Really Delicious Cinnamon Rolls

Winter is for cinnamon rolls, I’m just sure of it.

Cinnamon rolls are one of those foods that have been so re-created by the food industry so as to bear but a shadowy resemblance to the real thing. These rolls are treats, to be sure, but they are real food. I love them muchly. I think I shall be making them today.

And here is how you can make some, too:

Dissolve a heaping tablespoon of dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm (not hot) water. Set aside.

Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, and stir in 1/3 cup sugar (I like to use organic fair-trade evaporated cane juice). Stir in 1 cup of whole milk that’s been warmed up slightly, 1 beaten egg, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1 and ½ tsp. salt. To this add the yeast-water mixture. Gradually stir in 4 to 5 cups bread flour (up to half whole-wheat), changing the stirring to kneading once necessary. Knead 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, wipe dough all over with butter, cover, and set aside for one hour.

Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon. Set aside. Soften another stick (1/2 cup) butter and set aside.

When the dough has risen, gently push it down, and begin to stretch and pull it to fit an 11″ × 15″ baking sheet. Take your time and push it down evenly. Using a pastry brush (or your clean fingers), spread softened butter all over the dough, except for the long side that is farthest from you, leaving a 1″×15″ strip CLEAN.

Then carefully spread the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Roll up from bottom edge loosely — not firmly — and use the “clean” edge to seal up the roll. Saw the log very gently with a serrated knife into 1.5 inch pieces; it helps to score the log lightly before you cut. Lay the slices almost touching in a buttered 9″ × 13″ pan.

Cover and allow the rolls to rise for an hour.

While you wait, make the frosting by creaming together 2 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract.

When the rolls have risen again, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Tip onto a large plate immediately, and when slightly cooled, spread with frosting. Yum.

Eat them with friends! And coffee! And JOY!

you NEED to make these cookies!

This is what my mom and I will be baking this weekend, as the week ahead holds the traditional cookie-exchange parties and other standard church-lady get-togethers. It is a seriously yummy cookie–almost chewy-brownie-like, yet still a cookie–perfect with a glass of milk.

It’s kind of like:+ (PLUS) +

YUM.

I brought some to the library (to thank them for their unending patience with my unending interlibrary loan piles) and to A.’s violin teacher (also a fount of unending patience.) Plus, Tim took some to work.

(And I may or may not have eaten one with milk before dinner. Don’t tell.)

And so:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

1 cup of butter

3/4 cup of brown sugar

3/4 cup of white granulated sugar

When light and fluffy, beat in thoroughly:

1 large egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Meanwhile, blend together with a wire whisk IN A SEPARATE BOWL:

1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

3/4 cup of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Pinch of salt

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just blended–do not overbeat.

Fold in:

1 cup of peppermint bark, whirled a few times in the food processor

(For the bark, you can substitute 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate and 1/2 cup broken peppermint stick pieces)

Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart. Bake in center of oven for 6 minutes, rotate pan, bake another 6 minutes.
Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

{Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies. Inspired, as many things are, by Elise @ Simply Recipes.}

MAKE SOME TODAY!

In Which I’m a “Good Girl”

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook has a classic recipe for French pots de crème [say "po de khrehm"] a delicious, airy, not-too-sweet chocolate mousse. I made it for Mr. and Mrs. S a few weeks ago and again on Saturday as the finish to a meal of green beans and pasta with meat sauce.

Actually, despite what Fannie says, I think these are not true pots de crème–according to the Wikipedia article, pots de crème are baked in a water bath, like a custard. These are, I think, mousse au chocolat. Oh, well. Fannie was not necessarily known for her command of French cuisine.

Any Francophiles want to weigh in on this? Nora?

Whatever you call it, this stuff is good. Fair warning, though: they contain copious amounts of raw egg. I’m pretty comfortable eating raw stuff–provided that I know it has come from a clean environment–but I don’t feed it to my kids.

Which means more for me, hooray!

Oh, yes. And the “conscience” part. Mousse au Chocolat or pots de crème or whatever you call them typically call for melted chocolate. Yes, I could buy fair trade chocolate bars (see yesterday’s post) but I didn’t have any on hand. What I do have is some lovely fair trade organic Dutch-process cocoa, which we use for making chocolate birthday cakes and hot chocolate.

{here are some cocoa farmers in Uganda who are able to make a living wage selling their beans for a fair price.}

And it can be used to make mousse au chocolat, too!

Maybe not the classic recipe or technique, but it sure was good, especially with super-fresh farm eggs. Be sure your cocoa is Dutch-process–it makes a big difference; it’s milder and much, much smoother.

[Mrs. S. said: "This was delicious. You're a good girl."]

Well, shoot. Just when I think I’ve given to someone who can’t repay, she goes and does just that.

Here’s my recipe:

Melt together over low heat:

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons fair-trade Dutch process cocoa powder

6 tablespoons sugar (fair trade!)

