Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

When the weather finally starts to chill out, all I want to do is eat something warm and cinnamon-y. My folks have been nagging me to make cinnamon rolls again. Been there, done that. Instead, I looked for something similar that’ll please my folks, and give me something new to make.

I’ve been seeing pull apart bread for what feels like ages all over the internet. They’ve always intrigued me but I never really thought about making one. It reminds me a little of monkey bread, another one I’ve seen everywhere. The fact that these recipes are both interactive seemed like a good idea. Little did I know I was in for a bit of a challenge.

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First of all, the recipe itself is a little strange to me. It’s a bread recipe, which I am familiar with, except this one has a different method. The dough is very wet at first and it’ll feel like it’s never going to come together. I was initially concerned midway through the recipe when I saw how sticky it was, and that I barely needed to knead it. The dough actually reminded me of two things: an egg bread, and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls. The only difference was that the cinnamon roll dough wasn’t this sticky (it handled like a dream. I swear I’m not talking about a car).  As I moved further along in the process, it did come together.

Relieved from knowing the dough turned into dough, I moved forward onto the next steps. Let’s talk about this topping for a minute. Cinnamon sugar is super simple to make, and does this thing where whatever it’s on is basically automatically delicious. I don’t know how that works but it does. This recipe calls for a lot. A LOT. Joy (the mastermind behind this recipe) says to use it all. Look, I was as skeptical as you when I read that. I thought about it for quite some time (read: two minutes) and ended up holding back. Listen to Joy, people. Use it all. When stacking the slices of dough encased in sugar, a lot of it fell off. It kind of defeats the purpose of using all of it but make sure you slap on all that butter, too. Sprinkle the leftover sugar on top if you must but use it all up.

Proofed, looking like an accordion

After I got through the messy cinnamon sugar stage, it was time to pop the slices in the pan. I have a regular loaf pan (a 9×5), which is what the recipe called for. Considering my measuring skills suck, my rectangle of dough wasn’t the exact size in the recipe, which means my strips weren’t sliced into six. I had five strips that turned into eight stacks, which ended up backfiring on me a little bit. I gently maneuvered my stacked and sliced sugared strips into the pan and let it rise. It looked like a beautiful, sugary accordion. So lovely. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to clean up my kitchen.

About 10 minutes in, I hear sizzling. Confused about the noise (because since when does bread sizzle?), I turned on the oven light and checked on the bread through the oven door. Pieces of the bread had come out of the loaf pan and onto my oven racks and floor! I dropped whatever I was doing, grabbed the longest pair of tongs in my house, and popped the oven open. I was able to rescue the piece that fell on the rack but the one on the oven floor ended up giving me grief. Since it was covered in sugar, it burned all over my oven floor. It smelled like burnt sugar for a while, too. I guess that was my fault but I wasn’t expecting that to happen! I cleaned up my oven after I finished baking, though. A real pain but it happens.

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Even after all of that, the bread continued to give me grief. It did not want to get out of the pan. Like at all. I buttered it twice, and it still stuck. Again, all that sugar was to blame. It caramelized and hardened a little while it was cooling. After several knife runs and turns upside down, I got the bread out with a few minor injuries (read: the bread fell apart in some places).

Despite the fact that it gave me some trouble, the bread came out absolutely delicious! It didn’t even last the day in my house; it was that good. The top was super crunchy because of all that sugar. The bread itself was light and fluffy, which I guess has to do with the odd dough method. Kudos to that, to be honest. It actually reminded me a lot of a Dominican sweet I can only get when I’m over there called ‘pan dulce;’ which literally translates to sweet bread, and that’s exactly what they are. And like I correctly assumed, it was fun to peel off each layer before devouring it. My folks peeled them off in chunks, and all you heard were approving noises come out of them while they had their mouths full.

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I’m not one to repeat recipes but even though this bread gave me a little trouble, I’d make it again. At least I now know how to handle it!

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

Dough:

  • 3  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar topping:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside. Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should be a little warmer than body temperature.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be very sticky.
  4. Place the dough in a large, and well greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned, and set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too.
  6. Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Emphasis on ‘all
  7. Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
  8. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.   Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto  a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Rereading the recipe made me realize a very important tidbit I missed the first time. FLOUR THE PAN. Jeez, that would’ve save me a lot of time (and a minor headache). 
  • Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t roll out to exactly the size stated in the recipe. I didn’t and it came out fine. Sorta. 
  • Make sure your loaf is completely cooked through. The bread should be super brown, like almost on the verge of burning. Not only does that leave you with a super crunchy crust, but it gives the bread time to cook through without sacrificing taste. 

