Monday, March 16, 2020

Double-Glazed Caramel Cinnamon Rolls

When you need to celebrate but don't like cake, why not make these indulgent, brioche like cinnamon rolls the star? They stay soft for days thanks to a hefty dose of cream, butter and a hint of caramel in the dough, while a double glaze - first honey butter right out of the oven, then cream cheese frosting after they cool for an hour - adds even more decadence.

With all the insanity going on in the world today, it's hard to remember that there are still celebrations to be had! We are in the thick of birthday season (as I call it) here - between the beginning of March and the end of April there are no fewer than 6 birthdays in the family, mine included! In addition to the birthdays, lots of other little "yay days" are still going on, and now that I'm stuck at home for at least three weeks while the schools are closed I have become the de facto baker for them. 

One of my proudest achievements - besides my mom's requisite birthday cake - was this ginormous batch of fluffy, rich cinnamon rolls for my sister's work. One of the vet techs at her clinic, Kelly, was celebrating 20 years of service - a huge accomplishment for a field where burnout and turnover are sky high. However, Kelly is not a fan of cake in any form. I can't fault her for that, to each their own, and when they asked what she did like she said the one thing that spoke to my soul: cinnamon rolls.


Now, I have made cinnamon rolls several times before - from coffee laced to minis to my piece de resistance of laminated cream cheese and granola - but these I kept more or less basic in flavour with enough twists to the formula to keep them soft, moist and sweet for days. My first trick was using cream - not milk - to make the dough, which began the enrichment process, followed by a hefty dose of butter, eggs and the second secret - caramel sundae topping. The thick inverted sugars in the caramel prevented the dough drying out like it would with regular sugar and added a complex hint of flavour and colour that you won't get anywhere else. A splash of vanilla and pinch of nutmeg rounded out the sweet dough, making it perfect on its own. But since they are cinnamon rolls, they demanded a filling, and I kept that simple with butter, sugar and cinnamon.

Onto baking, which was no different than a smaller batch of rolls with the exception of a little more monitoring. The batch made 24, which could be done in two 9x13 pans, but I found a lovely foil roasting pan at the dollar store which fit them perfectly and kept transport easy! To compensate for the middle rolls getting less heat and possibly being underdone, I heated my smaller pizza stone on the rack before putting the raised rolls in, which blasted the middle of the foil pan with heat and ensured even baking. It would probably work without it, but better safe than sorry!

Finally, while the rolls were baking and smelling heavenly, I prepared the pre-glaze that would go on the hot buns right out of the oven. This was a little trick I picked up from either Serious Eats or The Kitchn (can't remember which, sorry) where they double frosted the buns. Not wanting the "gooiness" to be too hard to manage (these people work with furry creatures after all) I stuck to a simple vanilla, honey, butter and cream mixture which soaked into the bread and sealed in the rich, soft and fluffy nature of the rolls. After they cooled completely (on the counter overnight, which was torture but please don't refrigerate yet!) I heated up about 1 ½ cups of my cream cheese buttercream until just runny and spread it roughly over the rolls just to cover each. The leftover frosting was tinted and used for piping - purely optional, but if you're going to celebrate go whole hog!

Now, I know this recipe makes a lot of buns, but you can halve it to a more manageable 12 or even make the whole recipe, place in two pans and freeze after the first rise and shaping for up to 3 months. When you have a craving for sticky bun goodness, thaw the frozen pan overnight in the fridge, let rise on the counter for 45 minutes - 1 hour then bake and double glaze as usual. Problem solved!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cookies Made Fancy with the @empossedpin #empossedpin

This beautiful Paisley embossed rolling pin from @embossedpin is not only so stunning you'll want to keep it on display (no junk drawer designation here!) but the solid beech wood cleans easily and works on even the softest, most finicky dough. I tried it on my mom's shortbread recipe (notorious for getting stuck in cookie cutters) and the design imprinted cleanly and there was almost no cleanup - simply using a pastry brush to clean off the flour and a quick wipe with a damp sponge and it's good to go again! Check out all the offerings on their website

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I'll let you in on a little secret - I hate rolling dough out. I don't know why. Maybe I can't get the consistency just right, I make the dough too thin, something just doesn't work. However, I'm also a sucker for beautiful things, especially those made of wood. When I was approached by Embossed to test and review their rolling pins, I was a little apprehensive as to how they'd work - after all, if I have trouble with a smooth rolling pin, this would spell disaster, right?

Thankfully, I was wrong - very wrong. These rolling pins, though on the shorter side, are etched to the perfect depth. Not too shallow where the print (I had a fantastic paisley print one, but they make a variety of styles) won't show up, but not so deep the dough sticks, tears and makes a mess. I used this pin on my mom's shortbread cookie dough, which is notorious for sticking, and I had absolutely no problems after I dusted the dough with flour. The print stayed clear and crisp even after baking, and I got so many compliments on the cookies! The other thing was these rolling pins are incredibly easy to clean. A quick wipe with a damp cloth took off the flour from the external surface, while anything stuck in the crannies (I had maybe 2 clumps) I let dry and brushed off with a pastry brush. The pin is so beautiful it stays on my counter permanently and because the beech wood of the embossed rolling pin is not stained or treated (they are 100% food-safe and free of BPA or any other toxic substances) I don't have to worry about it discolouring, flaking, leaching or otherwise looking sad and forlorn. I am currently looking at finding an easel stand for it so it can be in the pride of place.

