Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BBA Challenge: Date Pecan Rolls with Orange Caramel Sauce (formerly known as Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread)

This was the first recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice that I have not been terribly excited to make. Until I saw these, that is. Di had a brilliant idea to make rolls out of her dough instead of braided loaves, and I decided to steal it. After looking at Di's creation, I couldn't wait to make this bread.

The recipe is actually for cranberry walnut bread, but dried cranberries aren't my favorite dried fruit and anyway, I couldn't find any that were both organic and sugar-free. I love dates in baked goods, so that is what I went with. There are few nuts that I'm not crazy about, and while walnuts are not one of them, I didn't have any. What I did have was a few pounds of chopped pecans. Dates and pecans sounded like a delicious combination, especially when I read through the recipe and discovered that the recipe contained orange extract.

Ah yes, orange extract. The recipe calls for a full tablespoon of orange extract. That seemed like overkill to me, so I used 1 teaspoon and the zest of one orange. It was plenty orangey. In fact, I could have gone with less extract and it still would have been plenty orangey.

My plan for these was to add the chopped dates and pecans to the dough during the last 2 minutes of kneading. However, as soon as I put them in the mixer, the dates became one sticky mass, even though I had carefully tossed them in flour in hopes of preventing this. My solution was to take the date-pecan blob out of the mixer, finish kneading the dough, then roll it out, and spread the date mixture in a thin layer over the dough (as you would the cinnamon-sugar in a cinnamon roll. I then rolled it up, cut it and baked it as planned.

I made a caramel sauce out of the juice of the orange I zested, palm sugar, heavy cream and butter. Which turned out to be a perfect complement to the rolls.

I think my idea of the date/nut layer needs some refining - perhaps a bit of liquid to make it slightly more fluid - but overall it was very successful. I did not love the flavor of the bread itself, I could taste the orange extract too distinctly and I thought it would have been much better with zest only. So, I won't be making this recipe again as written - not that I did this time - but it has certainly given me inspiration to tinker with my date & nut orange rolls until they are just right.


  1. A full tablespoon of orange extract? I like orange flavor in baking, but prefer it to be very subtle. Thanks for the great tips- I bought this book a while ago but have only gotten through the first recipe! I love the sound of the dates and pecans together.

  2. Love your variation on this. the caramel sauce sounds perfect

  3. these look incredible. How creative. I liked the bread, but these are a great alternative.

  4. Your take on this recipe looks super delish!!!

  5. These rolls look incredible! I just love the rolls. I used a full T of orange extact in mine - yikes! Like your idea better. Great job with these!

  6. Great photos Sarah! These look so good and I love the idea of an orange caramel sauce.

  7. I loved doing rolls with this dough. I'm thinking of other ways to play with the filling, too.


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