Posted on October 11, 2010 with 2 notes

  • A wedding tale of ever-elusive cinnamon rolls.

    I must apologize. I have not been a very good blogger these past 3 weeks.

    A good baker, yes. A good blogger, no.

    But I have an amazing excuse…a wedding!

    My big bro got married on September 18th and I was upstate planning. And stressing. And flower arranging. And family reunion-ing. And celebrating!

    And of course, baking.

    Baking for the wedding breakfast. Baking for the Bachelorette party. Baking for the 15+ friends and relatives staying at my parent’s house. Baking with baby cousins I had never met before. Baking with some of my best friend’s from high school. Baking for the three most amazing roommates who traveled all the way up to the tree farm to lend a hand and many a sassy dance move. Baking recipes never tried before. Baking with an inspiration and vigor only fired up when I am free to take over my childhood kitchen. Baking with the freshest, most delicious ingredients from the Finger Lakes.

    Yes, sir. I certainly do love weddings.

    I have several recipes that still need to be shared, but I thought I would jump right into the day-of wedding treat:

    Cinnamon rolls!

    And not just any cinnamon rolls, but Pioneer Woman maple-glazed cinnamon rolls!

    I planned these for all of our guests to eat the morning of the wedding. To start the day off with something sweet and with a smile. To act as sustenance for the rest of the day. To inspire love and adoration.

    Sounds like a perfect marriage (see what I did there, eh?) of celebration and baked good.

    Maple Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

    Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

    Note: I made these rolls on Thursday afternoon. The wedding was on Saturday. I may or may not have hid the pans of rolls in my room for two days, fearing that the masses would come down upon them before the big day.

    Note to cranky-baby-cinnamon-roll-deprived family: This was not done out of spite. It was a decision made out of excellant time management skills and an urge to make the wedding that much more magical. Yes, these cinnamon rolls are magical. And yes, as predicted, the masses did come down upon these little babies once they were heated up and drowning in their gooey glaze. So much so that I ended up making ANOTHER batch later that week. TWO batches of CINNAMON ROLLS in ONE WEEK after a DECADE LONG CINNAMON ROLL DRAUGHT?

    You better just do yourself a favor and go make these right now.

    For the rolls:

    1 quart of whole milk

    1 cup of vegetable oil (I used olive oil and it worked great)

    1 cup of sugar

    2 packages Active Dry Yeast

    9 cups flour

    1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

    1 scant teaspoon baking soda

    1 heaping tablespoon salt

    3-4 cups melted butter

    2 cup sugar

    Lots of cinnamon

    Mix together milk, oil and sugar in a large pot. Scald over medium heat, making sure it does not boil. Let cool for about an hour. This may seem like a long time when all you want is lovely cinnamon rolls, but I found that hemming tux pants or finishing the bridal veil ate up that hour very quickly…

    When your milk mixture is luke warm, add the yeast. Make sure it is not hot or it will kill the yeast. Stir it into the milk and let it sit for a few minutes.

    Add eight cups of flour and mix until a sticky dough forms. Cover and let sit for another hour. Again, you will get through this. Just go round up some extra blankets for the unlucky groomsmen camping out in the 40 degree weather or take in the MOG dress or something. Trust me, it will be worth it. Your dough should rise and get light and fluffy during this hour.

    Soon enough it will be time to mix in one more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    Sprinkle your counter generously with flour. Take half your dough (or the whole shabang if you fail to read the directions thoroughly like someone I know and your dough completely consumes the surface of your counter…) and form it in a long rectangle. Roll out with a rolling pin, maintaining the rectangle shape. Drizzle half the melted butter onto the dough and even it out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle one cup of sugar over the butter, and douse everything in lots of cinnamon. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough.

    Starting on the opposite side of the dough, roll it toward you. Keep the roll tight and try not to let the dough stick to your counter, as it will rip. Pinch the seam to seal everything up.

    Cut individual rolls about an inch thick and lay in the bottom of your greased pie or cake pans. I made enough for six 8-inch pie tins, but your tins may differ based on the size of your rolls. Let them sit for 30 minutes and then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until the rolls in the center are no longer mushy and the outside rolls are golden brown. 

