Dreamsicle Cupcakes, or Why Your Friends Can Make or Break You

Who doesn’t love the yummy deliciousness that is the combination of orange and vanilla? And to make it even more awesome, what about orange, vanilla, and chocolate?! I do believe they’re called Dreamsicles because they’re obviously the stuff dreams are made of.

Orange. Vanilla. Delightfulness. BOOM!

Orange. Vanilla. Delightfulness. BOOM!

Recently, I was asked to bring cupcakes to two events that would take place only 3 days apart. Sir and I are about to embark on a move that’ll take us to the other side of the world from New England. Yes. We are moving to Hawaii. Why? Because Navy, that’s why. We’re getting down to the final 3 weeks and I’m refusing to buy food unless we can absolutely eat all of it. That way we’re forced to use all of the food in our pantry and fridge. Hopefully there will be very little waste. But that is how this bright little light bulb came to be.

We had a bushel of mandarin oranges in the fruit drawer of our fridge. I had a crap ton of flour and sugar and butter. I bought some extremely superior cocoa. AND I make my own vanilla extract. They all add up to Dreamsicle Cupcakes!!! (Feel free to applaud.)

I brought them to my husband’s family gathering and got very good reactions and opinions and knew I’d be bringing them to the second event–a work party for my husband. Apparently, sending him to work with dozens of cupcakes every couple of weeks has put my baking in demand with his coworkers. Remind me to tell you about the Fourth of July Stars and Stripes Cupcakes I made. Here’s a preview:

Stars and Stripes Cupcakes!

Stars and Stripes Cupcakes!

Or check out my Navy Cammo Cupcakes!

So much blue food colouring!

So much blue food colouring!

Or my Neapolitan Cupcakes!!!

Neapolitan. Is it really from Naples though?

Neapolitan. Is it really from Naples though?

Anyways. Yes yes, I’m a cupcake baking fool. Lately, I seem to be cooking fun things like this without remembering to take pictures for my blog. This time, I knew ahead of time that I wanted to write about this orange-vanilla-chocolate wonderfulness. I was determined to be a more regular blogger. But unfortunately, life had slightly different plans for me.

Our washing machine broke last week. I’m no longer certain about the cleanliness of the clothing that came out of it in the weeks leading up to the break. We scheduled a maintenance guy from Sears to come out and my plan was to bake while he fixed. Except I suddenly had to go to the grocery store. I was in need of oranges and eggs and butter and sugar. Except I couldn’t go because I just knew that if I left the house, that’d be the moment Mr. Fix-the-Washing-Machine would show up at my door. So what’s a girl to do? Would I have to show up to the dinner party sans cupcakes?! In desperation, I texted my most dependable friend.

Me: “Do your plans for today involve being on my side of town? Because I could use your help…”

Her: “I’m already on my way over!”

Me: (thinking to myself) How did she know that I’m that desperate? Can she just sense it?

In walks Jane*

Say Hi Jane*

Say Hi Jane*

*Her name isn’t really Jane. I changed that for the story.

Anyways, almost as soon as she came by, Mr. Fix-It called to say he was 5 minutes away. So I sent her to the store for oranges and eggs.

Sigh. And then I found out that I was in need of one more stick of butter. JUST ONE. Grrrr. So I called and texted her but she missed my messages while she was at the store and she graciously walked in my house with the oranges and back out to get butter. And then we made chit chat for a while. I baked. She sat and watched and we gossiped. Mr. Washing-Machine-Fixer-Upper came out and said that for the price to fix our washing machine, we could just buy another one. No, seriously:

All the money. All of it.

All the money. All of it.

So. Naturally, I was distracted while cooking and after I was done mixing the icing and chocolate cupcakes, I found out that I was entirely out of sugar and still needed to make vanilla cupcakes. To her credit, when I said “You’ll never believe me, but we have to go to the store again” she just said “OK let’s go, I’m driving.”

Anyways, my point in telling you all of this is that sometimes, you need that most awesome of friends, your loyal sidekick of an awesome bestie. Who else would go to the grocery store three times just for cupcakes that you weren’t planning to give them? Sometimes you can’t be awesome unless they’re awesome first. Her awesomeness inspires your own.

Chocolate and Vanilla Tulip Cupcakes. Frosting to come...

Chocolate and Vanilla Tulip Cupcakes. Frosting to come…

And here is the part you probably actually clicked on this blog to read: my recipes and tips.

