Cinnamon Buns with Maple Icing

CinnRollsMapleIcingStuffy nose. Swollen sinuses. Pulsing headache. Fever. Chills. Ugh. That’s been my life for the past 6 days and the end feels nowhere in sight. I just want to feel better!!! I haven’t had energy to do much. No cooking. No baking. Much reduced blogging. As a matter of fact, the only reason the banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies got posted the other day is because I had already written that one a couple weeks ago. And this post was already written, too–I had forgotten about it. So, enough whining about my flu woes. Let me get to the recipe and give you some goodness.

The maple icing of these cinnamon buns caught my attention when I saw Ree Drummond make this on her cooking show, The Pioneer Woman, about a year ago. However, I rarely make cinnamon buns because of the time involved. Usually when winter sets in, though, I crave the comfort of warm, gooey buns. Winter in Southern California means temperate weather, for the most part, so we don’t really get a hardcore winter here. I was on winter break from teaching, though, and awoke one day to dreary, rainy weather. Perfect cinnamon bun morning!

The recipe is easy enough but still takes time. Compared to the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Rolls I made last year, these are just okay, in my opinion. They taste fine enough, but the cream cheese dough of the other recipe creates a more flavorful and tender dough.

The icing on this recipe, I must say, ranks high in flavor. When you add both coffee and maple flavoring to the icing, the flavor factor has to skyrocket–how can it not?! And don’t be afraid to drench these babies in the icing. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

The yeast didn’t proof properly for me (tends to be hit or miss when I bake, truthfully), so I popped the pot with the dough during its rising time into an oven that I had briefly heated up. Although it didn’t appear to help a whole heckuva lot, I proceeded with rolling the dough anyway. That’s why you see a ton of rolls in the pan. Normally, you’d squeeze 7-9 buns in a round pan. I figured we’d just have mini buns if they cooked up correctly, which they did–yay!

I do like that this dough can be made then stored in the fridge for several days. I only baked up half the dough and saved the rest for a few days later.

Cinnamon Buns with Maple Icing

INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 4 cups + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tbsp. salt

Filling

  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts), optional

Maple Icing

  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (or buttermilk)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 tbsp. brewed coffee (I used 1/2 tsp. instant espresso)
  • 1 tbsp. hot water
  • 1 tsp. maple flavoring
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the dough: Heat milk, oil, and sugar in large saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil (that’s called scalding). Set aside and cool until warm, about 30-60 minutes.
  2. Once the milk/oil/sugar mixture cools to lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for one minute.
  3. Add 4 cups flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a relatively warm place for one hour for dough to rise.
  4. After one hour, remove the towel; add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  5. Dough can be used right away, but it will be sticky at this point. Or, refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Dough is much easier to work with when it has been chilled for at least an hour or so.)
  6. When ready to assemble rolls, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  7. To assemble rolls: remove half the dough from the bowl. On a generously floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 10 X 15 inches.
  8. For filling, use a pastry brush to evenly spread about 2 tbsp. melted butter over the rolled out dough.
  9. Whisk together the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Generously sprinkle 4-5 tbsp. of the dry ingredients over the butter.
  10. Then sprinkle 4-5 tbsp. of chopped nuts, if using.
  11. Beginning at the long end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, careful to keep the roll tight. Use a think spatula or baker’s blade to help lift any dough that stubbornly sticks to the rolling surface. Don’t fret if filling oozes out a bit. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so the seam is face down.
  12. Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1-inch slices. One rolled log of dough will produce 20-25 slices (or cinnamon rolls).
  13. Pour 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter into the baking pan and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, careful to not overcrowd. Each pan should hold 7-9 rolls.
  14. Cover pans with kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 20-30 minutes before baking.
  15. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until light golden brown.
  16. During baking, mix the icing. In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Add more wet or dry ingredients if you need to thin or thicken the icing or adjust the flavor. Icing should be thick yet pourable.
  17. Remove pans from oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top, making sure to get it all around the edges and over the top.

YIELD: about 7 pans of rolls with 7-9 rolls per pan; or 20-25 slices per log & you’ll get two logs following the recipe. IF I CUT THIS RECIPE IN HALF, I SHOULD GET ABOUT 2 DOZEN ROLLS.

