Cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls

Ahhh…cinnamon rolls. One of my most favorite breakfasts.  But, I don’t make them too often mostly because of the time they take to prepare. You know, all the waiting for the rising, makes cinnamon rolls more of a brunch fare. We usually have a light breakfast, while waiting for the cinnamon rolls. But, when I do make them, the time we wait is always worth it.  These rolls are the big, Cinnabon-at-the-mall-style cinnamon rolls.  I  always have a hard time passing them up, but they are so expensive usually I leave with just the Mochalatta chill.  I mean, one can only have so much willpower. Besides, I need the caffeine. So I tell myself anyways.

So, I started these rolls at 7:30am and we sat down to eat them at 10:30am.  This explains why the photo is of a half pan of rolls. NO ONE was going to wait any longer for photos. My husband, Justin, and I loved them.  But, my kids wouldn’t eat them.  They only eat the ones in the blue can, but with my homemade frosting only.  Even they have standards.  I’ll admit, I like those too. I’m no food snob. They are great in a pinch and something I know everyone will eat when I don’t feel like fighting the please-eat-something fight.  Ugh, oh well, more for me.  I ate one for breakfast everyday that week and they were delicious, just 1 minute in the microwave.   These cinnamon rolls bake up tall, with a crisp exterior and tender interior.  The cream cheese frosting is just plain amazing.  It is really thick and cheesecake-like. In fact, my daughter Sammie, after not eating her cinnamon roll, took the frosting bowl and was about to eat it like oatmeal before I grabbed it from her.  This is the same kid who only eats the frosting off her doughnut. Who does that?

Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12 large rolls

1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until ~105 degrees F.   I used the microwave

Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer.   Add the yeast and a pinch of sugar.   Stir into the milk.   Let stand until foamy, ~5 minutes.

Add the sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and flour.  Mix well.  Knead with the dough hook on medium for ~4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl.  Cover with a damp towel.  Let rise in a warm place ~1 hour or until dough has nearly doubled in size.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix well with a spoon, spatula or even your hands.

Lightly flour your work surface (I used a pastry mat) and rolling-pin.  Roll the dough into a 16×21 inch rectangle,  ~1/4 inch thick.

Brush the dough with 1/3 cup melted butter.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.

Roll the dough up starting with the longer side.  Cut into 12 rolls.   I cut the log in half, then each half in half.  Then you have 4 even pieces to cut into 3.  This way you get even sized rolls.

Spray a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with Pam. Arrange the 12 rolls in the dish.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

While the rolls rise, pre-heat the oven to 350F. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

While the rolls bake, make the frosting.  Beat together the cream cheese, soft butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Spread the frosting on the rolls while they are still warm.

Source:  Cate’s World Kitchen; originally from All-Recipes

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Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

This month for What’s Baking, the theme quick breads was chosen by Jenna at Jenna’s Cooking Journey.  Sometimes, I have a little trouble with yeast or I don’t have time to wait for my dough to rise.  So, the beauty of quick breads is that they don’t use yeast, there is no rising time and you have homemade bread in under an hour.  Fabulous!  I don’t do a lot of savory baking, since we prefer sweets in my house.  But when I was looking for a quick bread recipe, the beer-batter cheese bread caught my eye.  My husband isn’t a big sweets guy, but he sure loves cheese and beer. 😀   So when I saw this bread, I immediately thought of him and how much he would love it.

To make the batter, you mix together the dry ingredients and with a light hand, mix in the wet ingredients. That’s it.  I am telling you, this batter will be ready before the oven is even preheated. How great is that?  Before baking, the bread is brushed with butter, which I was a bit nervous about thinking it might get too dark, even burn. But, as usual, America’s Test Kitchen knows what they are doing and the butter gave the crust it’s beautiful golden color.  After impatiently waiting the recommended hour for it to cool (okay I only waited a half hour), I cut a slice, put it in the toaster oven and slathered it with butter.  I was surprised how much this tasted like a yeast bread because of the beer.  I love the flecks of gruyere cheese you can see in the crust and on the inside the cheese completely melts into the bread, giving it a wonderful tang.  Beer. Cheese. Bread.  In under an hour.  I mean really, need I say more?  😀

Beer-Batter Cheese Bread

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder  preferably aluminum-free
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/4 cups beer    preferably mild-tasting ales, lagers, and pilsners  (dark beers will be too bitter).  I used Coors Light.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon of melted butter to brush on top.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 375F. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. WS goldtouch pans come in this size and they are fabulous.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper until well mixed.  Stir in the beer and 4 tablespoons melted butter until just combined. Be careful not to overmix or your bread will be tough and dense.

