The HelmMistress uses her leftover (homemade) dough to make cinnamon rolls....that come out perfectly. And she uses the solar oven to do it. Read this story to recreate her success.

After a semi-failed attempt at making mummy dogs (hot dogs wrapped in crescent roll dough in mummy bandage patterns), I had left over crescent roll dough that I stashed in the fridge until I could figure out what to do with it.  Cooking in the solar oven involves planning, timing, and patience, but I couldn’t get the oven heat up high enough the day I cooked the mummy dogs, so I was a bit discouraged to take on any new challenge.  Even though we have the advantage of sitting in one place with constant sun while tied to the dock, the solar oven still doesn’t heat to a level that most recipes require.  As such, it takes a bit of experimentation with cooking times and frequently involves getting hopes up for what ends up being a disappointment thrown in the microwave or on the stove to top it off.  Staring at this dough ball taking up precious space in my fridge, it hit me, CINNAMON ROLLS!  This was a family favorite and tradition every Christmas morning in the past, so let’s give it a go now to work out the kinks before the holidays!

The Dough

For some personal background, before I left on this trip I had never made anything from scratch.  My mom is a great cook and taught me the basics, but it was just too easy to get a cake mix, ready-made pie crust, or prepared pasta from the store – life moved too fast – hit the easy button!  So the idea of making dough for…anything was a bit far-fetched.  Even so, I can read, I can measure, and on a good day, I have patience, so let’s do this!  I followed a recipe for crescent dough from Taste of Home for the mummy dogs, and saved the leftover dough in the fridge for 3 days until I got the motivation to attempt something again.  I’ve learned from making bread out here that with dough, you need time for it to rise in a warm environment, and there’s usually some kneading and punching down involved, so I did all of the above to reactivate my dormant dough.

The Good Parts

For the second stage of the cinnamon rolls, I “followed” the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen for the filling and frosting. “Followed” is in quotes because I had used another dough recipe and only had ½ left by now so I had to adjust the amounts of filling and frosting accordingly.  Also, much to my mother’s chagrin, when cooking I tend to eyeball/taste test a lot of ingredients that perhaps should be measured/weighed etc. and this time was no different.  In the end, no harm was done (more frosting? bummer!)  I compared the dough recipes on both websites and despite minor differences in measurements, the ingredients were the same, making the dough easily interchangeable.  Once the dough is made, it’s pretty simple from there.  The girls helped out with the rolling, filling, and frosting.

Kellyn helping with prep


The only brown sugar we have found here in Mexico is called piloncillo, typically found tightly pressed into a cone shape.  It is an unrefined form that is very hard and has a stronger molasses taste, which will work great in other recipes, but for this recipe I preferred light brown sugar.  I had a limited amount of brown sugar that I brought from the states, so I mixed it with a bit of granulated white sugar to add volume.  Also, instead of cooking them packed in side by side in a bread pan or otherwise, I kept them spread out individually on the cookie sheet.  As you can see, we were not aiming for uniformity in our creations and some of them decided they needed a nap while cooking.  Oops- considerations for next time.

Cooking the rolls in the solar oven, a few of them needed a nap

Solar Oven Cooking

Cooking with our solar oven presents challenges as we are generally cooking at lower temperatures which means longer cook times and perhaps some pre or post cooking depending on the dish.  I ended up cooking these for about an hour until they started to brown up.  The temperature outside was 84 degrees F at just after 1pm and the maximum oven temperature achieved was 290 degrees F with the reflectors on.  This was as good as it was going to get. More time was unlikely to yield a better product.  So out the rolls came and frosted they were; thoroughly frosted!

Now two questions stood in the way: Would these pass the taste test and are they better than the store bought, pop out of the container ones we usually settled for on Christmas morning?  Of course, my taste testers were ready, willing and able to assist.  Within seconds, the results were in – winners all around!  Yup, we’ll be doing this again for the holidays, solar heat permitting!

Take aways from this experience:

1) I now have a tested dough recipe that will work equally well for crescent rolls or cinnamon rolls. (How convenient…I may need both for the holidays!)

2) Start early with the dough so that you have sufficient time for it to rise/punch down twice and still get it in the solar oven in optimal sunlight.

3) Dough stored in the fridge or freezer can be brought back to life with some kneading, warmth, and time to rise.  While I’ve read this before, I was pleased to test this out with success.

4) Longer strips of dough will work better for making more robust rolls and result in fewer “napping” cinnamon rolls.

Happy Holiday Cooking!

The HelmsMistress lives on a cruising sailboat in Mexico where she homeschools her brood and runs the helm on our 1977 51-ft Aleutian Ketch.  She writes her blog posts every Wedesday when wifi and inspiration allow.

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