Monday, January 28, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls

Auntie Anne's or Cinnabun? Auntie Anne's or Cinnabun. OMG. Everytime I go to the mall I take at least 3 minutes to decide. Recently I have gone for Auntie Anne's because of salt cravings, but I do heart me some Cinnabun.

Well, these are no Cinnabun. No, Cinnabun does not have deliciously maple-coffee contrasted frosting. Wow. This frosting. The combo of maple and I didn't know if I'd like the coffee in it so I first made it without the coffee, with extra milk instead, but it was a little sweet. So I added just a little coffee, and OMG. The heavens opened and sang their praises of Jaun Valdez. Wow. I had never thought of this combo but now I will try to work it into more food groups. I foresee maple cupcakes with coffee frosting in my future.I have recently started reading Pioneer Woman and Pioneer Woman Cooks. I adore this chica. She is hillarious. She is also a pretty darned good cook. I have a couple of recipes of hers that I wanna try because they look so darn good. My one complaint is the lack of formatting of recipes, but that is why I am formating the recipe before sending it out to you lovelies. I know, I am too good to you. Anyway, point was that I am giving credit where credit is due, which is over with the Pioneer Woman.As previously mentioned, the icing, or my modification there of since I wasn't able to do her exact frosting, is divine. I had some issues with baking the rolls, but I think I finally fixed it. As previously stated, my oven is messed up, so I blame this a lot on my oven and not the recipe. My 1st batch of rolls did NOT cook on the inside. They were dark outside and gooey (in the bad way) inside. Bad oven, bad. Next batch I started the rolls in a cold oven and set it to 350. The buns warmed up while the oven preheated, so the insides got warm before the outside burnt. I sadly did not record how long they took to cook.
A tip I found a little too late that would have been good to know: "the easiest way to cut cinnamon buns is to use DENTAL FLOSS!! If you cut a length of dental floss, and slide it under the end of the cinnamon bun roll (so the long ends come up on the narrow sides of the rolls), slide it back the 3/4 to 1″ and then bring the ends together, crossing them over and you will cut the dough." I also just realized it would likely be a good idea to refridgerate the dough before cutting or put in the freezer a few minutes so that it holds its shape better. Just a thought.

Oh, and these supposedly freeze well. With it making 6 pans worth, that's a good thing. I have 2 pans in the freezer in ziploc freezer bag. In a week or so I will probably pull one out, let it defrost over night, then bake as directed. Makes it so much easier!
Cinnamon Rolls
4 cups (1 qt) milk
1 cup oil
3 cups sugar, divided
2 packs (4 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
9 cups AP flour, divided
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 "scant" (less than a full) teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping tablespoon of salt
2-3 cups butter, melted
a lot of cinnamon (maybe 4 TBSP?)
1 2lb bag of powdered sugar
4 TBSP maple or maple flavored syrup
½ cup milk
¼ cup melted butter
1/4 cup of brewed coffee (maybe more if you like coffee and you are ok with a less solid icing)
1/8 teaspoon (a generous pinch) salt

Mix milk, oil and 1 cup sugar in a BIG pan. "Scald" the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point.) Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not rush this. Wait until you can hold your hand to the bottom of the pot and not feel like you have to pull it off, even after 5 or 10 sec. It really can't be hot or you will kill your yeast. Conversely, keep it kinda body temp.

When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in Yeast. Let this sit for a minute so the yeast gets all warm and moist and happy

Then add 8 cups of flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let sit for at least an hour.

Now add 1 more cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it—overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to splurge out of the pan, just punch it down. Or, of course, you can just go ahead and make the rolls.Sprinkle a large surface generously with flour (important so you can actually roll it. I recomend covering your surface with plastic wrap then the flour so you can easily roll and unstick, kind of like rolling sushi). Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle on the floured area. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Rectangle should increase in both width and length as you roll it out. I think mine was about 3' x 1.5', but next time I may make it smaller and thicker so it is eaier to roll and cut without ripping.

Now drizzle 1 1/2 to 2 cups melted butter over the dough. PW says "Don’t be shy; lay it on thick, baby. You know you want it" but I think this made it far too messy and recomend 1 - 1 1/2 cups (I did this on my 2nd batch and thought it was fine). Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamonNow, starting at the end opposite you (should be a long end), begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Some of the butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture may ooze out toward the end, but that’s no big deal (I took the ooze and spread it on top of the rolls, so it baked back in). Pinch the seam to the roll to seal it (easier said then done. try to keep it as neat as possible, but rising and baking covers most mess ups)Spread melted butter in six to seven round, foil cake or pie pans. Then begin cutting rolls approximately 3/4 to 1 inch thick (this is hard to do neatly. I appologize now) and laying them in the buttered pans. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. This recipe makes approximately seven pans of rolls (made 6 for me).

