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.

 

“Just Like Pop-Tarts®” Cinnamon Sugar Toaster Pastries

Craving pop tarts? Not craving high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or wheat starch? Here’s one for those of us who can’t shake the the craving for over-processed childhood delights and with this nine ingredient, from scratch recipe, we’ll have no reason not to indulge.

These turned out, much to my satisfaction, to taste almost exactly like the “real” thing. Oohwee, these taste awesome, warm or cold. Seriously even if you’ve never baked anything in your life just follow the below instructions and make these. Proof pressure.

Oh, also, I can’t take credit for this recipe, sadly. I simply pressed a few keys and found the absolute best looking/most entertaining blog, smitten kitchen, and subsequently, this recipe. Then I tried it, and well, took pictures, you get it…

“Just Like Pop-Tarts®” Cinnamon Sugar Toaster Pastries (adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter (cubed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tsp flour

Preparation:

1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Sift to combine.

2. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients above and use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until large chunks are no longer visible. If you’re not familiar with the biscuit method of combining fats and dry ingredients, click here.

3. Whisk one of the eggs with 2 Tbs milk on the side and pour over the butter and flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms and turn it out on a floured surface.

3. Knead the dough briefly to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and roll both pieces out into the best looking rectangle you can make. Aim for 1/8 inch thickness so don’t be afraid to roll it thin. If the dough becomes sticky and too pliable, refrigerate it before trying to roll it thinner.

Around this point you should decide how big you want each pastry to be. I used a notecard as a template, but you could go smaller for more bite-sized toaster pastries. If you do cut smaller rectangles, make sure to shorten the baking time and check on your pastries often while baking.

4. Trim the sides of the dough into a large rectangle using the notecard as a template. Cut the dough into as many rectangles as you can fit (I ended up with 8 on each piece of dough).

5. Prepare the cinnamon filling by stirring the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together until completely incorporated.

6. Whisk the final egg in a small bowl and brush it all the way to the edges of the dough. Spoon cinnamon sugar into the center of the pastry, leaving a small frame of exposed dough around the edges to seal the bottom and top of the pastry together. Top with another pastry rectangle and use a fork to seal the edges. Poke holes in the top to let steam escape while they are baking.

7. Refrigerate prepared pastries as you preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the pastries on a cookie sheet (they can sit rather close since they won’t expand too much) and bake for about 30 minutes.

Hot Cross Buns

In Christian tradition hot cross buns are consumed on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) as a symbol of the crucifixion. English folklore, however, provides a secular interpretation of the buns, which I happen to be more in to. Apparently these buns, they foster friendship, particularly if you repeat the quote “[h]alf for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be,” before splitting the roll in half. How awesome is that? Whatever your reason for making these – to acknowledge the crucifixion of a savior, to get off the couch and try something new, to ensure the prosperity of your friendships, whatever — you can rest assured that you are continuing a baking tradition, which is sort of rare, I’ve found, these days. So bake on, friends!

Hot Cross Buns

  • 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3/4 cup milk (warm)
  • 3-3.5 cups flour
  • 1/4  cup + 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 Tbs butter softened
  • lemon or orange zest
  • 1 cup raisins (or, I used 1/2 a cup of raisins and 1/2 a cup of chocolate chips to make two different kinds of buns. It’s whatever you’re feeling, there’s no hot cross bun police.)
  • Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tsp water)

Easy Powdered Sugar Glaze (you might need a few batches of this for all of the rolls).

  • 1 Tbs milk or water
  • 3 – 4 Tbs powdered sugar

Preparation:

1.  Combine flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

2. Set up your electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mixing bowl. Add the 2 and 1/4 tsp of yeast to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Place your eggs in a cup of warm water (if they have not already reached room temperature) so that they are not still cold when ready to use.

3.. Over low heat, warm the milk slightly in a saucepan. Add 1 Tbs of sugar and stir to dissolve. Make sure that the milk is not hot, but lukewarm. When it reaches this temperature, pour it over the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it becomes foamy and active.

4. Once the yeast is activated, add the flour and spices to the yeast and stir with a spatula to combine.

5.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and add vanilla and almond extracts as well as the zest. I had to zest a tangerine in lieu of a real orange, but hey, it’s easier than going to the store. Be creative, experiment with what you have in your kitchen. No new recipe was ever invented by following someone else’s exactly.

