Thursday, May 30, 2013

From-scratch Cinnamon Rolls

We went to Delaware for the weekend and visited an old friend from high school. It's pretty cool when you don't really know someone very well 'back in the day', but when you reconnect via Faceybooks you discover you really have a lot in common and you actually quite like that person. FB is full of things like faux inspirational posters and "if I get a million likes my dad will buy me a pet llama" and 50 photographs of the same person looking at the camera the exact same way from the exact same angle but she's wearing a different shirt so OMG dis my new profile pic lulz!--but it also does some cool stuff too. Friends in Delaware, friends in Canada, friends in Germany... It's pretty cool.

Now, if you happen to visit Wilmington DE, something I highly recommend is a visit to the Iron Hill Brewery for their mac & cheese. I'm not a big fan of pasta dishes (I prefer to spend my carbs in bread), but man... That was a good time. Only eat half the serving, there's plenty, trust me, what with the chicken and the ham and the fontina and the asiago; take the other half home and for breakfast the next morning crack a couple eggs over the top & bake it in your oven or toaster oven until cooked through. This is the best hangover breakfast. Not that I'm hung over right now. I'm just sayin'.

And try the heffeweizen.

Today we're making cinnamon rolls. I have no idea why, I just wants 'em. I have one packet of yeast left, I've never made cinnamon rolls from scratch, BRING IT ON.

I'm not gonna lie to you: it's a lot of work. Making cinnamon rolls from scratch is like making bread but with even more steps. But it's worth it. It's so worth it. Once you've made your own cinnamon rolls from scratch, those canned jobbies you buy from the grocery store won't even compare.

We're using Paula Deen's recipe from, mostly. I say mostly because I don't have cow's milk in the house, nor a lot of butter. One of the things Paula's recipe says to do, for example, is scald the milk; this is good for a lot of homemade bread recipes because it denatures the whey proteins, which allows the yeast to rise better. But I've got almond milk; no whey proteins = I didn't bother. I'm also a fan of nutmeg, and rum extract. You can never go wrong with rum in your cinnamon roll filling!

Whisking everything but the flour

1 package (2¼ teaspoons, or ¼ ounce) dry yeast
1/2 cup of warm (not hot) water
1/2 cup of almond milk, or scalded milk*
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of butter or coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
Knead me, Seymour!
3¾ cup of flour

3/4 cup (1½ stick) of butter, softened
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar
2-3 tablespoons of cinnamon (I used 2½)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of rum extract, crushed walnuts or pecans, raisins if you like that kind of thing
I have risen!

1) In a small bowl, slowly stir the yeast into the warm water & set the bowl aside.
2) In a large bowl, combine milk, sugar, butter/oil, salt, & egg (all other ingredients except flour). Whisk until smooth.
3) Gently mix in the yeast.
4) A little at a time, add in the flour & keep mixing until you get a nice, slightly sticky-but-firm dough. I used my handy dandy Kitchenaid with the dough hook.
5) Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or a silpat and knead it for a few minutes (about five minutes or so).**
Smells better than it looks
6) Grease up a nice big bowl (I used more coconut oil), dump your dough back in the bowl, cover it with a damp dark cloth, and let it sit in a dark, warm place for the next hour to rise.
7) Mash together the Filling ingredients above, in a medium sized bowl, using the back of a tablespoon. Set this to the side until you're ready for it.
8) Once the dough has doubled in size (about an hour), punch it down (literally! with a fist and everything!) and then dump it back onto your floured surface or silpat.
9) Roll the dough into a rectangle shape about a half inch thick. You really want a good, squared-off rectangle.
Keep rollin' rollin' rollin'
10) Give your Filling mixture a quick stir, and then spread it out onto your dough. A small offset spatula is perfect for this.
11) Roll up the dough long-wise into a log, then slice it. I got 23 slices out of my dough.
12) Place the slices in your greased casserole dish(es), and leave them to rise for another half hour. I like to use my turned-off oven for this, since it's dark & already slightly warm due to the gas pilot light.
13) After a half hour, turn on your oven to 350º, and let your rolls keep rising in another dark, warm location for 15 minutes while your oven preheats.
14) Put your rolls in your now-preheated oven to bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.
15) Allow the pans to cool on a rack, and drizzle with powdered sugar glaze once they've cooled off. (To make a glaze, take a cup of powdered sugar and add a teaspoon of water or milk. While stirring with a fork, slowly add a dribble of milk or water, continually stirring, a little at a time, until you get a drippy consistency. Make sure you stir out all the lumps.)

