In light of Willow Bird Baking’s Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge, I’ve been sharing some tips for tackling new or challenging recipes throughout the month of March.

Cooking Hard Stuff Tip #4: Try, try, try again — or share your success.

Listen, we’ve tried not to dwell on this, but sometimes Cooking Hard Stuff is going to lead to a culinary disaster. When your pie crust is stuck everywhere in your kitchen except the pie plate, your cake falls over, or your dog is snarfing down the loaf of bread you just dropped, you’re going to want to throw in the dishtowel (and throw several other things).

It’s okay to quit every now and then. Eat a microwave burrito and lick your wounds while watching Kitchen Nightmares. Cry a little. Write a mournful poem.

But I strongly recommend that most of the time, you do something counter-intuitive: get back in the kitchen (soon) and try again. When you let “failures” fester, they become discouragement and insecurity. You’ll start telling people you’re “bad at making pie crust” or “not a good cook” — things people regularly confess to me. You may stop trying to Cook Hard Stuff altogether.

Almost every time I’ve made myself try again after tossing a recipe flop in the trash, I’ve succeeded the second time around (full disclosure: except with meringue — I’m waiting for a good dry weekend to give that one a third try). Sometimes I give myself a breather and wait until the next day or weekend to avoid frustration — and I always do a little more googling and reading — but when I finally succeed, it’s worth the time and effort. In addition to learning what I did wrong, repeating the steps of the process make them second nature to me. Thus, paradoxically, I’m even more likely to feel comfortable with the recipe once I’m finished than if I’d succeeded the first time around. How about that!

So when you’re not happy with your product, be strong. Make sure your experience ends on a successful note by getting back in the kitchen.

Thankfully, Cooking Hard Stuff doesn’t always (or even most of the time) end in a complete failure.Usually you’re going to accomplish at least a measure of success. Even wonky brownies taste excellent.

My first real payoff whenever I Cook Hard Stuff comes when I’ve finished a dish I’m proud of, taken photos of it, and get to write about it here on Willow Bird Baking. The pinnacle, though, is when Mike takes a bite of a dessert and loves it. It’s no fun on weekends when he’s not here, but I end up freezing things for him quite often!

Sharing your culinary achievements is the reward for Cooking Hard Stuff that will build your confidence and encourage you to continue challenging yourself. Others’ enjoyment is one of the primary ways we judge our kitchen accomplishments.

For this reason, I think you should find folks to eat your food. If you can’t feed all of it to your family, take it into your coworkers, walk it over to a neighbor’s house, or donate it to a bake sale or shelter. Do something so that you know your hard work is making someone else’s day — it’ll make your day too. You can also share your accomplishments online, of course, on a food blog or journal. In fact, I can’t wait to share all of your Cooking Hard Stuff accomplishments on Willow Bird Baking in just a couple of days!

These savory cinnamon rolls are definitely one of my successes I’m excited to share with you. I wanted to make something imaginative, delicious, and easy for my last entry in the No More ‘Mallows contest. I started with a traditional cinnamon roll recipe that uses my grandma’s lovely Angel Biscuit dough. Instead of a dessert filling of cinnamon and sugar, these cinnamon rolls are filled with sweet potato puree seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Along with the puree, they’re stuffed with chorizo, queso fresco, and a touch of jalapeno for heat. The hearty buns served with a “glaze” of salsa or sour cream would make the perfect dinner or snack. The best part is that you get to serve people savory cinnamon rolls, y’all. That’s just too fun.

Speaking of celebrating culinary successes, I have an even bigger one to celebrate with you! It’s not mine, but that of my friend Lauren over at Keep It Sweet Desserts. Keep It Sweet Desserts is a mail-order desserts company and a brand new endeavor for Lauren. She’s always posting delicious treats on her blog, so I eagerly agreed to review some of the very first desserts she sent out.

From Keep It Sweet Desserts.

I tried a salted caramel butter bar, a milk chocolate almond toffee cookie sandwich with peanut butter buttercream, and a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with mocha ganache buttercream. They were all just as fantastic as I knew they would be, but the mocha ganache smooshed between two soft chocolate chip cookies was my favorite. I feel pleased as a plum to wholeheartedly recommend Keep It Sweet Desserts for anytime you want someone else to Cook the Hard Stuff for you. In fact, if you use the code “WillowBirdBaking” anytime before June 30, 2012, you can enjoy 10% off your dessert order.

