You Can Ring My Bell: Ring-A-Lings

Since the last recipe I tried from my vintage Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook was a little disappointing, I decided to try one of the grand prize winners. I'm feeling a little more confident with yeasted pastry after my furlough baking project with laminated doughs, so I felt up to the challenge of some yeasted rolls that took the grand prize in 1955: Ring-a-Lings.

There is a full-page color photo of the rolls in the the cookbook (it looks even better than the photo on the Pillsbury website) showing a basket full of dark golden brown, shiny round rolls. They look gorgeous.

The recipe is surprisingly simple (the procedure I'm describing is the one from my 1959 cookbook and I assume is true to the recipe the way it was originally written; the version of the recipe on the Pillsbury website has the same ingredient list but slightly different directions). You add hot scalded milk to butter and cool the mixture to lukewarm. Then you add sugar, salt, orange zest, eggs, and active yeast that has been softened in warm water. Finally, you add flour to form a stiff dough, cover the bowl, and let the dough stand for 30 minutes.

You roll the dough out into a large rectangle, spread on a filling made from butter, powdered sugar, and chopped hazelnuts, and fold half of the dough over to enclose the filling inside. You cut the dough into strips (each strip is a double thickness of dough with filling in between), twist the strips, and then form them into a snail shape. This is the exact same method I used to shape the fruit Danishes I recently made, so the procedure was already familiar to me. You let the rolls rise until doubled (about an hour) and then bake them. You take the rolls out of the oven when they are almost done, brush them with a glaze made from orange juice and sugar, and then put them back in the oven for a few minutes.

The rolls baked up beautiful and golden brown, just as attractive as the ones in the cookbook photo. The hazelnut filling was completely hidden between the layers of dough before baking, but it expanded in the oven and was peeking out of the spirals of the finished rolls. The orange glaze gave the rolls terrific shine and was not sticky at all. The rolls really did look like they came from a professional bakery.

I thought the sweet hazelnut filling was great, but I was surprised there was not more orange flavor in the rolls, especially because there is both orange zest in the dough and orange glaze brushed on top. Also the bread portion was slightly dense and not particularly flavorful -- I was hoping for a more tender texture. But overall, they were quite tasty, and their impressive good looks were a big bonus. You get a lot of reward for very little work with this recipe, and that makes them a winner in my book!

Recipe: "Ring-a-Lings" by Bertha E. Jorgensen from Portland Oregon, Grand Prize Winner of the 1955 Pillsbury Bake-Off. Recipe available in Pillsbury's Best 1000 Recipes: Best of the Bake-Off Collection, and here at the Pillsbury website.

Previous Post: "What I Did During My Furlough, Part Two: Fruit Danishes," October 12, 2013.