I first met pastry chef Susanna Brandenburg about seven years ago at a Slow Food Urban San Diego event at the then new Tender Greens in Liberty Station, a restaurant you must visit if you come to San Diego. She was serving the most delightful mini root beer floats and guests were going bananas over them. Brandenburg, whose son Ryan was a chef there at the time, was hired to run the pastry operation and while Ryan has since moved on (and will soon be opening a new restaurant in the San Diego community of North Park), Brandenburg has stayed with Tender Greens as it’s expanded to more locations in the area. The desserts she makes and has trained her staff to make are like crack. From the most seemingly mundane chocolate chip cookies to her carrot cake, fig galettes, and lemon curd tarts, Brandenburg is constantly creating and revising recipes that bring customers to their knees in weak desire. The local, seasonal ethos of Tender Greens is aligned with her own philosophy about food.

“The fun of being here is being able to educate people on the seasons and how that influences what they’re eating during the year,” she says.

One item that’s not limited to the seasons, however, is her classic cinnamon roll. That strolls through the year unhampered by what fruits are available. Brandenburg has amped it up, first with the addition of mashed potatoes to the dough. “I’ve been making cinnamon rolls forever,” she says, “but about a year ago I started adding potatoes to them. I’d been making potato bread and it dawned on me that the potatoes make the bread softer and fluffier, so why not add that to the cinnamon rolls. It doesn’t change the flavor but it creates a much fluffier roll.”

She also decided to periodically add bacon, which she bakes in brown sugar until it’s just cooked. Crispy bacon doesn’t work; you want to retain the luscious fat flavor and have the texture meld, not compete with the soft dough.

Brandenburg invited me into the downtown Tender Greens kitchen to share the recipe with me. One thing I learned, which is great if you’re planning on serving these for a weekend brunch, is that you can make and shape the rolls in advance. Keep the trays of the rolls refrigerated, as well as the cream cheese frosting. Be sure that the frosting comes to room temperature before you use it so that it’s spreadable once the rolls come out of the oven.

Now, I know all of you personal chefs are cooking healthy, nutritious meals for clients. But many of you also cater and do special events, like brunches and breakfast–and, hey, you also have families. If you’re going to splurge, make it a fabulous splurge and treat your people to something beyond special. Now, the yield here is eight to 12, depending on how you cut the rolls. You could make even more, but smaller, rolls by shaping two balls instead of one and rolling the dough balls into smaller rectangles.

Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon
from Susanna Brandenburg of Tender Greens
Yield: 8-12

For Rolls:
4 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 cup milk
1 cup mashed potato
1/3 cup butter, cut up
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
8 slices bacon
1 cup plus 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened

For Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 pound (8 ounces) cream cheese
3.2 ounces butter, room temperature
3/4 pound (12 ounces) powdered sugar

Mix cream cheese and butter until very creamy. Slowly add the sugar and beat until smooth. You can add more sugar if the mixture is too thin. Refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before using so it’s spreadable.

Directions for Cinnamon Rolls:

1. Preheat oven to 325˚.
2. In a bowl put 1 1/2 cups flour and the yeast. Set aside.


3. In a saucepan, mix together the milk and mashed potato. Heat and stir the mixture with 1/3 cup butter, sugar, and salt just until warm (about 120˚) and the butter almost melts. Add to the flour and yeast mixture, along with the eggs. Beat for 30 seconds, scraping the sides. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Add as much as the remaining flour as you can by hand.


4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in any remaining flour. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until its smooth and elastic.
5. Shape into a ball and put in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.



6. While the dough is rising place the bacon slices on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle the bacon with 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t let it get too crispy or you’ll lose the flavor of the fat. Dice the bacon and set aside.
7.  Punch down the dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and let rest for 10 minutes.
8.  Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan.
9.  Make the filling by combining 1 cup of brown sugar and the cinnamon.


10. Roll the dough out to 18-by-12 inches. Spread 1/2 cup of butter onto the dough and then sprinkle the cinnamon mixture over the butter. Sprinkle the bacon pieces of the cinnamon mixture.


11. Roll up the dough and cut into the number of pieces you want. For large rolls, just cut eight pieces. For smaller, 10 or 12. Place them cut side up into the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.


12. Preheat oven to 350˚ (325˚ if you have a convection oven). Bake for 35 minutes. Cool slightly and frost with cream cheese frosting.



What is your favorite breakfast/brunch splurge? Have you perfected something you want to share with your personal chef colleagues? Let us know so we can feature you on the blog!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Pickled veggies

Do you make pickles? If not, you’re missing out on an opportunity to add a terrific snap of flavor to the meals you prepare for clients. Most people who shy away from pickling do it because they’re intimidated by water bath processing. But pickling doesn’t always have to lead to water baths (which isn’t hard to do anyway)–and, with these three recipes, that step isn’t involved–although you could do it if you want. These types of pickles are basically meant to be eaten quickly and within a week.

Now why would you want to make them? First of all, they’re delicious snacks that you can enjoy out of hand. They’re also perfect on a charcuterie or cheese plate. In fact, any dish in which you are serving a fatty protein–pork, salmon, and lamb, pates, and rich cheeses immediately come to mind–can benefit from the acid a pickle provides. It’s that acid that satisfyingly cuts the richness of the fat.

I love a sprinkling of pickled onion in a carnitas taco. I’ve enjoyed them in Asian soups filled with pork or made from a pork stock. Shredded pickled carrots are delightfully crunchy in a salad or sandwich. Pickle pearl onions for cocktails. Consider the menus you plan–whether for weekly clients or catering gigs–and think about what dishes would benefit from a crunchy pickle.

I got the recipes below from my friend Pete Balistreri, who operates a chain of restaurants in San Diego called Tender Greens. Tender Greens is all about slow food done fast with local, seasonal, organic produce. In fact, I’ve been on the farm where they source most of their produce. Here, we used cucumbers, cauliflower, and onions–but you could select other vegetables to great effect. In fact, the cauliflower recipe was originally written for fennel. For the cucumber, you can substitute with Japanese or English cucumbers. For the onions, go for white, yellow, or red onions–or garlic or shallots, or a combination.

Pickled cucumbers

Asian-Style Pickles
from Pete Balistreri

Sliced cucumbers
Rice wine vinegar
Red peppercorns

How easy is this. Just mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour. Eat. Serve with fish (how about sashimi?) and a salad. Mix the liquid with olive oil and create a vinaigrette. Or heat the liquid and pour over tougher cucumber varieties like lemon cukes, wait till they cool, then eat. (Note: I make these all the time but use red pepper flakes instead of the whole peppercorns. I also add toasted sesame seeds when I’m ready to eat them. They’re my perfect quick and refreshing snack on a hot summer day.)

Pickled onions

Pickled Onions
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 3 quarts

3 cups red wine vinegar
7 cups water
1 cup red wine (like a Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
6 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
4 onions (white, yellow or red), julienned

Mix together all the ingredients but the onions in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the onions. Let cool, then refrigerate. Give them 24 hours to develop their color and then serve. Try these inside a beef taco or to top a salad.


Pickled cauliflower

Pickled Cauliflower
from Pete Balistreri
Yield: 2 quarts

3 cups champagne vinegar
8 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch thyme
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 head cauliflower, florets separated

Mix all ingredients but the cauliflower in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Pour over the vegetables. Let cool, then refrigerate and wait 24 hours for the color to develop, then serve. You can save the liquid and reheat for another batch.

Do you make pickles for clients? If so, what are your favorites to make?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Last updated by at .