Scrape the really thick batter into the greased loaf pan and smooth the top. Brush lightly with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, ~40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before serving.

Yield: one 81/2 x 4 1/2 in loaf

Source:  The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Hot pretzels with sweet mustard and cheese sauce

Who doesn’t love baby showers?  I was so excited when I was asked to contribute to a virtual baby shower for Jessica of The Jey of Cooking.  There will be no pink in this shower to honor the arrival of her baby girl due this October.  Nope.  Jess is a huge Cub fan and so it only follows that her baby girl will be one too.  Instead, this shower will be filled with baseball park themed foods- hot dogs, pretzels, candy corn, and all the other yummy foods you happily stuff your face with while enjoying a game at Wrigley Field.  Jess is one of the few bloggers that I have been lucky enough to meet in person and call my friend.  Congratulations to Jess, your husby and the soon to be big brother, A!  And, thank you for hosting Joelen (What’s Cookin Chicago?)!

To me, a ballgame just isn’t one without 2 things, a Vienna hot dog and a hot pretzel.  Okay, maybe three…I’ll add my husband too.  Sorry babe, I always think of food first.  Justin is a huge Cub fan.  In fact he used to live about a block from Wrigley and so close to the El, you could open his bedroom window and put your hand on the track.  Now, that is close…and frickin loud. It is pretty sad when you always have to watch TV in closed caption so you can switch to reading it whenever a train goes by.  I know it sounds a bit crazy, but this was before we were married, while he was in law school.  It was fun then and I know it was one of Justin’s favorite places he ever lived.  I’m not so big on baseball, but I have gone to more than my share of games because I love my husband.  I mostly people watch and eat.  And, there sure are some interesting (usually drunk) people to watch and some delicious food. 😀

So, I chose to make hot pretzels for Jess’s baseball themed shower.  But, there are so many recipes…which to choose?  I decided to go with Alton’s, because, well, I love him.  He is a giant food nerd just like me.  But, while plain pretzels are good, they are so much better with a dipping sauce. No, not one sauce, but two.  I made the sweet mustard sauce like they sell at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and also a warm sharp cheddar cheese sauce.  The pretzels bake up with a perfectly golden crust, flecked with chunks of salt, covering the super soft bread-like interior.  Baseball fan or not, who doesn’t love a good hot pretzel?  And trust me, these are good ones!

Homemade soft pretzels

Yield:  8 big fat pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water      Measure with a thermometer

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups   Best to measure by weight

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable oil, to grease the pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water    to make the egg wash

Pretzel salt   I used Kosher

Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle the active yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and melted butter.  With the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed, kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, ~4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean it and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for ~ 50 to 55 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. It’s easiest to do this with a scale, about 4.5 oz per ball.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U to make a pretzel shape.  Place onto the prepared pans.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture. Sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or Kosher or coarse- just not table salt) . Bake until dark golden brown in color, ~ 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source:   Alton Brown , There is a great video tutorial if you click on the pretzel picture.


Sweet Mustard Sauce

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup dijon mustard

3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Whisk all four ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate.  I made half of this recipe since I had 2 sauces.

Cheese Sauce:

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded from a block

Kosher salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Whisking constantly, cook for 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk in the milk until completely smooth.  Stirring constantly, bring the white sauce to a simmer over med-low heat until thickened, ~ 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely melted.  Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed.  Serve warm.

Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium, 30 seconds at a time.  You may need to thin the sauce with a bit more milk.

Source:  Smells Like Home

English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread

My husband isn’t a sweet breakfast sort of guy.  I mean if I make French toast or pancakes, he wouldn’t turn them down or anything.  But, he would much rather have a savory breakfast sandwich any day.  Justin’s first choice of bread for his sandwich would be a pretzel roll, with an English muffin as a close second.  But, it can’t be just any English muffin. Nope, it has to be Bays, definitely not a Thomas.  Now, I know I cannot be the only one who hates the Bays’ packaging.  If you remove a few muffins, you can roll the end of the package over to sort of seal it.  Or, you can do as I usually do and throw them all in a Ziploc bag.  I don’t know why, but this drives me so crazy every time I open a package! 😀  Anyways, to surprise my husband, I wanted to try my hand at making homemade English muffins. But, then I saw this bread recipe.  Perfect. I get the same taste and texture of English muffins, while omitting the shaping and frying steps.

