During this time of economic uncertainty, I believe bacon can make things better. Think about it: just a little bit goes a long way, flavoring a whole pot of beans or plate of braised greens with its smoky meatiness. Leftover bacon grease — an unappealing term, let’s say bacon drippings, much better — can be saved and used instead of oil, adding a savory something-something to an otherwise straightforward mirepoix. “Bacon makes anything better” may well be the mantra of this terrifying (and exciting — Obama!) time, whispered like a prayer over the chocolate-covered bacon slices, bacon-wrapped meats, even bacon ice cream being eaten around the country.
And so I offer my contribution to the nation’s altar of bacon: maple-bacon cinnamon rolls. Soft and yeasty, with the occasional salty-smoke hit of bacon, they were inspired by this bacon doughnut recipe I spotted. I wanted maple-bacon breakfast goodness, but didn’t want to deal with large amounts of oil bubbling on the stove, so the idea for this cinnamon roll was born, using Molly’s Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze as a starting point. As an added plus, the fact that these are baked instead of fried makes you forget the thick layer of butter and sugar rolled up inside. Compared to a doughnut they seem almost…virtuous.
Okay, I know. Nothing with bacon ever seems virtuous. But, you know, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I myself won’t be casting any stones — with a maple-bacon cinnamon roll in each hand, it’s just not possible.
Maple-Bacon Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 18 rolls
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat over a low flame until mixture is just warmed to 120-130 degrees F. (Or put them in a glass measuring cup and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.) Pour into a large bowl (or stand mixer). Add 1 cup flour, sugar, eggs, yeast and salt. Beat with the mixer or by hand for 3 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pull away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly flour work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. While it rises, mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at one long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch wide).
Butter two 9-inch square glass baking dishes. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and let dough rise until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn right side up.
Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and maple syrup in a medium bowl. Drizzle glaze over rolls and immediately sprinkle with chopped bacon. Serve warm. Realize you should eat more bacon.