Cinnamon Rolls

 

These cinnamon rolls are rich. Gooey, heavy, and rich. But isn’t that exactly how a cinnamon roll should be? Here’s to excessive breakfast pastries, not getting off the couch for a few hours, and living richly, if only for a morning.

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 2.5 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup sugar plus 1 Tbs
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3.5 cups flour, perhaps more

Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 1/2 cup butter (soft)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs cinnamon

Not So Optional Glaze

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3-6 Tbs hot water, depending on thickness desired

Preparation:

1. Place 1 Tbs of sugar and yeast together in a small bowl. Add warm water and let rest.

2. In large bowl, whisk milk, eggs and melted butter together until uniform. Add the rest of the sugar and salt and continue whisking.

3. Once the yeast mixture has become bubbly and active, add it to the other wet ingredients and stir to combine.

4. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, to the wet ingredients, and stir until dough becomes slightly stiff. It should still be sticky when you turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until a cohesive dough ball has formed and the dough springs back lightly when pressed. Set dough aside in warm, dry place to rise for 1.5 hours.

 

5. While dough is rising, prepare the filling by mixing the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Hopefully by now your butter for the filling has been sitting out long enough to be room temperature – still solid but completely soft and spreadable. If not, you can cut the butter into small pieces (so that they will reach room temperature faster) and let them sit out while the dough rises. You can also, at this time, prepare the not so optional glaze by whisking melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and hot water together until a glaze forms. You can thicken the glaze with more powdered sugar, or thin it out with more hot water.

5. Once dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle, about 15×20 inches. Use a pastry brush or rubber spatula to spread the soft butter all the way across the dough then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.

6. Roll the dough from the side closest to you up to meet the other end. Press the ends together to seal the log of dough and cut into 15 or so (depending on how large you want each roll to be) segments, being careful not to “saw” into the dough with the knife.

7.  Arrange rolls swirl side up about 1/2 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet or, do as I did and bake individual cinnamon rolls in cupcake tins. Both methods require baking at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes. Rolls will be done when they smell irresistible and have become golden brown in color.

8. Drizzle with glaze, and live richly.

 

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Pretzel Rolls

I was flipping through my journal and had an occasion to remember my love for soft pretzels when I came across a small reminder:

Deep.

So I searched through some pretzel bread recipes, realized they were basically just bagels  boiled in baking soda, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t made these sooner. So easy. And it only takes about hour and a half. Mine were ready by breakfast time!

Here’s what you need:

Pretzel Rolls

  • 1 Tbs dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 and 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1/3 cup baking soda

Preparation:

1.  Place 1 Tbs yeast in the bottom of mixing bowl fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add 1 tsp of the total amount of sugar to the yeast. Cover with warm water and watch it activate (it’s aliiiiive) over the next 5 or so minutes.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Once the yeast has activated, add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low speed until combined and the dough forms a ball around the hook. If the dough is too dry and starts to streak in the bowl, add a little more lukewarm water, 1 Tbs at a time, until the dough begins to pull away form the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in some more flour.

3. Once the dough forms a ball around the hook, increase to medium speed and let mix for about 8 minutes. The dough should be elastic and smooth.

4. Add the tablespoon of oil to the bottom of a bowl. Once dough is ready, turn it in the bowl to coat with oil and set aside in a warm dry place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Punch down the dough and turn it out on a floured surface. Knead for about a minute, until the dough springs back when poked. Divide the dough into equal sections (depending on how large or small you wish your rolls to be). I ended up with seven small balls of dough, and that seemed to work just fine. Roll the cut dough into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet to rise for another fifteen to twenty minutes. At this point, if you wish, you can cut a small “X” on the tops of the dough.

6. While you’re waiting for your dough to rise, fill a large saucepan with water, add the 1/3 of a cup of baking soda and bring it to a boil. I would advise against dumping the baking soda into already boiling water, as mine exploded all over the stove upon contact (not pictured). The water should be frothy. Also, preheat your oven to 425 for the pretzel baking. Oh yeah.

7. Using a slotted spoon, drop one of the balls into the boiling water for 1 minute, flipping it halfway through to boil both sides. Place on the greased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.

8. Once all the dough has been boiled and salted, bake them at 425 for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Breakfast is served.

Banana Walnut Bread

The only banana walnut bread recipe you’ll need (unless you’re vegan).

Banana Walnut Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz (1 cup) of butter
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups overripe bananas (if frozen, thawed)
  • 1.5 cups toasted walnuts
  • tin foil

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lay walnuts flat on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. They shouldn’t begin to brown in this time but they will take on a toasted flavor once cooled. I used always go for almonds as an at-work snack, but I must admit I’m totally falling for these toasted walnuts, as in, I look forward to getting to work so I can eat them.  So don’t not toast them.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine or sift the ingredients together.