    For the glaze:

    1 bag confectioner’s sugar

    2 teaspoons maple flavoring

    1/2 cup milk

    1/4 cup melted butter

    1/4 cup brewed coffee

    Generous pinch of salt

    In a large bowl, mix together the confectioner’s sugar, maple flavoring, milk, butter, coffee and salt into a thick mixture. It should be pourable.

    After your rolls come out of the oven, you should let them cool for about ten minutes, pour the glaze on top and serve immediately (after removing yourself from the line of fire, of course). You can also let them cool completely, place them in gallon zip lock bags and freeze them or store them for a few days until you are ready to use them. They can be reheated in the oven for about 30 minutes while you make the glaze and then served. Take a minute to enjoy with your coffee, family and friends before your own whirlwind wedding casts its spell on you.

    And congratulations George and April! XO

  • Double Birthday…All the way across the sky…

    It is Birthday season around these parts!

    …And that means lots of smiles, lots of presents, and lots of toasts!

    Oh, and lots of yummy, yummy Birthday desserts!!!

    And because they are Birthday treats, calories don’t count. Dreams!

    Two out of my four roomies had their birthdays in the past week, and both times we celebrated by cooking a big meal, drinking good wine, and finishing off the night with a strawberry-themed dessert. Because I love both of these ladies so much, I broke with my rule about only baking with fruits that are in season…How could I deny so specific a birthday request that centers around strawberries (which, by the way, are in their glory at the end of May/early June) and delicious whipped cream?? Answer: I cannot, and therefore did not!

    And guess what? Both desserts both turned out deliciously and the Birthday Princesses raved for days!

    Happy Birthday to two beautiful ladies. I love you…just a touch more than what I made you…

    Birthday Recipe #2 to follow soon!

    Strawberry Cream Cake

    Adapted from Seasaltwithfood

    Note: While both of these cakes came our marvelously, I could not help but think of the strawberries my parents grow in their garden upstate…a succulent hybrid variety that is half wild-strawberry. Adorable, little red cuties that I could eat by the bucket full and still dream about when strawberry season rolls around. *Sigh*. I think next season I will fulfill my dream of window-box gardening and steal a few plants from the homestead. When you make this cake, try and find strawberries from your local farmer’s market…it will only enhance!

    Also, I would suggest making the cake part of this recipe the day before your party and wrapping it up tightly for the night. Assembly is a snap (I put it together in about 20 minutes), and you won’t have to wait for the cake to cool. Oh, and I suggest making it in an air-conditioned kitchen if you are so fortunate. I think our apartment was about 95 degrees when I attempted to whip up the cream. It came together, but the resulting cream was a little…melancholy. Avoid a hot kitchen and everyone will be happy, especially those strawberries!

    For the Cake
    1 ¼ Cups Flour
    2 ½ tsp Baking Powder
    1/8 tsp Salt
    5 Large Eggs, separated
    1 ¼ Cups Granulated Sugar
    5 Tbsp Boiling Water
    1 ½ tsp Vanilla
    Grated zest of 2 Lemons

    Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    Whip together the egg yolks and sugar on high speed until thick; the mixture will be grainy. Add the boiling water. Whip until thick. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the flour mixture.

    In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Increase the speed and whip until thick and smooth; the mixture should not look dry. Fold half of the whites into the batter, and then fold in the remaining whites. Pour batter into greased 9-inch round pan (I used a regular cake pan, but I think using a spring-form might keep the edges from browning too much).

    Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool on wire rack.

    For the Strawberry Cream Filling
    2 Cups Fresh Strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
    1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
    4 to 6 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
    2 Cups Crème Fraiche [or, if you are of the down-home persuasion, 2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese. I did not realize there was a difference (yimes dimes!), and my roommates oh-so-candidly set me straight. Lesson learned: Don’t give away your culinary secrets. No one will know the difference!]
    2/3 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
    1 tsp Vanilla Extract

    Stir together sliced strawberries, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp sugar. Taste for sweetness, depending on how sweet you like your strawberries.

