27 December 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Cinnamon Rolls/ Sticky Buns

The Goofy Family has gone on an intense cooking spree this week, and tonight will be no exception: there will be latkes.

But a few mornings ago, there were cinnamon rolls. Or sticky buns. Or cinnamon buns. Or whatever they are called. Basically, we rolled out a rectangle of yeasted dough, sprinkled cinnamon all over it, rolled the dough into a log, cut it into ten round spirals, let them rise and expand, baked them, and glazed them until they were sticky and mildly sweet. Then we devoured them. Whatever that food is called, that is what we made.  You may comment with your opinion about the proper name in the comments section below.

Maybe you are rolling your eyes and yawning, saying to yourself, Oh No, Self, Not Another Cinnamon Roll Recipe. Yes, I admit one can find endless iterations of this recipe. On the King Arthur Flour website alone I encountered roughly 14 different versions. But what you didn't know about this recipe is that for two days I focused with laser-like intensity on unearthing the absolute best cinnamon rolls recipe in the entire world, one that I could leave in the refrigerator overnight and then immediately upon waking the next morning stick in the oven for the perfect hot decadent breakfast of the century, so as to gently rouse the other denizens with tempting aromas. 

Having never eaten fresh, home-baked cinnamon rolls in my life, I don't know where this obsession came from. But I ran with it and now you will benefit from my research. Because these cinnamon rolls did not disappoint me, with my fevered passion, nor did they disappoint George, a consummate baker and extremely picky eater. They were perfect. They were perfect the first morning I baked them, they were perfect several hours later at room temperature, and they were perfect two days later (today) when I reheated the uneaten rolls. These cinnamon rolls flexibly adapt to your cinnamon-roll-eating needs.

Please check out the original recipe plus the extremely helpful commentary on the King Arthur Flour Website. And do not, under any circumstances, sprinkle sugar into the filling because sugar is hygroscopic and will dry out your cinnamon buns in a matter of hours.


A note about substitutions:
  • We used a bread machine to mix and rise the dough. You can do this by hand the traditional way or use a stand-mixer.
  • We used plain soy milk (Silk brand) but you can use milk.
  • We substituted 1/2 Cup of white whole wheat flour, which required us to add about 3 Tablespoons more soy milk. This imbued the cinnamon rolls with a slight bit more chewiness and staying power. But if you want the rolls to basically evaporate in your mouth, use only all-purpose flour, and you probably won't require the extra milk.
  • We used 3 Tablespoons fresh baked potato innards (I baked a fork-pricked russet potato in the microwave for 5 minutes until tender)*, but if you have 2 Tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 Cup instant potato flakes on hand, you may use that instead.
Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 10-16 rolls, depending on how you roll and cut them.

3 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant/ bread machine/ rapid-rise yeast
3 Tablespoons cooked potato*
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons softened butter
2/3 Cup lukewarm water
1/2 Cup lukewarm soy milk + roughly 3 Tablespoons any temperature