6. Turn on the electric mixer to low speed and slowly add the egg and extract mixture. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. After a few turns, shut off the mixer.

7. Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl. Now, mix away, helping the dough form a ball by stopping every once and a while to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the dough ball sticks too much, add a little flour. If your ingredients are not forming a ball of dough, add warm water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

8. Once you have all of the ingredients incorporated into a dough ball, remove the dough from the mixer and set in a floured bowl to rise for 1-2 hours.

9. Punch down the risen dough and roll it out on a flat, floured surface. I split my dough in two to make raisin hot cross buns and chocolate chip hot cross buns. Variety is the spice of life. Sprinkle rolled dough with raisins/chocolate chips, fold over, roll out again, and add repeat until the dough is studded entirely with the little additions. Roll the dough into a log and cut into twelve equally sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough in your hands until it forms a ball.

10. Place dough balls on parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rise another 30 minutes as you preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

11. Meanwhile, prepare the egg wash and icing. And call your friends to come over.

12. After the second rising (no pun intended) lightly brush the dough with egg wash (I actually forgot this step, but wish I hadn’t) and pop them in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before icing. I put my icing in a plastic sandwich bag and cut one of the ends to make a pastry bag, which worked well to make the crosses.

Eat and enjoy!

Crêpes

Sponge-like, skinny French pancakes, filled to your tastes!

Crêpes

  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 cup flour

Preparation:

1. Beat eggs until smooth. Add oil and milk, stirring well after each addition. Whisk wet ingredients until bubbles form and they are completely combined.

2. Add flour slowly and whisk until no lumps are visible.

3. Set aside for 1 hour so that the batter can reach room temperature.

4. Heat flat bottomed frying pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles and jumps around the pan. (If the water evaporates, the skillet will be too hot.)

5. Grease pan with 1/4 tsp of butter.

6.  Stir the batter and pour about 1/4 of a cup in the center of the pan, quickly rotating it so that the batter flows quickly across the surface. Drips are a-okay, they add character.

7. The crêpe should immediately set and form tiny bubbles. If batter makes a smooth layer, the pan is too cool. Cook for about 40 seconds before coaxing an edge off the pan and flipping the crêpe with your fingertips.

8. Cook the underside for another 20 seconds (it will not brown like the outer side).

9. Fill crêpes with whatever filling you choose–sweet or savory–and roll. Serve hot. Some ideas:

Sweetened Greek Yogurt and Blackberry Jam

Scrambled Eggs and Pico De Gallo

Butter, Brown Sugar & Cinnamon

Bragging Rights : The Perfect Croissants

July 2009 – Croissant: 0 , Me: 0 – An Opportune Introduction

In a one-round-about farming town that barely appears on google maps I had the opportunity to make croissants under the supervision of a man in the biz – real life French pâtissier Pascal Mouesan. I suppose, in hindsight, it was quite a coincidence that the patriarch of my assigned host family made a living doing the one trade I’d always fancied, but I was young and un-serious and didn’t seem to realize how cool this was at the time.

In a lost-in-translation moment, Pascal bought me a Che Guevara shirt (modeled above). Also, we made croissants.

I do know, however, that from the very beginning of the program, I begged Pascal to show me how to bake something (sounding, I’m sure, absolutely pathetic in broken, mispronounced French).  And finally, a week before I was set to pack my bags, Pascal relented and taught me a hard lesson about patisserie: you’re going to have to wait. Over the course of my last few days under his roof, he showed me how to craft the perfect croissant. I took notes, drawing pictures of what I thought he might be trying to explain in French, and tucked them away with my other valuables from the trip.

I’ve attempted to make croissants (both with Pascal’s recipe and with others I’ve found online) about twelve times since I set foot back in the States and it typically ends in a frustratingly buttery mess. I’ve made deflated croissants, cakey croissants, croissants that self-fried in their own oils, puffy, dense croissants and absolutely inedible croissants.

July 2011 – Croissant: 12, Me: 1 – A Fattening But Delicious Victory

Peering into the oven last night to discover flaky, layered, perfectly browned croissants, I could hardly contain myself. I fluttered around the kitchen, called my housemate in as a

witness and exclaimed a few curse-filled phrases of astonishment. After many croissant failures (one of which occurred just the week before when I somehow produced an item as dull as the Pillsbury pop can crescent rolls) I’d finally done it right. And now, with only one croissant left of the original dozen and a blog post ahead of me, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to recall exactly what I did correctly, much less repeat the process again.

