A few weeks ago, I was invited by the cafeteria staff at my husband's high school to be the guest of honor for lunch one day during National School Lunch Week. They invited me because of my contest cooking background and they treated me like a downright celebrity. When I walked into the cafeteria, there was a huge banner on the wall, a table for me to display some of my prizes and gifts from past cook-offs, and lots of sweet little kids to talk to. They had also arranged for a reporter to interview me and take a picture for the local paper.
I'll tell you, I even got to eat lunch at the teacher's table which made me feel pretty darn important. I wanted to thank these fine ladies for inviting me, so I made something really special for them: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls.
These are not just any cinnamon rolls, people. In 2006, I was gloriously called to be a finalist in the Southern Living Cook-Off. There were five categories, each with three contestants in it. My category was called "Your Best Recipe" and my recipe was "Mexi-Texi Bistec Pedazos." Competing against me was "Fantastic Foolproof Jambalaya" and "Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls." I had to win my category in order to move on to the final round for a grand prize of $100,000.00. Yes, one hundred thousand dollars. Here I am on stage with Tyler Florence...
We all three lined up on stage after our recipe demonstration, our hearts racing and Food Network filming our every facial contortion. Tyler Florence was to my right and he opened the envelope to reveal the name of the category winner, the winner who would win $10,000 and then go on to the final round to compete for the grand prize....
"and the winner is..."
"SWEET POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS!"
The next thing I knew, security was pulling me off of Tyler...
No, just kidding, but in the blink of an eye, it was over for me and Fantastic Foolproof Jambalaya. We were all escorted off stage and Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls went on to win the grand prize.
Yes, these cinnamon rolls are THAT good.
Let me give you a couple of tips about making them. First, I made the filling and the glaze a couple of days before and stored them in my refrigerator. I let the filling come to room temperature and I heated the glaze in the microwave so it would drizzle easy. This helped me save some time.
Also, I specifically remember Mo, one of the creators of the recipe, tell me to use a professional size 13 x 9-inch pan, which has higher sides. The first time I made these I used a regular pan and the glaze did run over onto the bottom of my oven, so be sure to put a baking sheet underneath. To remedy that problem this time, I cut the dough into sixteen instead of twelve. Twelve of them I put into a disposable foil pan for the lunch ladies, and the remaining four I baked in a small springform pan. This worked out great. The cinnamon rolls were only slightly smaller and there was no running over of glaze. And I had a small pan for us to enjoy at home. rolls instead of
I have to say, these melt in my mouth. They have a subtle sweet potato flavor, so even people who may not like sweet potatoes will probably like these. I may have to make another batch for Thanksgiving morning. Do not leave the orange zest out! It adds SO much flavor. I did, however, leave the chopped pecans out of the filling this time.
The original recipe is here. It has directions to make them by hand and by food processor. I don't have a food processor, so I made them using my Kitchen Aid, and wrote the directions below on how I did that. These turned out wonderful by letting them rise in my fridge overnight.
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine
3/4 cup melted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly y packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Non-stick cooking spray
- For the filling: Stir together all ingredients until blended.
- For the glaze: Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla.
- For the rolls: Stir together the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
- Combine the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup flour in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until combined on medium speed using the paddle attachment. Gradually add the mashes sweet potatoes, the next 7 ingredients, and remaining flour until combined. Switch to dough hook and knead for about 4-5 minutes or until elastic and smooth.
- Place dough in a large bowl that has been coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 1 to 1 -1/2 hours or until double in bulk.
- Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a well floured surface and roll into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over surface leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up jellyroll style starting with one long side. Cut into 12 slices and arrange in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts for 30 minutes.
- Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle about 1/2 cup of the glaze over the tops, starting at edge of pan and drizzling in a circular pattern; let soak in. Repeat with remaining glaze.
- Bake rolls for 7-10 minutes more or until lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Remove rolls from oven and invert onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Invert again, glaze side up onto a serving platter. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.