Tuesday, April 6, 2010

24 delicious reasons not be scared of yeast

Although I didn’t get my act together in time to plan a brunch, I couldn’t let Easter pass me by without making a batch of cinnamon rolls, after all, we only get them twice a year, Easter and Christmas, and December is a long way off. Since I don’t have a crew to feed them to this year, I thought about just taking the easy route and making something more simple and low calorie, like Hungry Girl Cinnamon Rolls, or one of the plethora of recipes online for cinnamon rolls that don’t require rising and rolling and rising again. I found out that some people are scared of working with yeast! They think it’s too hard. To that I say, “Have you TRIED my cinnamon rolls?” So, partly just on principle I decided to go ahead and put in the effort to make REAL cinnamon rolls: straight from the Kitchen Aid cookbook and into my family traditions.

Basic Sweet Dough

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 eggs -room temperature
5-1/2 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Place milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture, eggs, and 5 cups flour. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 2 minutes.

Continuing on Speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix about 2 minutes, or until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl. Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch dough down.

(Unless you have a big space to work with and a trusty assistant to help with rolling, I would suggest splitting the dough in half here and continuing on in 2 batches. Also, this is where you could turn this dough into any type of roll or loaf your little heart desires, just to sure you plan for a second hour-long rise after you shape but before you bake)

Cinnamon Rolls

1 batch of basic sweet dough
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 tbsp ground cinnamon

Roll out dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Brush butter evenly onto dough and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the sheet of dough into a log. Cut with a sharp serrated knife into 24 sections.

Place sections face up in a well greased glass baking dish (I usually fill my 9 x 13 and my 8 x 8) being careful to leave about an inch of space between each roll for rising. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 additional hour after shaping.
Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.

Mom’s Simple Icing

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk or cream

Drizzle milk into powdered sugar until mixture is thin enough to drizzle. Spoon icing over warm cinnamon rolls before serving.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cupcake of the Month: April Foolishness

Even though I know by May, when it’s 105 degrees in my kitchen, I will regret this resolution, I decided that a fun goal now that I have my very own little corner of the internet to talk about it I am going to try to make one fun seasonal cupcake a month! In March clearly the Car Bomb reigns supreme, but now that it’s April I couldn’t wait to get started on festive springtime cupcakes. I love Easter because it is the perfect holiday to welcome spring colors with open arms! Goodbye rich chocolate desserts of winter, hello fresh fruits and delicious creams!

My first batch of springtime cupcakes was made with a Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix. Inspired by my trip to Hawaii last August when I feel in love with a traditional Hawaiian coconut dessert called haupia, I simmered 1 cup coconut milk on the stove and added 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 1 tbsp cornstarch, then allowed the mixture to come to a rolling boil stirring constantly with a wire whisk. The result was not quite the haupia I had expected. I ended up with lumpy, syrupy concoction, but it tasted good. So I flipped the cupcakes and gave each one a quick dip in the coconut icing before plopping them into a bowl of sweetened coconut flakes I dyed with green and yellow food coloring. I found that 3 drops of yellow and 4 drops of green plus about 4 drops of water mixed in with every cup of coconut makes for a nice color that’s not too overwhelming. I topped the first batch with my roses, carrots, and little eggs I made out of leftover midges since I didn’t have any jellybeans in the house.
Once the first batch of cupcakes has been sent off to better homes, imagine my excitement when a potluck BBQ got planned for the day before Easter. Armed with an opportunity to try again I decided to go the “store bought” route to make my life a little easier. For this round I used a white cake mix for the cupcakes. To make 24 cupcakes I only needed half a 16oz tub of store bought vanilla frosting. Using room temperature frosting, I whipped it in my trusty Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment and drizzled in about 2 to 3 tbsp of milk to loosen it up and make it easier to spread. Then, I add 6 drops of each yellow and green food coloring to make it a little closer to the color of my coconut “grass.” I spread a little less than a tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and again turned them upside down into a bowl of colored coconut to coat them. I topped some of them with my tootsie flowers and others with speckled jellybeans. If you try this out be sure to save a little frosting to use as the glue to stick the jelly beans and flowers to the cupcakes, otherwise they’ll just roll right off.

Let Me See That Toostie Roll

Browsing Lovely and Gracious, an amazing DIY wedding blog, I came across a link to this too cute idea of tootsie roll roses! Since I have a little bit of experience making roses out of fondant I figured tootsie would be a snap, not to mention it wouldn’t taste like chemicals (don’t even get me started on my feelings about store bought fondant…) 

So, with a bag of “midgees” from the dollar store I tried to follow the directions for the rolls posted on Dabbled. As it turns out, they’re not as easy, or as small as they look on the screen. Pulling each petal before the other tootsie on the plate got cold and hard was a race against the clock, and once those suckers were on a chopstick they didn’t want to come off. So, after a few roses (since I was making them cupcake size each of my petals was 1/16 of a tootsie, not 1/8 like the directions imply) I gave up and decided with spring on it’s way I would make little carrots instead! They proved to be much more my speed. Each carrot took 1/4 of an orange tootsie and 1/8 of a green one. I used the same microwaving method as was used for the roses, but shaped the balls into carrots and stems, then wedged them together using the sharp end of a kabob skewer.

My next round of cupcakes I was ready to give flowers another shot, but was determined to do it my own way. Daisies! I started by cutting the tootsies into quarters, microwaved them for 8 seconds, cut them into 1/8ths and rolled them into balls, gave them another 5 seconds in the microwave, then cut each 1/8th into 5 equal pieces and rolled them into little bean shaped petals. Using the fat end of the kabob skewer I smashed the petals together and gave the center a light twist to keep them together as I removed them from the skewer. These little flowers are much easier than the roses, and make for a cute spring/summer cupcake. They could easily be scaled up for a full sized cake, too!