2 tablespoons water

Meanwhile, separate:

4 eggs

Beat the whites until stiff and glossy and set aside.

Beat the yolks until very thick and lemon-colored, and then beat in the cooled, melted chocolate mixture. Beat in:

1 teaspoon each of vanilla extract and rum or brandy

Gently, gently, gently fold in the whites. Spoon into small cups or glasses (about 1/2 cup in each). Chill, covered, for 12 hours.

Serves 4-6

And Now For Something Sweet (with a Recipe)

I do believe yesterday’s post ruffled a few feathers out there.

It’s true that my primary allegiance isn’t to the Republican party, or the Democratic party, or even to these United States of America. When it comes down to it, my primary identity isn’t “American,” even though that’s what my passport says.

My primary identity is “Christian.” As a Christian–a follower of Christ–my sense of justice for “the least of these” is offended by such things as giving advertisers unfettered access to impressionable children.

End of story, for now. On to something much less controversial and much, much sweeter.

Caramel apples.

Oh, yes. It is apple season. Just after went apple picking some weeks ago, we had an occasion that demanded some dessert. I too tired to make another apple pie, and was all set to make brownies and THEN! Then I remembered that an easy, fun apple dessert could be had by slicing up some apples, tossing them with lemon juice and serving them alongside some caramel, like so:

Salted Caramel Dip

(adapted from a recipe by Chef Claudia Fleming)

Place in a large saucepan:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup (no, it’s not the same as HFCS)

Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until mixture turns a dark amber (about 10-15 minutes.)

Carefully whisk in (the mixture will hiss and bubble–be careful!)

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/8-1/4 tsp. sea salt

and whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Oh, come on. You’re not going to tell me that this is unhealthy, are you? What about all the apples?

Besides, look at those ingredients again. Do they look a little better than this?

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SKIM MILK, CORN SYRUP, PALM OIL, SUGAR, BUTTER (CREAM, SALT), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE),TBHQ (ADDED TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS), ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.

{I love that they call it “old fashioned.” Because anything old-fashioned clearly had to have TBHQ–a form of butane, by the way–”to maintain freshness”}

That’s what I thought.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chiffon Pie in a Coconut-Chocolate Shell (Gluten Free!)

So I know I said yesterday that I would try and post a recipe for pain au chocolat today. And, dear readers, I tried. But I simply could not make time in my day to make a batch of pain au chocolat and take pictures of the process so that it would be clear.

If you are dying to make your very own pain au chocolat, this recipe looks to be a very good one, but to be clear, it is quite different from mine. Mine is a very simple puff paste (from the 11th ed. of Fannie Farmer) cut into about a 4″ by 6″ rectangle, sprinkled with good-quality chocolate, then rolled up, starting at one of the 4″ sides. This one is slightly fancier, but the basic technique is quite similar.

Instead, I’d like to share the recipe for chocolate chiffon pie in a coconut-chocolate shell. It’s the dessert I made last week for Mr. & Mrs. S, to finish off their steak dinner.

CookThink defines a “chiffon pie” as a “light, airy pie made with gelatin and beaten egg whites.” And that’s just what this is.

For the crust:

Melt in a double boiler (or two pots that can nest, see below!)

2 squares chocolate

2 TB butter

my improvised "double boiler." sorry, kinda blurry.

Mix together:

2/3 cup powdered sugar

3 TB hot water

Add this to the chocolate mixture, and stir in:

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

With your hands, press into an 8″ pie shell. Chill in freezer 1 hour.

While the shell chills:

Separate:

4 eggs

Put in a heavy saucepan:

1 and 1/2 cups milk

1 envelope PLAIN gelatine

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

Add the egg yolks to the milk mixture and beat with beater to blend thoroughly. Cook and stir over low heat until slightly thickened; add:

2 ounces melted chocolate

Beat to incorporate fully and remove from heat. Add:

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chill until thickened slightly further.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks–as if for a meringue. GENTLY fold beaten whites into the custard mixture–you want there to be plenty of air bubbles, and yes, it will look a little strange–bubbly-like.

Drizzle very gently with melted chocolate and use a knife to make designs:

Spoon gently into pie shell, and chill at least 2 hours, or until firm.

There are seemingly endless variations on the basic chiffon technique, which is the milk custard folded with whipped egg whites and held together with gelatine. It’s kind of an old-fashioned pie–and I can see how some might be nervous because it does include undercooked eggs. Ooh, but it’s yummy. Some of the variations include:

Coffee Chiffon Pie, Eggnog Chiffon Pie, Lemon Chiffon Pie, Orange Chiffon Pie, and Strawberry Chiffon Pie–perfect for fitting into any season or menu.

Yum!

Have a good Sunday, dear readers! I’ll try and get a pain au chocolat recipe to you sooner rather than later…