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Cupcake-Style Cinnamon Rolls

14 Oct

I’m not sure if there is a cuter idea out there than cinnamon rolls baked as if they were cupcakes and I’ve been dying to try this from the moment I saw them on Pinterest!  While I love a big gooey messy cinnamon roll that you have to eat with a fork and knife just as much as the next person, there was something so quaint and wonderful by being able to peel the wrapper off just like a cupcake and eat it out of my hand.  I would imagine these being great for brunches or breakfasts with kids around so you can just hand them a roll and send them on their way.

They’re certainly not for the completely novice baker, as they have a lot of steps involved, but if they weren’t doable, I wouldn’t be posting it for you try, so get in that kitchen!

The best part about these rolls is that you don’t have to wake up at 4:00 in the morning in order to have fresh-baked cinnamon buns in the morning–I’ve included instructions for par-baking, which means baking the rolls just until they’re set, but not golden brown and perfect yet.  Then you can just throw them into the freezer until you’re ready for them, move them to the fridge the night before, and then just pop in the oven the next morning for ten minutes.  Only 10 minutes to an amazing, cinnamon-y, sweet, delicious breakfast!

Buns:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour or regular flour (bread flour makes for a lighter cinnamon roll)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 pkg yeast (1/4 ounce)

Filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

Icing:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Microwave milk for 30-40 seconds in the microwave (you want milk to be about 110 degrees). Dissolve yeast in warm milk in a large bowl.
  2. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour; mix well.
  3. Knead dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size; line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake liners and lightly spray the cupcake liners with baking spray.
  4. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Sprinkle flour on the surface you’re going to roll the dough on.  Roll dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread dough with 1/3 cup softened butter (if your butter isn’t soft enough at this point, put it in a bowl and smear it around in the bowl with a wooden spoon until you can whip the spoon around through the butter) (other note: I used an offset spatula for spreading the butter and it was the PERFECT tool for the job).
  6. Sprinkle buttered dough evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough starting with the longer side and cut into 24 evenly sized rolls–to ensure even slices I just keep dividing each portion in halves or thirds (if you’re just doing normal rolls and not cupcake-style, cutting into 12 pieces is preferable)
  7. You’ll likely need to un-roll and re-roll the buns to fit in each of the cupcake lined spots.  Or, if you’re not in the mood for the cupcake-style, arrange the rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch glass baking dish.
  8. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes; in the meantime preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  9. If serving immediately, bake the cinnamon rolls for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  If par-baking the cinnamon rolls to freeze for a later date, bake for 10 minutes until mostly baked but not browned.  Pull the buns out and let them cool completely before wrapping them tightly in saran wrap and tin foil and putting in the freezer.  The night before serving the rolls, unwrap them and put them in the fridge overnight to defrost.  The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 10 minutes until soft and golden brown.
  10. While in the oven, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on while they are still warm so that the frosting melts into the roll.
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French Cruller Doughnuts with Maple Vanilla Bean Glaze

17 Aug

Who on earth thought you could make doughnuts at home?  I always just thought they were something that magically appeared in boxes labeled “Krispy Kreme” on Sunday mornings.  Even once I actually went to a Krispy Kreme store and saw the factory machine churning out glazed doughnuts, it still felt more like a Disneyland attraction than actually connecting in my brain as the creation of food I was about to eat, much less food that I might be able to make at home myself.

I can’t remember how I came across this recipe on a great blog, Not So Humble Pie, for French crullers, but I do know that something struck me about this recipe.  It was the first recipe for doughnuts that I came across that I actually felt I could make at home.  Bonus: Crullers are the healthiest doughnut you can enjoy because they’re so airy which means fewer calories.

As always a few notes before beginning:  you’ll need a pastry bag with a star tip.  I bought a little kit for $5 from Sur la Table–50 disposable pastry bags and 3 plastic tips, including a star tip.  The recipe says to let the doughnuts cool before glazing them.  Truthfully, I think the texture was much better when they were still warm, so I would advise you have the glaze ready to go before you start frying up the doughnuts (just whisk briefly if it starts to harden up).  If your honey has been sitting on the shelf for too long like mine had, 20 seconds or so in the microwave will liquidize it again.  Finally, this recipe is certainly a long process the first time you give it a go, so don’t plan on having these ready before the rest of the household wakes up.  Go into it knowing that and you can have them good to go for a nice brunch.

