Sunday, September 30, 2007

How Do You LIke Your Buns?

It's the age old question, that could only be answered by the Daring you prefer cinnamon or sticky? This month's challenge was Cinnamon and/or sticky buns, and I must admit I was very excited for this challenge. Like I've said before I HATE working with yeast, but am starting to enjoy the challenges that call for yeast, that way I can break outta my shell :) Not to mention how much I love cinnamon/sticky buns! I decided that I was going to make both recipes, because I am one of those people who will eat buns any way they're made...I'm not too picky!

I first started out with the cinnamon buns and I have to say this was almost a near disaster, which would've left me in tears. Everything was going fine until I added the dreaded yeast and turned on my mixer. Not noticing the "mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball" part, I quickly released that I had over mixed my dough. Praying that my dough would still rise I put it into the lightly oiled bowl and walked away. Returning to my dough after about two hours I noticed that my dough had risen, but not enough, so I decided that I would start anther batch of dough (this time for the sticky buns), and leave the first batch to proof a little longer.

Making sure not to over mix my dough, I had high hopes for this batch! I wasn't as nervous, because I had already realized where my mistakes were the first time. Needless to say this batch came out perfectly, the two hours passed and my dough had risen beautifully! I took both batches and prepared to make them into buns. I had a really hard time with my first batch. The dough kept ripping, and I noticed that by spraying the counter with cooking spray didn't help AT ALL! The dough was sticking so bad, which made me decide not to use the spray for my sticky bun batch. Instead I used flour, and that was my key to success, I had no ripping, no sticking, only pure rolling perfection! Now that I had both logs rolled out it was time to cut into buns, and of course the cinnamon bun batch was such a pain, the buns kept splitting open, but I somehow managed to get some decent buns outta the log. The sticky buns were problem-less, and came out looking the way a bun should :)

After both batches proofed again, the cinnamon buns were the first to hit the oven. While those baked I made the yummy-yummy topping for the sticky buns, which I kept dunking my finer into and licking :) For my topping I used dried apricots, golden raisins and pecans, which all went really well together, adding the right amount of sweetness without being overbearing. The timer went off for the cinnamon rolls and I nervously went to open the oven door. To my surprise the buns looked like, well, buns!!! YAHOOO, I was so excited and couldn't waiting to pour the frosting on them and take a bite! My cinnamon buns were definitely a little more dense than normal, but they were still very tasty, and the buns that I thought would've been a disaster (the ones that kept bursting open a spewing their cinnamon sugar guts) ended up having this crunchy cinnamon-sugar exterior which was sooo good. So I was so glad that I didn't throw away that batch, because I ended up really, really liking them.

As for the sticky buns...these were DEVILISH!!! The minute they came outta the oven I stuck a fork in between the buns to have a bite of the topping, and I was in pure sticky bun topping heaven! After letting the buns cool for just a minute I inverted the pan onto a sheet tray and was hypnotized by the caramely-sticky goodness that was slathered all over my buns. I couldn't take it any longer I had to eat one, so I did! These were so buttery and moist, but bursting with flavor from the apricots and raisins! I can't even express to you the state of bliss I was in, and of course had to eat another one...oh well :)

I really enjoyed this challenge, and was glad that, despite my troubles at first, this recipe was fairly simple and easy to do. And I WILL be making both buns again, because I still can't answer my question as to how I like my buns!!

6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter(I used 3 TBSP shortening and 2 1/2 TBSP butter)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread
2teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)

White fondant glaze(recipe follows)

Sticky bun topping (recipe follows)
*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand); if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast. Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.(A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don't roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. (B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and (C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)Line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment.
For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren't touching but are close to one another. For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf.Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns:

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns
Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fairwell to Summer!