Kitchen Experiments: Bagels

Bagels have been on my list for the longest; probably since I started baking bread. I don’t know why it took me so long to get to them. I guess it was probably because everything about bagels seemed so daunting. I also thought a stand mixer was required for these kinds of things. While they may make the process easier, they are by no means a requirement. Back when I put these on my list, they stayed there because of how much work goes into them. I am never afraid of more work, especially when it’s in the kitchen because it’s always a labor of love to me. But the fact that these bagels take two whole days to make was the main reason I put them off for so long. I quickly found out that there wasn’t much of a challenge and that maybe two days isn’t necessary. Either way, I finally got to cross them off my list (twice!)

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First things first, you need a sponge. This is the starter for the bagels, which is a combo of 1 teaspoon instant yeast, 4 cups of bread flour, and 2 1/2 cups of room temperature water. Stir the ingredients together until homogenous and kinda looks like pancake batter. Cover and let rise at room temp for two hours. The first time I made these (yes, I made them twice), I started the sponge and went out to see a movie. I am totally serious, too. The movie was fantastic, as was my sponge when I got home. Technically, you’re supposed to let it rise for two hours but mine did fine with more than that. Honestly, I thought I was gonna come home and find my house overtaken by the sponge! It really was fine, and I got to work soon after.

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Now, it’s dough time. Nothing out of the ordinary here; more yeast (1/2 teaspoon), bread flour (3 3/4 cups), salt (2 2/4 teaspoons) and sugar (1 tablespoon). Fairly simple. Heads up though; make sure your flour is bread flour. I think that because mine was some “better for bread” flour, that may have had something to do with the finishing texture. Nothing terrible, just may not have been what I was looking for.

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After forming a somewhat cohesive dough ball, it’s time for the most labor intensive part of the entire recipe: the kneading. This is where a stand mixer would really come in handy because this blob needs to be kneaded for quite some time. 10 whole minutes by hand (if you’re brave). Knead the blob until it’s firm but still smooth, pliable and not sticky. If a tad dry, add small amounts of water to rehydrate the dough. Too sticky? Add a bit more flour and knead until desired texture. Rule of thumb: when making doughs, you know you’re pretty much done kneading when it’s no longer sticky. The trick is to keep kneading it to that point without adding a ton of flour. Challenging, but the more you do it, the more you’ll know by feel when you need more flour versus more kneading.

After kneading, break out your scale and your bench scraper because it’s portioning time! According to Deb and the recipe, standard bagels are 4.5oz., so that’s what I did. I got a dozen but please reference the recipe for different sizes/weights. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes. Take advantage of this break, as kneading that dough was no easy feat! Also, line some baking pans with parchment for later.

To form the dough balls into bagels, I picked up one of the rested dough balls and began making an indent in the middle, and kind of wiggling my thumb into the ball to begin making the hole. After the dough was pierced through the indent, I widened it while turning the dough to make sure it stayed pretty uniform. After forming them all, I placed them on a lined baking sheet, covered them with plastic wrap and let them rest again for another 20 minutes. I cleaned up during the wait; baking’s messy!

This is where things get interesting. After the 20 minutes is up, fill a bowl with some cool/room temp water. Not cold and not hot; cool. Carefully take one of the rested bagels and plop it in the water. It should float within seconds. Got a sinker? Carefully dry off the tester, return it to the pan, cover and let rest an additional 10-20 minutes and re-test until it floats. That’s how you know it’s ready for the next step: an overnight rise in the fridge (aka retarding). The first time I made these, I did the overnight rise and my bagels came out good. The second time, I skipped the overnight rise and let them rise for about four hours. I did not note much of a difference. Is the overnight rest necessary? Probably. Does it mean you won’t have delicious bagels if you shorten the time? No. If you have the time (and fridge space), go for the overnight. If not, four hours works just fine. Carefully dry the tester bagel and return to the pan. Pop them in the fridge to rest overnight (or four hours).

