Monthly Archives: September 2015

How to Make Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rollsI love Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Have you ever woken up in the morning and just craved a cinnamon roll? Most people have at one point or another.  Even Lemony Snicket was once quoted as saying ‘Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.’  And, well, if Lemony Snicket says it, then it must be true.  I remember when I was in high school and it was a really big deal for me to get the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and bake them off before driving to school.  I would eat it, still hot, while turning into the school parking lot and savor that gooey sweetness. Then five minutes later, I would have a sugar crash in homeroom.  As I got older, I yearned to make my own cinnamon rolls and once I graduated from culinary school I had really learned how.  The process we used in culinary school had a few more steps so I have developed a quicker version for those who are impatient to begin eating immediately!!!  But before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about why so few of us take the trouble to make cinnamon rolls.  More commonly than not it is because people are scared of yeast

How does yeast work and why is it so scary?

For those of you who do not already know, yeast is a microorganism of the class, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Yeast is also very hungry which means it needs to be fed.  It consumes sugar and then gives off carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Yeast loves temperatures right around 90 degrees F and, in fact, it thrives at this temperature.  By combining yeast with a warm liquid and a bit of sugar it will grow and be happy and make your yeast products rise and become fluffy and tasty.  But if you should happen to kill your yeast by exposing it to temperatures over 120 degrees F then the yeast will be quite grumpy and sad and your cinnamon rolls will be hard lumpy hockey pucks. Grumpy yeast is what people are more scared of than anything.   But not to fear! I will teach you some easy simple methods for ensuring that your yeast is always happy and stays happy throughout the baking process.

Dough Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour, have more on hand if needed
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast (7 g)
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a stand mixer bowl (flour, salt, sugar, yeast). Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 15 seconds until combined.  Heat milk to about 90 degrees in the microwave. You should be able to comfortable slide your pinky finger into the liquid and it feels warm and pleasant (like a bath) and not scalding hot.  If you burn your finger the milk is definitely too hot!
  2. Add milk, eggs and vanilla paste to mixture. Combine slowly for about 1 minute and then crank the mixer up to medium speed and mix for about 4 minutes.  Add the softened butter and mix until the butter gets absorbed into the dough (about 1 minute).  Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.  The dough should be sticky but it should not be mush in the bowl.  If it is not forming a nice round ball then you should keep mixing.
  3. Scrape the bowl down (dough included) and sprinkle flour on top of and underneath the dough to prevent it from sticking.
  4. Now you need to cover the dough and put it in a warm place to rise. (An unlighted oven, near a warm sunny window, etc. Treat the dough like it is a living thing because it is!!! If the environment where you are placing your dough feels too hot for you than it is probably too hot for the dough. Again, ideal temperatures need to be around 90 and should stay around 90 throughout this process. That’s not to say that it can’t get a bit cooler (it will just slow the yeast growth).  But it definitely should not ever get hotter than 120 degrees F.  This will keep your yeast happy.  And remember, happy yeast = fluffy cinnamon rolls.
  5. Allow the yeast to double in volume for 1 to 2 hours. This is rest time for you but activity time for your yeast because it is going to grow and grow and consume sugar and turn it into fluffy dough.  What should you do for those 2 hours?

Activites to Do While Yeast is Rising

  1. Constantly and nervously check on the yeast every 15 minutes to make sure it is rising. (I am guilty of this myself)
  2. Go for a long run so you can neutralize the calories you will shortly ingest from your homemade cinnamon roll.
  3. Do one and a half loads of laundry.
  4. Clean your home.
  5. Get on Facebook and tell everyone how you are making cinnamon rolls for the first time. Yay!

You can also make your Cinnamon Filling!!!!

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon.

Combine all ingredients together in a mixer and whip with the paddle attachment until soft and fluffy.

Finishing Your Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Remove dough from its warm resting place and punch it down with your fist. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle until it is about ¼ inch thick.
  2. Spread the cinnamon filling you just made all over your dough.
  3. Roll the dough long-ways into a log and pinch the seam tightly together. Use a sharp knife to cut the cinnamon rolls as big or as small as you like.
  4. Grease a 9 by 9 metal tin with butter or Canola spray and lay the cinnamon rolls cut side down into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until poofy. About 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until brown sugar is bubbling and cinnamon roll is golden brown.