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 2 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 packet vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with cupcake liners. (My fav are made out of parchment paper: observe:

Best. Liners. EVER!

Best. Liners. EVER!

Combine all dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Whisk together until very well mixed. Add shortening, milk, and vanilla slowly while mixer beats at low speed. Scrape bowl and mix on low speed. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing about 30 more seconds to beat in between first and second egg. Turn to high speed and mix about 1 minute. Distribute batter evenly into cups. (If you’re using these awesome liners, they hold more batter, but I still got over a dozen cupcakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks and then frost when completely cool.


Seriously Yummy Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding mix (dry)
  • 1 cup hot strong coffee
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Combine all dry ingredients, whisk together until mixed very thoroughly.

While beating on low, pour in milk slowly.

Then add vegetable oil, eggs individually, and vanilla, all separately and slowly.

Mix on medium speed about 30 seconds and then reduce back to low speed and slowly (even slower if you can) pour in the hot coffee.

Beat on high about 1 minute.

Distribute evenly into muffin tin cups and bake 20-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks and frost when completely cool.


Orange Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. orange zest
  • 3-4 tbsp. orange juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/8 – ¼ cup milk or cream
  • Red and yellow food colouring

With the wire whisk attachment, beat the softened butter on medium speed about 1 minute. Add orange zest and juice while beating on low. Scrape bowl often. Turn off the beater. Add one quarter of the powdered sugar. Turn the beaters back on for 2 second bursts, literally, to incorporate sugar without making it fly around everywhere. Then turn speed up to medium. Then keep adding the sugar in 3 more batches the same way. Add cream or milk as needed if the icing becomes too thick. You want it thick but not like concrete. Add two drops of red food colouring and 3 drops of yellow. I like the gel form but the little liquid cups that look kind of like garden gnomes work well too. Mix on high and stop and scrape once or twice as needed.


These are seriously the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. And you’ve seen me make awesome cupcakes. All your family and friends will be begging you for these for every event you attend!!!!

A few tips:

Use Dutch cocoa if you can. You will be very thankful. Your tastebuds will LOVE you. I order mine from Penzey’s. Memo to me: find out of Penzey’s delivers to Hawaii…

Dutch cocoa doesn't mean this is from Holland. It refers to the process of making it.

Dutch cocoa doesn’t mean this is from Holland. It refers to the process of making it.

A new trick I’ve come up with for pouring batter too will change your life. I’ve been baking cupcakes since I was like 12 and I’ve always made a mess with spoons and ice cream scoops. USE A MEASURING CUP!!!

Make pouring batter easy!

Make pouring batter easy!

Don’t let your husband eat the icing until after you’ve frosted all of the cupcakes too…by the way.

I'd say Sir likes the orange vanilla icing.

I’d say Sir likes the orange vanilla icing.

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Creamy Chicken Jalapeno Taquitos, or Punchy Chicken Wraps

How’s about two posts in one day to make up for weeks and weeks of nothing at all? I hope that will do well for you.

One of my favourite things in this whole wide world is when my Sir likes the food I cook. I have a system of measuring his enjoyment. Very rarely will he say that something is good or bad or his favourite or that he’d prefer I throw it out the backdoor in protest. If he’s starving and still has trouble cleaning his plate, he doesn’t like it. If he goes for seconds (or thirds) he loves it. If he REQUESTS it, it’s a favourite. This is one of Sir’s favourites.

I got this one from Pinterest here, but adapted it slightly for our tastes.

A few tips:

I recommend using chicken breast cutlets. They’re sliced thinly so they cook very quickly in a crock pot, and then you can take them out and pull them with two forks and leave them to cook the rest of the time. Easy peasy.

Don’t add the jalapeno juice (if you’re using them pickled from a jar) unless you’re prepared for the salty vinegar-y taste that will bring. I added them without the juice first and then added about 1/3 cup of juice afterwards.

Single cream is a beautiful invention that I’ve really only seen in British recipes, along with double cream. Luckily I can find both here in Connecticut, in a special grocery store that carries it from The Brooklyn Creamery Company, see their website. If you can get this stuff, USE IT. If not, I’ve substituted sour cream and heavy cream, but this stuff is better for cooking!! (I wonder if they’d ship it out to me in Hawaii…)

Don’t add any salt until the very end, because cheddar cheese is salty and you’ll be adding that near the end.

