Thanks to Facebook, I was notified it was Betty’s birthday. I consider her my “Mountain Mama”, to take a line from the old John Denver song. You see, I went to college up in the mountains of North Carolina, over six hours away from my coastal home. Luckily for me I met great girls on my dorm floor, freshman year. Teacher Tammy and I became great friends and sorority sisters. She lived down the mountain about an hour away. Like many of my fellow freshman, she went home frequently on the weekends. Our school became a suitcase- college come Friday through Sunday.
Teacher Tammy (her nickname: an education major) kindly took me home with her many week-ends. We headed down the mountains with Prince and the Go-Go’s blaring from her cassette player. I loved her family from the second I met them. So many great memories of driving slowly, cruising along the town center, tanning thickly coated in coconut oil, driving her grandmother to get her hair done, Betty’s delicious beefy cheesy –mac and every Saturday and Sunday morning, there were baked orange-cinnamon rolls. I had never had them before and boy, did they disappear fast.
Decades later, these rolls baking still remind me of waking up at Tammy’s home in the mountains. These rolls will make you feel toasty warm and your guests welcome.
I had been wanting to create my own orange rolls but sadly the oranges we get here in Hawaii are rather dull tasting. And I surely didn’t want to waste the flour and butter on dud citrus if it had a starring role (roll, haha). Well, for the holidays the stores are filled with mountains of juicy tangerines, clementines and mandarins. Folks, go pick up a mesh bag of mandarins and get up early on January First to make your family very happy.
I’m planning to make these a winter tradition. Which now makes me think of the original Read home tangerine tradition. My sister Susie and I were allowed to dive into our stockings Christmas morning before anyone else was awake; no presents under the tree could be opened before all were up and seated in the living room. We had the candy we loved and went crazy over the giant peppermint stick. I mean it was as big as a salami roll. We would lick it to a coned-point and then after a day it would go into the fridge, forgotten and turning pink… and get tossed about Valentine’s Day. We always had great stocking stuffers but we would be puzzled by the lone tangerine rounding out the toe of the stocking. Susie and I would remove it from our stocking and put in back in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. Later, we discovered that Sweetpea was keeping up a tradition from her Mama. A tangerine was a special treat in the winter of her childhood in the Virginia Valley. Christmas citrus will always remind me of Christmas morning excitement.
RECIPE: MOUNTAIN MAMA MANDARIN ROLLS (makes 8 HUGE rolls)
3 1/2 Cups flour ( I used bread flour because I wanted to use it up from my pantry)
2 packages yeast (1/4 oz. packages)
1/4 Cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB mandarin zest (can substitute clementines, tangerines or oranges-whatever’s juicy & fresh)
1 TB fresh squeezed mandarin zest
8 TB butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TB zest
1 tsp fresh manadarin juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 Cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup fresh mandarin juice
1 TB mandarin zest
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest mandarins, I was able to get about one tablespoon of zest from each fruit. You’ll need 6 tablespoons for the entire skillet of rolls (separated into dough, filling & icing)
In bowl of upright mixer (before you add the attachment), whisk dry ingredients: yeast, sugar & flour. In microwave, place water, milk and butter. In 10 second increments, melt butter and warm the water and milk. Attach dough hook and with mixer running, slowly add warm butter and buttermilk mixture, add in vanilla, salt, juice and zest. Add eggs one at a time. Your dough will be very sticky. Knead 8 minutes.
Oil large bowl and use your oiled hands to remove dough from mixer bowl (remember, it’s super sticky). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place lightweight kitchen towel over the bowl. Place in warm place and let rise until dough has doubled. About 45-60 minutes.
Punch down the dough. Place a small amount of flour on counter. Flour rolling pin (or roll out between parchment paper) and roll out to large rectangle. Combine softened butter with vanilla juice and zest; spread out onto rectangle leaving a one inch border on all edges. Cover butter layer with sugars, cinnamon and salt.
Roll up into log and cut in half. Then cut the halves in half so you end up with 8 spiral rolls. Butter a cast iron skillet liberally with butter. Place rolls in skillet, cut side down. Cover entire pan with plastic wrap and light towel; let rise in warm place for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees after the first 20 minutes of this second rising. Mix together all icing ingredients.
Bake rolls at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, Let cool 10 minutes then pour icing over warm rolls. The icing will harden slightly as rolls cool.
I serve them straight from the skillet.