4 September 2013

Maple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing My Cherished Canadian Recipe

Maple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing
This coming weekend I will be travelling to the province of Ontario and explore  some of the country roads around Cambridge with my family at the helm enroute to pretty towns  like St. Jacobs and its surrounds. Located just north of the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo, St Jacobs has an old fashioned feel. The village has a population of around 1,400 people and is famous for its Farmers’ Market.  It is still a destination of choice to spend a few hours at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market on a Saturday morning which for me has always been the draw to St. Jacobs. The thing that always blows me away is their marketplace located in the giant barn structure. Peameal bacon, apple fritters, rolled ribs, myriads of sausage...Unfortunately on Labour Day this structure burnt to the ground. The community has rallied around and according to their site they will rebuild but sadly it was not in the cards this weekend. My thoughts go out to all the vendors who have lost everything.

St. Jacobs is surrounded by a patchwork of fields and farms. As you wander the highways and byways watch for "slow-moving vehicle" signs, because you will be sharing the roads with Old Order Mennonite horse-drawn buggies and wagons. Today, the rural areas around St. Jacobs are populated with many Old Order Mennonite farmers who retain the religion, customs and lifestyle of their 19th century forefathers. Hand-written signs advertising a variety of things for sale from maple syrup, potatoes, brown eggs to quilts and crafts are seen at the end of farm lanes. Roadside stands with produce and flowers are unattended where people trust customers to leave money in the plastic containers provided, to pay for the things they buy. A visit here is like falling into a scene from Little House on the Prairie where on many farms, the family vehicle is still a horse-drawn wagon. Years ago on my first real exploration of the area, I learned to appreciate that this is a locavore’s fantasy land.

In St. Jacobs, the Old Order Mennonites live very similarly to the Amish. The Mennonites trekked from Pennsylvania in Conestoga Wagons and settled in and around St. Jacobs in the late 1700s and early 1800s, making St. Jacobs one of the original Mennonite settlements in Ontario. These delicate, quiet, and private people live their lives in a traditional way and don’t care much for the conveniences of modern life like cars, cell phones and electricity. You can tell the Mennonite farms by the lack of power and telephone lines running to their homes.

On other occasions I have felt like paparazzi with my camera taking photos of horse drawn buggies and carts, women in bonnets and rural life trying all the while to be discreet. In photography we have all discovered that strangers in general do not want to have their photos taken and this is even more pertinent for this area. Travelling along the "Mennonite Highway", the local nickname for Lobsinger Line, we were driving slowly, for not only did we pass several horse-drawn carriages, but nearly every farm gate enticed us with a different treat... free-range eggs, maple syrup, vegetables, cut flowers, fresh-baked pies, drug-free sausages and meats. The last time I couldn't resist stopping at a local farm for maple syrup where a young mother and her two adorable little girls were washing their buggy. Their long skirts were muddied and wet from the effort, but on such a hot day the cooling water was surely a relief while wearing their long skirts and bonnets. I was ushered up to the house where the handcrafted furniture was bare and simple by today's standards. While visiting their farms, you will return to the past where everything looks like if did a hundred years ago.

'Your Cherished Canadian Recipe' was this months challenge in The Canadian Food Experience Project which began in June, 2013. There are so many recipes I remember as a child growing up in Southern Ontario. What comes to mind are butter tarts and a chunky cheese bread from the Mennonite woman at the market and warm cinnamon rolls dripping with icing. As participants in this project we  have been sharing our collective stories from coast to coast through our regional food experiences on the 7th of each month. Please join us or on Valerie's Facebook Page as we embrace our nation.

To rediscover my cherished Canadian inspired recipe I journeyed back to my roots in Southern Ontario where I grew up. I am flying there for a few days this coming weekend for a family wedding and a much needed hug from family members. There are two things that I miss about living in Southern Ontario...the kaleidoscope of autumn leaves on a Sunday drive this time of year and secondly the run of maple syrup and celebrations in early Spring. I seem to migrate back to Ontario every few years to visit my family so as an ode to Ontario with its rolling hills, multitude of lakes, world class cities and multicultural diversity I decided to relish in the rebirth of a twist on a cherished family recipe for cinnamon rolls with toasted local walnuts, Ontario maple syrup and drizzled with plenty of maple syrup flavoured cream cheese icing.

There are few smells as sweet as the aromas coming from a rustic, wood-planked sugarhouse, with the one possible exception being these Maple Walnut Cinnamon Buns with Maple Cream Cheese Icing. Maple syrup is a product unlike any other because its flavour and colour varies throughout the season. At the beginning of the season, the syrup is generally clear and the taste slightly sweet (Extra Light, Light or Medium). As the season progresses, the syrup becomes darker and more caramelized (Amber or Dark). 

