September 28, 2009

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

My Tall Man loves Cinnamon Rolls (well, he loves any white bread and nearly all carbohydrates, but he especially loves Cinnamon Rolls) so I decided to make them for his birthday treat again this year (that was a few weeks ago- before the baby- don't worry, I'm not wrestling with yeast and a newborn yet!).

I've made a few recipes in the past that I felt weren't worth the trouble or the calories. I love Dorie's Pecan Sticky Buns and made those for his birthday last year but since I was nine months pregnant and exceedingly sick of watching the numbers on the scale creep up higher and higher I wanted something lighter. So, I tried Peter Reinhart's version from the Bread Baker's Apprentice after I saw so many delicious posts about it (check out Nancy's here for some good tips). The dough is sweet and flavorful but not heavy and rich like some other versions. It's also not too "bread-y" so this still feels like a special dessert... or delicious breakfast. They also don't bake up with that hard, yucky sugar crust on the bottom of the roll which I've had happen to me a few times (maybe that's because there isn't any butter spread on the rolled out dough?)

View the complete recipe here (page 143). I've posted a quick version for my own records here, since I'll be making these regularly and can never seem to keep track of the paper copies!

NOTE- Do NOT double this recipe in your KitchenAid. The second time I made these I did that and I ended up kneading the dough by hand, worrying I'd nearly killed my beloved Empire Red, and generally just regretting my decision. It only takes a few minutes to whip these up in your mixer so just be patient and do so in two batches- trust me!

Let me know if you've made this recipe before and if you have any recommendations on whole wheat flour, different flavors (I'm trying orange rolls next time), or general tips. I'm far from a bread expert which is why I loved this recipe- he really walks you through it in the book and even with little experience these turn out great.

Cinnamon Rolls

from the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Yields one big baking sheet worth of rolls (about 12-15 depending on how you slice them- I like a little variation so people can choose a big or small roll- use a bench cutter for neat slices or dental floss in a pinch)

6 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons shortening or butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
grated zest of one lemon
3 1/2 cups bread or all purpose flour (I used King Arthur's bread flour)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

Cream together sugar, salt, and shortening on medium high speed in mixer with paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and lemon zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix for about 10 minutes on medium, or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. Add a little flour or water if necessary to attain this texture.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough into it, cover, and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Lightly flour or oil a counter and roll the dough into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick, or 18 by 9 inches wide. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the dough and roll it up into a log, with the seam down. Slice the log, making the pieces about an inch thick. Place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and let rise until nearly doubled (about an hour in my lovely desert home).

Bake at 350 on the middle rack for 20 to 30 minutes, or until gold brown. Remove from oven, let cool, and glaze with powdered sugar icing or cream cheese icing.

Thick and Delicious Cream Cheese Frosting

Note- Since I made these for my Tall Man's birthday, I made a plain powdered sugar icing (as shown in the photo) since he's a crazy person and doesn't really like cream cheese. However, they taste even better with a good cream cheese icing, and since I've never met another person, besides my love, that doesn't like cream cheese icing, this is a sure bet.

1 block Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 bag (1 pound) powdered sugar
Milk, as needed (about 1 tablespoon)

Cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth and well combined. Beat in the vanilla then, with the mixer off, add the powdered sugar. Cover with a clean dish towel and combine on low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Remove towel and increase speed to make a smooth frosting, adding milk until desired consistency is reached.

Spread on slightly cooled cinnamon rolls and enjoy!

September 19, 2009

She's Here!

My sweet baby girl is finally here! She was born on Tuesday and everything went great. She was even two pounds smaller than my little man (who was practically born man-sized) so we are all happy and amazed that the "Dorie diet" worked! I remember reading Jess's post that they thought their new child must be at least half unsalted butter and bittersweet chocolate after all the Dorie treats made and consumed during her pregnancy. I think my little miss is about the same, the other half being Paradise Bakery chocolate chip cookies, watermelon, and caramelized onions (yay for pregnancy cravings! at least I didn't eat those foods all together...)

I have to run and try to sleep while she is sleeping and my husband has my little man, but I felt a little vain just posting a picture and no recipe, so I'm including my favorite caramel wrapped chocolate dipped pretzels. In a last crazy pregnant fit I made these Monday afternoon. They are simple and really visually impressive- not to mention delicious. Please pardon the picture- I took it about 12 hours after I had the baby since I didn't make enough of these "visitor treats" and was worried they were going to be gone before I got a photo at all! We share them with the doctors and nurses and people who came to visit. It was a lot of fun and considering you could make and freeze them in advance, not too much of an endeavor. Unless you're crazy like me and would like to spend your last afternoon before having a baby wrapping caramel and dipping chocolate. :)

A few notes-

I use Peter's Caramel which you can order online. It comes in a 5 pound box and lasts a very long time, staying soft and delicious. It's about $4 or 5 a pound and a little goes a long way. I think the taste and ease of use is worth it, but you could certainly substitute Kraft caramels.

This time I used both white and milk chocolate so people have a choice. The flavor really comes out so I would use Ghiradelli or something else delicious, since you'll really notice it.

For the pink drizzle, I melted white chocolate with a couple of red Wilton candy melts (find those at Michael's or any craft store in the candy making aisle) to attain the pink color. I poured the mixture into a squeeze bottle and stored that in a glass of hot water so it maintained it's temperature while I made all the pretzels.