I, like many bakers, get a bit intimidated by yeast. But, I have gotten better with practice, a digital scale for flour and a thermometer to measure water temperature.  Looking at the recipe, it didn’t look too much harder than a quick bread, except you need to allot time for 2 rises.  It wasn’t hard at all.  Really. This is a great bread to tackle your fear of yeast!  The bread bakes up with a beautiful crispy crust, which envelopes the chewy interior of nooks and crannies, just waiting to be filled with melted butter.  I enjoyed my bread toasted with butter (real please) and some strawberry jelly.  My husband had his favorite egg, cheese and bacon breakfast sandwich and ate some more as toast.  I think he ate a whole loaf by himself.  It’s a good thing this recipe makes two!

English Muffin Bread

Yield:  2 loaves

Cornmeal  (for dusting)

5 cups (27 1/2 ounces) bread flour

4 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups whole milk, heated to 120 degrees

Grease two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan. Dust with cornmeal.  Combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in hot milk until combined, ~1 minute. Cover the dough with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is bubbly and has doubled.

Stir dough and divide between prepared loaf pans.  Push the dough into the corners with greased rubber spatula. The pans should be about two-thirds full. Cover the pans with greased plastic.  Let the dough rise in warm place until it reaches edge of pans, ~ 30 minutes. Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Discard plastic and put the pans in the oven. Bake until bread is well browned and registers 200 degrees, ~ 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking. Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice, toast, and serve.

Source: Cook’s Country April/May 2012

Almost Famous Breadsticks


Olive Garden often gets a bum rap, probably because people don’t find their food to be authentic Italian. While this may be true, there are a few things that Olive Garden makes really well. Topping my list would be their pasta e fagioli soup, alfredo sauce, lemon cream cake and their breadsticks.  Oh, the breadsticks. I can’t tell you how much I love them dipped in alfredo sauce. I could just have breadsticks and sauce for lunch and be totally happy. But, since that would be frowned upon, I usually get soup and salad to better round out my meal.  They are just so soft (unless you get a basket of overly brown ones- hate that!) with just the right amount of greasiness from the butter and a salty garlic topping.  I must say, they are craveable!  With three children, it is often difficult and expensive to go out to dinner.  So, when the craving hits, I can just make their breadsticks at home.   It’s really is easy, only taking about 2 hours, start to finish, and only 30 minutes of that is active time- making the dough, kneading, shaping, and basting with butter.  The recipe makes a large batch, 16 breadsticks.  But, they are so good, you really won’t have trouble getting rid of them.

Almost-Famous Breadsticks

Yield: 16 breadsticks

Dough:

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water to bloom the yeast (110°-115°F)

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fine salt

1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

 Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (adjust by taste)

Pinch of dried oregano (I omitted)

To make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water into mixer bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water, mixing with the paddle until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.

Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16  1.5 inch long pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch-long breadstick; arrange them 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let them rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the topping: Brush the breadsticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. While they bake, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano . Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt. I serve them with alfredo sauce for dipping (from Annie’s Eats).  Enjoy!

Source: Food Network

Helpful Hints:

  • For the topping: Be sure to use garlic powder (not garlic salt) or your breadsticks will be too salty. And Kosher salt, not fine salt, for the same reason.
  • I like to use more butter than the recipe states, but feel free to adjust to your taste.
  • I like my breadsticks barely brown because I like them super soft. But, if you like your breadsticks more golden and crispy, you can just cook them longer than the 15 minutes. You might need to baste them with more butter to get them to brown to your liking.
  • I use a thermometer to double check the water temperature before pouring it into the yeast. There is nothing worse than having water so hot that it kills your yeast and ruins the recipe.  The back of the yeast packet will state preferred water temperatures if you bloom the yeast (let the yeast and water mingle until it foams) or if you add it directly into the dry ingredients.
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