Fluffy, nutty, and perfumed with cinnamon and maple syrup, these cinnamon rolls invoke childhood memories of sitting outside on a cool autumn day at the aforementioned St. Jacobs market with sticky fingers or the air vibrating with the hum of bumblebees clinging to the bobbling purple spikes of lavender at a country garden cafe with my daughter here in British Columbia (where we drove just for their generously cream cheese topped cinnamon buns with their gooey caramelized bottoms). If I close my eyes I remember the first time I tasted a freshly baked glazed cinnamon roll. Surely it seemed larger than my head as a child as I savoured every warm yeasty bite with sticky fingers?  I can just smell the cinnamon and visualize the dough rising in the oven. 

This story and the recipe below continues my year long challenge from Valerie of A Canadian Foodie called The Canadian Food Experience Project. Valerie was one of the lucky few who attended the very first Canadian Food Bloggers Conference north of Toronto in April. Her experience inspired her to dig deep within herself, to discover what it meant to be a Canadian in our melting pot of food culture. She has challenged us to find our truly Canadian voice and connect with each other coast to coast through food, stories and experiences. The hope is that we will discover our truly Canadian voice and identity in this diverse country as we share our discoveries. By recounting local experiences such as this we are able to be inspired by the amazingness of other people, the world around us, and a sense of place. You can’t help but come out the other end loving what is unique about yourself. Through this exercise we will find our own individual – not to mention collective – voice.  After a year of discovery we will hear ourselves a little more clearly. 

To discover what it means to be a "food enthusiast" in Canada it is like peeling away the layers of an onion. By methodically removing each layer of the onion, you are able to appreciate the complexities at each level as you eventually reach the core where you can objectively define the answers. When you use a metaphor, such as "peeling away another layer," you visualize a central concept (a heart or core) that is buried within. 

At this moment in time it is hard for me to get to the central core and define what it means to be a Canadian in our food culture. I have lived in 4 out of 10 provinces, grew up in a British family where Yorkshire pudding and jello were the norm. My perception of how the melting pot of Canadian cuisine can be defined is muddled. By participating in Valerie's challenge I hope to sharpen my senses and dispel this mental fog just as I did on a tiny fishing boat at 4:30 AM off the shores of Newfoundland while jigging for squid while on a vacation in my late teens. 

But it’s time to head back in my dreams to the village of St. Jacobs for late-afternoon butter tarts and cream puffs at the Stone Crock Bakery. The last of the maple syrup I purchased on a hot, dusty muggy day from a sweet family in rural Ontario is featured in todays recipe. This recipe evokes memories of each province I have lived in where exceptional cooks from the fishing villages of the Maritime Provinces, the wheat fields of the prairies or the pine forests of the Rocky Mountains have shaped and plied the dough to do their bidding.

What a delicious way to celebrate the beginning of a new season here in the Okanagan Valley. The scent of freshly ground cinnamon and yeast begin to merge as the dough rises and the cinnamon, sugar and butter begins to bubble. Open your oven door to reveal one of the largest sweets you’ve ever imagined. Spread the homemade frosting over the top to complete your warm, gooey treasure. Your taste buds will praise you with every bite!

**Maple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing**

For rolls:

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided (plus extra flour if needed)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray


3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup butter, very soft

Maple Syrup Cream Cheese Icing:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Note: If you find the icing too think for your liking either add it to the rolls while they are still hot or add a little milk.

For the rolls: Place the milk in a bowl and warm up on your stove-top or microwave until just warm (room temperature – too much heat kills your yeast). Pour into a bowl and add the yeast and allow it to activate for 5-10 minutes. Now add the oil, 1 cup of flour, sugar, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix well.

Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and continue to mix (you may use your you hand mixer) until the flour has been absorbed and the dough is smooth and not too sticky (you may need a little extra flour). Knead until the flour is fully absorbed, smooth and not too sticky. Form into a ball, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot in your kitchen and allow to rise until the dough doubles in size (in about 2 hours).

Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the filling.

Once dough has risen, lightly flour a large cutting board. Punch down down and roll out to approximately 12 x 16 inches.

The 1 cup butter must be very soft. Spread onto doug leaving 1-inch border. Sprinkle on the filling mixture. Next sprinkle on the pecans and raisins.

Starting on a long side, roll up the dough up into a cylinder and pinch the edge to close. Cut the cylinder in half and then cut each half into five rolls for a total of ten rolls.

Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and place rolls in dish leaving a little room around each roll to allow for rising. Let the rolls rise for another hour or so and place in the refrigerator.

{If baking now - do NOT put in refrigerator.}

Remove from refrigerator and let rolls come to room temperature in a warm area.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes until golden brown in colour.

While rolls are baking, prepare the cream cheese icing: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in maple syrup. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 25 - 30 minutes.

Remove rolls from oven and spread on icing while cinnamon rolls are still warm. Let cool slightly and serve.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. You are early, Val! Great recipe. Mine will be a day late.