SOURCE: The Pioneer Woman

Chocolate Cinnamon Fantails

ChocolateCinnamonFantails

I remember two things about New Year’s Day from my youth: First, the family loved to sit around on New Year’s morning and watch the Rose Parade. Second, my mom used to warn me that whatever I did on New Year’s Day would set the trend for the rest of the year. Although I know that her warning simply reflects an old European wive’s tale, it crosses my mind every New Year’s and makes me think about how I spend my day.

So, if the old wive’s tale holds any stock, January 1st determined that my year thus far is comprised of recuperating (still) from a sinus infection and awakening in the middle of the night (2 a.m. to be exact) and not able to fall back asleep for a couple hours. Does that mean, then, that my year will be filled with sickness and insomnia?! Yikes!

Well, at least I used that early early morning time to have a bowl of granola with milk and to read a few pages of a novel.

And later in the morning, I spent some time playing in the kitchen to create a New Year’s  morning treat. Uh oh, does that mean I’ll be eating sweets all year, too? So be it :  )

Using leftover dough and spice filling from cinnamon rolls I made the other day, I modified several recipes (Cinnamon Cream Cheese Rolls and Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread and a few from other blogs) to create these delightfully scrumptious Chocolate Cinnamon Fantails.

I could eat these darn delicious treats all year long if my mom’s old wive’s tale holds any truth :  )

ChocCinnFantails

Chocolate Cinnamon Fantails

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Note: The dough can be in advance and stored in the refrigerator for about 3 days. It is much more pliable to work with after refrigeration; plus, it’s handy to have the dough ready to go in the morning. I suggest doubling the batch.

INGREDIENTS

Dough

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

2 cups + 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Filling

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghriadelli’s chips)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the dough: Heat milk, oil, and sugar in large saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil (that’s called scalding). Set aside and cool until warm, about 30-60 minutes.
  2. Once the milk/oil/sugar mixture cools to lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for one minute.
  3. Add 2 cups flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a relatively warm place for one hour for dough to rise.
  4. After one hour, remove the towel; add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Stir thoroughly to combine.
  5. Dough can be used right away, but it will be sticky at this point. Or, refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Dough is much easier to work with when it has been chilled for at least an hour or so.)
  6. For filling: In a food processor, combine chocolate chips, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cloves; pulse until chocolate is chopped into small, coarse pieces.
  7. Cut butter into small pieces, about 1/2 inch squares. Place in food processor and pulse until it is mixed in with chocolate, sugar, and spices.
  8. To assemble rolls: When ready to assemble rolls, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the wells of cupcake tins.
  9. On a generously floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 14 X 18 inches (my dough was about 1/8 inch thick). I find it easiest to roll from the center toward the ends.
  10. Distribute filling mixture evenly onto rolled-out dough. Use your hands to press filling into dough, or cover with plastic wrap and gently roll over it with the rolling pin.
  11. Use a pizza cutter (easiest method) or knife to slice dough into 2 inch strips (either direction works). Stack 2-3 strips, then cut into 2 inch pieces again.
  12. Stack about 6-7 squares, turning last one so chocolate mixture faces downward. Place stacks into greased wells of cupcake tins.
  13. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Cool slightly, then remove from pan and serve.

Yield: about 10-12 fantails, depending on how many slices you stack to make each one

SOURCES: adapted from & inspired by The Pioneer Woman, Joy the Baker, Brown-Eyed Baker, Naturally Ella, and Annie’s Eats via Smitten Kitchen

Ice Cream Sunday: Chocolate Sorbet

All day I’ve found myself sneaking into the freezer to snag a few spoonfuls of this deviously devilish and delectably delicious chocolate sorbet. It’s surprisingly rich–intensely rich, I should say, considering it has not a drop of heavy cream in it. Wouldn’t that make it far fewer calories, thereby allowing me to indulge in a bit more ice cream than usual? Hee hee…

I would have kept this batch secret from hubby because it’s so sinfully scrumptious, but he spotted me scooping it for the blog photo and suspiciously said, “What’s that?” Uh oh, secret is out! Darn! I could bury it deep in the freezer and hide it…hmmmmm….