These were light, fluffy, flakey... Just delicious. Really, for a first-time effort, it couldn't be better!  Sure, it's a lot of work. But now you can cross it off of your bucket list. "Make... cinnamon rolls... from scratch... DONE."  Way better than cinnamon rolls from a can. Trust me on this one.

*To make scalded milk: heat the milk in your microwave or on the stove top, stirring constantly, JUST until it comes to a good boil; look for frothing around the edges.
**Kneading: basically, you fold it in half over itself, and push. Fold, push, fold, push, fold, push.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Single-layer Almond Cake

There have been some health issues going on with my husband's family which have necessitated spending a lot of time with our in-laws. And I've got to be part Jewish Grandmother or part Italian Grandmother, because deep inside of me there's a little old lady wearing an apron & holding a rolling pin, urging, "they're upset, feed them!"

Now, I don't have a lot of time (it's the middle of the work week), don't have a lot of energy (we're still pulling the overtime), and don't have a lot of ingredients (payday is a week away), so here's what we're going to do: we're going to make an easy little almond cake, courtesy of Averie Cooks.

If you regularly like to cook delicious things, you should have all of these ingredients already on hand, except possibly the half-bottle of almond extract.  If you find yourself running to the store anyway because you're out of diapers and spaghetti sauce, you may as well pick up a bottle of almond extract and give this a try. It's such an easy, tasty little dessert to whip up in 10 minutes, and it will leave your house smelling marvelous!


3/4 cup of butter (1½ sticks)
2 eggs, room temp
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of almond extract
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1½ cups of flour

3/4 cup of apricot or peach jam (half of a 14oz jar)
1/2 cup of cream cheese, softened (half of a brick)
Slivered almonds for scattering on top

*Note: ingredients list is for a single recipe; I made a double recipe.

1) Preheat oven to 350º.
2) Melt the butter completely. (I nuked mine in 20 second increments, because I didn't want the butter exploding all over the microwave by going too fast.)
3) Let the butter cool a bit while you're preparing your cake pan. I tore off a sheet of wax paper, traced around the outside of my 9" cake pan and cut out the circle, sprayed the cake pan (bottom & sides) with PAM, placed the wax paper circle inside, and then PAM'd the paper.
4) With a whisk, whip up the first 6 ingredients together in a large bowl--that's everything but the flour. Whisk it for a while, until the mixture appears to rise a little bit and starts looking a little 'fluffy'. You're whipping up the eggs here, and that's how the cake gets its lift.
5) Gently fold in the flour using a spatula, until the flour is just mixed in. You're trying not to deflate the eggs.
6) Pour it into your pan & bake it for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are a little tan and the top is firm to the touch.
7) Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15-20 minutes. Once the pan is handle-able, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. I ran a butter knife around the edge and the cake just popped out.
8) Once the cake is cooled down, mix together the topping and spread it over the cake; a small offset icing spatula is really handy here. Scatter a handful of almonds on top for crunch.
9) Spread any remaining topping on toast and eat it immediately because toast is delicious.

If you've ever wondered what kind of cake people used to eat centuries ago, this was it. No baking powder or baking soda, so it's dense & chewy instead of light & fluffy, and no sugary frostings or fillings. But it's still quite good!  I can see adapting this recipe for, say, lemon poppyseed cake.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Favorite Chocolate Cake

ZOMG gang, I have found a new favorite chocolate cake recipe.  It's light, fluffy, moist, soft, doesn't call for weird things like mayonnaise or vinegar...  Look, I know mayonnaise is just eggs,and cake has eggs, but still that's just weird.  Also, the only mayonnaise we have in the house is light baconnaise, which is great in tuna but not in chocolate cake.


What about a maple bacon cake? You could probably put baconnaise in maple bacon cake.A little bit spicy, a lot mapley, crispy bacon on top... Maybe if you added it to the maple frosting? Smokey bacony frosting with crispy bacon garnish?  Ok, maybe maple bacon cake. But not chocolate cake. Why are you asking me to put baconnaise in chocolate cake? Whose idea was this, anyway?  Like Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I'm drawing the line here!
The line must be drawn heah!

