Yesterday I had an overwhelming experience as we drove from our sea-level hotel in Puntarenas, all the way up into the cloud forest where there is a town called Monteverde, which means "Green Mountain." Mountainous it is, and as we drove the terrifying road that clings to the mountainsides all the way up, the views from the car window became unbelievable. I mean, what I saw was unlike anything I have ever seen before: misty valleys with the clouds drifting through them, greener than anything I have seen no matter how much higher the altitude became. It is not the foliage that separates Costa Rica from the high-altitude areas of Guam that have roads; it is the sheer altitudes that elevate you to the level where, eventually, you are looking down on the clouds. When you are in Monteverde you are actually within the altitude where they drift through town now and then as mist. It left me speechless; all I could say was, "Si, me encanta," (Yes, I love it).
We went to a restaurant called Morphus to eat. If and when you make it to Costa Rica, take my advice and do not attempt to drive up to Monte Verde. The only way I would make that drive again is on a motor scooter; the road is simply too narrow to navigate it calmly (as I found out). Take a tour bus; they drive that road every day and you can avert your eyes from the vistas that make it look like you are flying instead of driving. Seriously.
At Morphus we found a restaurant that is painted inside and out to look like a cloud forest; you will recognize it by the sky-blue exterior decorated with paintings of trees, birds and butterflies. The interior is the same, featuring blue Morphus butterflies and Costa Rica's famous Quetzal birds. I made my way through a tasty late lunch (spaghetti and garlic bread) and, unsuspecting, I ordered dessert.
I was expecting a "Caramel Roll," but what to my wondering eyes should appear but an entirely new treatment of the cinnamon pastry! It seemed to twinkle up at me from the plate and say, "Here you go, lady food writer, replicate me if you can!"
It was definitely a yeast pastry, rolled up and drizzled with a cinnamon sauce. But that is all I can say simply; the rest is all in the dough, cinnamon, sugar and technique.
What I figured out is that you take a recipe of sweetened bread dough and bake it in a jelly-roll pan. You flatten it out after the first rising and fit it into the pan with some space to allow for rising; so far, so good. You don’t want the dough to rise very much—an inch would be about what I saw on the plate.
After the dough has risen a second time, you brush it with a cinnamon-sugar solution such as the Baker's Cinnamon Filling from the King Arthur Flour Company, and bake it normally. Let the solution sink in while it cools for about 20 minutes.
I can’t be sure about this until I try it, but I suspect that the dough is baked at a lower temperature than bread—say, around 325 degrees. I will have to experiment with this, but the dough did not seem to have a crust, or to have browned in any way. Right now I attribute this to a low baking temperature.
When the dough is slightly cooled and you can handle it, do the usual roulade procedure and roll it into a cylinder the short way across--creating a rather large roll, larger than it would be if you rolled it length-wise. Then it is cut into slices and served like no Sticky Bun or Cinnamon Bread you have ever tasted.
Once you have a prepared cinnamon roll, you create the sauce. When the dish was presented to me, my first thought was that it had been drizzled with chocolate sauce. I wouldn't have ordered that, but I was prepared to eat it until I realized that it was a thick cinnamon sauce. It must be made by combining ground cinnamon with Simple Syrup that has been cooked down to the point where it is almost caramelized. It actually became solid when it cooled in contact with the plate. This dense cinnamon syrup is drizzled generously over the rolled pastry, decorating it and the plate. Wow! This is serious cinnamon and sweetness.
I have to say that it never occurred to me to treat yeast dough to the roulade technique, outside of making a rolled loaf of cinnamon bread. But this is a very serious treatment of the possibilities that arise when you bake bread dough into the wide, shallow shape that it gets from the jelly-roll pan.
The only thing remaining is to be very generous with the filling and the sauce, so that the cinnamon is equal in intensity to chocolate sauce. I had never tasted anything like it, but I have now, and when I am back in Tucson to my own kitchen you will see it when I get it done and have a photo for the column.