Make Icing While Cinnamon Rolls are Baking

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water (or more) if icing is not fluid.
  1. Combine sugar and water in a bowl and stir rapidly with a spoon to form an icing. You can add more sugar to make it thicker or more water to make it thinner.

Finish the Cinnamon Rolls

While the cinnamon rolls are still hot from the oven, drizzle the icing all over them with a spoon.  And you now have a homemade cinnamon roll. Congratulations! If your yeast is being naughty or you have any questions about how to make yeast products please let me know!

cinnamon roll

cinnnamon roll

Donald Trump Cupcakes

I was walking through the mall the other day and I asked my friend “Who do you think is going to win the Republican primary?” She repsonded by saying that she disliked politics and couldn’t wait for the whole election to be over so that she didn’t have to hear about it on the news or see the Facebook wars over which candidate was better.  Hmmm, I thought- a similar sentiment for many Americans who decline to get involved in any level of political turmoil.

Almost immediately I asked her if she had seen the article about Donald Trump refusing to eat Oreos now that Mondalez, the company  that manufactures them, has moved the main manufacturing facility to Mexico. This decision was apparently made after executives learned it would be $46 million cheaper to move the plant to Mexico instead of leaving the production in Chicago where it currently resides.  Donald Trump actually loves Oreos by the way, so not eating them was a huge decision for him.

Hmmm, I thought again.  What better way to start a politically charged argument than to make the most politically charged cupcake I could think of- a Donald Trump cupcake.  And yes, I did decide to use Oreos for the eyes.  And yes, it is ironic. Enjoy the irony and the deliciousness that is, the Donald Trump cupcake.  Delicious cupcake recipe courtesy of The Cake Bible.  Delicious orange Trump hair and big eyes courtesy of Donald Trump- my favorite Republican candidate that we love to be astounded by (and yet secretly delight in all of the half truths he proclaims about America).  Your welcome Republican party for this extra publicity.

(Donald) Trump Your Cupcake!!!

Cupcake

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 10.5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder

Icing/Finishing

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • oreo halves
  • 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1 drop yellow food coloring
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in mixing bowl and mix for 15 seconds.
  2. Add cream to dry ingredients and then add butter and beat for 2 minutes to aerate, scraping down sides occasionally. Add vanilla paste.
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time beating and scraping down between additions
  4. Fill a piping bag with the batter.
  5. Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Pipe the batter evenly into the tin to fill all the cupcake liners.
  6. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. While cooling mix butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl at high speed to make icing.
  9. Take out about 1/4 cup icing and mix in food coloring.
  10. Fill piping bag with mahogany colored icing.
  11. Cut off top of cooled cupcake.  Spread icing on one edge of cupcake and then get two oreo halves (used for eyes) to prop up the lid of the cupcake. Wedge the other side of the lid into the cupcake so that it sticks.
  12. Pipe the orange icing on top of the cupcake for that signature “Trump” look.
  13. Voila, you have “trumped” your cupcake.  20150918_204917

 

Apple Tart in Less Than 30 Minutes

 

apple tart
Apple Tart

I am not sure about you, but sometimes I just want to impress a friend or a boyfriend or just make a treat for myself.  I might have an urge to bake but I am short on time or feeling lazy and yet I still want my Martha Stewart fix for the day.  On days like that, I skip making the dough part of my apple tart and gasp! I buy frozen puff pastry.

Those who know me, know that not only do I always make my own puff pastry dough but I am the first one to discuss the increase of flavor in the homemade version.  Not to mention the fact that banging out some butter on the counter for homemade puff pastry is therapeutic to say the least.  But sometimes one just does not have time to fit in all the folds required to make the homemade dough. Or maybe you were late remembering that event where you were volunteered to bring a “homemade” dessert and you feel guilted into throwing at least something together. In any of these instances this fall beauty is a recipe for you.  In other posts I will talk about how to make your own puff pastry (from scratch!) .  But this post is dedicated to those of you don’t have much time and still want to get your baking fix.

