things i love: nectarines. cardamom. nectarine and cardamom together. nectarines and cardamom snuggled up in nectarine cardamom cinnamon rolls. are you with me?
as a person who does not have central air conditioning and does not enjoy the heat, a recipe has to be rillyrilly good for me to turn on my oven in the summer. these nectarine cardamom cinnamon rolls make the cut and totally justify heating up the kitchen (but not toooo much, thank you exhaust fan that i basically never turn off in the summer).
starting from my go-to cinnamon bun recipe (which i *will* share in its unadulterated form one of these days…), i tweaked the spices (read: omitted the small amount of ground cloves and substituted in a much heftier dose of ground cardamom) and diced up a nectarine to nestle in the brown sugar filling before rolling the whole thing up.
and while we’re talking about ovens, here’s a tip to check how evenly your oven heats: buy a package of refrigerated biscuits (the kind in the spring loaded can that pop open once you peel the label off). bake them according to the package directions (leave the baking sheet in the oven the same way the whole time – don’t turn halfway through baking). these biscuits are engineered within an inch of their lives to be uniform, so any variations that result give you clues about how your oven heats.
when time is up, remove the sheet from the oven and keep it oriented the same way it was in the oven (top left corner in the top left corner, etc.). then, first, check to see if the biscuits are undercooked, too dark, or just right. that will give you a clue about the temperature of your oven (a thermometer is also helpful for gauging temperature, especially if you know the oven is off and want to know by how much).
secondly, look at how the biscuits compare to one another. for example, in my oven, the front right corner is warmer than the back left corner so when i don’t flip the baking sheet around, the cookies/muffins/etc. in the front get darker than their friends in the back row. sometimes i don’t care too much and i just leave them to do their thing but other times, i flip the sheet around 180° half or three quarters of the way through the baking time.
knowing how your oven behaves can also be helpful if you want to do two different things at once, like bake chicken and heat up a casserole. knowing which parts of the oven get hotter can help determine where to put the various dishes.
ok, so there’s my (typically verbose) little tip on how to learn more about how your oven behaves (or doesn’t…). whether you decide to embark on an oven behavior knowledge quest or not is up to you. but either way, i definitely recommend embarking on a “what do freshly baked nectarine cardamom cinnamon rolls taste like?” knowledge quest. because, spoiler alert, the answer is: yummy.
ps – if you’re into cinnamon rolls, pin/print/bookmark/jot on a scrap of paper the recipe for chai-spiced apple cinnamon rolls. fall can’t come fast enough…
- 149 g. (2/3 cup packed / 5 ¼ oz.) dark brown sugar
- 50 g. (1/4 cup / 1 ¾ oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 nectarine, at room temperature
- 354 g. (3 cups / 12 ½ oz.) all purpose flour, see notes
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 280 g. (1 ¼ cups / 9 7/8 oz.) buttermilk, at room temperature, see notes
- 42 g. (3 tablespoons / 1 ½ oz.) unsalted butter, melted and divided
- 113 g. (1 cup / 4 oz.) powdered sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons milk, plus extra as needed
- scant ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- put an oven rack in the upper middle position and preheat the oven to 425° F. get out a 9” (23 cm) nonstick circular cake pan. if your pan is pretty good about not sticking, you can skip the next step. if your pan tends to stick, grease the bottom and sides with a bit of butter. out of the way of your workspace, set a wire cooling rack over a piece of wax paper (for cooling and icing the gooey buns later).
- in a medium bowl, combine the sugars and spices and stir to combine thoroughly. add the 1 tablespoon of melted butter and mix until the mixture is combined and looks like wet sand. set aside.
- dice the nectarine (discard the pit but feel free to leave the skin on). keep separate from the brown sugar mixture for now.
- in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to mix. in a large glass measuring cup or small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to the buttermilk and stir. add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir for about 30 seconds, just until the dough just comes together (it will still look shaggy). turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead gently just until it’s smooth and uniform. add enough flour so that the dough isn’t too soft and sticky to roll in the next step.
- using your hands, gently pat the dough into a 12” (30 cm) by 9” (23 cm) rectangle. brush the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, leaving a ½” (1 cm) border around the edge. sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a ½” (1 cm) border from the edge of the dough. sprinkle the diced nectarine evenly over the filling. press the sugar mixture and nectarine pieces down so they stay put.
- using a bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen the dough from the counter. starting on the long edge, roll the dough into a tight log, pressing gently as you go to keep it neat. roll the log over so the seam side is facing down and cut the log in half, then cut those two pieces in half, then cut each of those four pieces in half so that you end up with eight evenly-sized pieces. as you pick up each piece, press the open (swirly) sides lightly between your palms to make sure the filling and nectarines don’t fall out as you transfer each piece to the pan. set the first roll in the center of the pan then arrange the other seven rolls evenly around the perimeter.
- bake the rolls for about 20 – 25 minutes, until they are golden brown on the edges. as soon as they come out of the oven, run a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan, then invert your cooling rack over the top of the pan and flip the whole thing right side up over your wax paper. the filling will be gooey and very hot so be careful. don’t wait to get the rolls out of the pan though, or the goo will turn to glue and the rolls will be stuck in the pan. (i promise.)
- while the rolls are in the oven (or just after they come out), sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl (i find putting the sugar through a fine mesh strainer breaks up those little lumps that otherwise refuse to dissolve into the icing). whisk in the milk and vanilla extract, adding milk a few drops at a time if the consistency isn’t smooth enough to drizzle over the rolls. the icing will dry out a bit if it sits for a long time uncovered, so you may need to add a drop or two more milk if that happens.
- once the rolls have cooled for about 5 minutes, use a spoon to drizzle the icing over them. serve immediately but be super careful with the molten hot core of each roll, which is always 15 times hotter than the outside pieces.
with the basic version of this cinnamon roll recipe, i have successfully replaced half (by weight) of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour and as someone who generally likes whole wheat, i liked it. if you are more of a whole wheat skeptic, this probably isn’t the recipe for you to try to convert yourself to team whole wheat.
if the buttermilk is cold when you add the butter and the butter will clumps up, microwave the mixture in 10 – 15 second intervals, stirring between each round in the microwave, to remelt the butter and mix it the buttermilk. if you don’t have buttermilk (and really, who ever does?), you can replace it with 210 g. (7 3/8 oz. / about 1 cup) of plain yogurt and 70 g. (2 ½ oz. / about ¼ cup) of milk.
these rolls are definitely best fresh out of the oven but if you have leftovers, you can reheat them briefly in the microwave when you are going to eat them. don’t heat them so long that the glaze on top totally melts and, again, be careful because the delicious core will once again heat up a lot more than the outer layers.
per my usual, i consulted several recipes to arrive at these nectarine cardamom cinnamon rolls. the rolls themselves are adapted from ‘quick cinnamon buns with buttermilk icing’ in the cook’s illustrated cookbook. i also peeked at joy the baker’s peach cobbler cinnamon rolls but wasn’t feeling the whole jam-making scene. finally, i always use the icing from the other cinnamon rolls in the same cook’s illustrated cookbook, the ‘cinnamon swirl rolls’.
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