2 teaspoons cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese cinnamon

2 Tablespoons melted butter

1 Cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 - 3 Tablespoons soy milk

  1. In a bread machine, combine all the dough ingredients except the extra soy milk. Set to the dough cycle. See note on substitutions above if you don't have a bread machine. You want the dough soft and supple, so add the extra tablespoons of soy milk to get it to the exact right consistency.
  2. Allow dough to rise for the rest of the dough cycle, or in a greased container for 60 to 90 minutes, until doubled in bulk.
  3. Gently punch the dough. Transfer it to a work surface covered in wax paper and lightly greased. 
  4. Roll the dough out to roughly a 20 x 12 inch rectangle. Don't worry if it's not exact.
  5. Using a small sieve or tea strainer, sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of cinnamon evenly over the surface of the dough.
  6. Starting with the long side, roll the dough in a log (don't roll too tightly). Using a sharp knife, mark the log at roughly 1 1/2 inch intervals. With the same sharp knife, slice the dough into buns. You will get roughly 10 to 16 rolls.
  7. Lightly grease 2 or 3 round pans. Cake pans and pie pans do well here. Put the buns into the pans, making sure that they are loosely rolled and that they have at least 1 inch of space between each roll and its neighbor. This space is necessary so that when the rolls expand, they expand horizontally rather than vertically from the center…unless you want cinnamon towers.
  8. Cover the pans with damp towels and allow to rise 60 to 90 minutes until puffy and lookin' good. FOR OVERNIGHT ROLLS: at this point wrap the pans tightly in plastic wrap and stick them in the refrigerator. You will bake them the next morning for 23 to 28 minutes until golden brown. FOR IMMEDIATE ROLLS: You will bake them now for 20 to 23 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake rolls according to the adventure you have chosen in step #8 above.
  10. Immediately brush all the hot rolls with the 2 Tablespoons of melted butter.
  11. TO EAT ALL THE ROLLS IMMEDIATELY OR SAME DAY: Mix together the glaze and brush the glaze over all the hot buns. Serve at once. Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
  12. TO EAT HALF THE ROLLS TODAY AND HALF SOME OTHER TIME: Mix together half the glaze and brush the glaze over half the rolls. Serve those immediately. Allow the other rolls to cool completely on a rack. Store them in air-tight containers at room temperature for up to a few days later. When you want hot rolls again, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Put the rolls in pans, tent them with aluminum foil, and bake for 10 minutes. Mix together the other half of the glaze. When the rolls come out, immediately brush them with the glaze. Serve immediately.

21 December 2011

Chanukah 2011

For Chanukah we're going to make the exact same thing as last year.
TRADITION, TRADITION. …… TRADITION! /fiddler-on-the-roof
The same latkes.
The same applesauce.
The same grated beet and carrot salad.
We're not awesome enough to make our own sour cream.

The same silverware.
The same chanukiyot.
The same candles. Okay, we conceded the basic nature of candles and bought new candles.

And we will use a new sparkly blue tablecloth from Julia; it's okay that it's new because it displays the Jewish colors.

17 December 2011

Hazelnut Cocoa

Finals week is the most stressful time of year in this house. Everybody goes a little out of their gourd. I find this drink particularly helpful at the end of an adrenaline-filled day of studying, grading, and writing to help me calm down and get the #!$% to sleep.

Hazelnut Cocoa
Serves 1 or 2 or 3, depending on thirst

a few tablespoons of Nutella or good-quality hazelnut chocolate butter
1 Cup soy milk or milk

Seriously, do you need directions for this? Are you as frazzled as I am?
  1. Heat soy milk on medium heat on the stove because it just doesn't taste or smell good coming out of the microwave. Add the hazelnut chocolate butter.
  2. Stir so it doesn't stick.
  3. When the cocoa puffs up and begins to foam out of the pot, immediately turn off the heat and pour into mugs. 
This might be good served with a peppermint candy cane as a stir stick, but so far I've only tried that technique with normal hot chocolate. Does peppermint go with hazelnuts? You decide.

12 December 2011

Broccoli Fried Rice

"Broccoli" is such a weird word. Where the hell did it come from? Oh, Italian. Thanks, Wikipedia! Anyway, broccoli's a weird plant too. It looks like a bunch of trees stuck together; that's why the Italian word is plural. No wonder most children don't want to eat it--it belongs in the uncanny valley of foods.

I remember the first time I really enjoyed broccoli. In sixth grade everyone had to take Home Economics for about six weeks. At that time my cooking could best be described as hilarious. Home Ec straightened me out. I developed a lot of my food preferences during those six brief weeks, including which apples or cheeses I liked the most, that I hate cooking with raw animals, that cheese cake has way too much cream cheese in it, that I hate meringue and marzipan and rocky road pizza, and that I LOVE LOVE LOVE stir-fries (and soy sauce).

My stir-fry had crispy stalks of broccoli, water chestnuts, and baby corn and it was Totally Freaking Awesome. I was so proud of myself as I munched the miraculous goodness all the way home. If you have children who are vegetable averse, teach them to make a nice Chinese stir-fry and watch them poke around at all the curious little treasures they find in their tasty food.