Ok. Chocolate cake. Best chocolate cake I've ever made, and I'm quite fond of this recipe. The original recipe, from, called for melted blocks of unsweetened baking chocolate. However, I substituted unsweetened cocoa powder & coconut oil instead, according to the following conversions:

I did play with the proportions a bit though.  I think the extra oil is what made the cake so moist, and the cocoa powder reacting with the baking soda made it extra fluffy

As always, I highly recommend coconut oil, especially since a recent study says it make brain better work... better... brain.

1¾ cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch process
3½ tablespoons of shortening or coconut oil (best only partially melted)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of milk

1) Preheat oven to 350º.
2) Whisk together the first three ingredients until they're well mixed, then set the bowl aside.
3) In another bowl, cream together the butter & sugar until it looks like mashed potatoes.
4) Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5) Add in the cocoa powder & shortening/oil, mixing well again.
6) Add in the vanilla & mix that sucker some more.
7) Now add in a little bit of milk, then a little bit of flour, then a little bit milk, and a little bit of flour, mixing well after each addition. Should be milk, flour, milk, flour, milk, flour.  Start with the milk, end with the flour, 3 times each.
8) Bake in greased cake rounds for 25-30 minutes. If making cupcakes, you're looking at 10-12 minutes.

This recipe made me 2 dozen small cupcakes that came exactly to the top of the paper liners. I then filled them with vanilla marshmallow filling and topped them with my favorite chocolate rum frosting. You guys, you gotta try this frosting... Let's do that recipe next!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Coconut Chocolate Cookies

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me!

I don't have any fancy stories with riveting dénouement and heartwarmingly successful conclusions for you today. I dunno, not much going on lately. I could tell you about the dream I had just a couple nights ago, whereby my husband & I were up in Delaware with an old high school friend searching frantically for an Indian restaurant.

No, that's about it.
Photo by Wikipedia
That's the whole dream.

See? Not much to say, except Indian food is roxxorz. If you haven't ever tried Indian food, your homework assignment is to find the nearest Indian joint within 10 miles and go by the end of the week. Trust me on this; it might look like a baby's diaper, but it tastes like heaven. (Especially the chicken tikka masala. Get that.) (And garlic naan.)

Indian food in Delaware.

Moving on.

I've had these ingredients sitting in my kitchen for weeks now, just waiting to be used, and feeling sad every time they get passed over in favor of brown sugar or cumin. At least, that's how I imagine they feel. "Oh! Oh hey, are we gonna have some fun today? Oh boy ohboyohboy!  Look! It's me! Right here!  No, me! You're going too far to the left! I'm right here.. but...  oh."  Kinda like how the dog feels when you go walking towards the door with the leash in hand, only to discover that you were actually taking your pet turtle for a walk instead.

Cause, you know, turtles need walkies too.

Photo by Turtletown

So if you've got a half a bag of coconut shreds and some leftover chocolate chips, then hey, come play outside with the rest of us. These things are pretty good.


1 box of brownie mix (mine was 18.5 ounces)
1/2 cup of flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I had white chocolate so used that)
1/2 cup of shredded coconut flakes (I had unsweetened coconut)
1/3 cup of coconut oil/vegetable oil/melted butter (I've been playing with coconut oil lately)
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp of coconut extract (because... coconut)
1 package of 8 snack size Almond Joy bars, chopped

1) Mix all of the ingredients in a big ol' mixing bowl. Yep, all at once. Go for it. You don't even have to bother with the Kitchenaid, just pull out your wooden spoon and have at it.
2) Put the batter & bowl in the fridge to harden up for about an hour.
3) Preheat the oven to 350º.
4) Take the bowl out from the fridge and drop rounded spoonfuls onto your parchment-paper'd cookie sheets.
5) Bake for 10-12 minutes; you'll know they're done baking when they're (mostly) no longer shiny.
6) Let them cool completely on the cookie sheets; they'll finish cooking as they cool.

Yep, that's all there is to it. Use up your leftover ingredients, make delicious cookies, and it's a win-win all 'round.  Heck, leave out the coconut and use any other candy bar that you have sitting there left over from Easter or Halloween or the weekend swap meet (people eat candy at swap meets, right? I mean I dunno, I'm just making stuff up here).  Can you picture it with peanut butter cups, or Rolos, or Whatchamacallits?  Good times, good times...