Tag Archives: baking

Kitchen: Cinnamon Rolls

Making cinnamon rolls from scratch is a lot of work. Much work. For some freakish reason, I tend to enjoy these tedious baking projects. Naturally, one weekend, I decided to attempt this recipe. Now, these rolls were a big hit with the family, and they turned out beautifully, but they are definitely a once-in-a-while treat, and not just because of all the butter and sugar. They are so much work.

I used a recipe I found on Pinterest because, yes, I am one of those women who actually attempts the recipes she finds on Pinterest. They are based on the recipe used by Cinnabon, and are gooey and indulgent and comforting. They also reheat really well.

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Ingredients:

For the dough:
3/4 cup warm water
2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
4 and 1/2 – 5 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 and 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 and 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

For the cream cheese frosting:
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of vanilla powder ( or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Stir together, then let the yeast rise for about 5-10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and oil until well-combined. After 10 minutes, the yeast should look frothy and bubbly. At this point, pour in the buttermilk mixture, remaining sugar, and salt, and stir together for 10-15 seconds.

Pour in 2 cups of the measured flour, and stir on low speed until incorporated. Continue to pour in flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and bowl starts to look clean. Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, but not sticky enough to stick to your fingers when touched.

Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch until combined.

Butter an 11×15 inch glass baking dish, then line with parchment paper, and butter again.

Once dough has risen, liberally flour a large, clean work surface. Punch down the dough to remove air bubbles, then transfer it to the work surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, roughly 20×30 inches wide. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip on the edge of the dough farthest from you untouched. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter, then use a rolling pin to gently roll over the mixture and slightly press it into the butter.

Starting with the edge of the dough closest to you, gently roll up the dough into a tight log, sealing it with the strip of dough you left untouched. Cut off any uneven ends. Score dough every two inches, then use those marks to evenly slice your dough into rolls.

Place rolls into parchment paper lined baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm place to rise 1-2 hours, or until rolls have doubled in size and are almost touching each other. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-17 minutes, or until tops start to brown. Do not overbake!

While rolls are baking, prepare your frosting. In a bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined. Pour in powdered sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Then, increase speed to high and beat for an additional 5 minutes, or until frosting turns white.

Once you remove the rolls from the oven, spread half of the frosting on top of them. This layer will melt into the rolls. Once they’ve cooled down, spread on the remaining frosting. Serve warm or reheat before serving. IMG_2660IMG_2661IMG_2665

Enjoy. Indulge.

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Cooking: Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

I cannot for the life of me remember where I found this recipe. My best guess is it is from Giada De Laurentiis, since quite a few of my recipes are derived from hers. I love these simple cookies, and they are perfect in a care package or as a pick-me-up. They are just the right amount of chocolate-y and just the right amount of chewy.

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Ingredients:

1 Cup (2 sticks) softened butter

1/4 C powdered sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 package mini chocolate chips

2 C flour

2/3 C Nutella

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your cookie sheets.

Beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add the cinnamon and flour, then beat in the Nutella. Lastly, fold in about half the bag of mini chocolate chips.

Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, drop 12 balls of dough at a time onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake them for 10 – 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or wax paper to cool completely. With a small scoop, I get about 3 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!

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Cooking: Pumpkin Spice Donuts

This was a Pinterest win for me. My family has always loved donuts. I remember as a little kid, eating donuts on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons. Unfortunately, donuts have a different effect on your body when you’re an adult. However, the kitchenware industry has been kind, and a donut baking sheet has been invented! You can bake donuts and spare the hip disaster that results from deep frying!

I found a recipe for Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts via Pinterest, and mom & I tried it out one Saturday morning with fantastic results. My little addition is not to glaze the donuts until you are actually eating them, as the glaze will soak into the donuts overnight and make them wet and soggy. It was a definite success, though.

Ingredients for the Donuts:

2 C. flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 salt, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 C. brown sugar, 1 C. pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, 2 TB milk, 1/4 C. softened butter, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a donut pan with cooking spray. If you don’t have a donut pan and don’t wish to buy one, you can use a greased cookie sheet. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves together until well combined.

In another large bowl, cream together with a mixer the brown sugar, butter, and pumpkin. Add in the milk, eggs, and vanilla, then mix well. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Place the mixture in a gallon ziplock bag or in a large piping bag with a large tip. If you don’t have a donut pan, I would refrigerate the dough for an hour so it will hold it’s shape better on a cookie sheet. Cut off a small corner of the ziplock and pipe out your donuts!

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let the donuts rest for 5 minutes before placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Ingredients for the Glaze:

1 1/2 C of powdered/confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 tsp maple or vanilla extract, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp maple syrup (optional), 2 TB milk

Combine the ingredients together. Place wax paper under the cooling rack. Dip the top of the cooled donuts in the glaze, the return them to the cooling rack to set.

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Camera: Wedding Bread

My cousin gets married today. A tradition among the Macedonians is the wedding bread dance. My Baba put great care into making Samantha’s wedding bread from scratch, and I was fortunate enough to photograph the baking session:

Weighing out the dough…

Rolling out the ropes…

The ropes are braided…

Then nestled in a round pan, and set to rise…

The risen bread is brushed with egg-wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

And now: everybody dance! This will give you some idea of what the experience is:

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Madeleines

Having purchased my longed-for Madeleine baking pan, I finally made the delicate cookie-cakes a few days ago.  No one, on either side of the family, has ever made Madeleines, so I had no idea what to expect.  The only thing I had to go on was my memory of how incredibly delightful were the Madeleines made by the mom of my dear friend, Christine.  I carefully followed the recipe below:

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

pinch of salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted, and slightly cooled

powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray Madeleine pan with cooking spray or generously butter.  Using electric mixer, beat the eggs and 2/3 cup of sugar in a large bowl just until blended.  Beat in vanilla, lemon zest and salt.  Add flour; beat just until blended.  Gradually add cooled melted butter in a steady stream, beating until just blended.