I used the onion & chive cream cheese too, because I had some left. So I combined the regular and the onion kind and it worked out nicely. I’m not gonna lie. I did not measure it out. But each was about half of a little tub. (Helpful?)

20150907_173258

OK. Here’s the recipe now.

INGREDIENTS
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, frozen or thawed
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup single cream
  • 1 cup jarred whole or sliced jalapeños
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch mixed in about 1/2 cup water (if you need it to thicken)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese and 2 more cups, divided out (or you could use whatever cheese you want. Muenster is good.)
  • 10 medium tortillas (I prefer flour but maybe try them with corn and tell me how you liked them!)

Set up your slow cooker with a plastic liner. I have made these three times now. The first time, there was no liner and it took me ages to clean the bowl of my cooker. The second time, I used a liner and it was glorious. Tonight, I forgot to add the liner until I had already added my ingredients and thus I face-palmed at my own stupidity. Don’t be stupid like me.

Add the plain water, cream cheese, jalapenos, single cream, garlic, cumin, and chicken to the cooker. Turn to high and cook for 3 hours or on low for about 6 hours (your cooker time may be different.) I stirred it every once in a while.

About two hours or so in, the chicken was cooked through so I moved it to a plastic cutting board and started shredding it between two forks. Then move it back into the cooker.

It will look like this after a while:

20150907_171359

Now here you have another choice. If it’s dinner time and the chicken is all cooked the way you like it, go ahead and move to the part where you fill the tortillas. If not, change the temperature of the cooker from high to low (if you were on high to begin with.) If it needs to be thicker, add the corn starch and water mix. (Fun fact, corn starch mixes best in room temperature water.) Stir that in and let it sit for a few minutes.

Add the cup of cheese to the cooker and stir it so it melts nicely. THEN see if you need any salt. I did not, but you may like it saltier.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with tin foil and nonstick spray. Heat your tortilla shells in the microwave for about 30 seconds so they’re a bit easier to work with. Set up an assembly line so you can work efficiently. (My assembly line includes Sir rolling the tortilla shells up because he does that better than I do.)

Sprinkle cheddar cheese on each tortilla shell. It should be a reasonably small amount, since you also have cheese in the chicken, but you don’t want the chicken to make it greasy and soak through the tortilla. Spoon a little bit of the chicken on the shell, near the edge so that it is easier to roll. Roll tightly and place on the cookie sheet. We had extra cheese so we sprinkled it on the top of the shells for baking.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. My oven had them done perfectly in 10 minutes, and I made them even more perfect with less than 2 minutes under a low broiler. (Our smoke detector went off at this point, not sure why.)

I also paired it with my version of a Greek salad. I am still working on recreating the salad dressing from my favourite Greek restaurant in Jacksonville, but I’m coming close. That’ll be a great blog post, when I figure it out.

20150907_174621

Cinnamon Buns, as WAFFLES!!

It’s been a while since my last recipe post. Forgive me. I’ve been doing some wonderful things in my kitchen, but I haven’t remembered to snap photos through my process. Sometimes I don’t think of my blog until I’m sitting down eating my creation. I’ll do better. Soon. (I’m about to move to Hawaii, thank you Navy, but I’ll sincerely try to keep up better.)

A few mornings ago, I decided to try cooking my cinnamon buns in my waffle iron. You guys. It was beautiful. Angels sang to me from on high. Tears welled up in my eyes. It was the easiest thing EVER. Observe:

20150907_102947 20150907_103232

When I say EASY, I truly mean EASY. (Unless you don’t have these things handy, in which case, GET THEM!)

Start with the store-bought Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns. I like the ones with the butter cream frosting, because I don’t like cream cheese frosting. Eh. Any will do.

20150907_101901

I pulled them apart and put them on a paper plate next to me for easy access. And easy cleanup. But then they fit nicely on each of the grills. I made these so that they make individual quarters but you can mush them closer together and they look like a whole Belgian waffle.

20150907_102338

Then I closed and turned the lid and left them to cook for about 2 and a half minutes. Your own iron may be different, but the definitely do not need very much time. They’re a dough, not a batter, so they cook very quickly.

While I was cooking my first round, I warmed up the icing. 30 seconds in the microwave was perfect.

20150907_102414

And then drizzled it on the quadrants with a spoon.

20150907_102648

Seriously. This is the best way to eat these cinnamon buns. Those dark spots on the “waffles” aren’t burnt pieces…they’re the cinnamon sugary stuff that come in the inside of the buns.

