Cinnamon Squares

Over the Christmas break I binge watched Magnolia Table on Discovery plus. One of the most intriguing recipes I saw was her cinnamon squares, which she described as the middle part of the cinnamon roll. I’m glad I watched her make it because if I hadn’t I might not have rolled them out properly. Make sure you use your rolling pin to really meld those layers so they don’t puff up too much in the oven. Also, the recipe makes a huge batch so I plan on freezing the leftovers in pairs to heat up later in the coming weeks.

For the Dough:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
  • Two 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast (I used 4 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for the dough and pans
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining sugar, milk, butter, eggs, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. Rub softened butter on top of the dough and around the bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm spot for 1 hour. (If you use instant yeast, just put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix.) The dough will not rise very much.

To make the filling: In a food processor, combine the pecans, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and process until the mixture is well blended and paste-like (do this in two batches if necessary). Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Generously dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough and place it on the work surface. Roll it out into a 16 x 24-inch rectangle.

Spoon two-thirds of the filling mixture over the dough. Spread it to cover the dough to the edges. Starting on a short side, fold the sheet of dough two thirds of the way, then fold the other side over in a tri-fold pattern, pressing the edges together, and roll it out a little bit, til you approximately a 14×16 rectangle. Spoon the remaining filling on top of the dough and spread it to cover the dough. Starting at a short side, tri-fold the dough again and lightly roll it back into a 12×18 rectangle. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 24 roughly 3-inch squares. Arrange the squares on the prepared pan so that they are touching. Brush the tops of the squares with beaten egg.

Bake until lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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