Or I can just whip up another batch…and another…and another…

I love mixing up ice creams but hate the high price of heavy cream. However, this sorbet fills my chocolate cravings and costs less to make because it is sans cream. It calls for cocoa powder, and I imagine high-quality cocoa, such as Pernigotti, would make the intensity factor and flavor soar, but let me tell ya, it’s pretty darn tasty even with the the Hershey’s brand cocoa. Next time I might try the Hershey’s dark cocoa…

Chocolate Sorbet

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 heaping tsp. instant espresso
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua)
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir in 2 1/4 cups water; cook over low heat until the ingredients are dissolved.
  3. Off the heat. Stir in the coffee liqueur and vanilla. Transfer to plastic containers; refrigerate at least 8 hours or longer.
  4. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The sorbet will still be soft, so place it in a plastic container and freeze for several hours until firm enough to scoop.

Yield: 1 quart

SOURCE: slightly adapted from foodnetwork.com (Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa)

P.S.

Some reviewers from foodnetwork.com have the following recommendations:

  • reduce sugar to 3/4 cup
  • use Grand Marnier in place of coffee liquer (chocolate and orange pair well)
  • on the show, Ina used 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1 1/2 tsp. liqueur
  • my notes: I bet Chambord with its raspberry flavor would work beautifully, too; I might add orange zest to the mixture one of these days

P.S.S.

I found heavy duty, reusable plastic containers at Garnish that work superbly for freezing ice cream and other goodies, such as soups, stock, pesto… They are far superior to the flimsy containers I’ve been using from Smart and Final, and they will last longer than the cardboard cartons I had previously purchased on amazon.com. At 88 cents each, they are a bargain! Thanks to  Annie at Annie’s Eats for sharing where to get them.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

 

Oh my God, this bread takes FOREVER to make! It has 4 rise times of 45 minutes each. And that’s not counting all the prep time, mixing time, rolling time, baking time, cooling time… Whew, just tires me out to write about it and relive it all again.

But is it worth it? I sure as heck was hoping so as the interminable hours passed waiting for one rise…then another…then another…and yet another.

And once it’s finished baking, you need to let it cool for two hours! Oh, this was killing me!

And to make it worse, I started this entire process after dinner–not the kind of timing I recommend. Start it early in the morning one day when you have all day to hang around and no errands to run or parties to attend.

Make other goodies in between rise times. I mixed up ice cream and made jam and cooked some soup… And of course I had to clean up all the messes I made. I kept busy but my eyes got droopy as the clock ticked closer to midnight. That’s way past my bedtime, people!

But the thought of some homemade cinnamon swirl bread just sounded soooooo good. To add to that, the entire house smelled like a bakery. Cinnamon wafted into every corner, totally teasing my taste buds and triggering a drool factory.

By the time the bread finished baking, I had to wait for it to cool, but at this point, I was just glad I could go to bed. I was okay with not tasting it yet.

And YES, the following morning I awoke bright and early, eager to cut a slice. Oh my, people, IT WAS WORTH THE PAIN.

Delicate, light, airy bread laced with slightly gooey cinnamon sent shockwaves through my taste buds. I had to practice some serious raging willpower to not scarf the entire loaf right then and there. And I’m not kidding.

I can imagine it made into french toast. Good thing this makes two loaves so I can freeze one to try that out later.

Now, let me share a few observations I made along the way. This is easy to mix with a big stand mixer; I imagine it would be a nightmare without one.

The dough is very sticky after the first mix. Once butter is added (a lot of butter, I might add, but it helps create a tender bread), the dough looks very slick yet it grows quite elastic and easy to handle at this point. After rising, gas bubbles appear. I left them alone, for the most part.

Read the directions carefully; otherwise, you’ll mess up like I did on the rolling and sprinkling of the cinnamon swirl. I got to the step about patting out the dough, folding it into thirds, but totally forgot to then roll that into a ball and split the dough into halves. Hence, I rolled out all of it, thinking this was the step to sprinkle the cinnamon swirl. Oops! It really needed one more rolling and even some rest time somewhere in there. That’s what happens when you work late at night and are droopy eyed with fatigue. Never fear, I just rolled up the dough, cut it in half, and rolled again–and had to simply let go of the fact that I forgot to include rest time for the dough. My bread and swirls still came out pretty and tasty in the end.

As I was rolling, the dough had more of the gas bubbles and kept letting out the gas. It was quite hilarious. Lots of popping noises going on.