This dish is in memory of you, Home Ec.

Broccoli Fried Rice
Serves 4 or 5.

1 head of broccoli, washed
12 fresh shiitake mushrooms or 8 oz. of any old mushroom, washed, destemmed, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 egg, beaten (optional)
1 Cup or so cold-leftover rice
soy sauce (GF optional)
juice of 1 lime

  1.  Slice the head of broccoli in half so that the florets have a much shorter stem. Separate the florets with your knife. Slice them lengthwise into quarters. Meanwhile, slice off the tough outer skin of the stem half. Cut the stem into 2-inch matchsticks quartered lengthwise.
  2. Heat up a medium-large or large frypan with some vegetable oil. Pour in all the broccoli. Sauté about 8 minutes on medium heat or until cooked through and delightfully crisp. Remove from frypan and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook on medium heat until they release their juices. Season with soy sauce. Push to the side of the pan.
  4. Add the beaten egg and keep bothering it in the for about 40 seconds until it becomes not-quite-set scrambled eggs. Push to another side of the pan.
  5. Add rice.  If it remains clumped together and too dry, add up to 1/2 Cup of water. Break it up with your spatula-turner. When it seems like a good texture and not too wet, season with soy sauce. 
  6. Add the garlic. Return the broccoli to the pan. Heat through and mix everything together for about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice over everything. Serve piping hot and watch those little imps scarf it down.

10 December 2011

Fig Walnut Blue Cheese Pasta

Kay found the very first recipe I ever entered into my book of personal recipe successes. Even back then, she was an inspiring/ depressingly creative cook. We were 20 years old and I didn't know how to do anything except make toast, boil lentils and heat up canned tomato soup. Kay read the back of a dried Mission Figs bag and found this pasta recipe and realized its potential. So we made it together and it turned out to be a gourmet success. I was so proud of us! Julia also adopted this pasta recipe because even someone with her impeccable standards enjoyed it.

Skip forward 11 years. The other night I actually skipped the recipe and just ad-libbed with whatever we had on hand and it still turned out great. So I'm going to share this sloppier, easier version with you.  This fruit, salty, crunchy, gooey dish looks fantastic next to a side of broccoli or green beans.

To the Gluten-Free: This dish would be taste superb with Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta. I promise.

Fig Walnut Blue Cheese Pasta
Serves 4.

8 ounces good-quality whole wheat spaghetti or brown rice pasta
vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced or chopped up
5-8 dried mission figs, stemmed and chopped small
3 to 4 handfuls of shelled walnuts, chopped small
2 or 3 handfuls of your favorite crumbled blue cheese

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender and toothy. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, slowly cook onion in a fry pan with oil until sweetened, soft, and a bit darkened.
  3. At the same time, toast walnuts until fragrant in a dry fry pan.
  4. Mix everything together and serve hot. Make sure all the good bits don't fall to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Tell your guests, "For you, my best."
The pasta actually tastes pretty amazing as a cold leftover too.

08 December 2011

Creamy Oatmeal

I find that nothing sustains me as much these days as a hot bowl of delicious oatmeal in the morning. The way that the oatmeal sticks to the sides of the pot comforts me that it is sticking in a like manner to my stomach lining. 1 serving takes about 15 minutes to cook up, so it's done about 8 minutes after my pot of hot tea. I think that's pretty reasonable, and I also save time because I don't get hungry again for about 4 hours, which is some sort of record for me.  Plus everyone says oats fight cancer.

