Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Copycat Recipe - Cinnamon Rolls

Hope all of you that celebrate Thanksgiving have recovered from this past weekend's food extravaganza, or better yet, have been revived out of turkey induced comas.

This year, I decided not to get crazy busy over the weekend by handing over Thanksgiving hosting duties to my sister-in-law in exchange for Christmas Dinner duty this year. Does anyone smell a whiff of procrastination again?

I even forced myself to sit tight and did not venture out into the maddening crowds for the annual Black Friday (start of the bumper Christmas season) Sales the day after Thanksgiving. And funnily enough, I had a great weekend, just spent sitting around with the family and relaxing.

One thing I did to was whip up a batch of cinnamon rolls/buns for Thanksgiving morning after seeing a imitation recipe in my subscription of Food Network Magazine. I am so thrilled with the results of this recipe, but sadly my photos do no justice to these sweet and pillowy buns.

Cinnabon is a popular pastry and baked goods take-out chain, most often seen in airports and malls and their fluffy cinnamon buns are to die for.

And I may be a little literal in the use of the word die - given they are an easy 880 calories per bun!

So even though we are using a recipe tested by Food Network Kitchen and not endorsed by Cinnabon (their recipe is top secret a la Coca-Cola and KFC), I still tried to do my part in reducing the amount of calories that went in. I've listed the original amounts of butter used (a whopping 12 Tbsp) and then my reduced amounts - yes, even I, of the I-think-pastries-should-be-its-own-Food-Group fame - thought that was just a tad bit too much fat.

The recipe is a cinch, however, it needs about 3 hours for dough rising time, so this isn't something you could just whip up when the neighbors pop over, unfortunately...for them! But trust me, everything else about the recipe is easy. It came together beautifully, even despite my meagre rations of fat and sugar. The buns tasted awesome!

Almost Famous Cinnamon Buns - adapted from Food Network Magazine November 2009.
1 cup milk (they used whole, I used 2%)
1 entire 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup and 1/4 tsp granulated sugar, divided use
4 Tbsp melted butter and a little bit more to grease the bowl
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup AP flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

AP flour for dusting
2-4 Tbsp softened butter (they used 12 Tbsp!!)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (they used 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Glaze (I used only half the quantities of the original recipe, original quantity listed below)
2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp melted butter

1. Make the dough: Warm milk over low heat until it reaches about 100 degrees F. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar. Do not stir, leave aside until foamy. Whisk in melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla.
2. Whisk the flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add wet ingredients into dry, mix on low speed with a dough hook until thick, sticky and incorporated. Knead on medium speed for about 6 minutes till dough gathers around the hook. Sprinkle in additional flour if necessary up to a max of 2 Tbsp.
3. Remove the dough and shape into a ball. The dough will be very soft and sticky. Butter the mixer bowl, return the dough into it, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle with longer side facing you.
5. Filling: Spread the softened butter over the dough. I found it easy to do with the back of a butter knife and patting on dabs of butter and smoothing it out gently. I barely used 3 Tbsp as opposed to the 12 Tbsp called for in the original recipe! Leave a 1/2 inch unbuttered alongside the farthest long edge.
6. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the butter.
7. Brush the unbuttered edge with a little bit of water, roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder and press along the wet edge to seal (see pictorial above).
8. Cut the dough roll into equal sized portions, I got 11 rolls.
9.Spray a 9-by-13 inch baking pan with baking spray, place the buns cut side down in the pan and leave space in between. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise till doubled, about 40 minutes.
10. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
11. Bake the buns till golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool in the pan.
12. Glaze: Mix the ingredients for the glaze and spoon over the rolls. This is where I probably could have used more glaze, I made only half of the original quantity and the rolls were still very warm, so the glaze got quickly absorbed and did not stay on top as the signature white layer you see on authentic Cinnabon buns.
Made no difference to me, they still tasted divine!

Sending these copycat cinnamon buns off to be Yeastspotted!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu Monday - I Ate Your Food

Here is a new feature that I hope to continue, where I profile food via links that I've tried from your blogs, something that I have been doing a lot lately. Most of the time, there has been no adaptation necessary because your recipes are spot on!

My Google Reader (bursting at the seams with over 300+ blog subscriptions) has become my default kitchen aid and sous chef. I enter in an ingredient or search term, get blown over by the results that are brought back, and then pick my way and zone in on the recipe I want to try.

Entertaining From an Ethnic Indian KitchenThis weekend was no different, except that I was also armed with my copy of Entertaining From An Ethnic Indian Kitchen - a masterpiece recipe collection by Komali Nunna. I bought this book a few months ago when I randomly stumbled across her blog, and I'm constantly blown away by her elegant tablescapes, effortless styling and amazing, personal collection of recipes that she has put together in this beautiful book. I've tried a couple of her recipes already, but yesterday was the first time I made a collection of them including some other items from my favorite bloggers! With the holidays fast approaching, I'll vouch that this book would make an elegant coffee table book or cook book for those interested in regional Indian cooking.

I'm writing the above review based on my own personal and genuine opinions. I bought the book on my own accord and I was not solicited by the author or publishers.

Forgive the mismatched serve ware, I obviously have miles to go before I enter the realm of graceful and stylish entertaining!