If you love beauty and function in a simple and easy to use package, I highly recommend one of these rolling pins from Embossed. You can also feel great knowing you're supporting a small business invested in making beautiful things for the every day person that will last a lifetime!

Please look below for more info:
How to use the rolling pin
FAQs about Embossed

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice

Bring some exoticism to your kitchen with these Moroccan Braised Vegetables with Tofu and Rice! A hearty medley of artichokes, peppers, kale and tomatoes are spiced with an aromatic spice blend and studded with dried fruit. Brown basmati rice soaks up the rest of the broth making this a one-dish meal perfect for chilly winter days.

It's well known by now that I love Moroccan food - the spice blends and combination of savoury and sweet flavours, along with the abundance of vegetables, grains and legumes are enough to make me want to book a trip this instant! While boarding a plane may be a bit out of reach for me, I can travel there with food, and this braised tofu, vegetable and rice dish is a great place to start!

Apparently I am really into braising this winter - and for good reason. It is the perfect way to set yourself up for a hearty, warming meal with minimum effort, as long as you have a good heavy pot to do it in! I was inspired by a chicken dish by Only Gluten Free Recipes that popped up on my timeline the other day, and since it was time for me to make more lunches for mom this week it made it to the immediate "must make" list. I changed it up a bit from the original for our tastes, making the recipe vegan (mom prefers meatless meals a few times a week) and bumping up the veggies a ton. The best part about the recipe is after the initial chopping and sauteing is done, it really is a "set it and forget it" type of meal cooking all in one pot. While it bakes away in the oven, your house will start smelling like the most fragrant spice market - I suggest you go do something (clean the basement, mop the floor, take a shower) so that you won't be tempted to lift the lid till it's done - the wait is worth it, I promise!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Doenjang Braised Chicken and Vegetables

This ain't your mommas braised chicken - this pot of comfort (also containing sweet potatoes, carrots and long beans) gets a boost of rich flavour from Korean doenjang (soybean paste) and sriracha. Spicy and savoury, its perfect alongside rice for a warming hearty and healthy meal!

Winter is definitely time for braising, and today is no exception! There really is not much simpler, or more comforting, than browning some proteins and vegetables, pouring in some stock and letting everything simmer away for a few hours. One of my favourite things about braising is that the flavour combinations are infinite - I made a more traditional one earlier this month with a whole bird, but when I was putting groceries away I came across a half-tub of Korean bean paste that I had used for soup a few months ago and knew I needed to do something to use it up. A browse of the local store flyers found chicken legs on for a great price, and with some hearty, low-cost winter vegetables on hand already I had the basis for a great meal. After just over an hour, the chicken was cooked along with the veggies, and the broth thickened to coat everything in a luscious gravy perfect for the sticky rice I cooked up alongside. The best part? It used up all the leftover doenjang as well as the last of the Sriracha and veggies left over from the holidays!

I had never cooked anything with doenjang besides soup - and even that was cheating because I used a recipe for miso broth using it. However, the beauty of the Internet led me to the blog With a Glass, where I found the basis for this braised chicken legs dish. Of course, I had to triple the recipe and add a boatload of vegetables to satisfy mom's love of them (I am her daughter in every respect - I love veggies too!), and since I had just cooked down a big batch of turkey stock from the holidays I used a bunch of that too. The mixture of flavours - which were otherwise somewhat foreign to me - was absolutely insane in the best of ways. We had company for dinner that night too, and even though they didn't get to taste it (mom hoarded it for her lunches) commented on how lovely the house The skin and backbones were saved and added to (separate) pots to make schmaltz and more stock, respectively - I can't waste a thing! 

If you can get your hands on this funky (literally) bean paste, I strongly recommend giving it a try. I detest the poppy words like "flavour bomb" but this is really it in every sense, as well as being healthy, hearty and a new twist on your standard fare.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies are filled with decadence - heavy cream, dark cocoa, toasted sugar and Nutella with a smattering of chocolate chips! A touch of tapioca flour makes them chewy and soft for days - if they last that long!

Some days require chocolate - and a lot of it. The whole of last week screamed a need for comfort everything, as not only did I have exams (the last for my undergrad, though not the last of the last) but we lost two pets as well. Even though neither animal's passing was unexpected, it's never easy saying goodbye and my sister (who is a vet tech) took it particularly hard. When I am under stress, I turn to the kitchen for comfort, and this time was no different. Chocolate needed to be involved, and fast!

Cookies are always an easy sell to my sister, especially packed full of chocolate, and these ones are so rich they're like eating baked truffles. Not only are they sinfully rich, but they are fast to whip up, meaning I had a batch cooling in under an hour that would be enough to last us at least a few days. The addition of the tapioca starch - a trick I believed I picked up from Alton Brown years ago - made the cookies chewy and almost brownie-like and kept them that way for ages. Even my sister commented that she was shocked they stayed soft even 4 days later (and they were on a plate covered with a towel, that's it!). Since we are not only chocolate, but Nutella lovers (well I was until my allergies developed) a hearty dose of the spread made their way into the batter too.

While the circumstances surrounding the baking of these sweet treats were unfortunate, to say the least, I'm still glad they could bring a dose of comfort to my sister during a no-good week. Chocolate may not have all the answers, but my answer will always be more please!