Friday, December 26, 2014

Pecan Rolls: A Christmas Tradition

When we were kids my brother and I used to spend all Christmas eve cleaning out the bottom of the linen closet in the hallway and preparing our hideout to wait for Santa. We always fell asleep before either of us made it to the fort. Whoever woke up first would wake up the other and we would both go jump in our parents bed to wake them up. While we were opening presents my mom would put the pecan rolls she made the night before in the oven.


This is how all our Christmases were until one year. We were done opening presents and all went into the kitchen for breakfast. “What do you want to eat?” my mom asked us. I’m pretty sure we all stared at her like she was joking… “Where are the pecan rolls???”. She hadn’t made them, and it felt like our Christmas was missing something.That’s how you know it’s a tradition. Smile So, now every year we make sure those rolls are on the table.

With No Plain Jane's Kitchen’s permission, I give you our family’s recipe for Pecan Sticky Rolls.


  • 1 pint milk (whole milk preferred)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast, 0.25 ounce package (I used 3 teaspoons instant yeast)
  • 4 ½ cups of flour (keep the ½ cup separate)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons Nutmeg
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups Pecans
You’ll need to grease or spray with oil, 2 8” or 9” cake pans.

For the dough:
In a small sauce pan, heat the milk with the sugar until the sugar melts and is incorporated into the milk. Remove the pan from the heat and add the oil and stir to mix. When the mixture is just warm to the touch, sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the mixture set a few minutes, then whisk the egg into the mixture.
Spray or wipe a large bowl with oil. Put the milk mixture into the bowl and add 4 cups of flour and stir together until combined. Cover the mixture with a clean, moist towel and set in a warm location for an hour to rise.
After the mixture rises, add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. Mix the dough to combine all of the ingredients. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the dough in the refrigerator for an hour.


For the filling:
Mix all of the filling ingredients together, by hand or with a pastry blender, so it resembles coarse crumbs. Divide the mixture in half.


To make the rolls:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide dough in half. Working with each half separately, on a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to a 18” by 12” rectangle. Sprinkle half the filling mixture on top of the rolled out dough. Press the mixture into the dough.
Roll the dough into a long log starting on the long side, the 18” side. Set the log aside while you work on the second piece of dough. When you are done, you should have 2 dough logs.


For the topping:
Divide the pecans between the two cake pans.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat, add the sugar and stir until melted. Then add the molasses and stir to incorporate.
Pour the mixture over the pecans.


Final assembly:
If you are going to bake the rolls right away, preheat oven to 375 f.

Cut the dough logs into 3” slices. You should have 5-6 slices per log. Carefully pick up each slice and place on top of the pecan topping mixture. Each pan should have 5-6 slices. Leave space between each slice so the dough can rise.
(At this point, you can wrap the pans with plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate or freeze. If you refrigerate the pans, bring them out of the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before baking. For frozen pans, take the pans out of the freezer and place in refrigerator overnight to thaw. Proceed with baking step.)
Let the pans set on the counter for 10-15 minutes to allow the rolls to rise.


Cover each pan, loosely, with aluminum foil to prevent over browning. Place pans in oven and turn temperature down to 325 f. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil, turn up the temperature to 375 F, and bake for another 15-20 minutes. The dough should be brown on top.
Remove pans from oven, and place a plate over each pan. Immediately flip the plate to remove the rolls (be very careful doing this because the topping is very hot). Scrape any remaining topping from the pan onto the rolls. It is important to remove the rolls from the pan when they are hot. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Adventures in Vegetarian Marshmallow Making

I didn’t publicize it too much, but I moved back to Colorado for awhile. Since I wont be in Spain to celebrate with my friends for Christmas I decided to send a box of homemade cookies and marshmallows to them. I had everything all set up and was about to open the packs of gelatin to get the marshmallows started when I thought…uh oh…is this gelatin made from Pork? Most of my friends in Spain don’t eat pork for various reasons so I would feel terrible sending them something that I knew had pork in it. Turns out Knox brand and all the store-brand gelatins are made from pork and beef.

Not a problem, I thought. How hard can it be to get pork-free gelatin? After all, Denver is a great foodie town. My dad and I hopped in my car and went on what turned out to be LONG tour of Denver’s different super markets. We went to 3 Arab super markets, Whole Foods, a Kroger brand super market, Vitamin cottage and a Korean super market. No luck. While we were out driving my dad found out that there is a kosher supermarket not that far from where we live. I went there the next day and was happy to find Leiber’s Unflavored Jel which is a vegan gelatin made from a product of a chemical reaction. I had done some research which said that this stuff substitutes for regular gelatin without problems, so I bought 2 boxes and headed back to the kitchen.

Leibers jel

It did not work. At all. The marshmallows turned out like the texture of the inside of a Junior Mint and had a disgusting aftertaste. I was starting to get defeated, but I am never one to give up on something in the kitchen.

Marshmallow Fail
Marshmallow fail
Luckily, I have been keeping up with this season of Top Chef and remembered that one of the contestants made a shrimp noodle with agar agar. Agar agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin and is made from algae. While we were at the Korean supermarket I picked up 2 packets of powdered agar agar to play around with. Get your Agar Agar Here.

Agar Agar

Once the Leiber’s marshmallows failed miserably I started looking for a recipe for agar agar marshmallows. Again, this turned out to be way harder than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, there are many bloggers with recipes for them. Only one of them has a recipe that works.
First, I will tell you all the ones that didn’t work.

University of Indiana: Vegetarian Marshmallows
Inhabitots: Vegan Marshmallows
Oh My Sweetie Pie: Vegan Marshmallows
Vegetarian.Lovetoknow: Vegan Marshmallows

Yes…I did try all of those. Side note to all of you recipe hunters: If you are going to try a recipe off a blog, make sure you read the comments. If the recipe doesn’t work, you’d better believe the readers will let the blog writer know.

At this point I was about ready to give up, but while on hold to sign up for health insurance I came across an interesting website that said vegan marshmallows usually don’t work because they need some sort of strong protein (ie. animal protein) to hold them together. This explains why none of the recipes listed above worked.

Deep in the pages of Google I came across the blog Be Miam and her recipe for Agar Agar Marshmallows. To make up for the lack of animal protein she uses egg whites. I was so happy to find out that based on the comments, her marshmallows actually worked! And they did!!!! These marshmallows turn out a little more dense and less squishy than normal marshmallows, but considering how many failures I had before I was unbelievably excited to finally have a recipe that works! Thanks Miam. Smile

Marshmallow pile


Agar Agar Marshmallows from Be Miam Christmas-ified by me
Note: These marshmallows don’t do well in hot chocolate.

3 egg whites or vegan egg substitute
8.82 ounces Sugar
3.38 fl.oz water
1 Tbs Honey
1 Tsp Agar Agar Powder
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
Powdered sugar for dusting (about 1 cup)

  • Grease a 4x4 baking dish and line with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with cooking oil.
  • While preparing the rest of your ingredients, dissolve the agar agar in 100ml of cold water.
  • In a small sauce pan, boil the sugar, honey and agar agar until it reaches 250 F on a candy thermometer.
  • Whisk egg whites in an electric mixer until they are very firm. You should be able to take out the whisk and have the egg whites stand up in peaks.
  • When the sugar mixture reaches 250 F, lower the mixer to a slower speed (so the hot syrup won’t splash out and burn you) and slowly pour in the syrup mixture.
  • Once all the syrup is in, raise the speed to high and mix until the syrup is incorporated.
  • Add the candies and mix until they are blended in.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let dry for at least 10 hours.
  • Once the marshmallows are dry, unmold them and cut to your desired size.
  • Roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar and enjoy!