Bottom line: if you are up for a long process and a deliciously delicate-tasting final product, by all means try this recipe. I will definitely try this again some day…just not in the evening!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 1/4 cups (20 2/3 oz.) bread flour, plus extra for dusting work surface (recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups flour, but when I measured 20 2/3 oz. on my scale, it came out to 4 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup (2 3/4 oz.) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz.) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) golden raisins (I omitted these)

Filling

  • 1 cup (4 oz.) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Dough

  1. Cut butter into 32 pieces and toss with 1 tbsp. flour; set aside to soften while mixing dough (tossing butter with flour helps the dough grip the butter and pull it into the dough, resulting in a lofty baked loaf).
  2. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, sugar, and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, add water and egg and mix on medium-low speed until cohesive mass forms, about 2-5 minutes, scraping down bowl if necessary. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove plastic wrap from mixer bowl, add salt, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 7-15 minutes (the long kneading time creates more elasticity and better traps gas for a taller rise).
  4. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to knead until butter is fully incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3-5 minutes longer.
  5. Add raisins and mix until incorporated, 30-60 seconds.
  6. Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and, using bowl scraper or rubber spatula, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Repeat 6 more times for a total of 8 folds. (All this folding incorporates more air into the dough, encouraging it to expand and rise more.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to middle rack of oven. Place loaf or cake pan on bottom of oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water (this will create warm, humid air which will stimulate yeast activity and speed rise time); close door and allow dough to rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove bowl from oven; gently press down on center of dough to deflate. Repeat folding step (making another set of 8 folds), re-cover with plastic wrap, and return to oven until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  8. Filling: Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined; set aside.
  9. Grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans (mine were 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch).
  10. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 2 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough, pat into rough 6 x 11-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold long sides in like a business letter to form 3 x 11-inch rectangle. Roll dough away from you into a ball. Dust with flour and flatten with rolling pin into 7 x 18-inch rectangle with an even 1/4-inch thickness.
  11. Using spray bottle, spray dough lightly with water. Sprinkle half of filling mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border on sides and a 3/4-inch border on the top and bottom. Spray filling lightly with water, making sure entire surface is speckled with water (FYI: powdered sugar absorbs water from the dough, dissolving to form a sticky paste that helps hold the layers together as the bread expands during proofing).
  12. With short side facing you, roll dough away from you into a firm cylinder. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch closed; pinch ends closed. Dust loaf lightly on all sides with flour and let rest for 10 minutes.
  13. Repeat with second ball of dough and remaining filling.
  14. Working with 1 loaf at a time, use bench scraper to cut loaf in half lengthwise; turn halves so cut sides are facing up. Gently stretch each half into a 14-inch length. (Cutting loaf and having cut side face up allows any trapped gas to escape during baking.) Line up pieces of dough and pinch 2 ends of strips together. Take piece on left and lay over piece on right. Repeat, keeping cut side up, until pieces of dough are tightly twisted. Pinch ends together. Transfer loaf, cut side up, to prepared loaf pan; push any exposed raisins into seams of braid (so they won’t burn during baking).
  15. Repeat with second loaf.
  16. Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap, return to oven, and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  17. Remove loaves and water pan from oven. Allow loaves to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes longer (top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over lip of pan).
  18. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  19. Brush loaves with egg mixture (this will make crust shiny). Bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F, tent loaves with aluminum foil to prevent sugar from burning, and continue to bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees, 15-20 minutes longer (took 20 minutes for me).
  20. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.
  21. Baked and cooled loaves can be wrapped in double layer of plastic and stored at room temperature for 2 days. To freeze bread for up to 1 month, wrap it with additional layer of foil.

Yield: two loaves

SOURCE: Cook’s Illustrated magazine (March & April 2012)

Ice Cream Sunday: Cinnamon Ice Cream

As I planned Christmas dessert last month, I chose a Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Frosting and thought cinnamon ice cream might pair nicely with it. It would have if the dessert had worked out as planned, but alas, it didn’t (you can read that story on the post). So, I never got to share this treat with anyone.

A few days ago, cravings hit for Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting, truly the BEST EVER chocolate cupcakes. I tested my theory, and yep, the cinnamon ice cream complements chocolate cake beautifully, as if they were meant to go together.

