I made these cranberry and vanilla rolls for two reasons. The first one is due to my need to do something physical. The more I work on the cookbook, cooking and writing and shooting, the more I need to work out the stress. As I am not such an enthusiastic gym devotee, nor the most constant runner, I choose my workouts in the kitchen. Kneading the dough to later enjoy Italian croissants is definitely a win-win situation.
The second reason is a new cooperation with Madi Ventura, a leading Italian company selling dried fruit and nuts. My love for dried fruit, nuts and seeds is showed in a long shelf of my pantry, completely crammed with glass jars filled with these precious ingredients. I can spend hours watching that shelf, the colours shifting from the hazelnut dark brown to the bright orange of dried apricots. Often chopped nuts are the secret ingredient of many of my recipes, the final touch which deepens the flavour or adds a pleasant crunchy sensation. I’m a generous cook when it comes to sprinkling nuts on salads, cookies or even having them directly from the jars, as a quick and healthy snack.
Nuts and dried fruit and berries have always being so fascinating: they make me think of woods, mountains, hedgerows, legends and myths. In my extremely romantic vision of life walnuts are the fruit of the trees which the witches choose as shelter in the darkest nights and are picked during Saint John night to make their liqueur. Almonds come instead from a sunny land and are rich, sensual, oriental nuts.
Cranberries have instead a teenage charm. The Cranberries were one of my favourite bands as a teenager, I would sing their melancholic songs out aloud in my bedroom, dreaming about Irish moorlands covered in heather. Speaking of edible cranberries, they are the signature ingredient of many anglo saxon dishes I grew fond of in the recent years. I just love to sprinkle them on my salads, a lovely sweet and tangy addition. I often use them as a fancy substitution to raisins in cookies and sweet bread or, as in these case, to make sweet rolls for breakfast.
These rolls are made following the recipe for Italian croissants – less butter than in the French ones but eggs and sugar included, you have to try them! – and are filled with cranberries and a butter and cane sugar spread with vanilla and orange powder, fragrant and festive. You can substitute orange with cinnamon powder to make an Italian version of the American cinnamon rolls. If you want to follow the Italian way, spread them with crema pasticciera and sprinkle with raisins, previously soaked in vinsanto or rum.
Cranberry and vanilla rolls
- 250 g of strong flour
- 250 g of spelt flour
- 6 g g of salt
- 25 g of fresh brewer's yeast
- 100 g of whole milk
- 80 ml of water
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 1 teaspoon of orange zest powder*
- 100 g of cane sugar
- 60 g of butter + 250 g of butter to laminate the dough
To fill the rolls:
- 150 g of butter
- 100 g of cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 3 teaspoons of orange zest powder*
- 100 g of dried cranberries
- 160 g of apricot jelly to glaze the rolls
- Icing sugar
- Add the strong flour, the spelt flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk and add it into the flour, then add the water and the lightly beaten eggs. Knead at medium speed for about ten minutes with the hook attachment.
- Add the butter at room temperature and the sugar mixed with the vanilla essence and the orange zest powder. Knead for ten minutes with the hook attachment.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and put it in a plastic bag that has enough space to let it rise and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Prepare the butter, so the day after you will have all the ingredients ready. Use the butter at room temperature and with the help of a rolling pin spread it between two sheets of baking paper in a square sheet, as regular as possible. Store in the fridge.
- The next day, remove the dough from the fridge and turn it on a well-floured work surface. Roll it with a rolling pin on a disk slightly larger than the butter sheet. Place the butter in the centre of the dough and gently pull the four sides of the dough over the butter, to close it inside as in an envelope.
- With the help of the rolling pin and other flour stretch the dough so that it could triple its length but maintain the same width.
- Make a three-fold: mentally divide up the dough into three equal parts and fold on the middle part the right side, then the left one.
- Seal all the edges by pinching the dough together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll out again in a rectangle sheet so that it quadruples its length.
- Now is the time to give a four-fold: mentally divide up the dough into four equal parts and fold the two outer parts on the two inside. Fold again to close as a book.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.
- After this time, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it into a 5 mm thick rectangular sheet.
- Whip the butter at room temperature with the cane sugar, vanilla essence and orange zest powder, then spread it with a spatula on the rolled out dough.
- Sprinkle the cranberries on the butter spread and roll up the dough starting from the longer side.
- Cut the dough with a sharp knife into 3 cm thick rolls.
- Arrange the cranberry and vanilla rolls in a tray lined with baking paper and let them rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until they have doubled their volume.
- When they are ready heat the oven to 200°C.
- Bake the rolls for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. In the meantime heat the apricot jelly in the microwave or in a bain-marie with a tablespoon of water. As soon as the croissants are out of the oven brush them with the apricot jelly. Enjoy your breakfast!
- Melt a few tablespoons of icing sugar with a few drops of water and drizzle over the rolls to decorate them.
I would avoid the chemical orange essence, better to omit it and replace it with cinnamon.
We are almost there. Get ready to step on the season of sun, of ripeness, of lazy days, summer hits, the scent of pine resin and long refreshing swims. If you want to join me to celebrate this magical rite of passage, bake with me the peach and mead cake, the same I baked a few years ago.