Saturday, January 10, 2009

Donut Muffins. Is this possible?

I know its sounds too good to be true, but true it is. They may not taste exactly like donuts, but they are some kind of delicious. I have been heavily preusing food blogs in these waning days of my winter break and am particularly addicted to Beautiful food photos, fun stories, cute kid hands grabbing for cookies, rolling dough, and a good mix of baking and cooking--and-- these, now infamous in my house, donut muffins.

It is snowing today, off and on. We took a lovely, but very windy, walk out in the weather and on return, I whipped these babies up. I made a few modifications to the bread and honey recipe:
Two tablespoons less butter, a half a cup of whole wheat flour to replace 1/2 cup of the 3 cups of ap flour, a 1/2 tsp of vanilla and buttermilk instead of milk and vinager (I always have buttermilk, so why make sour milk?). Mine were a little top heavy; I don't have a big muffin tin.
It is only two hours before we go have dinner with my mother-in-law. I am pretty strict about sweets before dinner; someone must have drilled that into me as child. But I just couldn't resist these perfumey little cakes (muffins is a bit of stretch). As I sit here, I am thinking about grabbing one more.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Christmas Cooking

It's been a hell of a long time since I blogged, I know. And I know that Christmas long since passed, but I have much to report after a frenzy of Christmas cooking and baking. I tried my hand at many new recipes over the holidays, some turned out delicious, others ok, and others surpising.

Let's start with one of my favorite but most challenging baking events, Cinnamon Rolls. I found this receipe in Bon Appetit last March. Molly Wizenberg's article made it all sound so easy. She promised that a yeast novice could pull this one off. I began to covet the recipe. I dreamed about it; I read and re-read the recipe; I bought the instant yeast. And, 10 months later, I finally got up the nerve to make these little honies for Christmas morning breakfast. My long-since lapsed Catholic husband relented to his, forever unlapsed, Catholic mother's request that he go to Christmas morning mass. This gave me the opportunity to indulge in my own religion--baking Cinnamon Rolls.
Promising looking little ball of dough, no? Well, it didn't rise in time for me to roll, cut, and bake it for the returning church folk; our house is just too darn cold in the morning. On the fly, I whipped up a delicious, but hardly comparable, Caramel Nut Coffee Cake from Molly Katzen's Sunlight Cafe (my tried and true breakfast book). My mother-in-law loves cake, all kinds of cake, so she was perfectly happy. I pinned for the rolls.

Here they are about to hit the oven, well after breakfast. Not too bad, for a four hour total rise. I made two pans of these. I am embarassed to say I don't have an image of the final results. Can you believe it? But they were sick-yummy. We had to stop ourselves from eating each and everyone immediately. I decided to forgo the cream cheese glaze.They were so pillowy and luscious without it.

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.
Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15x11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here's a list of some the other items included in my holiday baking/cooking stint:
  • Apple Cranberry Walnut Crumble
  • Oat Wheat Bread
  • Rye Onion Quick Bread
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (the best recipe know to man, perfect, from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook)
  • Baked Shrimp with a Peanut Dipping Sauce
  • Braised Paprika Chicken

This last one was from EatingWell Magazine; my New Years Day dinner guests loved it. I have a strange relationship with this magazine. I like to read the recipes and the articles, but I usually give it a gander and then turn to the recent Fine Cooking or Cooks Illustrated when I actually get down to cooking. This recipe was a delicious surprise (and lower fat, if that makes a difference to anyone).

I may have forgotten other things made and eaten; it was a long holiday with much feasting.