3. Put the butter and sugar, both white and brown, in the bottom of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If you don’t have an electric mixer, the same technique can be accomplished with a bowl, a spatula, and a lot of willpower, but make it easy on yourself by letting the butter thaw to room temperature first. Mix until the two combine and begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl (as the butter will tend to cling) between eggs.

5. Add sour cream and vanilla to wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

5. Ok let’s get bananas. I usually freeze my brownish bananas once they are less than desirable and let them accumulate for an occasion like this, but you can also use unripe bananas without freezing them first. If you are working with frozen bananas, microwave them or leave them out to thaw them before use. Why, you might ask? Adding a frozen banana will lower the butter’s temperature (which we already spent a few minutes bringing to room temperature in all that mixing) and mess up that smooth texture we have going on. Mash the bananas with a fork and add them to the batter until incorporated.

^ Questionable…

Much better

6. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a spatula (making sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl) until about half of the flour streaks disappear. Add the toasted walnuts and continue mixing for a few more turns.

7. Divide the batter evenly between greased loaf pans (I spread butter all over the inside then sprinkle a little flour). If you prefer a crispier crust, sprinkle some sugar on top of the batter. Bake for 55-70 minutes on the bottom rack of your oven or until a toothpick is inserted in the middle and comes out clean. Check the loaf around 30 minutes in and if the crust is already a deep brown, cover it with tin foil to prevent burning the edges. Cool at least 20 minutes before slicing, unless you don’t mind if it falls apart a bit.

Cinnamon Raisin Babka Loaf


A yeast-risen, not-too-sweet, breakfast specialty! The moist cinnamon raisin swirls make this bread look more difficult than it really is – bake a babka loaf and impress someone today.

*Recipe adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri.

Cinnamon Raisin Babka Loaf

  • 2 Tbs heavy cream
  • 1 cup warm tap water
  • 5 tsp (2 packets) dry active yeast
  • 8 Tbs unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 large egg yolks (save 3 whites for cinnamon raisin filling)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs oil (olive or vegetable)

Cinnamon Raisin Filling

  • 1.5 cups raisins
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)

Preparation:

1. Start by measuring all of the ingredients in separate containers so that they are at-the-ready and can be incorporated into the mixer efficiently. Yeast doughs can be extremely easy to work with provided the dough does not have time to begin rising while you measure.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat or in the microwave (just be careful not to scorch it). Let the butter congeal in the pan.

3. Add yeast to bottom of an electric mixer fixed with the paddle attachment. Measure 1 cup of warm tap water from your faucet (it should not be steaming or too hot to touch) and pour it over the yeast. Mix with a spoon to dissolve any large lumps. Make sure the yeast is beginning to activate (becoming cloudy, bubbly) before you add any more ingredients.

4. Add melted butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks,  and vanilla. Stir to combine. It should look unappealing, like this:

5. Add flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, beating on medium speed to incorporate after each addition.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides before each addition of flour. When all the flour has been added, beat the dough on high speed for 2 minutes. Allow the dough to rest in the mixer for 10 minutes before beating it again on medium speed for 2 additional minutes. These steps should result in a clean looking dough, like this:

6. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat with oil to prevent sticking. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

(man hands)

7. As the dough rises, prepare the filling by whipping the three egg whites in the mixer with the beater attachment. Add the sugar slowly to the eggs as they are whipping.

Mix on high speed until the whites form stiff peaks, about 5-8 minutes. Also, gather raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and any nuts you wish to use.

8. After an hour, the dough has magically risen!

Cut the risen dough in half and turn it out on a well floured surface. Gather a rolling pin (or wine bottle), two loaf pans and begin rolling out the dough, using the length of one of the loaf pans as a general guide.

9. Once dough reaches about 3/4 inch thickness, smooth half of beaten egg whites carefully over the dough.

Sprinkle a little over half a cup of the raisins onto the egg whites.

Then sprinkle generously with cinnamon and a little bit of nutmeg (no need to measure really, just go with your taste buds on this one).

Form the dough by  starting with the side closest to you and slowly rolling it upwards, careful not to press down and displace the filling.

End with the seam on the bottom so the dough stays rolled while you grease and flour each of your loaf pans. Carefully lift roll into pan and repeat procedure with the other half of the dough.

10. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise until doubled in size, 1 – 2 hours depending on the temperature of the room.

11. Bake babkas at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until well risen and a deep golden brown color on the crust. Cool loaves in the pans for at least 30 minutes before turning them out of the pan (to avoid collapse).