The end of summer is upon us :( And I thought it would be best to have one last go round at the wonderful fruity desserts that are only possible in summer. I found this recipe while poking around The minute I saw it my entire mouth began to water. Just looking at the juicy peaches and bubbling blueberries made my mouth cry out for a bite!! Sometimes when I look at a picture of a beautiful dessert I can almost taste the melding of the individual flavors in my mouth and practically imagine myself taking the first bite, of what I am sure will be my daily moment of eternal bliss...that's what the pictures of this "cake" did for me!
I could not believe how easy this Peach Blueberry Cake was to make, and can I just say, I think it's funny that it's called a cake, because it didn't really seem like a cake to me. It's more like a fluffy, moist pie crust/bready type of thing (ok, that wasn't any I see why they said "cake"). The only change I made to the recipe was to exchange cornstarch for the tapioca pudding. Next time I make this though I will either add a little extra corn starch or try the tapioca, because I wish my fruit sauce/juice would've been a little thicker. The thing I loved most about this was that it was mostly fruit. The peaches are cut into quarters, so you get huge chunks of them, and the crust wasn't too overwhelming. Everything was balanced out perfectly. (Oh, I also added a little less sugar to my fruit, since they were already soo sweet). And even though this recipe is "summer based" I think it could easily carry over into the off season, thanks to the frozen foods section :) I'm interested to see what this recipe would be like with different fruits...maybe plums and strawberries, or peaches and raspberry...even rhubarb. I mean the possibilities to this easy to prepare masterpiece are endless!
The presentation is also AMAZING, like I can you not want to eat this after you've seen it. It was so funny, my mom was out mowing the yard and came in begging for me to take it out of the oven for her to have a bite because she could smell the alluring aroma outside!! And I will admit this cake smells heavenly, the smell of sweet peaches bubbling away in their own juices, with a slight aroma of plump blueberries in the background is enough to put anyone in a trance! So take caution when making this, because you will fall head over heals for this cake in no time flat!!
I don't think words can describe to you just how scrumptious the first, second, third, fourth...last bite of this cake was. The peaches had softened, of course, but still held up very nicely. They didn't turn to mush, they had only gotten sweeter with each passing minute of the oven timer. And the blueberries were cooked perfectly to the point where they would burst in your mouth when you bite into one. Then there was the thick syrup that formed from the natural juice of the fruit, which was almost like a stewed fruit/compote mixture, which lended just enough moisture to the crisp on the edges, but fluffy in the center, crust! I am telling you, I haven't enjoyed eating a dessert like this in a really long time!!
Peach Blueberry Cake
For pastry
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

For filling
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
2 lb firm-ripe large peaches (about 4), halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into fourths
1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint) 1
tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Special equipment: a 9- to 91/2-inch (24-cm) springform pan; an electric coffee/spice grinder
Make pastry:Pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add egg and vanilla and pulse just until dough clumps and begins to form a ball, about 15 pulses.
Press dough onto bottom and evenly (about 1/4 inch thick) all the way up side of springform pan with floured fingertips. Chill pastry in pan until firm, about 10 minutes.
Make filling while pastry chills:Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. (NOTE: If using dark pan, turn oven to 350 degrees, and bake 15 minutes less)
Grind 2 tablespoons sugar with flour and tapioca in grinder until tapioca is powdery, then transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Add peaches, blueberries, and lemon juice and gently toss to coat. Spoon filling into pastry and bake, loosely covered with a sheet of foil, until filling is bubbling in center and crust is golden, about 1 3/4 hours.
Transfer cake in pan to a rack and cool, uncovered, 20 minutes, then carefully remove side of pan.
Cool cake to barely warm or room temperature, then cut into thick wedges with a sharp knife before serving.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Bloggers I Need Your Help!!

As many of you know I'm a baking freak and have the ultimate plan of opening up my own cupcake/bake shop. However, until I have the means to fulfill my dream I've been thinking about starting small and selling goods to my co-workers, family and friends, maybe even to you wonderful bloggers! I was wondering if any of you have tried this at all and how it worked out for you...or just suggestions in general of how to start small, eventually growing my small "business" into my dream. Thanks!

Catch up time!

Seeing as how it's Labor Day, and I am supposed to be doing N-O-T-H-I-N-G, I figured this would be the best time for me to catch up on my blogging. I hate that I have become so busy that I don't have time to post any of my creations. Hopefully I can start enacting a little time management and get my posts up sooner :) Well enough blabbing already, LET'S GET TO IT!!

Cinnamon Chocolate, White Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

I've been wanting to make a cinnamon cookie for a while, and have also wanted to find a way to get rid of the three different types of baking chips I had in my freezer, so this is what I came up with. The batter is a traditional chocolate chip cookie. In order to take it "to the next level" I added a little bit of cinnamon at a time, tasting it as I went along. I wanted to make sure that the cinnamon flavor was there, but not overpowering. I can't remember how much I ended up putting in, but I think it was about 2 tablespoons. It was just enough so that you could tell there was a different flavor to the batter, but you wouldn't immediately know it was cinnamon. I also added white chocolate chips and peanut butter chips to the mixture, which turned out giving the cookies a very unique and oh-so-good flavor combination. I ended up using these cookies as the base to my ice cream sandwiches. I chose Haagen Dazs Bailey's flavored ice cream, which was a match made in heaven. Whether you have these cookies plain, with ice cream, or even just eating the batter out of the bowl (which I did all three thank you very much!!) you're gonna fall in L-O-V-E...

