Tag Archives: easy

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

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

Better Banana Bread

banana breadAh banana bread, the ubiquitous go-to dessert of all home bakers- right after chocolate chip cookies.  Banana bread is great because it easy, beloved by all, and requires virtually no baking utensils.  The other great thing about banana bread is that it is easy to “play” with the recipe.

When people find out that I am a baker I almost always get this question, “So, uh, baking is really precise right?” After which said person usually explains to me that they love cooking because there is no precision and that baking requires too much technique.  Well, my friends, I beg to differ! Baking does require precision in its elements. (e.g. amount of liquid to protein to fat to sugar). But, if you understand how these ingredients interact with each other you can play with them all you like. I don’t want to make this post into a lengthy tutorial but I would like to briefly review the role each ingredient plays in banana bread.

SUGAR

Sugar is integral to a baked product in many ways such as adding flavor or aiding to build structure.  But the key thing to remember about sugar is that it is hygroscopic. This means that sugar attracts water.  Adding more sugar can think out a batter since the sugar pulls water away from other ingredients (like flours and proteins).   So you can remove sugar from a product for dietary reasons but remember that it will change the consistency of the product.

FAT

Fat helps to emulsify ingredients together and add flavor.  Butter, of course, is one of my favorite fats but fat can come from other places too like oils or nuts.  Butter also softens dough and develops the crumb or structure of the product.

FLOUR

Flour adds strength and bulk to a product. It absorbs liquids and adds flavor. Flour also adds gluten which can toughen a baked product.  Gluten is desirable in breads and less desirable in cookies and cakes where one would like a tender, soft crumb.

LEAVENING

Banana bread calls for baking soda so that is the only leavening ingredient I will discuss here.  Baking soda reacts with an acid when moisture is present and is a mild leavening agent.  In the case of banana bread, the baking soda is reacting with the mild acidity in the bananas.  (Bananas have a pH of about 5).  Be careful when playing around with baking soda- add too much and you coulld give your product a chemical taste.  If you want to create a super soft banana bread you can add 1/8 cup of buttermilk or two tbsp of sour cream.  These acids will react with the baking soda in the recipe resulting in a tender crumb.

Now that you know the basics, play around! And if you are looking for even more detail on baking terminology check out this site.  Below is my banana bread, created after some careful tweaking.  I would love to hear back from you about your experiments and adventures with banana bread. Message me and let me know what you have learned!

CHRISSY’S EASY MIX BANANA BREAD

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup nuts toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (optional)

Mash bananas and mix with melted butter, egg, vanilla paste, and granulated sugar. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into the wet (do not overmix).  Add your optional ingredients if you like at this time.  Spray or grease a small metal loaf pan.  Pour in banana bread batter and bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes until golden brown.