me: [between bites] These are amazing. What are they?
Laura: Cinnamon love knots. My sister made them.
me: You have to send me the recipe.
Laura: I'll get it from her and send it to you.
Fast forward at least two (probably three) years and many feeble ultimatum-like attempts later. No joke, I may or may not have threatened to end our now 17 year friendship if that recipe didn't come into my possession quickly. It basically became a running joke that almost every time I saw Laura that I'd ask for the recipe. One day, out of the blue, I spotted an email in my inbox one day that mentioned "recipe" in the subject. Could it be true!? Like a kid on Christmas morning, I
...only to find a link! A link to the darn recipe! All this time, I imagined a great kitchen mind was toiling, trying to put a recipe so mysterious into words for a common cook. I figured it was, like many great recipes, passed down from generation to generation, complete with original directions only a grandmother could give: "I don't really measure things, I just do it and it works every time!" After all, that's how I started with a friend's bubbie's "recipe" for challah, but that's another story.
Since it's been a busy week, I made these on a weeknight, starting at 7:45 and finishing around 11. (It helped that the first installment of HBO's 24/7 Penguins Capitals special was on from 10 to 11, so I had 2 fantastic reasons for ignoring my usual bedtime.) It's not a difficult process by any means, but it does take some time to wait for the dough to rise. Unless you're a night owl, I'd recommend this as a fantastic early evening or weekend project. It's a very tactile process, my favorite kind when it comes to baking. Come to think of it, it's like a workout in the kitchen! With the stirring, kneading, punching, rolling, tying, and dipping... burning calories so you can quickly replace them later!
The culmination of all that procrastinating and waiting was a sweet and fluffy knot of carbohydrate goodness. The butter melts into the dough while the cinnamon sugar coats the entire knot and becomes crunchy in places where it touched the baking sheet -- sheer bliss, I tell you. Thank goodness, too, because after all of that, I just wanted a doughy knot covered with sugar and spice. Try to hand me a normally sweet treat made "light" or fat-free around the holidays, and you'll see me become less than nice ;)
One Year Ago: Glazed lemon pound cake
Cinnamon Love Knots
(adapted slightly from Taste of Home)
A few notes: The original recipe calls for dipping the rope into butter and sugar, then tying it. After one (and only one) attempt at this, I decided it was much too messy for my taste -- most of the cinnamon sugar ended up on the counter and floor. I included my adapted instructions below. Also, if 36 love knots is too many for your needs, or you are like me and can't trust yourself around these, feel free to halve the recipe. This would be a perfect Christmas morning breakfast treat, too, so share the love of the knots with everyone :)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Add milk, butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and 4 1/2 cups of flour; stir until a stiff dough is formed, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed. (Note: I used all 5 cups, but you may need less.)
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, until smooth and elastic, for 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a well-oiled bowl (nonstick cooking spray is perfect) and turning once to make sure the entire ball of dough is greased. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (top of my oven set on 300F inside) until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough once and divide into 3 equal portions. Cover portions not being immediately used with plastic wrap. Divide one portion into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a roughly 8-inch rope, and tie into a knot. Dip knot into melted butter and coat completely with cinnamon sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake love knots in oven for 12 to 14 minutes, or until just golden. Cool completely on wire rack. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.