For the record, I’ve made my own cinnamon buns completely from scratch and found that they weren’t worth the effort. It made a HUGE mess and took me AGES and really, we enjoyed them just as much as the store-bought ones. No offense to Alton Brown, but I really think I’ll just stick to the Pillsbury ones.

Here they are again, in all their glory!!!

20150907_102947

Home. Made. Pop. Tarts. BOOM!

Do you ever get bored and just think to yourself, “Well I guess I’ll bake something to pass the time” ? That is how this little feature happened. I woke up one day with nothing to do and no where to be and thus, I have home made pop tarts in my freezer now. **Side Note** I began writing this blog post two days ago and JUST as I was about to publish it, somehow the whole thing disappeared. I was so disappointed that I’d have to start from scratch that I’ve only just now been able to bring myself to write it all up again. I just hope I’m as funny this time around as I was before. And now, to begin:

If there is one thing my faithful readers will know about me it is that I absolutely adore Alton Brown. He’s a Food Network personality, hosting cooking shows and cooking game shows all over the place. There’s an excellent reason why he’s THE food TV guy: Alton Brown knows EVERYTHING about food. In his own cooking shows, he tells us the recipes but he also tells us WHY we have to cook things the way we do. He gives us the science behind it and for some, that makes it easier to understand. I am grateful that he found a niche in the food/cooking show market because I have learned so much. Anyway, I found one of Alton Brown’s cookbooks (this one!) on sale on a website and I snapped it up a few weeks ago and inside it was a gold mine of fabulous tips, tricks, and recipes. “Pocket Pies” (or well, homemade PopTarts) started singing to me, sort of, and here we have them finally. They were not as easy as I was hoping they’d be, but I don’t think they were a terrible difficulty either. I have to say, it was worth the work and I will be making them again. I’m sure they’ll just get easier and easier each time.

As usual, read the whole recipe first, before you begin. Becoming familiar with it will help you get ahead in your cooking. Set out all of your ingredients beforehand too (the French gourmet types call this mise en place). On Mr. Brown’s tutelage, I’ve procured a food scale and I now measure my ingredients by weight, instead of by volume in most cases. It is more reliable this way.

I’m going to type out the recipe straight from Mr. Brown, but add my own photos and comments when I have something to show and tell. My little additions to the instructions are in a pretty red colour. Hopefully, your “PopTarts” will come out as yummy as mine!

Ingredients

22 ounces all-purpose flour (595 grams)
2 teaspoons baking powder (7 grams)
1/2 teaspoon salt (actually, volume is best here)
8 ounces sugar (227 grams)
6 ounces vegetable shortening (184 grams)
2 large eggs (just two…)
1/4 cup milk (volumetrically goes well for liquids…)
1 teaspoon vanilla (eh, I just eyeballed this to be honest)
1/2 cup jam, fruit butter, or preserves (we brought back some delish mixed berry preserves from our honeymoon to Scotland!)
1 large egg, plus 2 tablespoons of milk, for egg wash (OK, so three eggs)

Instructions

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside, like so:

Flour, baking powder, salt all nice and whisked.

Flour, baking powder, salt all nice and whisked.

2. Cream together the sugar and vegetable shortening on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light.

Shortening in my mixer first, cut into smaller pieces...

Shortening in my mixer first, cut into smaller pieces…

Added the sugar slowly to avoid a mess. Not sure why I tried so hard to avoid a mess. When all of this was finished, I had the biggest mess I'd ever seen on my hands...

Added the sugar slowly to avoid a mess. Not sure why I tried so hard to avoid a mess. When all of this was finished, I had the biggest mess I’d ever seen on my hands…

Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

You may need a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. It is important that the sugar and shortening are creamed together evenly so take your time and do it properly!

You may need a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. It is important that the sugar and shortening are creamed together evenly so take your time and do it properly!

Add the flour in three installments, alternating with three installments of the milk. Add the vanilla during the last milk installment.

Sloooowww drip of milk. Sooooo slooooooowwww

Sloooowww drip of milk. Sooooo slooooooowwww

3. Form the dough into a log and place widthwise onto 13 by 17 piece of parchment or waxed paper and fold over the paper.

My dough came out in a wad on my paddle so I balled it up on some parchment paper.

My dough came out in a wad on my paddle so I balled it up on some parchment paper.

Using a half-sheet pan as wedge, roll the dough into a log. I don’t have a half-sheet pan, so I made do without and it worked well.