The cinnamon lends a warm spicy touch and is most definitely noticeable but not too overpowering. I chose this particular recipe because it uses ground cinnamon whereas some others require using 10 cinnamon sticks to steep in the custard. Ground cinnamon proved far easier and less expensive.

I did alter the recipe slightly by adding vanilla bean paste instead of just vanilla. That added a layer of sweetness that I think helps balance out the heat of the cinnamon. You could use a vanilla bean in place of the paste if you happen to have one hanging around your pantry. I happen to have a jar of the paste, though, and rarely use it, so I thought “Why not?” I love the sweet vanilla taste it adds to the ice cream as well as the pretty appearance from the flecks of vanilla bean.

Just a little side note here: the ice cream doesn’t freeze rock hard, which is terrific. A lot of recipes require a bit of thaw time, but this one scoops fairly easily.

So what else is cinnamon usually paired with? Apple pie–yes, the ice cream would go hand-in-hand with that. Pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake? Yep, it would work with that. Fruit crisps and crumbles? Definitely.

Or, it’s yummy all on its own, too.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the sugar and half-and-half.
  2. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat; whisk half of the mixture into the beaten eggs, whisking quickly so that the eggs do not scramble.
  3. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan; stir in the heavy cream. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to ensure a smottoh custard base, then place that bowl into an ice-water bath (that’s just a larger bowl filled with some ice and water; it will help cool the custard base). Stir until custard cools.
  5. Whisk in vanilla and cinnamon.
  6. Place in a covered container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  7. Pour cold custard into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

SOURCE: allrecipes.com

See another recipe version on Brown-Eyed Baker

Ultimate Ginger Cookie

I must admit that, initially, the taste of these cookies didn’t impress me. But they grew on me. And I kept taking bites. And taking more bites. And soon they were all gone. Well, I expedited that process by giving loads of them away; otherwise, they would have all ended up in my belly soon enough. It’s a self control and sugar thing :  )

When I saw Ina Garten from The Barefoot Contessa food show make these cookies, I had a yearning to make them. Soon. Like go-to-the-store-now-and-make-them yearning. They just sounded so soul-warming.

Ina calls them the “Ultimate” Ginger Cookie because she kicks up the ginger factor by incorporating pieces of crystallized ginger. I found some, by the way, at the food bins at Sprouts. Anyhow, as I chopped away at the ginger, I decided to take a bite. A tiny bite, mind you, because I had chopped them almost to the point of mincing. Crystallizing the ginger coats it in sugar, so I thought it would taste sweet like candy. Nope! It still has a burning sensation despite the sugar coating.

Right then and there I decided that 1 1/4 cups of chopped ginger was just far too much. I cut it back to a couple of tablespoons because I feared ruining the cookies.

Once baked, the crystallized ginger wasn’t as noticeable as I thought it might be. That could also be due to using so little. Next time I’ll incorporate more–but not 1 1/4 cups. I still think that would add too much of a fiery kick.

As I said, the taste of these cookies grew on me. They baked up soft and chewy with a crispy edge. The spices definitely complement cooler weather and would make a fitting holiday treat. And finally, the crackly appearance and the shiny sugar crystals on the outside make them so pretty–another reason they would shine for the holidays.

But hey, don’t wait for the holidays to make these. That’s just a suggestion in case you need a new cookie recipe to add to your holiday repertoire.

 

Ultimate Ginger Cookie

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature (place an egg in hot water for 5-10 minutes to expedite the warming process)
  • 1 1 /4 cups chopped crystallized ginger (or make your own crystallized ginger)
  • granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt; whisk to mix.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes (hint: measure oil first, then molasses will slide right out of the measuring cup due to the slick oil). At this point, the mixture is very thick, so expect a bit of a workout if you aren’t using a stand mixer.
  4. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for one minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for one more minute.
  5. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.
  7. Scoop the dough and roll between palms to form balls about 1 3/4-inch, then flatten lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie into granulated sugar and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside.
  8. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

SOURCE: foodnetwork.com (from The Barefoot Contessa food show)

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

A couple weeks ago, I enjoyed my spring break from teaching: no papers to grade, no lessons to plan, and no students to discipline–life was good that week. Instead, I cooked and baked up a storm, many of the dishes which I’ll be posting in the weeks to come.

Far and away the most fun item I baked was the Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread. Just look at the picture–doesn’t that look amazing?! And making it was just as much fun as the final product. Actually, the final creation was even better because I got to gorge on it.