Let the rolls sit for 20 to 30 minutes to rise (mine took a little longer), then either:
bake at 400 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.
OR put in unheated oven. Set oven to 350 and bake until golden brown. Keep an eye on it.While the rolls are in the oven, make the maple frosting. To a mixing bowl, add powdered sugar, maple syrup, milk, melted butter, coffee and salt. Mix (a wisk will do)

Generously drizzle frosting over warm rolls after you pull them out of the oven.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Swoon. I am in love. Not just with the boy, but also with anything that contains both peanut butter and chocolate. Oh, it makes me weak at the knees. If peanut butter and chocolate could spoon me and fix my computer, than I think the boy may have a run for his money. Just kidding, cutie!Anyway, Friday night, run-girl-run was coming to visit and, when she talked to roomie she said "so does Amy have any yummy baked goods lying around?"

If I were a normal college kid, roomie's obvious response would have been "no, why?"

But...I'm me. So the response was "surprisingly no, you want me to drop a hint?"

And she did. And, gosh darnit if I did not immediately try to find a recipe to whip up. I went to smitten kitchen's blog, looked under desserts, and lost my breath when I saw peanut butter brownies. I clicked on the link and thought I was in heaven. They looked so dense and fudgey and peanut buttery. And they were.Like some readers who commented on smitten kitchen's blog, I had an issue with the edges getting a little too dark and crunchy before the inside cooked. I think this was partly to do with my oven which I am now discovering seems to run high, but I think the recipe would also be bettered by a slightly lower temp. I will try setting my oven to 330, which is likely 320 on a normal oven.

Even with the slightly burnt outsides, it was GREAT! The inside was dense and fudgey. I even liked the burnt outer rim because it contrasted the fudgeyness to the crispyness. Really good. All the girls loved it. The boy wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole (pb and chocolate does not have any appeal to my affair with it would have to be a secret). But, despite the boy's thoughts, it was swoon worthy. Oh, come to me brownie goodness.I used 3/4 of a can of prepared chocolate frosting instead of the ganache because I had no ingredients for it (I had neither extra chocolate nor the cream). I really liked it as it was, and it was super easy, but next time I will try it with the adult-like ganache. I am posting the recipe below as it was on SK, even though I didn't use the ganache.Peanut Butter Brownies
For brownies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
½ teaspoon salt

For ganache
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make brownies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.
Mix in chocolate chips (1½ cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes (mine took about 35-again, hot oven).Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 ½ hours.

Make ganache: Put chocolate chips (1 ½ cups) in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.
Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.
Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Mexican Chicken Sandwich

Remember when I said I would discuss the other use for the Mexican dip at another time. Well, that time has come. Last week I made my Mexican chicken sandwich at the boy's request. It is always a hit and it is a very "malleable" recipe. Yes, I know malleable typically reffers to metals, but work with me. What I am trying to say is you can switch the spices to fit what you have. You can alter how much time the chicken is in the oven or on the stove as long as it gets cooked. This recipe bends to your whims and always comes out a crowd pleaser.
This past week I served it with homemade Maryland chips (oven baked potato chips covered in Old Bay). Also goes well with chips and extra Mexican dip/sauce or nachos and a salad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Having seen how georgeous it came out and having read the rave reviews from many sources, I just HAD to try the ratatouille based off the one in the recent Disney movie. Sadly, like a culinary rat with just processed American cheese, I was disapointed and left craving more.

I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who has posted some delightful recipes, just, in my and my roommates' opinions, this was not the best. It tasted just fine, sure. It was a good texture and good combo of taste, but it was, in no way, worth the time and effort it took.Look how much prep there is! It took forever. My mandoline refused to neatly cut the eggplant or the pepper or the it took a LONG time. Add in slicing time of zucchini and squash, and you get a dish that is not worth the work you put in.
Also, it wasn't filling. I served HEFTY portions (more than half of a 9x13 pan) of the stuff over cous cous...and we were still craving protein and fullfillment. Sorry, but this is just a really nice, really hard to prepare salad or side dish, not an entree.
Yes it is yummy. Yes it is pretty. Yes it is really good for you. But it is not a meal and it is not worth the effort. If you, say, had unlimited time, this would be great served as a side along side chicken parm. Replace the pasta with these veggies to make it better for you and more creative. Would be delicious! But not worth the work otherwise.
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside.
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.

Monday, January 21, 2008

York Peppermint or Candy Cane Cupcakes

Oh, my God. Wierdest thing, EVER! As I was thinking of how to start this entry, I put my hand to my chin, as I so often do when deep in thought and HOLY COW it smelled like mint. But it didn't. It couldn't. I made these cupcakes last Thursday. Double, my hand does NOT in fact smell like mint. The mind plays tricks on us, I do believe.

Anywho... these were good cupcakes, but not at all what i wanted. I wanted to make a York Peppermint Patty cupcake. I wanted a chocolate cake, dark mint chocolate frosting and a cool white-green mint center. What lofty goals I create! What ignorance I have regarding the context of my 10th grade chemistry class.

Dispersive mass transfer is the spreading of mass from highly concentrated areas to less concentrated areas.

OH YEAH! So the cupcake portion puffs up and becomes light and airy. Airy with holes. White chocolate mint center melts and becomes liquid. A dense liquid. Hmm, cupcake is less concentrated and highly absorbant, filling is concentrated liquid. And I somehow did not figure out that it was gonna be absorbed and mixed in with the cake. DUH. I Knew I shoulda listened to Allevato more. Chemistry helps in cooking. So does common sense.