I used my rolling pin to flatten my ball of dough out, and then started rolling it into a log shape.

I used my rolling pin to flatten my ball of dough out, and then started rolling it into a log shape.

Rolling it up in between the parchment pieces was easier than it would have been without...

Rolling it up in between the parchment pieces was easier than it would have been without it…

Parchment paper doesn't stick to the dough.

Parchment paper doesn’t stick to the dough.

This procedure tightens the log into a clean cylinder. Remove the waxed paper and slice dough into 16 two-inch rounds. I found a serrated knife worked best for cutting dough. Or if you have a fancy pastry cutter thingy, that’d work wonders too.

The finished dough log, with my handy serrated steak knife.

The finished dough log, with my handy serrated steak knife.

I thought I'd take a stab at being neat...so I plotted out where my cuts should be. In the end, it wasn't that necessary.

I thought I’d take a stab at being neat…so I plotted out where my cuts should be. In the end, it wasn’t that necessary.

Place on the half-sheet pan (or cookie sheet), cover, and chill for 1 hour. I used this hour to clean my kitchen and make lunch. You may choose to do other things. That’s cool.

Not bad...

Not bad…

4. Set two racks in the middle third of the oven and heat to 350 degrees F. (I just love that he tells us where the oven racks need to be placed for optimum cooking!)

5. After the dough has chilled, roll each round out to a 5 to 6-inch circle in between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Fold over the edges of each round to create a rectangle. Roll out the rectangle to about 1/4 inch thickness. Repeat with remaining rounds. This sounds super easy, right? Well my dough did not want to work this way. I found that when I folded edges, they’d break at the fold. So what’s a girl to do? I rolled each one out flat and then trimmed the rough edges away so they all made rectangles. No biggie…

My dough rolled out all crackly and irregularly shaped.

My dough rolled out all crackly and irregularly shaped.

6. Now match up the 16 rounds into 8 matching pairs. Brush one rectangle with the egg wash and top with 1 tablespoon of jam, fruit butter or preserves, spread into an even layer about 1/2 inch from the edge.

Make sure you have room to apply the egg/milk "glue" mixture around the edges, or the top dough won't stick as well! But you can't add TOO MUCH jelly, or it'll ooze out when you bake it. Precision is necessary here.

Make sure you have room to apply the egg/milk “glue” mixture around the edges, or the top dough won’t stick as well! But you can’t add TOO MUCH jelly, or it’ll ooze out when you bake it. Precision is necessary here.

Top with another pastry rectangle. Use a fork to seal the tart by pressing the tines long the edge.

Super easy step but SOOO important to make sure you don't go all the way through the dough. Just stop when the top layer fuses with the bottom layer.

Super easy step but SOOO important to make sure you don’t go all the way through the dough. Just stop when the top layer fuses with the bottom layer.

Gently dock the top of the tart with the fork.

Poke holes in the top BUT NOT THE BOTTOM piece of dough. The jelly has water in it so the steam needs to escape but you don't want it to ooze out the bottom either...

Poke holes in the top BUT NOT THE BOTTOM piece of dough. The jelly has water in it so the steam needs to escape but you don’t want it to ooze out the bottom either…

Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Repeat and bake!

Repeat and bake!

7. Bake for 25 minutes on a parchment paper lined half-sheet pan until the edges are just beginning to brown. Cool for 15 minutes on a cooling rack , then eat one with a glass of milk. The milk is very important. Cool the rest thoroughly than bag, label, and keep for a week. Or freeze them for a couple months, if you eat slowly that is. The leftovers can be re-heated in your friendly neighborhood toaster or toaster oven.

8. Yes, you could frost these, but I really don’t think that … Oh, okay. In a small bowl slowly whisk together 4 ounces of confectioner’s sugar into 2 tablespoons whole milk the paint on the front of the tarts. Allow to dry before stacking, storing and snarfing. I deviated slightly. Only slightly. I frosted the tarts in layers, letting each layer of frosting dry before adding more. Each one has three layers and they were FABULOUS! I might add sprinkles next time just to do it.

Ahhhh. The perfect "pop tart."

Ahhhh. The perfect “pop tart.”

My Latest Adventure (or I’m Sorry I Haven’t Posted in a While.)