But I highly recommend gorging with a friend…or two..or three… I baked it in the morning, then took it with me to my friend’s house for a treat during our scrapbooking session. Deeelish! If you don’t share it, you’re liable to eat it all yourself. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing now, would it?

Part of the fun of making this is that instead of rolling the dough into a log, you cut it into strips then squares, stacking it all. Voila! That’s it. Easy. You just need to have enough time for working with dough that needs to rise. But try it…it’s tons of fun and a unique outcome.

This bread reminds me of my childhood habit of pulling apart my cinnamon rolls to enjoy the ultrasoft inside parts (a habit I still partake in as an adult)…only this loaf has loads of pieces to pull apart, layered with sweet, sugary cinnamon goodness and lots of soft bread to tease the pallete…and oh, can’t forget that it is also slathered in sweet glaze that oozes into all the cracks and crevices of the bread.

Are you salivating for some yet?

I wanted to make this the moment I saw the picture of it, but I had to wait a couple weeks until I had the time. And my-oh-my was the wait worth it.

Originally I wasn’t going to use glaze, but it just looked so naked that it screamed for a topcoat. Besides, cinnamon bread and glaze go hand-in-hand.

In checking out the sources for the recipe, I came across a versions that sounds scrumptious: lemon and orange sugar filling. That sounds light and spring season-ish to me. I need to try that flavor, too. Need…not want. This bread makes me need it.

And check out Naturally Ella’s website for a darn cute and adorable version made in individual portions using a cupcake tin! How fun is that?! I think I need to try that next time I make this bread…just because it’s so darling.

Although I want to make this every weekend, I’m going to resist because I’d eat the entire loaf and I really don’t need to do that. However, I do need to make this again … some day … soon …

Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

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INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 2 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, melted until browned

Or you can try the filling from the Cream Cheese Cinnamon Roll recipe:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup

Or you can try Lemon-Orange Sugar Filling

  • 1/2 – 1 cup sugar
  • zest of 3-6 lemons
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 oz. unsalted, melted butter

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • if using the lemon-orange sugar filling, add some lemon juice, starting with 1 tbsp. and adding more until desired tartness

DIRECTIONS

  1. In large mixing bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and set aside.
  3. In small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted. Remove from heat; add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until mixture registers 115-125 degrees F.
  4. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.
  5. Add eggs one at a time; stirring by hand mixture until egg is incorporated into batter. The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and eggs are never going to come together. Keep stirring, or if you are using a stand mixer, use dough hook at this point.
  6. Add the remaining 3/4 cup flour and mix until incorporated. The mixture will be sticky.
  7. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Deflate the dough. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough overnight and resume in the morning, or you can tackle the dough now.
  8. While the dough rises, whisk together ingredients for cinnamon sugar filling. Set aside. If you are using the lemon or orange sugar filling, rub sugar with the zest until incorporated; set aside.
  9. Melt 4 tbsp. butter until browned; set aside.
  10. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.
  11. Deflate the risen dough. Gently knead about 1-2 tbsp. of flour into the dough, until smooth and no longer sticky. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 12×20-inch rectangle…or close to this.
  13. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Then sprinkle with the filling mixture.
  14. Slice the dough vertically into six equal-sized strips (12×4-inch strips). Stack the strips on top of one another, then slice the stack into six equal slices again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares. And it’s okay if they aren’t all the same size! That’s part of the charm of the bread creation.
  15. Now layer the dough squares into a lightly greased loaf pan, like a loaf of bread. Loosely cover the pan with place plastic wrap, and place pan in a warm spot for 30-45 minutes until the dough doubles in size. If you poke the dough and the indentation remains, it is ready to bake.
  16. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Bake bread for 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown (if not a dark golden brown, the inside may be undercooked).
  17. Remove from oven and allow to rest 20-30 minutes (try to be patient!). Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread, then invert onto a plate. Carefully invert again so it is right side up.
  18. If using glaze, mix ingredients for glaze, then pour over the bread while it is still warm, about 5-10 minutes after removing from the oven and before releasing from loaf pan.
  19. Enjoy!

SOURCE: Joy the Baker

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls — A Piece of Paradise


Love the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls? You know the smell of the those jumbo mall varieties? Gooey, sticky, sweet rolls…mmmmmmmmmmm.