    Whip together the crème fraiche, cream, vanilla and the remaining 2 Tbsp granulated sugar until soft peaks form and the cream hold its shape.

    To assemble the cake:

    Using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into three layers. Place bottom layer on a cake plate and spread 1/3 of cream mixture over cake. Repeat with other two layers, ending up with a cream layer on the top. Arrange remaining strawberries on top. Refrigerate if necessary. Add some candles, sing the birthday song, and present to the honored guest.

  • Good friends, good food.

    Is there anything better than a dinner party with friends?

    …How about a dinner party with some of your best friends and some of the best food you have eaten all summer?

    And, what’s that? New recipes you say? Recipes that instantaneously become your new favorites?

    Yes, please!

    There was no special occasion for this dinner party. Just good friends who have not seen each other in a long time. A great excuse to cook for each other, drink lovely wine, and test some new tastes.

    Oh, and whipped cream. Duh.

    On the menu:

    1. The BEST Chicken Marsala (cooking with wine, yippee!), adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Executed with finesse by the ever-impressive Forty-one things.

    2. Quick Zucchini Saute, adapted from Smitten Kitchen (We love you Deb!).

    3. Parmesan-Herb Popovers (WARNING: These little guys are irresistible. Make them only if you are prepared to eat the entire batch…or if you must, share them among several friends), adapted from WhiteOnRiceCouple.

    4. Peach Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

    Three of my favorite things all in one cake— beautiful, in-season peaches, golden cornmeal, and lavender. All in an upside-down cake and cooked in a cast-iron skillet, two of the best culinary inventions ever.

    This cake is not too sweet, and has a unique, rustic flavor. Perfect for Indian summer picnics and, um, breakfast the next morning…

    Peach Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake

    Adapted from Martha Stewart

    -1 stick, plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

    -1 cup sugar

    -3-4 medium ripe peaches, skins on, pitted, and cut into 3/4-inch wedges

    -1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta

    -3/4 cup flour

    -1 teaspoon baking powder

    -2 teaspoons chopped fresh lavender, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender

    -1 1/4 teaspoons salt

    -3 eggs

    -1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    -1/2 cup heavy cream

    Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, using a pastry brush to coat sides with butter as it melts. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar evenly over bottom of skillet, and cook until sugar starts to bubble and turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Arrange peaches in a circle at edge of skillet, on top of sugar. Arrange the remaining wedges in the center to fill. Reduce heat to low, and cook until juices are bubbling and peaches begin to soften, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.

    Beat remaining stick of butter and 3/4 cup sugar with a mixer on high speed, until fluffy. Add eggs. Mix in vanilla and cream.
    In a separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, lavender, and salt. Beat cornmeal mixture into cream and sugar mixture in 2 additions. Your batter should be thick and sticky. Drop large spoonfuls of batter over peaches, and spread evenly using back of a spoon or spatula.

    Bake at 350 degrees in the oven 25 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer skillet to a wire rack, and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around edge of cake. Place a cutting board or cake plate over skillet, and quickly invert. Remove skillet and reposition any peaches that may stick to the bottom. Cut big slices and serve with homemade whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream blended with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1-2 tablespoons sugar). Enjoy with long-lost friends and a bottle of wine. I suggest these people and the vino classiness of Three Buck Chuck:
  • The time has come…

    Soooo earlier this week I promised something BIG.

    Something EXCITING.


    And not to toot my own horn, but I really think that what I have in store for you is all three…AND it involves pie.

    Aaaannnnndddddd…..Drum roll please!


    And not just any jar….but the most adorable,  1/2 pint-sized mason jars. Oye. My life is complete…

    I saw a recipe similar to this one earlier this year and have been dreaming about it ever since. A perfect serving of bubbly, tart filling surrounded by golden pie crust, ensconced in a beautiful keepsake vessel?….Pie IS poetry people!