I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog. I resolved to try to update more but the thing is, I actually find it difficult to take pictures while I’m cooking these fun things. It is for this reason that I choose to only upload recipes that I’ve tested several times over so that I know what I’m doing (good writers write about what they know, right?) Lately, it has been one thing after another. My husband was away for work for a couple weeks and I found that it is silly to cook so much when it is just me. Cereal for dinner? Sure thing! And then he came home and I’ve tried a few new things but no pictures for a blog post. I’ll get back in my groove soon. I am committed to updating more often though and will work on some new things for your cooking pleasure.

Earlier this week, I was sitting on the couch with my husband and I decided then and there that I would make cinnamon rolls from scratch. Unfortunately, I learned after perusing Pinterest, that you can’t just make and bake cinnamon rolls. They are a yeast dough, and as such, require a fair amount of resting. (The technical term is proofing.) It was already 8 o’clock in the evening when I made my decision and so I put it off until the weekend when I’d have the time to let everything rise properly. What follows is my best attempt with them and I hope you learn something.

Pinterest led me to a cook named Jo for this recipe (here!) and I read the whole thing through before I started. I encourage you to adopt this habit when trying something new. It should eliminate the element of surprise. (“Wait! I don’t have any powdered sugar! Why is it asking for powdered sugar all of a sudden?!?!”–Don’t worry, I had powdered sugar. I was just illustrating what could have gone terribly terribly wrong, had I not read the recipe before beginning.)

Anyway, Jo’s recipe photos looked yummy and I was eager to try it. We got snow up here in CT on the first day of Spring, so my husband was unfortunately shoveling the driveway. I figured they’d be finished by the time he was ready to come in for a warm snack. Let’s just say, I have learned a few tips for the next time I try these. I have not mastered this one. I’ll copy/paste the recipe part and then write my tips. This recipe was SO yummy, I just need to try again!

Cinnabon’s Cinnamon Rolls
Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 40 mins
Author: Jo
Serves: 12
Ingredients
Dough
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup margarine (I used butter)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
Filling
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup margarine, softened
Cream cheese icing
  • 6 tbsp margarine (I used butter)
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.
  2. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour to the bowl of a mixer and mix well.
  3. Pour the milk/yeast mixture in the bowl and using the dough hook, mix well until well incorporated.
  4. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx. 16 inches long by 12 inches wide.
  6. It should be approx. ¼ inch thick.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. To make filling, combine the butter, brown sugar, margarine and cinnamon in a bowl.
  9. Spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough. Alternatively you can spread the butter first on the dough and then the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  10. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge. My roll ended up being 18 inches in length, allowing me to cut each roll so that it’s 1½ inches in height.
  11. Cut the dough into 1½ inch slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan. You might find it easier if you use a piece of floss vs a knife. Place them in a baking pan, I used a 9×13 inches and cover them with a damp towel. Let them rise again for another 30 minutes until they double in size.
  12. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cooking time can vary greatly!
  13. While the rolls are baking make the icing but mixing all ingredients and beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  14. When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing.

OK. Seems doable right? Totally! Well I will just recommend a few tips. Make sure your butter is melted or softened as needed ahead of time. If that means you need to plan ahead, then make your preparations as necessary. Don’t stick your butter near the vent of your oven (or in the oven!) as you’re preheating, or else you will have a mess. I may just try margarine next time because it’ll already be softened. I know I said I read the recipe but I thought I could just wing it and do the butter as it was proofing. Nope. Winging it was not my best plan.

Rolling my dough was the most arduous part of this process for me. I couldn’t get a good quarter of it to spiral with the filling. I have thought about it and I believe it was because that part of my rectangle was too thin. Jo recommends a 1/4th of an inch thick and I will just add that it should be even all the way through. I also sprinkled flour on my counter and so it was splotchy in some parts and the little parts missing flour stuck to my granite countertop in the worst way. (The mess in my kitchen afterwards was pretty epic.) I would just recommend making sure the flour has more coverage when you’re rolling it out into the giant rectangle. It will save you lots of curse words.

Jo recommends the floss method for cutting your rolls out of the long spiral log. I used a serrated knife with great effect, for which I was glad because we’re out of floss. We use those little floss picks anyway, so that’d have been pretty useless.

Then I baked them on a cookie sheet. I have no excuse–she distinctly says she’s using a casserole dish. It was silly to use the baking sheet but next time, I think I will try a square cake pan actually. I found that my rolls baked out not up. And all of the filling spread out through the bottoms, SO my solution will be to try a smaller pan with higher sides. If I was entertaining, the 9×13 casserole dish would be great but it is just the Trophy Husband and me, so that is too much for just us.