Slice with a serrated knife if enjoying right away or seal loaf in plastic wrap to be stored in the freezer for later use (defrost for 30 minutes and reheat at 350 for about 10 minutes).

 Personally, I couldn’t wait to try it. So I ate this slice while freshly baked.

And another for dessert – smothered in apple pecan honey butter.

And because it isn’t overly sweet, this bread might make a mighty fine sandwich. If you’re brave enough to try it, let me know how it goes.

Homemade English Muffins

“[English] Muffins may well originate as far back as the 10th century, yet the muffin became a fashionable bread (love it) during the 18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century, there were dozens of muffin factories in existence, and the “muffin man” was a common sight.” ¹

Celebrate 2012 by making your own! Easily frozen and de-thawed so you can enjoy those homemade nooks and crannies whenever you want. No fancy electric mixer needed.

Inspired by a delicious post from a fellow food blogger’s site, pete bakes!, I amended the recipe (originally from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice) according to the ingredients I had available. Here’s what worked for me:

From-Scratch English Muffins

  • 3 cups of flour plus more for kneading
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp dry active yeast  (if you have instant yeast, follow the original recipe at the bottom of the page)
  • 1 Tbs melted butter
  • 1/4 cup of lukewarm water
  • 3/4 cup of milk (room temperature)
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 1/2 cup of cornmeal

Preparation:

1. Sift (or mix) 3 cups of flour and salt in large bowl.

2. Melt 1 Tbs of butter in microwave and add 3/4 cups of room temperature milk. If you microwave the milk to hasten the process, make sure that it does not scorch or become too hot.

3. Measure 1/4 cup of water from the faucet. Turn on the hot knob and wait until it is lukewarm. Dissolve 1/2 Tbs of sugar into the water and add yeast, stirring briefly to avoid lumps. Let the yeast, water and sugar stand until bubbles form and doubles in size (8 – 10 minutes).

If the yeast does not become bubbly or double the dough will not rise. In this case, consider the temperature of the water: if it is too hot the yeast will collapse and if it is too cold the reaction will not take place. If it still doesn’t work after a few trials, it’s not you, it’s the yeast – consider the expiration date or the storing method (yeast is best stored in a cool, dark place).

After a few minutes, the yeast should begin foaming on the top.

4. Pour activated yeast into milk and butter, stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour liquids in the middle. Stir with a spoon until combined, adding more flour if dough is too sticky.

5. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

6. Pour oil into large bowl and turn dough over to coat on all sides. Allow dough to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

7. Cut dough into eight equal parts, roll them into balls, and flatten them with the palm of your hand. If the dough is sticky, cover your work surface with a tiny bit of cornmeal.

8. Sprinkle cornmeal on foil lined baking sheet. Toss dough with cornmeal on each side. Cover with saran wrap and let rise for another hour at room temperature.

9. After an hour, the dough should be slighly puffier, but not much larger than before. Preheat the oven to 350 then heat about 1 Tbs (or more, depending on size of pan) in skillet over medium heat. Carefully scoop dough off of baking sheet and into skillet. Cook until each side browns and avoid “smushing” the dough down while cooking. Add more oil if necessary.

10. To ensure that the dough cooks all the way through, bake the muffins on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Split with serrated knife, butter and serve. Store extra muffins in an airtight container for 1 week in the fridge or for longer in the freezer. (To reheat frozen muffins quickly, wrap with wet paper towel and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute).

Cranberry Orange Walnut Tea Bread

A holiday classic that’s actually pretty darn good all year ’round. Cup of tea and actual guests to bake for – optional.

  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 8 oz (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cups sour cream (or yogurt for the waist-conscious)
  • .5 c whole milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbs grated orange zest
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour (sifted)
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups dried cranberries
  • 1.5 cups walnuts (halves or whole pieces)

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of two loaf pans (mine are 9×5). Sprinkle pans with flour to prevent sticking.
2. With paddle attachement on electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until completely incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Make sure there is no butter stuck to the bottom of the mixer. Add vanilla extract, sour cream, whole milk, orange juice and orange zest.
3.  In separate bowl, sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) together. Make a well in the center of the dry mix.
4. Pour wet ingredients into the center of the dry ingredients. Mix slowly and be careful not to overmix – it will be lumpy.
7. Toss in cranberries and walnuts (or whatever else you want) and stir until just incorporated.  
8. Divide batter equally among loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of bread comes out clean.
9. Wait at least two hours before cutting into slices (first in half, then half, then half again etc. until you get 8 slices) with serrated bread knife.
10. Enjoy.