French Cruller Doughnuts with Maple Vanilla Bean Glaze
Adapted from Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home via Not So Humble Pie

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  1. Mix butter, sugar, salt and water in a medium sauce pan and to a rapid boil.
  2. Have a wooden spoon in hand and be ready because this next step goes quickly: add the flour to the pot of boiling mixture, stirring like crazy to make sure the flour is fully incorporated.  It will go from liquid to dough almost instantly.  Keep stirring and mushing it around the bottom of the pot for about 4 to 5 more minutes.  You’re going to get a film coating the bottom of your pot, but it’ll clean up easy later.  Not So Humble Pie pointed out the reasoning is to remove as much moisture as possible so the pastry is lighter than air so cook until there is no steam coming from the pastry any more.
  3. Transfer the pastry to a mixing bowl and beat it with your electric mixer for a minute or so to cool it off, then beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next.
  4. The amount of egg white you add will change with each recipe.  You want to add enough egg white to make the batter glossy (egg white will make the doughnuts light and airy later).  Add too much egg white and the dough will be too soft and the pretty piping won’t hold and your doughnuts will be flat.  Truthfully, I just added both egg whites and didn’t worry about it and my doughnuts ‘wilted’ just a little.
  5. Cut out four 3″ squares of parchment paper (we’ll be reusing them) and lightly grease them.
  6. Heat 2″ of oil to 375 degrees.  Keep your instant thermometer in the oil the whole time so you can keep a close eye on the temperature and keep it as close to 375 as you can.  Also, don’t get impatient and just crank up the heat to get the oil hotter faster–once it reached 375 I turned down the flame, but it kept soaring up past 400 and I just had to wait for it to cool down again.
  7. While the oil is heating, line a table with a stack of paper towels and set out a wire cooling rack.  Also, whip up the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, vanilla, honey, and adding 3 tablespoons of milk.  If the glaze is not pourable, add one more tablespoon of milk.
  8. Back with the doughnuts, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the dough and pipe it into a ring shape on each square of greased parchment paper.
  9. Once the oil is hot enough, take one square of paper and gently drop it into the oil, doughnut side down.  The paper will magically unstick and float off the doughnut in just a few seconds; use tongs to pick it up out of the oil and let it drain on the paper towel lined plate.  Fry the dougnut for a few minutes on each side–they should be a deep golden brown color all over.  Transfer completed doughnuts to paper towel lined plate and then over to the cooling rack while you finish the others.
  10. Luckily, you won’t have to grease the squares again, considering they’ve been sitting in a vat of hot oil.  Continue piping rings of doughnut dough onto the squares and frying them until you’re out of dough.
  11. Glaze the doughnuts by flipping them upside down and dipping them in the glaze.  Set them back on the drying rack with some paper towels underneath so that the glaze doesn’t drip all over your table!  Let the glaze dry a little and then enjoy!

Plum Butter

25 Jul

Every fall I eagerly await apple season: it means apple juice, apple sauce, and caramel apples (never mind the fact that I’m actually allergic to apples…I just pretend like I’m not).  My favorite of all apple treats though, is apple butter.  But looking at the calendar, it’s in the middle of summertime and apple butter time isn’t even close!  That said, summertime is a cook’s dream because of the wide variety of fresh produce available.   So instead of whining about apple butter not being in season, why not take summer’s best fruits and make them into fruit butter instead??  And thus, plum butter was born.

Deliciously tart, a little sweet and a little spicy, plum butter is one of my new favorite ways to wake up on a summer morning.

Because I brought my batch of plum butter to an event in Venice and since there would be no refrigeration, I had to go through the canning process to ensure the people taking home my plum butter wouldn’t keel over with botulism.  That said, while hot and steamy for sure, the canning process is really not the big deal everyone makes it out to be.  Three easy steps:  1) heat the jars in water so they don’t break when you put hot food in them 2) fill with food 3) boil the jars for 5 minutes and then turn off the burner and let the water cool for 5 minutes before taking the jars out of the water.  Seriously, that’s it.  I couldn’t believe it either!

Even better news: if the plum butter isn’t leaving your house and you’re planning on eating it within a few weeks, then all you need to do is stick it in the fridge and call it good.  No steamy canning needed!  If you want to make a lot and store it in your pantry, then canning is necessary.  Truthfully, I haven’t tried freezing it yet, but I bet that would be a great option if you have just an extra jar or two but don’t want to go through the canning process.  Anyone out there who tries it, let me know!  So now, without further ado…summer’s finest at it’s most concentrated deliciousness.

Note: I made two batches of butter, one in my cast iron Le Creuset and the other in my normal stainless steel cookware.  The batch made in my Le Creuset thickened much faster than the one in my stainless steel pot.  I highly suggest using a cast iron pot if you have it.

Also Note: The canning instructions I wrote out below are for sea level altitude, since I’m right here on the coast.  Apparently boiling times are longer for higher altitudes.  Of course, I am no canning expert, this being my first time, so definitely consult the instructions that come with your new tray of canning jars!