But first, a short story that shows just how popular an easy dessert can be.  Once I had to entertain a group of ladies for a dessert luncheon.  I made many a complicated pastry- hazelnut torte, macarons, ganache tarts, and then I threw in the apple tart at the end.  Everyone simply clamoured for the apple tart like it was the last dessert left on the planet.  I don’t know if it’s the buttery richness of the puff dough or the fact that eating fruit on a dessert can make some people feel like they are eating a “healthy” dessert but that tart simply vanished.  And I got so many requests for the recipe. I knew then that I had hit a gold mine with this quick and fabulous apple recipe.  And here it is! Good luck amazing your friends and astounding their taste buds!

Active Time: 25 minutes

Bake Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Apple Tart

  • One package frozen puff pastry dough
  • 4-5 granny smith apples, peeled
  • 1/2 jar apricot preserves
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  1. Roll out one sheet of frozen puff pastry to fit a 12×8 rectangular baking pan (or whatever size you own that fits closely). Press it to fit in the rectangular baking sheet.  The sides should just come over the edges of the tin. Trim the excess.
  2. Prick the bottom of the puff pastry dough all over with a fork.  (This will prevent the bottom of the tart from puffing up in the oven).
  3. Chill the sheet and puff pastry dough for at least 30 minutes. (This relaxes the gluten in the dough).
  4. While the dough is chilling thinly slice the apples.  I like to cut the apples in half after coring them and slice them thinly along the cross section of the apple.
  5. Remove puff dough from the fridge and line the apples in the tart pan.  Arrange them neatly for a pretty finish.
  6. Cut the butter in small pieces and and sprinkle over the tart.  Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the apples.  Squeeze the half lemon on top of the apples to prevent them from browning.
  7. Bake tart for about 40 to 50 minutes in a 400 F oven until crust is golden brown and apples are cooked down.
  8. While the tart is still hot heat the apricot jam gently in the microwave.  It should just be warm, not boiling hot.  You can mix a bit of whiskey or brandy in with the jam at this point.  Use a spoon to gently spread the jam over top of the apples.
  9. Allow to cool and serve with freshly whipped cream. Bon Appetit!

apple tart

Secrets of Shortbread

shortbread
Heart-shaped Shortbread

As a pastry chef, I frequently get asked “What is your favorite dessert?”.  Well the answer is that I have many favorites! Of course, I am a pastry chef and get to eat delectable treats all day.  To say that I have a favorite is like asking a mother which child she prefers.  But, I will say that after spending many hours completing intricate wedding cakes or piping the perfect mousse, simplicity is often my favorite trait in a dessert.  And one of the simplest (and most delightful) desserts I can think of is shortbread.

Shortbread is all about the butter which of course I love.  The name literally describes the short gluten strands that are created in the cookie by greasing the flour up with butter.  But, it isn’t just the butter that makes this cookie fabulous.  It is that it is so simple and yet it goes with anything.  You can dress it up by dipping it in chocolate or adorning it with nuts.  You can crumble it and top a tart.  Or, like me, you can have it with a cup of tea and enjoy it while pondering over your day’s activities.  Which method will you choose? 🙂

Shortbread (From Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book)

  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 90 g sugar
  • 2 salt
  • 6 g vanilla paste
  • 270 g all purpose flour
  • extra sugar for dusting the cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer using the paddle attachment for 2-3  minutes until butter is soft, light, pale, and fluffy.  Add salt and vanilla paste.  Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix for 1 more minute.
  2. Add flour.  Mix slowly until the dough just starts to come together and then dump the contents on the counter and knead the ingredients into a dough.
  3. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (this will keep the dough from sticking and you will not need additional flour).  You can bang on the dough a bit with the rolling pin to soften it before rolling it.
  5. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and then cut into 2×1 rectangles.  I also like to cut my shortbread into hearts.  (This can be very elegant later if you decide to dip half the heart into chocolate).
  6. Place cut cookies onto cookie tray with at least 1/2 inch between them.
  7. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
  8. Chill cookies for at least 1 hour to relax the gluten.
  9. Bake cookies at 325 F for 15-18 minutes until they are a pale golden brown.
  10. Enjoy! 🙂