Texas is famous for many things, but for my money forget the Alamo, forget Dubya, forget the Rio Grande. When it comes to Texas you can’t go past their famous, mouth-watering Pecan rolls. Also known as pinwheels, this classic breakfast food – or at least the main ingredient of it – literally grows on trees throughout Texas and New Mexico. When I was a kid living in San Antonio we had a couple of large pecan trees growing in our bakyard and every year we’d collect enough raw nuts for a huge Christmas feast and any number of pecan rolls.
Once rolled, the dough is cut into individual pastries and baked with a topping of pecans, caramel, butter, and more brown sugar. Characteristically, pecan rolls are sticky and sweet, owing to the sugar and caramel used in most recipes, and can be served hot or cold.
In Texas, pecan rolls and a variety of pecan desserts are staples owing to the fact that it is home to the largest pecan harvest in the US. Prolific availability of pecans throughout southern and central Texas has inspired numerous recipes and ideas for baking with pecans. As such, recipe variations for pecan rolls are common and plentiful. Variations on the traditional recipe include using dates, raisins, or other types of dried fruit along with the pecans. Changes to the topping often include adding orange or other fruit flavors, using white confectioner sugar instead of brown sugar as a base, using cream cheese icing as a topping, or even using no topping.
Baking pecan rolls involves three stages: preparing the topping, making the dough, and rolling. Topping ingredients for classic pecan rolls include softened butter, brown sugar, pecan halves, and cinnamon. After whipping together ingredients, the topping is spread in the bottom of a baking dish. Most recipes suggest refrigerating the dish while the dough and fillings are prepared.
Dough is formed by combining yeast, flour, and other ingredients and then allowing the mixture to rise. Once risen, the dough is flattened and spread with fillings such as brown sugar, caramel, pecans, and other chosen ingredients. Keeping the ingredients inside, the dough is rolled and cut into biscuits, much like cinnamon rolls and other similar pastries. Raw dough biscuits are placed on top of the topping mix in the baking pan to rise again before baking.
Similar in name only, pecan rolls should not be confused with pecan log rolls, a candy also popular in America, especially the Southern states. Pecan log rolls are small, cherry-flavored candy nougat lengths rolled in crushed pecans. Since pecan log rolls are intended to be a candy, these treats are often sold by candy shops and convenience stores in individually wrapped servings, much like a candy bar. In contrast, pecan rolls and caramel pecan rolls are yeast pastries, typically homemade or found ready-made in bakeries, restaurants, and grocery stores.
1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 envelopes dry yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans 1 cup pecan halves
Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over and let stand until foamy, about 6 minutes. Mix in vegetable oil and salt. Add enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to form soft dough. Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 10 minutes.
Lightly oil another large bowl. Place dough in bowl; turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then cover with kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Beat butter, cinnamon and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in medium bowl to blend.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface (do not punch down). Roll out or press dough gently to 16×10-inch rectangle. Using spatula, spread 1 cup butter mixture evenly over dough. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Starting at 1 long side, roll up dough jelly-roll style, forming log. Pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Spread remaining butter mixture over bottom of 15x10x2-inch metal baking pan. Sprinkle 1 cup pecan halves evenly over butter mixture in pan. Arrange rolls, cut side down, in prepared pan, spacing evenly. Cover pan with plastic wrap. Let rolls rise in warm draft-free area until light and puffed, about 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Bake cinnamon rolls uncovered until tops are golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Using sharp knife, cut around sides of pan. Place large baking sheet over pan. Using oven mitts as aid, hold baking sheet and pan together and turn over, releasing cinnamon rolls onto sheet. Serve cinnamon rolls warm or at room temperature.