Most oats are contaminated with wheat, so if you have celiac disease, you're going to have to tread very carefully here.  I quote Art of Baking:
If you are gluten-intolerant, oats may be bad for you, too.  If you sometimes eat gluten-free oats and you feel bad, and you wonder, “hm, what did I eat that made me feel bad?” it could be oats.  It turns out that even though oats (the gluten-free ones) don’t have gluten, they do have proteins that might behave the same way as gluten on the body of sensitive individuals.  I spent so much time (years) trying to eat oats, but they always made me sick–and I never understood what was going on.  Then I read this article and ones like it, and it all made sense.  Read it for yourself and see if it might be you.
It turns out that folks who are sensitive like I am to the prolamine gliadin, which is found in wheat gluten, are also often senstitive to the prolamine in oats called avenin.  As it turns out, just as there is gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease), there is also avenin-sensitive enteropathy, which is a sensitivity to the gluten-like substance in oats.  Sigh.  What this means is that many of us gluten-intolerant folks are actually intolerant to oats themselves, not to them being cross-contaminated with wheat.  This is an area that hasn’t really been studied all that much.  But, the toxicity of oats for gluten intolerant individuals is recognized by certain countries, including Australia.
 Sugar Beets Bakery adds:
The use of oats in gluten free diets is controversial. Cross-contamination with gluten is common in traditional oat products. The Gluten Intolerance Group®, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Canadian Celiac Association approve the use of moderate amounts of “Certified Gluten Free Oats” but the Celiac Sprue Association recommends that oats be avoided. If you plan to use certified gluten free oats, start by using small quantities to make sure that you can tolerant them. We use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats in their certified gluten free controlled facility.
If you prefer chewy oatmeal to creamy oatmeal, choose steel-cut oats. I think they take longer to cook.

Creamy Hot Oatmeal

1/2 Cup rolled oats
1 Cup plain soy milk or liquid of your choice

  1. Combine in a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed.
  2. Turn off heat and cover for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in your favorite stuff: almond butter, sliced banana, dried figs or currants, whatever zany thing your little hungry self desires. For ideas, check out Kath's Tribute to Oatmeal.

07 December 2011

Gluten Free Vegan Allergen-Free Meal

Sometimes it's hard to think of a meal that absolutely EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD can eat. That's why I was surprised to realize that my dinner the other night was just that, even though I was just rooting around in the fridge for some leftover goodies.  I really enjoyed the comforting hominess of the meal, so I thought I would share that this meal contains:

no gluten
no dairy, egg, animal products, mammal, seafood, or fowl
no nuts
no soy (bunches of people have soy allergies, did you know?)

I don't think the meal works if you're on the Atkins diet, though. Oh well!

Vegan Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Quick Collard Greens without Pork
Parsleyed Crowder Peas (recipe follows)

Obviously, you could easily fill this out with a fruit salad or another vegetable side like sautéed mushrooms or a NUT-ENCRUSTED PORK SANDWICH WITH MAYONNAISE. I kid! I get my jollies where I can.

Parsleyed Crowder Peas or Herbed Beans

I make this with fresh or frozen crowder peas, but the recipe works equally well with any fresh or frozen bean.

If you are using dried beans, do the whole process: soak 4 hours, drain and rinse, cover with water in a pot, bring to a boil, turn heat down, add the fresh herb stems, and simmer until bite-able. Salt the water and simmer until it reaches a tender consistency (you have to taste it every 15 minutes or so to be careful). Drain and proceed as in recipe below.

a full package of fresh or frozen crowder peas, black-eyed peas, purple peas, or beans
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large fresh bunch of your herb of choice: parsley, mint, cilantro, thyme, you name it

  1. Wash your peas or beans. Remove any stones or weird-looking alien intruders.
  2. Put peas in a pot. Cover with about a 1/2 inch of water.
  3. Heat up the water. Meanwhile, wash your parsley or other herb. Separate the stems from the leaves. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.
  4. Bundle the stems together and stick them on top of the peas in the water. If you have cooking string or cheesecloth or whatever, tie them together for easier removal later.
  5. Bring water to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Cook until tender.
  6. Meanwhile, chop up the herb leaves.
  7. Turn off heat. Remove as much of the herb stems as you can with tongs or chopsticks (NOT your poor widdle fingers). Drain the beans. Remove rest of herb stems. Immediately pour beans into a serving bowl with ample space for stirring. 
  8. While beans are still warm, add just enough of your best extra-virgin olive oil to coat. Salt the beans until they don't taste like bean-cardboard anymore. 
  9. Let the beans cool until they're not so steamy. Add the chopped herb leaves on top. Serve with a spoon and an apple-cheeked smile.
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