I nicknamed this menu "Kerala, Kashmir...and some Cake". Read on...

Ginger Chicken Soup with Jasmine Rice - I got this recipe from an old issue of Food and Wine magazine, I'll be blogging it shortly and link the recipe - a steamy chicken broth with slivers of ginger and fragrant jasmine rice.

Chatti Pathiri from Ria's Collection - I made this dish twice from the amazing Ria and I LOVE it. As she aptly described it - this is "Kerala Lasagna" - layers of chicken mince and flour pancakes cooked with coconut milk. Delish! Ignore my sub-standard picture and look at Ria's instead, regardless, I loved this dish, very flavorful and my guests were all enthralled by it.

All from Komali Nunna's book -
Mushroom Pulao - Basmati rice cooked with mushrooms and spices.
Broccoli Fry - broccoli cooked with garlic and red chillies.
Baby Potato Curry - baby potatoes are boiled, marinated in spices and yogurt, oven-roasted and then cooked in a delightful, flavorful gravy. Quite the recipe, but easily the stand-out dish, I had one young guest constantly returning for more helpings! This would also be the nod to Kashmir in the menu title as this is more North Indian fare;-)
Fish fry - Tilapia fillets marinated in an onion and spice mixture and lightly pan-fried (I forgot to place it on the table when I was taking photos).
Cucumber Raita - Yogurt condiment with onion and cucumber.

Mutton Fry - heavily spiced mutton dry curry, another regional dish from the state of Kerala, India - this time I got the recipe from Mishmash blog, another go-to place when I need no-fail Kerala recipes. I added some potato wedges that were lightly sauteed.

Above served with store bought Malabar paratha - Indian flatbread.

Dessert - we had two birthdays to celebrate, so I where else would I go to look for cake? The High Priestess of All Things Baked - Deeba's Passionate About Baking offered up this recipe for Chocolate Genoise Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Cream. Alas, I messed up the mascarpone icing by diluting it too much with cream, all is well, there is no way I would let that go to waste, I sliced up the cake, doused it in the mascarpone cream, and served it tiramisu style! No pictures, unfortunately, we gobbled the dessert down way too quickly!

Thanks to all those talented bloggers out there who tirelessly share their tested and true recipes with the rest of us - I salute you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spiced Cranberry Pecan Bread

'Tis the season...well almost, but Thanksgiving is just a week away in our neck of the woods, so it's a shame not to start using up the seasonal produce that starts lining up the grocery shelves this time of year. I randomly picked up a bag of juicy and tart cranberries and a bag of fresh pecans, and then set about wondering what to do with them.

While I was clearing out my unforgiving and ever-growing stash of cut-out magazine and newspaper recipes, I chanced upon a  recipe for cranberry walnut bread with a generous dose of spice, which I thought was uncommon for this combo.

Though I've baked with dried cranberries before, I was a little intimidated with using fresh berries, because they are, well, an acquired taste for sure. Their tartness is a little powerful, but more overpowering is the taste of the skin. However, my fears were allayed a little when I saw that Joy of Baking mentioned that something almost magical happens when fresh cranberries bake, they lose a little of their sourness and their skins almost become sweet.

So I baked.

And magic happened :-).

The result was a soft loaf with a pleasing crunchy exterior and buttery interior - even though you don't use that much butter in the recipe! It is almost cake like the day it is baked, over time, it takes on a hearty bread appeal. I love the crunch of the pecans and the just-right tartness of the cranberries. Looks like I have found a go-to recipe for those lazy afternoons post-Thanksgiving lunch when you wonder what to munch with afternoon tea!

Cranberry Pecan Bread
Before anyone screams plagiarism, this recipe was adapted from one printed in the Houston Chronicle, December 16, 2009 that I had once upon a time furtively cut out and filed away. There was no source cited, the recipe was part of an article about making edible gifts for the holidays. The original recipe used walnuts and had quantities doubled for 2 loaves.

Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups cranberries
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from 1 large orange)
3/4 cups low fat buttermilk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup pecans (can subst. walnuts/almonds)

For topping:
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Spray a regular loaf baking tin with the non-stick spray.
3. Toast pecans or walnuts in a saucepan over medium heat, or in a pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes. Watch carefully - they burn quickly! Remove from heat and let cool. After cooling, roughly chop the nuts and reserve.
4. Coarsely chop the cranberries and reserve. I had frozen the cranberries right after I bought them from the store, so I found them easier to work with and chop.
5. Whisk together the orange juice, buttermilk and egg in a bowl. Add melted (not hot) butter and stir.
6.  Combine all the dry ingredients in another bowl - whole wheat flour, AP flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix together lightly.
7. Pour wet ingredients into dry, combine with a spatula until just mixed. Do not over-mix.
8. Add cranberries and pecans. Gently combine and pour into loaf pan.
9. Mix topping ingredients, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the batter.
10. Bake until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean ~ 50- 55 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to a serving dish. Resist the urge to cut the loaf while it is hot, it will not slice well.

This entry goes off to this month's Monthly Mingle - Fruit In Baking, started by the uber-talented Meeta of Whats For Lunch, Honey? and hosted this month by the equally talented Deeba of Passionate About Baking. I love the work of both these phenomenal bloggers, as a fellow friend/blogger once said, you leave their blogs positively inspired!