    1. I am. I will be away with no access to my own photos or e-mail so needed to send the link to Valerie early which meant I needed to publish early too.

  2. I think I have to make these.
    I read headlines about the fire..now I know more..that is sad..
    I have never been..
    Only really Sandbanks area..TO..Ottawa..Niagara-On-The-Lake..
    You write so well:-)

    1. You must someday go to Mennonite country but Niagara on the Lake is my favourite:D

  3. If it weren't 10:30 p.m., I start on these rolls right now! Soon!


  4. Oh Val, these are glorious! You know how I adore maple, and these are wonderful and tender and beautiful. :-)

  5. OMG Val, it's 9:00 pm but I think I need to get in the kitchen and make these cinnamon rolls NOW. It looks and sounds sooo good. Terrible story about the fire. I hope they can recreate what was lost.

  6. lovely katie who sits next to me at work has just gone on holiday to canada and i've made her promise to bring maple syrup home with her for me... can't wait to make this, your buns looks glorious!

    1. It was inexpensive in the area I grew up in Dom. I brought bak 3 litres:D

  7. Heavenly! Those cinnamon rolls look gorgeous and ever so tempting.

    Thanks sharing your pictures of the Amish people and the Mennonite highway.



  8. This is going right to the top of my 'must make now' list. Great post, I love anything with maple in it, and maple walnut is my favorite ice cream flavor. Fabulous photos, too. Have fun on your travels!

    1. Maple walnut is still my favourite too Sue and has not even been replaced by salted caramel.

  9. I would love to have one of these with my morning coffee....actually, I would love one of these anytime! I enjoyed your pictures of the St. Jacobs area.

  10. I'm excited for you and your farmer's market visit!

  11. Maple is definitely my favorite fall flavor! Love the sound of these rolls. I'm so excited for your trip!

  12. What a fun and fascinating place to visit, have fun! Those rolls look spectacular. I can only imagine that incredible aroma!

  13. What gorgeous cinnamon rolls. I bet they are fabulous for brunch on a weekend. I didn't realize their was a Mennonite community in Canada.

    1. Yes in the Eastern provinces we have Mennonites and here in the West Hutterites.

  14. Grew up very close to that area and still have family & friends there. Have a great trip and love to hear how the St. Jacobs market is recovering.

  15. You evoked a yearning in me for those cinnamon rolls. The St. Jacobs area reminds me of the Amish in Pennyslvania. Great post Val.

  16. Such a great post Val! Would you believe it, we live smack in the middle of Mennonite country too where a LARGE group settled in SC for the land. Although they dress similarly, they do drive cars here in SC. However, in Iowa where we are from originally, it is the true Amish villages (where Amana products are made), and there we ate in one of the homes of the Amish by candlelight, walked their gardens, visited their quilt shops . . . and they only ride in horse-drawn buggies.

    The two great danes (see my FB photos) that I am sitting for belong to a couple from Saskatchewan (sp?). Lots of physicians from Canada live in my little town and they are SUPERIOR doctors!

    Lastly, I would eat every one of these cinnamon rolls!!!! Pinning!


    1. There are many "new Order"Mennonites in the area Roz who use electricity and drive, but the "Old Order" Mennonites are very devoted to their lifestyle. It is really quite fascinating. If they did not get upset when you take their photo I would be in photography heaven. There is a blog I follow called Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

      The doctors in your town have moved to the States where they make more money than they do here in Canada:D

  17. cinnamon rolls are definitely my favorite breakfast pastry and maple syrup is most definitely my favorite breakfast condiment. this is an incredible recipe, val!

  18. Val, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour and your memories of growing up.
    Thank you for taking us all along with you ~ great images and very well written.
    I have saved this lovely recipe, and am planning on making it soon. It looks dreamy-delicious... my mouth is watering. ;)

  19. So nice that you came back to Ontario to visit family Val. And I like the recipe you chose for this month. It's mouthwatering.

  20. I hope you had a great trip. This recipe is a keeper - and a great treat for when company is staying overnight.

  21. This is your daughter's wedding. correct? Not easy to have it so far from your home... I had one away from home, and one here. Both were lovely... so - hope you have a wonderful trip. The shower you had at your home is still so vivid for me. These buns look gorgeous, and though cinnamon buns, apparently - found their origin in Vienna, I can think of nothing more Canadian. Our country and our people have embraced the original recipe and idea and taken it to places it has never been before, that is for sure... I can imagine how much the freshly toasted local walnuts add to them as they grow them in Vanja's country, too - and I get them fresh there.... YUM!. Thank you so much for participating so thoughtfully, Valerie. I cherish reading each of your post for this project. I also appreciate that as I comment on each, you have usually beat me there.

  22. Valerie, you write such wonderful and interesting posts! I love homemade cinnamon rolls and your recipe is to drool for! I have plenty of time to make them, eat them and then burn off the calories today.


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