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Breakfast Eats, Muffins, and Scones
Breakfast at Rather Sweet belongs to our regulars. Many gather in groups, and each has a distinct character.
The men's group shows up at 8:00 a.m. There's Rand, a chocolate importer; Bob, owner of a nearby outfitting company; and Bruce, owner of the local feed store. Rand orders kolaches, our fluffy, fruit- or meat-filled rolls, and heads back to my kitchen for a handful of bittersweet chocolate disks to drop into his coffee. Bruce eats a bran muffin and orders a few to take home. And Bob, who is on a low-carb diet, orders bacon and eggs. (He'salready lost thirty pounds.) They sit outside by the front door and talk about everything from turkeys—Bruce raises them—to teenagers. I'm sure they discuss everyone who comes in and out of the bak-ery. They're big gossips.
Joanie, Meagan, and Pam, once a group of four, are mourning the loss of their friend Emily, who recently passed away. They drink green tea, munch on Peach Jam Scones, and eat breakfast tacos. They have intense conversations. I don't like to interrupt.
One of my regulars, Jim, owns a top bed-and-breakfast here. He pops in through the back door to grab a box of baked goodies. His guests find our pastries outside their bedroom doors each morning.
My longtime customers know where everything is. Half of them know how to work the cash register. If things get busy, they'll ring up their food and continue helping anyone else standing in line. If they're short on cash, they sign IOUs. They always pay us back.
I like it that people feel comfortable here. The setting is so beautiful. Outdoor seating in the flower-filled courtyard is open year-round, except in the dead of winter.
I change the breakfast menu seasonally. With fall's approach, I'll make Fresh Ginger-Pear Quick Bread and pumpkin bread again. Spring brings Whole Lemon Muffins. But some things never will leave our menu. I'd be burned at the stake if I stopped making kolaches. Apple-Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Scones are a must-have. Once, when I didn't get around to making cinnamon rolls for two days running, one of my customers bitterly complained that he was losing weight.
Without regulars, Rather Sweet would be out of business. A scary thought, because it's not just a business anymore, it's a community—one that I and everyone who works here have grown to love beyond measure.
Jailhouse Potato-Cinnamon Rolls
Years ago, a close relative sent me a newspaper recipe clipping for potato dinner rolls that were popular with the inmates at Jefferson County Jail. I transformed the recipe into these potato-cinnamon rolls and named them accordingly.
Yield: 24 large rolls
2 medium russet potatoes
1 ounce active dry yeast (4 packets)
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
9 cups unbleached flour
4 cups pecans
4 cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
21/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the rolls: Fill a large saucepan three-quarters full with water and set on high heat to boil. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the water and bring to a second boil. Decrease the heat to medium until the potatoes are simmering. Cook the potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the potatoes, reserving 3 cups of the cooking water. Set the potato water aside to cool, until it registers 110° to 115°F on a candy thermometer.
In a large bowl, mash the potatoes—you will have 1½ to 2 cups worth—by hand or using a mixer on medium speed.
In a medium bowl, mix the reserved cooled potato water, yeast, and the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir until the yeast has dissolved. Let the mixture rest until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the potatoes, I cup sugar, melted butter, eggs, salt, and yeast–potato water. Add the flour in 3-cup increments and stir with a spoon until the flour is incorporated. Place the dough in a large greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Leaving the dough in the bowl, punch it down until it deflates (1 or 2 punches with your fist will do). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. At this point the dough can be refrigerated until the next day.
To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Coarsely chop the pecans.
Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it in half. On a clean, floured surface, roll each half into a G-inch-thick rectangle. Spread each rectangle with half of the melted butter. Cover each buttered rectangle with half of the brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the dough with an even layer of pecans.
Generously grease two 9 by 13-inch disposable pans with butter. Carefully roll up each rectangle, starting on 1 long side of the dough. Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut each roll crosswise in 2-inch slices. Place the slices, cut side down, in the pans, spacing the rolls about 1 inch apart so they have room to expand. Make sure the end flap of each roll is set snugly against a side of the pan, so it does not unravel while rising. Put 8 rolls in each pan. (At this point the rolls can be tightly covered in a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil and frozen up to 3 weeks. Defrost the rolls in the refrigerator overnight or for 1 hour at room temperature and continue following the directions from this point.) Set the rolls in a warm, draft-free place and let them rise until they get puffy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, or until light brown.
To make the icing: Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Spread the icing on top of the rolls while they are still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Rather Sweet Variation
For orange-potato rolls, prepare the dough as directed. For the filling, substitute 4 cups granulated sugar for the brown sugar, omit the cinnamon, and stir in 2 tablespoons grated orange zest. For the icing, substitute G cup freshly squeezed orange juice for the milk, and substitute 1 tablespoon grated orange zest for the vanilla.
Tip: Is it dead or alive? Mixing the yeast with water and sugar and waiting a few minutes to see if it will foam tells you whether the yeast is viable. If it doesn't foam, the yeast is dead and your rolls won't rise. Throw the mixture away and start again with a new batch of yeast. By "proofing," or testing, the yeast's viability, you avoid wasting a whole batch of dough and a whole lot of time.