    These little darlings are not only super fun to assemble and experiment with,  but they also are the perfect gift to give. A friend of mine just moved out of the city, and as a parting gift, I gave her one of these guys and sent her on her way. Not only was she thrilled by the pie itself, but now she can use the empty jar for any number of things.

    My top three picks:

    1. Holding the COPIOUS amounts of money she will be making in her new gig teaching children’s theatre (LIVE THE DREAM!).

    2. Flowers!…there have to be some in the mid-West in the next few months..right, guys?

    3. Holding the beverage of her choice (I suggest whiskey).

    This first attempt at mason jar pie was a success…if only for the pure delight of seeing my long-lost college bud before she went off on a new journey and giving her a small present I was able to fill with love…and berries.

    Raspberry-Blueberry-Strawberry Mason Jar Pies

    Crust recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

    Filling recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

    Note: That deity of the kitchen, Kate Hunt, bought me a four-pack of mason jars, and halving the crust recipe provided me with the perfect amount of dough. I like an equal filling-to-crust ratio, but the great thing about mason jar pies is that you can easily control how much of what is going into your jar. For example, I experimented with one of my pies, placing the dough just on top of the filling instead of lining the whole jar. This would be ideal for the weirdo in your family that does not like a lot of crust, but can easily be manipulated for the other weirdo that does not like a lot of filling. Weirdos. 

    I loosely consulted Joy the Baker’s cobbler recipe for the filling here for two reasons: Numba A: I love Joy the Baker. Numba B: This recipe does not call for any granulated sugar, just maple syrup (I also added in some honey). I love getting my sweetness from some place other than boring, old white sugar, and this combo worked PERFECTLY with the tartness of the berries.


    Makes enough crust for 4 mason jar pies, including lining the jar and putting a crust on top. You can double these proportions for a regular, double-crust pie.

    1 1/4 cups flour
    1/2 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 stick cold, unsalted butter

    1/4 cup ice water

    Cut your butter up into small cubes. Mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Working in small batches, blend the butter cubes and flour mixture together in your pastry blender (This was my first attempt using the pastry blender, and I am now a convert…the blender is amazing! The things it does with such ease! If you are more traditional, you can also use a pastry cutter for this step).

    Transfer butter-flour mixture to a big bowl and add ice water. Mix together with your hands until a dough ball forms. You may need an extra tablespoon or two of water. You want the dough to stick together but not be too messy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare filling.


    My filling was VERY watery, and bubbled out of its dough blanket ALOT. While this did not effect the taste at all, it might be more aesthetically pleasing to drain off the majority of the juice before baking.

    Also, I loved the tartness of the berries I used here, but you can experiment with other kinds as well. Cherries or blackberries would work just as well!

    1 pint blueberries

    1/2 pint red raspberries

    1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced

    2 tablespoons flour

    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/4 ground nutmeg

    Few dashes ground cloves

    1/4 cup sweetener, such as honey, maple syrup or agave nectar (I used a combination of honey and maple syrup to get the 1/4 cup)

    Gently toss all ingredients in large bowl. Chill while you prepare jars.

    To assemble mason jar pies:

    Line jars with chilled dough, filling in the bottom and along the sides. Leave about 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar. The dough lining should be opaque, so do not skimp on this step (unless you are one of the weirdos mentioned above).

    Spoon approximately 1/2 cup filling into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch from crust line.

    Roll out remaining dough on floured surface until dough is approximately 1/2 inch thick. Using the mason jar lid, cut out dough circles. If you want to get creative, use a knife or mini cookie cutter (or a cork screw if you are super rustic and/or that is the only thing within your reach at that moment) to cut shapes out of the circles (I did hearts and initials). If you want to give yourself a challenge, try a mini basket weave (this is a 100% foul proof way to impress your pie recipient!). I have to give a big shout out to Forty-one things for courageously taking on the weave and snapping off some great photos of the day…you the best!

    Place dough on top of filling, using a spatula to lift it off the counter if needed. Use a fork to seal top crust onto the side crust.

    Place jars on a baking sheet. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles.

    After they have cooled, decorate jar with fancy ribbon, personalize the lid and give as a gift to your new best friend.

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