Tropical Nutella Crepes

In trying to think of something different for dinner, I kept having a nagging craving for something coconuty. I'm a huge freak for toasted coconut and think that coconut/pineapple are the ultimate flavors of summer. So when walking down the ice cream isle I about passed out when I saw Haagen Dazs' Pineapple Coconut ice cream. It's like it was a sign from God, who was listening to my inner craving and had presented me with this amazing ice cream. But, knowing me, I wouldn't be satisfied with just ice cream...what could I pair with this...after four more steps down the ice cream isle, there they were...packaged crepes! I could totally do something with this. My mind now racing, I scurried through the other isles grabbing my remaining ingredients. Once we were finished eating dinner I quickly asked if everyone was ready for dessert, because I had been waiting for this dessert ever since I had gotten home. "Yeah, we're ready"...sweet! I jumped up and quickly started my skillet to toast my coconut in. Pulled out the ice cream to let it soften a little and began building my masterpiece. The first step is to take the crepe out of the bag and place it on your plate. Next, spread the crepe with a thick layer of slightly melted Nutella :) Top the crepe with some of the toasted coconut and sliced bananas. Roll up the crepe and scoop out a nice big chuck of ice cream, topping with even more toasted coconut. Take a seat and get ready to pretend like your in Jamaica Mon!!

Orange White Wine Cupcakes
Courtesy of Vanilla Garlic

As I was poking around in the wonderful world of blogging I visited one of my favorite blogs...Vanilla Garlic. Garret, the creator, comes up with some of the most unique and amazing recipes and when I started reading about this Orange White Wine Cupcake I knew I had to try it. Especially when Garret claimed that the entire prep time was only about 5 minutes! Totally excited about the awkward ingredients I set out to give these cupcakes a try. The only thing I did differently than Garret's recipe was to use Riesling instead of White Wine, I'm all about the sweet wines, so that's what I went with. I also had a tangelo which I zested, instead of an orange. Once I began putting this recipe together I was amazed at how easy it was, I was also amazed at how good the batter tasted! When I saw that the recipe had Olive Oil, I must admit I was a little skeptical. As I dropped the batter into the muffin tins, I made sure to give each cupcake a generous sprinkling of sugar...and into the oven these went. My cupcakes didn't use the whole bake time that Garret suggest, but my cupcake pans are also very dark, so just make sure to keep an eye out for that. As soon as I pulled my cupcakes out of the oven I was excited to try them, so I eager ran my butter knife around one of the cupcakes to loosen in up and tried to take it out of the pan. The entire cupcake broke apart into chunks!! I almost started crying because I thought the rest of the cupcakes would do the same thing and that I had some how ruined them. But I came to find out that I just needed to let them cool off longer and set up in the pans. So after waiting patiently for a few minutes I was able to, easily, get all of my cupcakes out, safe and sound. And let me tell you, one bit of these cupcakes and you will swear you died and went to Heaven! I don't know where Garret came up with this amazing combination, but thank God he did, because this was one of the lightest, sweetest, most refreshing cupcakes I have ever had. The flavor combination was incredible, the cornmeal wasn't too over powering, it just added a nice crumbly texture to the muffin and the tangelo zest helped to brighten up the sweetness of the wine. And that crispy, crunchy, sugar topping made these cupcakes perfection! I took these bad boys to work and they were a huge success, I actually had people arguing about who was going to be able to take home the leftover cupcakes! (Which wasn't necessary anyways, because there weren't any left over :0) ) So thank you Garret for giving me a unique, but oh so amazing new recipe to try, this cupcake will definitely become one of my staple recipes!!!

Orange Cornmeal Cupcakes with White Wine & Olive Oil
Makes about 10 cupcakes
375 DegreesAdapted From Martha Stewart

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup of sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Finely grated zest of one orange

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and wine until smooth. Add the other dry ingredients and the zest; whisk together gently.
3) Line cupcake tin with cupcake papers and spoon into the papers about 4/5 full. Sprinkle on the sugar (topping will be thick). Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out. clean.