Citrus and cinnamon on Sunday

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One cinnamon-lemon roll with lemon-cream cheese glaze and lemon zest

We had friends visiting this weekend and I had planned on making a nice breakfast and baking lemon rolls for them to wake up to on Sunday morning.  They ended up just staying for the day on Saturday b/c of a high-maintenance pet back @ the apartment… boo.  But I still wanted to make the lemon rolls anyway.  So I did.

Freshly baked cinnamon-lemon rolls

Making rolls isn’t so much complicated as it is time-consuming.  It mostly consists of waiting for the dough to rise.  I grated and juiced three lemons by hand (LOVE the scent… so fresh and so clean, clean!) and then made dough.  The recipe I used didn’t call for cinnamon, but I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t have a cinnamon-less cinnamon roll.  So I snuck in a tablespoon to go along with the nutmeg.  While the dough rose, I started prepping for dinner… which isn’t baking related @ all but I was really, really excited about it so I had to share.  Plus, it ties in with the cinnamon and citrus theme anyway.  =)

Being that it was a rainy, dreary, completely blah Sunday, it was perfect weather for soup.  Not just any soup, but Vietnamese pho ♥  We had some oxtail in the freezer and I was craving this and waiting for the right time to make it, and I had the perfect opportunity being stuck inside with the crappy waterworks outside and 8 hours @ home on my hands.  This is the equivalent of an Italian grandmother spending all day making the perfect sauce; I needed all day to get the meat super tender and the broth flavor JUST right.  I started braising the oxtail around noon and worked on prepping the soup and getting the lemon rolls together @ the same time.  As the dough was rising the first time, I got my seasonings together for pho: seasoning packet, paste, fish sauce, roasted onion and ginger, star anise, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves, sugar, chiles, and cinnamon sticks to go w/the theme of the day (the citrus will come later).  I just let all this simmer in the biggest pot in the house so I’d be able to save the extra broth for when I’d have my next hankering for Viet food… which will probably be for dinner tonight  haha

I went back to the dough and patted it out to fill it with the lemon-sugar mixture, roll it up, and laid them out in a Pyrex dish.  I was tempted to add more cinnamon and anise flavoring to the rolls, but I was worried it might be too much.  Maybe the smell of the soup was permeating my brain and I wanted everything to have the same taste.  haha  I had to let the cut up dough sit and rise AGAIN, so after sealing plastic wrap over the Pyrex, I sampled the broth in the metal tub on the stove.  *sigh*  The flavor definitely reminded me of home.  I added some beef balls (Asian meatballs, not the Rocky Mountain oysters variety) and prepped the rest of the fixin’s for the soup: lime, onion slices, scallions, and jalapenos for more heat and greenery and took out some hoisin sauce and Sri racha.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have fresh cilantro, Thai basil, or bean sprouts.  Enough said about the limited selection here in my ‘hood; I made do with what was available (and the special ingredients smuggled over by my mom and my sister) and it was pretty damn good.  My mom bought me a pack of broad pho noodles and I boiled them al dente so it wouldn’t get too mushy in the soup.  The oxtail fell off the bone; it was just so flavorful and tender.  And after Vin and I had two bowls each, I had enough leftover broth and meat to fill five plastic quart containers.  This means I’ll be happy with awesome dinners for the rest of this week!

Oxtail and beef ball pho... yum!

While the rolls were baking in the oven, I made a glaze topping out of cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice. I really like it; it’s not too sweet, the citrus provides a nice amount of tartness, and it’s really creamy.  The baking was the only minor glitch in my day, and even then the unexpected surprise didn’t turn out to be so bad.  Knowing how hot the oven (or what Vin referred to as “the mutant”) gets, I cut down the suggested baking time by a substantial amount and reduced the oven temp by 25 degrees after about 10-15 minutes.  Good thing I made adjustments b/c I pretty much had to take them out of the oven when I checked on them because I didn’t want them to be overdone.  After the rolls cooled a bit, I spread the glaze on and sprinkled the remaining lemon zest.  The edges were a teeny bit drier than I’d prefer and I wish it was a little gooey-er in the center of the roll, but it still tasted really good.  I just had one for lunch today and it was perfect after zapping it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Vin had one for breakfast @ work.  I gave one to a co-worker b/c it was his birthday.  And there is STILL a huge tray leftover.  Into the fridge it went…

Fully glazed and zested lemon rolls

There are times when my fridge and I go head to head and see who will come out on top b/c only so much can fit in there.  Between all the soup components and broth containers, the lemon rolls, tons of beer I’m not able to drink, other leftovers, and the rest of the food, it was pretty packed.  But I think I inherited my dad’s packrat skills and was able to fit everything comfortably in there.  I win again, fridge… you have no chance.  =)

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