My saving was that once covered with icing, you couldn’t tell that my rolls looked a little wonky underneath! This recipe was DELICIOUS!!! I will definitely be making it again, but I’ll plan better. I’ll close with a picture of my wonky rolls and stay tuned because I am determined to master cinnamon buns!!!

buns

French Bread, otherwise known as Yummy Goodness

Bread. It can seem intimidating to make your own if you’ve never done it. I can assure you though, it is pretty easy if you have the right tools. I could extol the amazingness of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for days, I’m sure you already knew, and it is the only way I know to make bread. I’m sure there are other methods (obviously) but I have not tried anything else yet. I watch lots of cooking shows and I’ve gathered lots of tips that have helped. Alton Brown is my favourite TV chef. Good Eats is like a cooking show for geeks! He’s great about telling you why you have to cook foods a certain way and the chemical reactions going on.

Bread was one of the first things I wanted to try with my mixer and I have a friend who bakes all her own bread who inspired me to try. My mixer came with a recipe book and I can follow a recipe (usually) so I tried those and I had success, in that the bread was yummy but not quite what I wanted. I really wanted to learn to make a French baguette but I started with pizza dough. I found other great recipes for bread, via Pinterest. Some were easy to follow but still labour intensive (knead the dough, let it rise, knead some more, let rise, knead again, let it rise MORE until I nearly lost track of the number of times.) There had to be an easier recipe!

There was! Thank you SO much to A Sweet Pea Chef here for the most delicious bread ever. I’ve made it a few times now–my in-laws love it–so I thought it was time to put my findings to pen. Yay! I took photos as I was prepping, kneading, etc…

Assemble all your ingredients and tools before you begin. You won’t have to search around for them later as you’re cooking.

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Use your mixer with the dough hook attachment, and spraying it with a little nonstick will help when you’re finished mixing it up. Hold it several inches away when you douse it–you don’t need much. Totally grabbed this tip from Alton Brown.

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Heat your water in the microwave but in thirty-second bursts. You want the water to be slightly warm, not hot. I use a candy thermometer just to make sure it doesn’t rise above 105 degrees. (If you get it too hot, wait for it to cool or pour some out and pour cool water in.) My kitchen is sometimes like the Arctic tundra–ridiculously cold and dry–so I just put the cup on my granite countertop and it cools in a few seconds. If your mixing bowl is also cool, it’ll help bring the temperature down. Hopefully you won’t have to wait long. Just remember, hot water will kill your yeast. Bad!

Add the sugar and yeast to the water. Let them sit for about five minutes. The instructions say the mixture will get foamy. I find that it looks murky and a bit bubbly, but not foamy. See here:

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Add TWO CUPS of the flour at this point and start your mixer, working up to Speed 2.

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While it is mixing, put 1 cup of flour onto a paper plate. Alton Brown suggested this in several of his Good Eats episodes and I agree that it makes for easy pouring flour slowly into a mixer.

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Pour the remaining TWO cups into the mixer slowly. The dough hook will incorporate flour better if it is slow. It will start to crawl up the hook when it is all ready for the next step. See:

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While it is mixing, you can put the ingredients you don’t need anymore away and sprinkle your counter with flour so you can knead the dough.

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Pull the dough off the hook and knead it on the counter for a few minutes. Put flour on your hands. The dough needs to be elastic and sticky and then form it into a ball and roll it between your hands and the counter.

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Take a moment now and oil a glass bowl with a paper towel. Place the dough ball in the bowl and turn it so the oil gets on the top of the dough. (I hope you can see that the bowl has been oiled and the dough is shiny.)

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Now. cover the bowl with your bread-making tea towel that you purchased in London and let it sit for nearly two hours. The time will vary depending on your environment. I tend to turn the heat up slightly in my house purposely for letting my bread rise.

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This is a great time to clean up the mess you’ve made.

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When the dough is twice the size it was, stick two fingers lightly in the top and if they create a dimple that doesn’t bounce back, the dough is ready to form into a loaf:

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Recall your childhood days, when you were a master of Play-Doh. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl and then roll it on your counter into a loaf shape. Preheat oven at this time to 400 degrees. Let the dough rise another thirty minutes UNCOVERED, and then brush the loaf with water.

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Cut three gashes in the top of the loaf. I find a serrated knife works best for this.