Plum Butter
makes about 4 cups
adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 3 1/2 lbs plums (I used the larger black plums instead of red plums)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Dice plums into approximately 1″ pieces (about 8 pieces per half) and discard pits
  2. Put plums, sugar, and water into 6 qt pot, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer (I forgot what I was doing and it boiled over, just fyi, it could happen to you); cook until fruit is very soft, approx 20 minutes
  3. Puree contents of pot in blender.  I used a food processor, which worked fine, but it is not liquid tight and I certainly had to wipe down the base of the processor after it a all said and done because some of the puree had worked its way up up under the blade and out underneath the workbowl.
  4. Return puree to sauce pan and add cinnamon and cardamom, stir.
  5. Cook puree down until thick and spreadable, about 3 hours, stirring often to prevent scorching.  I used a regular balloon whisk to stir the butter and by the end, when you take the whisk out, it is thick enough that you will see an imprint left behind of the whisk tines.
  6. While the puree is in the homestretch of thickening, place your mason jars and the flat parts of the lids into a large pot, cover with water and turn the burner on very low.  The point is just to warm up the jars and lids so that they won’t shatter when you put hot food into them (leave the rings out of the water so they’re cool for you to twist them onto the jars later).
  7. When the jars are warm and the butter is fully thickened to your liking, fill the jars up with butter, stopping about a 1/2 inch from the top of the rim to leave some air in the top of the jar.  Place a flat lid on the jar and twist on the ring.
  8. Heat up another large pot of water to simmering and put jars full of butter into the simmering water.  Turn up the heat to boil the water; boil jars for 5 minutes.  Turn off the burner and leave the jars in the water (you’ll see bubbles still escaping from under the jar lid during the cool down phase, this is good).  Take the jars out and set them on a towel on the counter top.  The instructions say to leave the jars undisturbed for 12-24 hours (I did not have that luxury of time).  You’ll know you’ve done a successful canning job if the lid is firm and doesn’t pop up and down when you press on it.  Some of mine popped slightly after I took them out of the pot, but were firm when I came back in the morning.  If the jars still pop, put them in the fridge and just eat them soon instead of shelving them.

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Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones with Vanilla Butter

8 Jul

I can’t help it; I adore Will and Kate.  So in honor of British Royalty coming to my little corner of the world today, I decided we should celebrate with something distinctly British yet with an American  spin on it.  What better than Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones?

Scones are a traditional British accompaniment to tea time, although British scones are actually closer to a tender cream biscuit here in America.  American scones are more crumbly and rustic and tend to be more a breakfast food than a midday nibble with tea (and scones from places like Starbucks should not even be counted as scones…they could be used as bricks instead because they’re cloyingly sweet, hard as rocks and dry as sand).

Blueberries, of course, are native to North America and buttermilk…well, buttermilk just makes me think of good old fashioned Southern cooking–buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, fried chicken first soaked in buttermilk…the list goes on.  Anyway, these scones are quick to throw together, quick to bake, and great for a last minute special breakfast item, especially when you add vanilla butter to the table to go with them!  Fit for a queen…

Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones with Vanilla Butter
Scones adapted from Martha Stewart Living June 2011
makes 8 large scones

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar + extra for sprinkling later
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 pint blueberries (your standard small supermarket container for blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 stick butter (salted or unsalted, your preference), softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or more, depending on your preference)
  1. Pull out that 1/2 stick of butter now so that it can warm up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Now, there are two ways of doing this: the traditional way will require more muscle, the short-cut will require washing an extra bowl in the end.  Traditional way: Whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter, or two forks, until mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal.  Personally, I am too impatient to cut butter into dry ingredients so I prefer the…Short-Cut: Pull out your food processor, add flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt to the processor bowl and pulse 5 times to mix the ingredients evenly.  Add the butter to the processor bowl and pulse about 10 times until the mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal.
  3. If you used the food processor, dump the ingredients into a large mixing bowl (if you cut the butter in by hand, you can skip this step because, well, you’re already there).  Gently mix the blueberries in.
  4. Whisk together buttermilk, 1 egg, and the vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Drizzle over flour mixture, and stir lightly with a fork until dough comes together.  This will be a lumpy dough, so don’t worry about it being smooth.
  5. Turn out dough onto a work surface, and gently knead dough once or twice just to incorporate the left over flour. This will squish a few of the berries.  No big deal.  (Don’t over-knead or the scones will turn out tough!)
  6. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round.  With a big knife, cut the round of dough into 8 wedges.  Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool just a bit.
  7. While the scones are baking, in a small bowl smoosh the softened butter around with a fork to make it creamy.  Work in the vanilla bean paste with the fork.  Transfer to a pretty little serving dish.  Yes, it is that simple.
  8. Serve the scones warm with the butter on a sunny summer breakfast table!
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