Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homemade Cinnamon Buns with Walnuts

There's nothing like a nice hot cinnamon bun in the morning with a cup of coffee or milk. Usually I just open up a package of Pillsbury buns, but recently my friend found a recipe for homemade ones and they looked so good I had to try it. Now getting up at 6 in the morning to make breakfast that wouldn't be ready until 9 wasn't the best idea. By the time they were done I was so starving for food that I could barely wait for them to cool to eat one. Not to mention the last thing anyone wants to be doing at six in the morning is baking. Especially not for three hours. But I didn't want to run the risk of them being stale if I made them the night before and I have to say that I'm glad I waited. They were worth the wait.

  • 1/4-ounce package yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour 
Take yeast and dissolve it in the 1/2 cup warm water. Let that sit there for a while until you're ready for it. In a large bowl mix the milk, sugar, egg, salt, and butter. Add two cups of your flour and mix. Add yeast mixture, mix that, and the rest of the flour until the dough is easy to handle. Kneed dough on floured surface for about 5 or so minutes. Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray and place dough in the bowl to let it rise. Cover bowl and set in a warm place. Let it sit for 1-1.5 hours or until it is about twice the size it originally was.

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup walnuts or pecans *optional*
Once the dough has risen roll it out on a floured surface in about a 24x5 inch rectangle. Spread butter all over the surface of the dough until it is evenly spread. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and then sprinkle that over the buttery surface. Make sure you save some for the pan! Add walnuts/pecans if you'd like. The ones I made had crushed up walnuts in it. Starting with the longer side roll it up so that you have a long log. Fold in the ends as you go so that your filling doesn't fall out. Pinch the seam together too!

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray and then sprinkle the pan with the remaining sugar mixture. Cut your dough log into 10-12 slices (or however thick you want them to be.) Sit them in the pan about an inch or so apart, and let them rise some more for about 10-15 minutes. While they're sitting set your oven for 350 degrees F. Once both are ready, stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes. 

The smaller ones are the ends of the roll. I didn't roll in the edges originally, so I let those for last and then re-rolled them.

While the buns are in the oven you can mix up a very simple icing. There aren't any measurements for this since I just eyed the amount based on the amount of buns I had. All you do is take some confectionary sugar and milk and wisk together. You can make it as thick or thin as you want it by the amount of milk you put in.

Spoon the icing on top of the buns while they're still in the pan and then scoop them out and enjoy!!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chai Tea...In a Cupcake!

Personally I'm a big fan of Vanilla Chai. I used to only like the one that Dunkin Donuts made but ever since I found out how horribly bad it is for you, and how regular chai tea can do the same, I've switched. The aroma of it, the spices, the taste... all of it is so yummy! So I decided to do a little research.

I wanted to see if it could be made into a dessert. Apparently someone else was thinking the same thing because I found a recipe for Vanilla Chai Tea Cupcakes. Don't those sounds awesome?! Well they are. Just for the record.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cardamom*
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup apple sauce
1 cup milk
4 chai tea bags

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients except for the sugar, set aside. In a small sauce pan heat milk until it simmers. Remove from heat and let all four tea bags steep for 10 minutes, remove bags and let milk cool to room temp. (I'm terrible at waiting so I let it wait until it was semi-warm and they turned out just fine.)

In a mixer blend butter and sugar together. Add apple sauce and mix untill well combined. Once that's done alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, mix untill well combined. Be careful not to over mix in this step.

Distribute batter into the cupcake pans and cook for 14-16 minutes depending on how fast your oven bakes. A toothpick should come out with a few crumbs on it when they are done, seeing as these cupcakes are very moist!

* Cardamom is another ingredient that I wouldn't use outside of this recipe. Although it is the main ingredient in Chai tea, it's also super expensive. I'm talking like $17 for a tiny little jar of it. So I didn't add it. Maybe they'd taste better with it in it, I'll never know. I'm certainly not going to pay that much money for something that's going to sit on my shelves and collect dust.

For the Frosting:
Confectionary Sugar

Once again my frosting is an estimate. I went by the actual recipe for this one and I had a ton left over. Way more than I ever needed. So estimate how much you'd like and then frost away! To get the nice swirl I just threw the frosting in a zip lock bag and then cut one corner off. Easiest piping method out there.

These cupcakes are unbelieveably good. They are so most they practically fall apart in your hands. I do have to say though that the frosting I made was also equally delicious but it over powered the flavor of the cupcakes a bit. I did use a lot though due to the fact that I had a rediculous amount of frosting. So I'd go easy with the frosting on the cupcakes or go easy on the cinnamon. Either one would work.

Gosh, don't they look tasty?! A big glass of ice cold milk goes great with these.

Who Doesn't Love Decorating Cookies?