Well, a couple weeks ago on a Friday during lunch, a strong, sudden desire overcame me to make cinnamon rolls that weekend. After lunch, as I was teaching my high school English class, we were correcting vocabulary and the word “synonym” came up, but I said “cinnamon” instead. Needless to say, the kids thought is was quite funny and I had to explain that I had cinnamon rolls on the brain.

Mind you, this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart…in terms of kitchen and effort, I mean. It takes a couple rounds of rising, some muscle power for rolling, and even more muscle power for kneading if you don’t have a large stand mixer. All worth it, though, if you love cinnamon rolls. (By the way, keep an eye on the stand mixer if you use one; the dough was so thick that my mixer was dancing across the counter and almost danced its way into the sink, but I spied it just in time!)

Notice the layers of cream cheese in the dough

This recipe calls for spreading a layer of cream cheese on the rolled out dough, then folding it up again, thereby creating a flaky tenderness to the dough. Plus, the filling contains goodies beyond just sugar, cinnamon, and butter. It is loaded with spices and nuts and even chewy raisins (which I left out). I’m drooling again just writing about it…oh-so-heavenly! Roll the dough tightly. Even though I thought I rolled it snugly, each roll still spread more than I wanted during baking.

By the way, these cinnamon rolls aren’t for the faint of heart in terms of calories, either. I’m sure they are total fat bombs, but we need those once in awhile, right?

So, back to that cream cheese layer. Don’t do what I did: cut the folded dough in half once it is spread with cream cheese. I had doubled the recipe (do double it and freeze half the baked cinnamon rolls to enjoy later) and had too little counter space to roll out the dough. Brilliant me just cut it in half. Hah! However, I should have cut the dough in half before rolling it out the first time and spreading the cream cheese layer, because when I cut it, instead of the cream cheese being tucked away neatly inside the folded up dough, during rolling it oozed out all over the place, creating quite the mess. I finally just folded it up some more and solved the problem.

Like I said, it’s worth doubling the recipe because it takes so many steps to make and it’s easy to freeze. Just work in batches small enough to fit on your dough-rolling space.

That was one yummilicous calorie bomb!

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

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INGREDIENTS

Dough

  • 1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup water, heated to 115 degrees F
  • 1/2 tsp. + 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature plus more for greasing the pan

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided and melted (half needed before baking; half needed after baking)

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

OR

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. whole milk

DIRECTIONS

Mixing Dough

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F (I used hot tap water). Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add remaining granulated sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with wire whisk until well combined.
  3. Fit the bowl onto the mixer; attach dough hook. Add flour and salt; mix on medium speed until dough just begins to come together. Turn mixer to medium-high and knead for 4 minutes.
  4. Add butter; continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky.
  5. Transfer dough to a well-floured work surface; knead about 1/3 cup flour into the dough. At this point, the dough might still be a bit sticky; that’s okay.
  6. Set dough to rest in a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Filling

  1. While dough rises, make filling. Combine sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in maple syrup. Set aside.

Rolling Dough

  1. When dough has doubled in size, transfer it onto heavily floured work surface. Gently knead dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1-2 minutes. Once it is no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before rolling it out.
  2. Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 10 x 10-inch square.
  3. In small bowl, mix cream cheese with knife until it is smooth and spreadable. Spread evenly over dough square. Fold square into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and fold into thirds again, making a smaller dough square.
  4. Invert dough so seam is face down. Using rolling pin, gently roll it into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. Some cream cheese may sneak through. Just continue to gently roll the dough.
  5. Turn dough so short sides are parallel to you. You will roll from the short sides of the dough.
  6. Brush the top of the dough with 4 tbsp. of melted butter.
  7. Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch border at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough (I used the back of a spoon for this).
  8. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.
  9. Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices. Nestle the slices, cut side up, and evenly spaced in a buttered 9 x 13-inch metal baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate rolls overnight.
  10. When ready to bake, heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  11. Transfer cinnamon rolls to cooling rack. Brush with remaining 4 tbsp. melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Icing

  1. While rolls are baking, whisk together sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth. After rolls have cooled for 5 minutes, drizzle with icing. Serve warm.


SOURCES: Brown-Eyed Baker and Joy the Baker (great photos of the various steps)