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Bake for between 15-25 minutes. I set my timer for fifteen minutes and then put it in for five minutes and it still wasn’t finished and so I put three more minutes on my timer. Remove the bread once it is finished and cool it on a wire rack, if you can stand to let it sit there and not sample it…

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So good.  I copy/pasted the recipe below:


Ingredients
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1½ cups warm water
4 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading dough
1½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
¼ cup water (for brushing baguette)

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar over the warm water and let sit until it becomes foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix until well combined. Add the remaining 2 cups flour and combine until dough is stiff.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Add more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.

Add ½ tbsp. olive oil to a large, deep bowl and transfer dough to bowl, turning once to lightly cover all sides of the ball of dough with the oil. Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil a flat baking sheet with remaining olive oil. Punch down the dough and form into a long loaf, long enough to cover the entire diagonal of the baking sheet. The dough will be about 3 inches wide. If you prefer more stick-like baguettes, separate the dough in half and make 2 loaves instead. Let dough rise another 30 minutes, uncovered.

Make 3-4 diagonal slits/slashes using a sharp knife.

Lightly brush the top of the loaf (or loaves) with water.

Bake 15-25 minutes or until golden on top. Cool on wire rack.

Cranberry Scones

I woke up this morning thinking about cranberry orange scones, fresh and hot from the oven. I am not sure why it was the first thing on my mind upon waking, but I was determined to make my dreams come true, so to speak. I have to say, I am not a morning person and so breakfast and coffee had to be my first priorities. I quickly scarfed down my muesli cereal and a cup of coffee and then immediately set about the scone-making.

I do have cranberries in my freezer right now, but I wasn’t keen on freezing my fingers to half them. And I had no intention of waiting for them to thaw. So what did I choose for the cranberry part? Cranberry butter! I’ve had great success this fall with making cranberry butter in my slow cooker and canning it and so I thought I’d create this sort of marble-y effect with the cranberry butter.

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I can share the recipe for you here but I’ll make an actual post about it later. Fruit butters like apple and blueberry and this cranberry one are some of my favourite things to have on toast, um, with actual butter, yes. So yummy.

Fruit Butter

Anyways, I searched Pinterest for about two minutes to find a recipe for which I had all the necessary ingredients or that I could adapt to use things I did possess. I had no intention of leaving my home today. The past few weeks have been crazy busy, as things tend to get hectic during the holiday season. (I’ve been to THREE Ugly Christmas Sweater theme parties so far and I have to say I had no idea it was a popular thing and I also have to say that I’m not a huge fan.)

My search led me to a Martha Stewart recipe and I then adapted it and it morphed into something that doesn’t really look like the photo they provided. But it was a great launch pad. I was pleased with them, in the end. Also, in going over my notes, I’ve discovered, just now as I’m writing this, that I missed a HUGE part of the recipe directions. There was absolutely no kneading of the dough and I am pretty sure they’d have come out MUCH better if I had. I definitely should have and next time I make these scones, I’ll knead the dough and post an update to this.

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Just from an ingredients standpoint, these scones are very simple. And if you actually read the stupid directions, you’ll come out with great yummy scones. Mine were good yummy scones. Shucks.

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I LOVE my Kitchen Aid mixer and found the paddle to be the best tool for this job. I only had to clear the little holes a few times. No biggie.

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And stacking one’s butter cubes is the best way to go, you see. I’m working for a prize in butter art.

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I was also glad to see this lovely marbling with the cranberry butter mixed in the dough. And for those of you who look to me to make mistakes for you so you don’t end up doing the wrong thing, definitely knead your dough after it looks like this. Flour your countertop, take the dough out of the bowl, roll it into a big ball, knead it gently just a few times, pat it down until it is about 1-inch thick and then cut out your shapes (or do the drop scone thing that I’ll show you next.)

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I’ve always been a fan of the sort of drop effect here. And one more tip: Make sure your oven rack is in the centre of the oven. If it is too low, they’ll burn on the bottom. If it is too high, they’ll burn on the tops. And now, here’s the recipe:


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup halved cranberries, drained on paper towels  1/2 cup cranberry butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt.

  3. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or crushing with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

  4. Stir in 2/3 cup half-and-half until just moistened.

  5. Gently fold in cranberry butter so that dough is marbled a bit.

  6. Form into 8 wedges; place on a baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Feed them to your husband and beam with pride when he asks for another one.

CScones9.jpgHusband approved!!!