Kate's Caramel Wrapped Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

1 Bag of Pretzel Rods
1 Pound of Peter's Caramel (or Kraft if you can't find Peter's, but it's worth finding- locally you can get it at Shar's in Gilbert or at ABC Cake Decorating in Phoenix)
2 Cups of Chocolate Chips (or chopped chocolate) plus more for drizzling
2 Tablespoons Crisco (plain shortening, not the evil butter flavored kind, it creeps me out!)
Sprinkles for decorating

Make a double boiler by placing a glass bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water. Place over medium low heat, watching to make sure the water doesn't touch the glass or condensate into the bowl. Pour in the chocolate, add the Crisco, and stir occasionally until smooth and combined. Reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, cut the caramel into about one inch cubes. Using your hands, roll each piece into a "snake" like you used to do with play doh. When your caramel is about eight inches long, press the end onto the top of the pretzel and wrap it around the rod, forming a spiral. Leave enough pretzel exposed to dip it later. Set all the wrapped pretzels onto a parchment or Silpat lined cooling rack.

Once the pretzels are all covered, dip into the chocolate, being careful to cover all of the caramel and drip off the excess chocolate. Lay the rod back on the baking sheet and proceed with the rest, working with about 10 at a time. Drizzle with a contrasting color of melted chocolate, if desired, then add sprinkles. Working with a few at a time ensures the chocolate isn't set before you do the decorating. After they are dipped, place the cooling rack in the fridge to set.

When pretzels are set, place in cellophane bags and tie. These keep well for a few days but will last longer than your self control in the freezer.

September 6, 2009

Baby Shower Cupcakes

I've been woefully neglecting my blog and I feel the need to apologize. Along the same lines, I should apologize to my husband whose delicious food consumption mirrors my blogs content most of the time (sans chocolate) and who is probably hungry as I type this. Nonetheless, I think the fact that I have NINE DAYS to go until my baby comes is a decent excuse. So in case you're sick of looking at panzanella, I thought I'd post some baby shower cupcakes. A friend of mine is having twins so I made pink and blue cupcakes per her request. I'm a little squeamish about blue dyed food but they turned out cute (although the gel dye did a little number on the texture, I think other people didn't notice). I frosted them with my big 16 inch bag and enormous bullet tip then topped them with gumballs, dots, neccos, mm's, and any other bright pink and blue candies I could find. They turned out really cute even if some of them were an unnatural color.

Then I had my baby shower the same day so I made a batch for my own, which is dorky and probably almost offended my aunt, but I told her making one more batch when you are already making two is less than half the work, so she might as well save her self the trouble. I hope that flawed math/logic went over well. Either way, I couldn't resist since my mom found cupcake liners that match the quilt she's making the baby (pink polka dot) so we just had to do it.

I'm going to repost my frosting recipe since it's one of the most asked for by my "real life" friends (the rest of you, I've dubbed my "cooking friends", which my husband thinks is silly since we've never met and don't talk on the phone or anything, oh well). And while I'm going to try to feed my husband better this week before it's too late and she's here, I make no guarantees. So, to satisfy my "cooking friends" and "real life friends" who stop by my blog to laugh at the large quantity of desserts I make and the gourmet leftovers my husband enjoys at work (when he isn't getting a ham sandwich every day), I'm going to post this one last guaranteed recipe before the baby is born. And I'm going to tell you her name. I think we've finally decided.

I posted about our Katherine/Kate debate a while ago here and on my personal blog. I got 53 votes and finally tallied them up this morning-
Kate- 24
Katherine- 29

So the results are.... KATE!

While Kate didn't technically win, these two comments echo my sentiments on this subject I've debated with every friend, family member, or perfect stranger sporting a Kate/Katie/Katherine/Kathleen/etc Nametag. And it's funny that it seems so simple that I'd name her Nick if she was actually a he. I guess it's just easier to pick when the choice doesn't matter much!

"I prefer Kate. I know a lot of people are citing versatility as a reason to go with Katherine, but as Kate she can still call herself Kat, Katie, and everything short for Katherine if she chose. Naming her Katherine just in case she wants to go by that as an adult seems like a bad reason when you prefer Kate anyway."

"I love traditional names too and like both Katherine and Kate, but I don't like Kathy as much as Kate. So my vote is if you want her to be called Kate just name her that :) If it is a boy though, I vote for naming him Nicholas and not just Nick."

So there you have it. I'm officially declaring her Kate and will probably refer to her as baby girl from her on out, since I hold onto some false notion of blog privacy and refer to my son as "little man" or "baby boy" like his name is some big secret. I know you're all dying to know, too, since it's about as creative/interesting as Kate, and I love it. I hope she never regrets losing the Katherine option, but I guess I never whined to my mom that my name was just Anne!

Wish me luck with these last nine days as I'm practically counting the hours. And say a prayer that "Kate" is actually a "Kate" and not a "Nick" because I'll be heartbroken if I have to pack up all those beautiful baby girl clothes, blankets, and bows from the baby shower!

Anne's Very Favorite (Cream Cheese) Frosting

1 package of cream cheese, softened (I like to use Neufchatel, less fat and I don't notice much difference)
1/2 cup butter, softened (one stick)
2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla pod, scraped
dash of salt
6 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency, this is a baseline)
1 Tablespoon meringue powder

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the milk, vanilla, and salt, and blend.

Next, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, cover the bowl of the mixer with a dish towel, and turn it on low until everything is combined. Then increase the speed for a minute or so until the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious. The meringue powder will help set the frosting after it dries so it holds its shape.

Add 1 T. finely grated lemon or orange zest and substitute juice for the milk to make a tangy citrus frosting