Alright I'm sure there are some of you out there that don't enjoy decorating cookies because that means you're going to have to make tons of them for your kid's parties, bake sales, class birthdays, etc. But for a child decorating a cookie is like the best thing ever, and it's a super easy time consumer.

Which is exactly why I had them decorate them. I'll admit the only reason why I came up with the idea is because I was trying out my new cookie press and forgot that the cookies were in the oven for a little while....they got a little toasty. Personally I wouldn't eat them, but the kids were never going to know the difference especially with all the frosting they were about to load on top.

So I evenly divided up the cookies I had (because if one of the kids had more than the other all hell would break loose for sure.) Meredith is a bit young to be decorating on her own so Matt helped her and since Gavin wants to do anything Meredith does, I "helped" him. Which more or less involved me sitting there taking photos and saying what a good job he was doing. Anything to keep the kids happy right? 

Gavin wanted to show me each and every cookie he made. So Cute!

With Matt helping Meredith every cookie was frosted with whatever color and sprinkles she individually chose. Gavin chose the frosting colors for each cookie but asked my "expert" advice on which sprinkles to use.

Meredith insisted that she spread the frosting on them after a while. I have to say she was quite good at it!

And of course what would baking be without a little taste test here and there....

Gavin was intensly putting sprinkles on his cookies.

And of course after seeing that Meredith wanted a try too, although she was a little unsure of it at first.

Meredith's finished products!

And Gavin's too!

She was very proud afterwards.

All in all it turned out to be a pretty good afternoon. It kept them busy for a while and they weren't sitting in front of the television. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maple Frosted French Toast Cupcakes

French Toast Cupcakes...Yum! Although I admit these are more like a muffin than a cupcake, they are a great after dinner treat. At first I was a little thrown off by the bacon sprinkled on top but I decided to be daring and give it a shot.

Cupcake Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter room temp.
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs, separated

Now when I made these cupcakes I cut the above recipe in thirds and it made about 6 cupcakes. The original recipe also calls for cake flour and since cake flour is not something that I use on a regular basis I just used regular flour. This could of course be why the cupcakes were a bit dense, but I think it worked out quite well.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the butter and sugar untill well combined. In a small bowl wisk together your dry ingredients. In another bowl combine milk and vanilla, set aside. Take your egg yolks and add them one at a time to your butter and sugar mixture. Then, add your flour mixture and your milk/vanilla mixture alternately. Mix on medium speed untill smooth. Remove from mixing bowl and place in a large bowl.

Once your mixing bowl has been cleaned, whip the egg whites on a high speed with a wisk untill stiff peaks are made. Fold egg whites into the batter in three different portions untill just incorperated. Divide the batter into the cupcake pan and stick in the oven for 25-30 minutes, depending on how your oven cooks.

Now onto the frosting... The original recipe called for a butter cream frosting made with maple extract and heavy cream. First of all, finding maple extract seems to be one of the hardest things to do so I've found that a little bit of maple syrup works just as well. It's more commonly found in stores and it's something that is used more often than maple extract. Because let's face it, unless you're going to be making these cupcakes a lot, when else are you going to use that? As for the heavy cream, that's another ingredient that I don't often use so I decided to just skip the original recipe and make my own. To make the frosting is SUPER easy. Take a stick of butter and about a cup and a half of confectionary sugar. These measurements are an estimate because when I usually make frosting I just eyeball the consistancy. You don't want it to be too dry or too wet, so add what you think looks right. If it's too dry add more butter, too wet: more sugar. Since we'll be adding maple syrup to the mix I would make it a bit on the dry side. When I made these I made the frosting a little bit too wet and it didn't form as well on the cupcakes.

To add the maple syrup is an estimate too. (I really don't like measuring things in baking unless it's a vital ingredient. They say baking is an exact science, but I think if it tastes good than who cares!) I usually just add a tiny bit of syrup, mix it up and then do a taste test. If it needs more flavor add a bit more untill you get the flavor you want. Once you've mastered the maple flavor and the cupcakes have cooled you're all set to frost them!

Then there's the bacon. I've heard about bacon being used in desserts before, but I've never actually tried it. For these cupcakes I used the microwaveable bacon that Oscar Myer makes because it's quick and there is very little mess involved. I used 2-3 slices of bacon for my 6 cupcakes so for the whole recipe you may need the whole package. Cook bacon to the directions on the package and then break it up and stick into the icing.

Now honestly both my parents and I agree that the bacon doesn't really do anything for it. The maple frosting and cupcakes flavors overwhelm the flavor of the bacon and unless you have a large piece of bacon with every bit you take, there's a slim chance that you'll actually taste the bacon. Personally I think they would have been just as good without the bacon, but that's a taste test for another day.