So here is the cupcake. Look at how pretty it is!

But, Oh wait...where did my filling go? Oh yes, it dispersed. No yummy white mint center. Just a dark cake that tastes like mint all over. So much for York Peppermint Patty. Now it must be called a chocolate candy cane.

Tips for next time: Don't go through the effort of making the filling. Just add the mint to the cupcake batter. It just mixes in anyway. Or, you could cut the cooked cupcakes open and fill them with the white mint, but I think you would need a different filling recipe as this would not be the texture you would want for that.

The frosting came about because of a mistake, but turned out very well. More labor intensive than what I meant to do, but even better taste in the end.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes
White Mint "Filling"
2TBSP butter
1TBSP sugar
1 1/2 tsp mint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz white chocolate, chopped
green sprinkles
Heat the butter and sugar in double boiler over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add extracts and chocolate. Stir to melt. Add green sprinkles and stir. Refridgerate, stirring often. Shape into teaspoon size balls to fill cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 24-30 cupcakes / 350 degree oven
2 cups of boiling water
1 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of butter, room temperature
2 1/8 cups of sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 350. Pour boiling water over cocoa powder and mix throughly until smooth (harder than it sounds). Let cool.
2) Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and powder together in a separate bowl.
3) Cream together the sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Add the flour and the cocoa mixture alternatively in a dry-wet-dry method, beginning and ending with the dry.
4) Fill cupcake papers 1/2 full. Insert ball of filling.

Cover with a little more batter and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cook on a wire rack.

Mint Chocolate Frosting
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP sugar
1 1/2 tsp mint etract
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 oz chocolate chips
2 TBSP milk
1 1/2- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Using same method as for filling, melt butter and sugar over double boiler. Remove from heat. Add flavorings, chocolate and milk. Combine and let melt. Slowly mix in powdered sugar with electric mixer until fluffy. Frost cupcakes and top with green sprinkles or crushed candy canes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Ok, this is no fancy meal. This is nothing that needs an exact recipe. This is quick, easy, comfort food at its greatest. I got the idea for it last year when I moved into the apartment. Having my first kitchen, I asked the boy what he wanted for dinner and he said "mooch."

What? What the heck is mooch? Well, when the boy was growing up, a family friend would always make him a dish of a meat sauce stirred in with shell pasta. The name...still don't get it. But the dish, well I figured it was worth a try.But I couldn't just make pasta with meat sauce, I wanted it to "grow up." So I switched the beef to turkey to make it healthier. I used hearty past sauce with tomatoes, onion and garlic. I cooked the turkey with chopped onions and garlic, stirred in some tomatoes and fresh basil. Perfect. A nice, more rounded version of a really quick, comforting classic. The shells sort of fill themselves with the meat and veggies. It is so hearty and delicious
The sauce in this dish is very dense, and not very saucy. Try not to bog it down with too much sauce and liquid.

1lb box of medium shell pasta
1 lb lean ground turkey
3/4 of a jar of tomato, onion and garlic pasta sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
Optional: basil, cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.
Saute turkey, onion and garlic on medium high, breaking up turkey as you cook it. Cook until turkey is browned and onions are softened.
To turkey, stir in about 1/2 a jar of pasta sauce. Add more sauce until it is still thick and meaty, but saucy enough to dress the pasta.
When pasta is cooked, drain it. Return pasta to the pot, add the sauce and fully combine. Top with shredded basil and Parmesan or mozzarella if desired.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Can a Souffle Rise Twice?

No, I am not talking about John McCain (zing). I am talking about my fairly yummy but clearly overcooked Giandua Souffles. The recipe was clearly a good idea, but overcooked souffle is not too yummy. And I didn't even cook it the whole time allotted!
Anyway, I will definately try this recipe again, but I will turn the oven temp down about 25 degress next time (maybe it was my oven?) and keep a closer watch on it.
Technically, though, my souffle was not a giandua souffle. This recipe (sadly from Giada) is perhaps misspelled since it is really "Gianduja (or, more commonly, gianduia)...a sweet chocolate containing about 50% hazelnut and almond paste." Though misspelled, it is clear that what makes it giandua is not the DELICIOUS gooey flavored-chocolate bottom, but the fact that the flavoring is hazelnut. I cheated. Mine was orange from some Grand Marnier. OMG. I don't care if it was not traditional giandua flavor, the filling was FANTASTIC. I would actually reccomend making it into truffles! Perhaps refridgerate for a few minutes, roll into a ball and coat in cocoa, or even dark chocolate. Did I mention that my Grand Marnier chocolate filling was DELICIOUS!!
Giandua Souffle (but not really)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (used orange flavored liqueur)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped, plus 6 ounces chopped (used semisweet)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Butter and sugar 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut/orange liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish (not needed, can leave in the bowl) and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized balls about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes (mine did not get quite that thick, but still worked). Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins. Spoon the souffle mixture over the chocolate balls and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffle can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)
Place the ramekins in a hot water bath (put in 9x13 baking pan, put in oven, then put in about an inch of boiling water) and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated) (Mine were burned in 25). Remove from the oven and serve immediately.