And just to spread the love, let’s do a giveaway, too! Go visit Keep It Sweet Desserts and leave a comment below with which cookie or bar you’d like to win. I’ll randomly choose a winner next Saturday, April 7 to win a dozen of their choice.

Savory Sweet Potato & Chorizo “Cinnamon Rolls”

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 24 rolls

These savory sweet potato “cinnamon” rolls are adorable and delicious. They’re soft, buttery yeast rolls wrapped around sweet potato puree seasoned with cinnamon, chili powder, and cumin. The rolls also pack a healthy dose of chorizo, queso fresco, and jalapeno. If you’re afraid of yeast, don’t be! This recipe is super easy; you just mix and stick it in the fridge overnight to rise before shaping your rolls.

Roll Ingredients:
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups milk minus 2 tablespoons, room temperature
2/3 cup cold shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 cups flour

Filling Ingredients:
3 pounds of sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
16 ounces chorizo, browned and drained
6-8 ounces queso fresco
minced, seeded jalapeno to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons melted butter for after baking

Note: I don’t recommend halving yeast recipes; instead, if you don’t want 24 rolls at once, consider freezing some for later. To freeze some of the unbaked rolls, just wrap them well before the second rise and freeze them. Once frozen, pop them out of the pan all together and store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap and in a zip top bag or wrapped in foil. When you want to bake them, stick them back in a greased pan, thaw them in the fridge overnight, proof for the instructed amount of time, and bake like usual.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork and bake them on the oven rack (with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any oozing) for 1 hour or until a knife will slice them easily. Scoop the flesh out into a food processor and add butter, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon (you can adjust these spices to taste after beginning with the amounts that I used, above). Process until smooth and salt and pepper to taste.

While the potatoes bake, mix the warm water and yeast in a medium bowl and let the yeast foam for about 10 minutes. Put 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a measuring cup and then add milk up to the 2 cup line. Set this aside. In a separate large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook), whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and cut the shortening into the mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter until the shortening looks like small peas. Stir yeast mixture and milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, kneading just a few turns. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with cooking spray, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray two 9 x 13-inch baking dishes with cooking spray. Turn the chilled dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle about 1/8-inch thick (I carefully cut the dough in half and worked with half at a time to make it more manageable; if you do this, just spread on half of the filling ingredients for each half you roll). Spread sweet potato puree over top evenly. Sprinkle on the browned and drained chorizo, the queso fresco, and the minced jalapeno (wash your hands after handling peppers). Roll the dough up into a spiral and cut it into rolls, placing them close together in your prepared baking dishes (at this point, you could wrap and freeze the rolls for later if you wanted).

Cover the rolls with a clean dish cloth and let them rise in a warm spot until they’ve nearly doubled, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Bake them for about 15-20 minutes or until browned on top (if you take them out at just lightly golden brown, they may still be doughy in the center). Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter and return to the oven for 1 more minute. Let cool slightly and serve warm with cilantro, salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.

P.S. This dish will be entered in the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission‘s No More ‘Mallows Recipe Contest. I love me some sweet tater and marshmallow casserole, but I also love that sweet potatoes pack a lot of savory potential.

See all the Cooking Hard Stuff Tips:
The Cooking Hard Stuff Challenge
Tip #1: Read and visualize the recipe.
Tip #2: Mise en place.
Tip #3: Make a schedule.
Tip #4: Try, try, try again — or share your success

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54 Comments on Savory Sweet Potato & Chorizo “Cinnamon Rolls” (and a giveaway)

  1. Megan Wallace
    April 1, 2012 at 1:59 am (10 years ago)

    Milk Chocolate Almond Oatmeal cookies… Those sound amazing right about now!
    I think I will have to do my cereal challenge at a later time… Half of the counters are gone here, and my life feels so crazy empty (cooking/baking wise) right now that it is ridiculous!

  2. Megan Wallace
    April 1, 2012 at 2:01 am (10 years ago)

    Ps- I had a spicy sweet potato soup with coconut cream, and I think it was the most perfect savory sweet potato thing ever. Might even beat out the sweet sweet potato things! (and That’s saying something!)

  3. Juli
    April 1, 2012 at 2:04 am (10 years ago)

    Salted Caramel Butter Bar – they look yummy!

  4. Heather Spooner
    April 1, 2012 at 2:27 am (10 years ago)

    Oh, definitely the Peanut Butter Cup Stuffed Triple Chocolate Cookies. My mouth is watering! Thanks for the great giveaway.

  5. Katie
    April 1, 2012 at 2:53 am (10 years ago)

    The Salted Caramel Butter Bar sounds amazing!!

