pictures is now completely gone. It’s been devoured by my appreciative family. Not gonna lie, I’m a little irritated seeing as I only got one slice out of the entire loaf. But there’s always the option of making more, isn’t there?

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Orange Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

Directions

1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs; mix well. Stir in bananas and orange juice.

2. Combine the dry ingredients; add to banana mixture, beating just until moistened.

3. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.

4. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

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