NOTE:  At this point, I freaked out a little, as my “cookie-ish” batter suddenly turned in a runnier “cakey” batter.  I tried to have a little faith in myself, and after baking the first batch, I realized that is what is supposed to happen to the batter.

Carefully spoon batter into each Madeleine indentation in the pan, like this:

Bake until puffed and browned around the edges: 6-8 minutes for small Madeleines, 14-16 minutes for large Madeleines.  Cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove each Madeleine from the pan.  Repeat the process, spraying or buttering the pan before each batch.

For a final, yummy flair, dust the cooled Madeleines with powdered sugar.  Now, my mom has this gorgeous, scalloped China plate with exquisite little blue flowers on it, and I dug it out.  See, I believe that elegant little cookie-cakes deserve an elegant presentation.

These are so light and delightful and go fabulously with black coffee or tea.  It is not possible to eat just one.

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The potato saga continues…

So, Friday was the loaded baked potato bar day at my mom’s school.  She was in charge of the baked potatoes, so she got up Friday morning and baked off 42 potatoes.  Then school was cancelled because of icy streets.  Yeah.  My family was stuck with 42 baked potatoes.  Mama made a massive pot of loaded baked potato soup, which was divine, but we cannot get through it all.  Then, she scooped out the innards of the remaining potatoes and froze the skins for loaded potato skins to enjoy during the Super Bowl, which the Colts will win.  Now, all we had left was a large bowl of potato guts, defiantly taking up too much room in the fridge.  So, yesterday I made mashed potato rolls.  Now, they aren’t the most perfect-looking rolls, but oh-my-goodness are they buttery, oh-so-soft, and delicious.

Potato Rolls

2/3 cup of granulated sugar

2/3 cup room-temperature butter

1 cup mashed potatoes (not instant; real stuff makes a difference!)

2-1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

2 packages (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast

1-1/3 cups warm water, divided

6 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the butter.  Add potatoes, salt and eggs.  In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 2/3 cup of the warm water; add to creamed mixture.  At this point, your batter may look strange.  Beat in 2 cups of flour and the remaining warm water.  Continue to add flour until a soft dough forms.  Shape it into a ball; do not knead.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.  Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch dough down; roll scoops of dough into balls and arrange in either 9-inch round baking pans, a greased jelly roll pan, or a glass baking dish.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake the rolls at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the pans to cool on wire racks.  This recipe yields about 45 rolls, depending on the size you make them.

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Cookies

For most of my childhood and beyond, one Friday or Saturday in December has been set aside for Christmas cookie baking.  Sometimes Nana and Papa would drive down and join us, but it was always Mama and my younger siblings, baking from mid-morning until mid-afternoon.  We always make far more than necessary, far more than anyone will eat.  Dad and I prefer the gingerbreads, my brother cares for only the M&Ms cookies (the only candy the boy eats is M&Ms), my sister’s favorite is called Snowy Mountain Tops, and Mama just likes dessert in general.

Snowy Mountain Tops, while the least popular to eat due to their richness, are the most fun to make:  chocolate dough, mixed from scratch is refrigerated.  Spoonfuls are then rolled quickly into a ball and flattened into an even disc.  A Hershey kiss is nestled into the center and the edges of the dough are gathered around, encasing the kiss, creating a mountain peak.  After baking and cooling, the tips of the mountains are dipped on confectioner’s sugar, creating “snowy” mountain tops.  One year, while baking in the oven, all the Snowy Mountain Tops shifted on the baking sheet into two rigid mountain ranges, leading from one corner of the baking sheet to the other.  It was both bizarre and awesome.

I think my love for the tedious baking-from-scratch was ignited and nurtured through this tradition of Christmas cookie baking.  Even if you throw out most of the cookies in the end, try baking them from scratch this year.  You may find it quite fulfilling.

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Time is All Around

Have you noticed that the leaves are not changing color this year?  Perhaps they are wherever you are, but here the leaves are not slowly draining their chlorophyll, revealing the deep reds and oranges and the golden hues that make autumn so beautiful.  They are simply giving up quickly, shriveling into brown crunchy wads and relinquishing their hold on the branches.  Autumn, with its permanently gray skies and weary leaves feels much more like death this year.

To overcome the melancholy, I began baking cookies.  Cooking and baking, especially those methodic recipes that take time and extra care, are two things that are quite therapeutic.  I doubled the recipe, allowing many extra confections to be packaged up and given to people I love.  The bowl was almost not big enough for the massive amount of pumpkin spice batter.

I was hot, so I cranked open the kitchen window.  Have you ever noticed how clean the air in autumn smells, even though all the plants are dying?

I carefully spooned even scoops of batter onto greased cookie sheets and hovered near the oven.  The moment the timer went off, I would be there, prepared to lovingly retrieve the little, warm cookies from their sweltering incubator.  Soon, the house was filled with the aroma of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  It wasn’t only the cookies I could smell; I could sense comfort and bon-fires and holidays and all of the good things that autumn offers.

It may be a time when nature prepares for a cold, deep sleep, but autumn is my favorite time of the year for drawing warmth from memories, especially those triggered by the slow bake of cookies.

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