Croissants are a complicated mix of only a few basic ingredients: milk, water, eggs, yeast, flour, sugar, salt and, of course, butter. In the process of making, re-making and throwing away dozens of inedible croissants, I have learned a thing or two about these ingredients that are helpful to understand from the beginning.

1. Yeast is extremely sensitive and not all types are created equal. To ferment properly and at a manageable pace yeast need moisture (water and milk), warmth (ideally between 80 and 90 degrees), and food (sugar).

2. Proofing is difficult, but necessary. In order to get the air bubbles in the dough that result from mixing and fermentation to grow and expand, you once again need an ideal temperature of about 80 degrees. I don’t know of any commercial ovens that can be set to a temperature of 80 degrees, and if you risk it and proof the dough at a higher temperature it will bake and collapse instead of expand (I have done this many times). I’ve found, however that you can create a pretty ideal environment in your oven without ever turning it on. For these croissants I proofed them for about 20 minutes in an oven with the light on and a pot of water that I’d just boiled on the rack below. Allowing your dough (and formed croissants) some time to puff up is key, but it takes both practice and patience.

3. No wonder drug dealers use scales. Weighing ingredients requires only slightly more dedication but ensures that your baked goods will turn out consistently and allows you to make adjustments without worrying about the proportions. Measuring cups, teaspoons, etc. are really just eyeball measurements — no way to tell if you’re using the exact amount of an ingredient you need. And so, for this croiss-periment I dug deep into my pockets and purchased a postal scale from Office Depot (only about 20 dollars). I am not sure if this accuracy made the difference or not, but it’s worth mentioning.

Phew, ok so. Let’s begin.

I started by putting 325 grams of flour (about 2 1/3 cup), 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar into my mixing bowl. After a quick incorporation, I added 25 grams (about 1/4 of a stick) of softened butter and 1 egg.

Next I heated 115 mL of milk and 30 mL of water in a saucepan until it was about the temperature of a baby’s bottle. You’re right, that reference means nothing, I just heated it until it felt warm but I didn’t come close to burning my finger. Next I added 7.5 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of dry active yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the warm milk water and gave it a quick stir. In 2-3 minutes my yeast had (clearly) been activated and was bubbling in the bowl.

I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mixed on medium speed with dough hook attachment until the ingredients formed a tight ball. I placed the dough in a lightly oiled, heat proof bowl, covered it with saran wrap and proofed it (see left) for 20 minutes, until it doubled in size.

Next I punched it down, which was way fun, returned the saran wrap and let it cool in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I rolled the dough out into abouuuuuut a 20 inch by 8 inch rectangle on a floured surface. I didn’t really measure, I just used the space that I had clean and available

on my counter and it amounted to a little over this much. I spread the remaining 175 grams (apparently around 6 and 1/8th oz) of butter onto the left two-thirds of my rectangle (with the longer side on the top and bottom).

Now here’s the origami-like part that is best explained with my hand drawn pictures.

1. With 2/3 buttered, I did a simple fold, bringing the unbuttered side onto the middle 1/3 of the dough and folding the left (buttered side) over the top. Then I chilled the folded dough (saran wrapped) for about an hour. (Sigh)

2. Then I rolled it out to the same size as before and did a double fold. Which looks like this:

And refrigerated the dough again for an hour.

3. Then I went to bed, but when I woke I did another double fold, and chilled the dough.

4. And after work I did a final single fold (same 1.) and chilled the dough one last time.

5. And finally, I rolled the dough on a very floured surface (because the butter was so thin by now that it was prone to sticking) and worked very quickly to cut large triangles. I spread a thin wash of egg and cream over the inside of the triangles, cut a little slit into the smallest side and began to roll the croissants.

6. After placing the rolled croissants on a baking sheet, I proofed them using the same method described before until they puffed up significantly and baked them at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

And boy, were they delicious.

Ps. For variation, almond paste can be inserted inside for an almond croissant, or dark chocolate for a pain-au-chocolat. Or other stuff for other types of croissants.