These are all are foods that make me supremely frustrated.
Because no matter how badly I want to eat them—how very badly—it's hard to find an appropriate time. They're too all-consuming to be side dishes (if I order mozzarella sticks, I might as well ask them to wrap up the pizza before bringing it to the table); too large, after a normal-sized meal, to be desserts; and too sweet to be breakfasts (that's right: I said it!).
Have it between meals and you might not be hungry when it's time for dinner. Have it for a meal and you might find yourself munching on baby carrots at 4 P.M. The best solution is to find a friend to share with you, but even once you've carved out time to eat the food (let alone make it) and
paid asked a friend to help you, the experience will be more like an obligatory coffee with the person who's been emailing you for weeks than a joyful reunion with a long-distance boyfriend.
Photo by James Ransom
Cinnamon rolls fit all the criteria of a maddening food. They're too sweet and messy and, if you're making them from scratch, time-consuming for a run-of-the-mill breakfast. They do not qualify as a "light snack." They are probably not what you're looking for after a heavy meal and yet they aren't elegant enough to cap off a light one.
But the solution is surely not to give up.
To find the time (and stomach-room) to eat cinnamon rolls, you must transform them into a full-fledged sweet. Rescue them from the no man's land between breakfast and dessert and drop them squarely into the SUGAR category. Make them gaudy and sophisticated enough for a dinner party. Prepare them in a way so that each person can have exactly however much he or she wants. Turn cinnamon rolls into cake.
Photo by James Ransom
In this recipe, a chocolate yeast dough (emboldened with cocoa powder and chocolate chunks) is spread with butter, sugar, and bits of almond paste and additional chocolate. It's then curled around itself into a hypnotic spiral that bakes into a tall cake with the lift and fluff of a cinnamon roll. A cream cheese glaze adds tang; sugared almonds, crunch.
Of course you could make these into individual rolls, but cake offers a clearer direction. Because you (and your holiday guests) know exactly when they should have a piece of cake—and they'll always have room.
For the dough:
For the assembly and the optional icing: