Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daring Bakers Go All Cinnamon-y!

























Yay, my first Daring Bakers Challenge is done, and a wild success! I was so pleased to be accepted into the elite Daring Bakers (Blogroll to the left), and would like to take this time to welcome all of our October newbies, we have quite a few.

September's Challenge was Cinnamon and/or Sticky Buns, and I was oh-so-excited to be able to participate. I've always tried making them on my own, but they always came out either tough and chewy, or lacking flavor. This recipe helped fix BOTH problems, yay!!
First of all, the dough is a dream to work with. Soft and pillowy. I did have some problems getting it to rise, because we keep our house at a relatively low temperature during the day. So, if your house tends to be a little cool like mine, I suggest keeping your oven on a low heat and letting your dough proof near the warmth of the oven.

The Wonderful Dough

Proofing the buns.

Secondly, I didn't make the sticky buns portion of the recipe, but fully intend to during the coming months. The icing for the cinnamon buns has a slightly lemony taste that was good, but I would have much preferred cream cheese icing or just a plain royal icing. Marce, the host for this month, gave us a lot of creative freedom with this recipe in regards to different toppings for the sticky buns, and different seasons for the filling of the buns.

The buns fresh out of the oven.
Here's the recipe (it seems long and complicated, but that's because Peter explains everything in detail):

Cinnamon buns and sticky buns (from Peter Reinhart´s The Bread Baker´s Apprentice)
DAYS TO MAKE: 1
15 minutes mixing; 3 1/2 hours fermentation, shaping and proofing; 20 to 40 minutes baking.
Yield: Makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller cinnamon or sticky buns
Ingredients:
6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)
*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.
1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand); if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast. Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.
4. For cinnamon buns, line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.
For sticky buns, coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.
5. Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.
6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
7. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.
8. For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving. For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)
Caramel glaze for sticky buns
Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.


I packed up my finished buns for a bake sale I had this month for a group of pinup models that I joined in June of this year. We're called Northwest Pinups 4 Troops (we're on myspace) and we raise money to put together care packages (calendars, letters, goodies, etc) to send overseas to our troops who can't be home at this time. Our goal is to remind our boys that there's still something worth fighting for. Here are a few shots of us at the bake sale (my buns were one of the first things we sold completely out of!)

That's me, Rosie Baker, sitting all prim and proper!


The lovely Miss Sara Beth.





I had so much fun with this challenge, I can't believe how wonderful they turned out, and it only took one try!! My fear of baking with yeast is slowly starting to fade with time and experience (thank goodness!). Thank you, Marce, for a wonderful challenge.


~Mehgan~

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's Royal Foodie Joust Time!

Once again, I am participating in the Royal Foodie Joust at the Leftover Queen Forum! I won last month, so that means I got to choose this month's ingredients: white chocolate, lavendar and pears. Here's what I came up with:

Caramelized Pears with a White Chocolate and Lavender Filling:

Ingredients:
-3 or 4 pears, halved and cored
-1/4 to 1/2 cup white sugar
-4 oz (1/2 package) cream cheese
-3 or 4 oz white chocolate
-1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed lavender

Instructions: In a medium saucepan, bring about a 2 cups of water to a simmer. In a glass or metal bowl over the simmering water, melt the white chocolate. Be sure to stir it constantly so as to not burn it. It's also a good idea to wear an oven mitt while holding the bowl so you don't burn your hand. Add the cream cheese and lavendar and mix well. Put the sugar on a plate and then press the inside half of each pear in the sugar, then place the pears face down on a pan over low heat. Pour whatever sugar you have left around the pears. Keep and eye on them and the sugar, because they can burn rather quickly. Once the pears are a light golden brown, transfer them to place and scoop the white chocolate filling onto the pears. Whatever caramel is left in the pan can be used to drizzle the pears with.

I made this for my husband, brother, brother in-law and his girlfriend tonight, and they loved it. They loved how simple the flavors were, and were surprised at how much they liked the flavor of the lavender. I liked that it was so different from the usual cake or ice cream desserts we tend to have when family is over. As my brother in-law said after his first bite, "Mmmm, this is pro." Gotta love those kinds of compliments.

Head on over the Leftover Queen Forum (link to the left, in the Foodie Blogroll) to check out the other fabulous entries from my fellow Foodie Blogrollers.

~Mehgan~

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Rise of the Pink KitchenAid...

Greetings, my friends!! No, I haven't forgotten about you! September tends to be such a busy month for me. As you can see, there has been a gorgeous new addition to my kitchen: my new pink KitchenAid!! It is wonderful and lovely and so girly, I love it!! My hubby and brother got it for my birthday. Now, all I need is to come up with a name for her!!

As you can see, I am drawn to her beauty:
I just can't resist, you see!!

Anyways, enough of the KitchenAid porn, alright?
So, it's been pretty chilly-willy here in Seattle as of late, so I decided to make some warm, hearty chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight. I'm trying to stave off any potential cold/flu, since pretty much everyone I know is suffering from some form or another of the Creeping Crud. Here's my recipe for Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup:
Ingredients:
-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 medium onion, chopped
-3 to 4 stalks of celery, chopped
-1/3 lb baby carrots, chopped
-3 to 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
-2 cans of chicken broth
-1/2 bag of egg noodles
-water
-salt and pepper
Instructions: In a crock pot, place all ingredients, plus one can of water (or more if you want a lot of broth). Allow to heat for 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and using the two-fork method, separate the chicken breast into thin slices and replace into crock pot. Allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 more hours, or until the veggies are tender. Add the noodles and cook for 30 minutes more. Serve with your favorite bread (the recipe for my favorite bread is listed below).
Soooo yummy, just look at those colors! That says Autumn to me right there! And you can see a tasty slice of my favorite bread is nestled with there next to the bowl. Here's the recipe for Amish White Bread (I got it from AllRecipes.com and halved it to make just one loaf, but you can use the full recipe to make two):
Ingredients:
-2 cups warm water (approx 110F)
-2/3 cup white sugar
-1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-6 cups of bread flour
Instructions: In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar into the warm water. Add the yeast and allow to proof until it gets creamy and frothy. Mix in the salt and oil, then add the flour one cup at a time (I used my handy-dandy KitchenAid to do the mixing for me!). Once well combined, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl and turn it to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Punch dough down then knead for a few minutes. Divide the dough in half and shape into loaves. Place the dough into a well oiled loaf pan and allow to rise for 30 more minutes or until the dough has risen 1 inch above the pan's sides. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the top turns a light golden brown.
I love love love this bread, it's so simple! I make it pretty much every time I make something in my crock pot, because it goes so well with everything: roast beef, beef stew, chicken noodle soup, etc. My husband and brother love it, as well, they say that it tastes like the bread they ate in the Renaissance, haha! And I like that there's always plenty leftover, too. When I make the full recipe, I usually make the second loaf into cinnamon bread for breakfast. I once even went so far as to use the cinnamon bread to make French toast one morning!

Thanks for bearing with me this crazy-insane month of September! I have a bake sale coming up on the 23rd, so be sure to stop by to see more KitchenAid fun!!
~Mehgan~





Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Very Good Birthday Indeed

Another birthday down, I'm 23 now! This birthday was an especially nice one, for multiple reasons: I won the Royal Foodie Joust held at the Leftover Queen Forum (link is to the left in the foodie blogroll), I got accepted into the Daring Bakers (yay!) and my husband put a PINK KitchenAid on order for me (it hasn't arrived yet). I am one happy girl!

My boss' birthday is the day before mine, and I took the day off on my birthday, so I decided to bake him some cupcakes to have on his birthday. I was going to make this cake I saw in a cookbook I just bought, but decided to go with a real crowd-pleaser: the Cuba Libre Cupcake I found on Coconut & Lime's blog (http://craveperfection.blogspot.com/2007/07/tasty-little-treat.html). I love how dense and chocolatey the cake turns out, and the frosting is to-die-for. It reminds me almost of doughnut frosting, but not as gag-me sweet. Instead of using some Appleton White rum, I used Sailor Jerry's instead, since it's a darker rum. I think I liked that a lot better. They went over really well with my co-workers, and they loved joking about how they were "drinking" on the job. Look at how yummy these were!! I had to stop devouring my cupcake long enough to take a picture. Everyone wanted me to be included in the birthday hoopla, so I stuck a candle in my cupcake, too. You can kinda see the hole it left in the frosting.


And my good friend at work knows how much I LOVE cooking and baking, and she knew what my husband planned on getting me for my birthday, so she got me this lovely set of gifts:


From left to right: Three different kinds of pure vanilla (Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico), a bag of super-fine Creme Brulee sugar (can't wait to make some now!), a bottle of Madagascar Pure Vanilla Sugar, and in the back (you can't really see it) is a cookbook stand with a glass reference table for it to sit on. She's the best!!

I just wanted to say a big Thank You to everyone who has made this birthday so special for me. I feel truly spoiled!!

~Mehgan~

Saturday, September 1, 2007

It's That Time Again...

To vote for ME in the Royal Foodie Joust. Go here to vote for my Zucchini Stuffed Chicken with a Buttermilk Chipotle Sauce: http://www.leftoverqueen.com/forum/index.php?topic=117.0

Thanks everyone!

~Mehgan~