  6. Tara
    April 1, 2012 at 3:08 am (10 years ago)

    Ooh, the peanut butter cup triple chocolate cookies sound amazing. Nothing beats chocolate and peanut butter together!

  7. Julia
    April 1, 2012 at 3:08 am (10 years ago)

    The salted caramel bar…So hard to pick though. I’d love ’em all.

  8. Elin
    April 1, 2012 at 3:27 am (10 years ago)

    Such a cute site! Bookmarking it now.

    Of everything on the site, I think I would most like to try the cinnamon chocolate rugelach.

  9. Mb
    April 1, 2012 at 3:46 am (10 years ago)

    milk chocolate almond toffee sandwich cookies- filled with mocha ganache!

  10. Tanya
    April 1, 2012 at 4:32 am (10 years ago)

    The peanut butter cookie sandwiches with mocha ganache would be my choice! They all sound amazing. The cinnamon rolls also sound great, though I would need to come up with a good veggie alternative for the chorizo.

  11. Kelly
    April 1, 2012 at 4:45 am (10 years ago)

    How can one choose? Those cookies look amazing! I always default to chocolate and this time it’s so hard – tripe chocolate stuffed with peppermint patty? Or something less chocolatey – milk chocolate toffee oatmeal cookies? If I hadn’t already eaten two huge cookies from Panera Bread today (never look up the calories of those cookies), I’d be running to satisfy this cookie craving immediately.

    Savory “cinnamon” rolls – I love this idea! So many possibilities. This is definitely going on my t0-bake list.

  12. Stephanie
    April 1, 2012 at 5:52 am (10 years ago)

    They all look amazing, but I would choose the peppermint patty stuffed triple chocolate cookies. Also, the sweet potato and chorizo combo sounds fantastic!

  13. Marci
    April 1, 2012 at 11:08 am (10 years ago)

    Peanut butter & jelly rugelach! Oh my!! 🙂

  14. EmilyRose
    April 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm (10 years ago)

    oooh . . . have to go with the salted caramel butter bars! But a sandwich cookie variety pack wouldn’t be so bad either 🙂

  15. Carrie
    April 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm (10 years ago)

    Well, I wouldn’t say no to any of these cookies, but the salted caramel butter bars sound divine! Thanks for doing the giveaway!

  16. Emily
    April 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm (10 years ago)

    Everything looks delicious but I would have to go with the Brownies and Bars Variety Pack that way I could try more than one thing 🙂

  17. Jen
    April 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm (10 years ago)

    MMMmmmm, salted caramel bar, I believe. But those cookies stuffed with peppermint patties look completely amazing as well!

    And these savory cinnamon rolls? Genius!

  18. Ro
    April 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm (10 years ago)

    salted caramel butter bars, for sure!

  19. Anne
    April 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm (10 years ago)

    Yum! All of them look absolutely amazing, but I’d have to go with the milk chocolate almond toffee sandwich cookies with the mocha ganache you recommended!

  20. angel van
    April 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm (10 years ago)

    So many things to choose from but I would have to choose the milk chocolate almond toffee oatmeal. I am not a huge fan of almonds but lately have been really snacking on them. But I love love love toffee and oatmeal together!

  21. Terri
    April 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm (10 years ago)

    I would love to win the Peppermint Patty Stuffed Triple Chocolate Cookies!

  22. lynn @ the actor's diet
    April 1, 2012 at 7:29 pm (10 years ago)

    aren’t lauren’s treats amazing? i’m not entering the giveaway since i already got a chance to sample them, but definitely my next order will include that salted caramel bar!

  23. Margaret D
    April 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm (10 years ago)

    The Caramel Lover’s Only box looks incredibly decadent! If I have to pick one cookie, I would go for that Salted Caramel Butter Bar. Yum! I consider myself a chocolate lover as well, but when I can’t have them both, caramel is at the top of the list for me!

  24. Becky
    April 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm (10 years ago)

    I like to post pictures of my cooking disasters on Facebook. 🙂

    Everything on that site looks delicious! I can’t believe I’m not choosing something with chocolate, but those salted caramel butter bars are making me drool.

  25. Simply Life
    April 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm (10 years ago)

    oooh those all look amazing but I think I’d go with the salted caramel butter bar!

  26. Danielle
    April 2, 2012 at 12:16 am (10 years ago)

    So many delicious treats to choose from….the Peanut Butter Cup Stuffed Triple Chocolate Cookies sound AMAZING!

  27. Crystal
    April 2, 2012 at 1:26 am (10 years ago)

    The peppermint patty stuffed triple chocolate cookies look incredible! The Matzo Crack sounds pretty interesting too.

  28. Hilary
    April 2, 2012 at 3:36 am (10 years ago)

    I’d love some of the Caramel Pecan Brownies 🙂

  29. Joanne
    April 2, 2012 at 4:17 am (10 years ago)

    Oh yes, there are definitely flops in the EatsWellWithOthers kitchen…but second time is most often a charm. 🙂 And it makes that second time taste all the more delicious! I LOVE the idea of a savory cinnamon roll especially when filled with sweet/salty sweet potato chorizo heaven! Genius idea, my love.

    And YAY for loving Lauren’s goodies! I’ve gotten to taste many of her baked goods since we live so close to each other and each and ever one has been a smash hit!

  30. Linda Moore
    April 2, 2012 at 4:34 am (10 years ago)

    I think I would like the triple chocolate cookie sandwich!

  31. Pauline
    April 2, 2012 at 5:51 am (10 years ago)

    I would choose the PB&J Rugelah. So creative!

  32. Alicia Lacey
    April 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm (10 years ago)

    I am a caramel freak, so definitely the Salted Caramel Butter Bars!

  33. LeAndra
    April 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm (10 years ago)

    Wow, they all look so delicious! My choice would be the Peppermint Patty Stuffed Triple Chocolate Cookies.

  34. Nancy
    April 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm (10 years ago)

    What a way to start a monday…lusting already after sweets! I’m toooorn between the Salted caramel Butter bars and the chocolate chip cookie sandwich with mocha ganache buttercream. Straight torn.

  35. Annie G.
    April 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm (10 years ago)

    PB Cup stuffed cookies!

    PS those rolls look amazing!!!

  36. heather
    April 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm (10 years ago)

    That’s a tough choice on which cookie/bar! I’ll go with triple chocolate cookies, though. Too bad your sweet potato chorizo cinnamon rolls aren’t a choice!



  37. Jennifer
    April 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm (10 years ago)

    PB Stuffed Triple Chocolate cookies! Yummm! And your rolls are now added to my “to make” list!

  38. Mollie
    April 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm (10 years ago)

    Oh wow – triple chocolate cookie sandwich me please!!!

  39. Rachel R
    April 3, 2012 at 12:35 am (10 years ago)

    I’d love to win the milk chocolate almond toffee oatmeal cookies, close second being the peanut butter and jelly rugelach! Oh and I love your savory use of sweet potato, HUGE fan of the starch, just not in a sweet potato pie, NO MORE MALLOWS!

  40. Tami G
    April 3, 2012 at 1:08 am (10 years ago)

    I’d like to win the chocolate chip cookie sandwich with mocha ganache buttercream; however, they all look amazing and super delicious.

  41. karen
    April 3, 2012 at 4:50 am (10 years ago)

    Hard to choose, guess I would go for the black and white blondies, but they all look delish

  42. Savannagal
    April 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm (10 years ago)

    OMG! Are you kidding me? Have you seen her website?? There’s so many lucious looking deserts. How in the world can I choose? Eeeny meeny miney moe. I pick White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. There. I did it. But I don’t feel good about it. 🙂 Thanks for the giveaway!

  43. Corisa
    April 4, 2012 at 2:35 am (10 years ago)

    Those milk chocolate toffee sandwich cookies are making me droollll!

  44. Angela @ The Dancer Bakes
    April 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm (10 years ago)

    I’d love to try those chocolate chip cookie sandwiches with the mocha ganache – I could totally get my fiancé to help eat those too!

  45. amy marantino
    April 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm (10 years ago)

    Peanut Butter and Jelly Rugelach

  46. marla
    April 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm (10 years ago)

    Such a unique combo of flavors for these rolls. Love.

  47. marie
    May 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm (9 years ago)

    i had already commented on your bakebakebake post over @ LJ but i think i did not include a picture back then.
    i made them and substituted the chorizo with sun-dried tomatoes since i was baking these vor a veggie-friend.

    here’s how mine turned out:

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      May 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm (9 years ago)

      Oh my gosh, Marie, they are gorgeous!! You did such a fantastic job. Love the sundried tomato addition! Thanks so much for sharing the photo!

      • marie
        May 20, 2012 at 10:45 am (9 years ago)

        oh thanks, Julie!
        I brushed some melted butter on them after baking to make them shinier 🙂


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