Now that the bagels have spent time in the fridge, it’s time to bake. Turn your oven on up to 11 (ahem, 500F), and prep a large, wide pot with some water. Bring the pot to a boil with a tablespoon of baking soda. Before baking, bagels bathe in this boiling hot solution. Why? To form that signature bagel crust. You know the one; where the bagel is all crisp on the outside but chewy and soft on the inside. I heard this is the reason why bagels only get toasted on one side (the inside part, if you were wondering). Giant pretzels go through the same process, but that’s another post. Once boiling, place as many bagels as will fit in the pot (mine fit 3) and let them sit in there for two minutes before turning them over and letting them sit in a minute longer. Remove those moist pre-bagels and place them back on the lined baking sheet that’s been sprinkled with cornmeal. This helps them not stick to the paper once wet.

Once you’ve bathed all your pre-bagels, pop them in that scorching oven for five minutes. After that, rotate the pans (180 degrees and switch the top and bottom pans) and bake at 450F for five minutes or more. After the five minutes, check them because mine took much longer than that. I think I baked mine for 10-15 more minutes before they got all golden brown; keep an eye on them. After they get all nice and brown, cool them on the sheet on racks until cool enough to handle.

That’s basically it! Not so bad, if I do say so myself. And I’m talking about the process and the bagels! They came out delicious. Although they weren’t what I was used to (AHEM, prepackaged stuff), they were pretty darn good. I’m telling you, I made them twice in two weeks! The crispy crust was definitely there (thanks baking soda bath!) and they were fluffy, and chewy in the middle like they’re supposed to be. Like a typical New Yorker, I had mine with a schmear of good old fashioned cream cheese (no lox though; maybe in the future).  I have to say though, this was quite the challenge. But not challenging enough that I won’t want to tackle them again, perhaps with a different flavor and recipe. Whatever I decide to do, you’ll know.

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Bagels – recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

(Holy crap, I am NOT typing all that out again. Please visit the lovely Deb at Smitten Kitchen to re-read the recipe in recipe format. Also, check out her tips and variations of these bagels!)

Hot Cross Buns

My family isn’t really into holidays. If I’m not at the helm of the celebrations, nothing actually gets celebrated. I’m usually the one in charge of Christmas and Thanksgiving, along with birthdays and any other festivities. That’s because I love traditions, and even though our Easter traditions died with my youth, I’m tempted to resurrect them now as an adult (see what I did there?). When my sister and I were younger, we’d do the fancy dress, church, candy deal. All the kids in the building would get together and share candy while wearing our Sunday best, while the adults did their own thing.

These days, we don’t really do much for Easter. The only thing kept alive during these times is the making of a huge pot of habichuelas con dulce for Good Friday; a sweet dessert type thing from the homeland made of  blended, cooked red beans with tons of milk, sugar, spices, and patience. Inside of this slurry there are raisins, sometimes yellow yams (sweet potatoes?), and these mini milk cookies that I dubbed ‘Jesus crackers.’ This is the only highlight of Holy Week for me, and while we still get a taste of this traditional drink/dessert every year, I wanted to do more.

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In an effort to inject a little bit of some American traditions into my house, I tried making some hot cross buns. We were already used to buying those hot cross buns from the supermarket around this time of year. You know the ones; in a certain white and blue box boasting a mass of perforated shiny slabs that held barely any dried fruit, draped with a thick, white and slippery cross of icing draped over the top. Well, not this year.

The last time we had these in the house, I realized that I could do better. My family could do better. Sure, these buns were alright by their standards, but why stick to the packaged stuff when it’s this easy to make your own? After getting really accustomed to working with yeast and getting real deep in dough, I knew this wasn’t much of a challenge. Except, I needed a recipe.

I had an idea of what I wanted for these buns. My parental units like their carbs on the sweet side, so that was a no brainer. They’re also pretty into dried fruit. Besides taking part in hot cross buns during Easter, they are also big fans of fruitcake for Christmas. Yes, the stuff most people throw out, my parents purchase willingly. What can I say? They dig the fruit. Anyway, I knew I wanted to throw in as much dried fruit as I could into these babies. I opted for The Pioneer Woman’s super easy recipe but adjusted the amounts of fruit, among other things. Besides the recommended raisins, I also threw in some dried cranberries and chopped, dried apricots into the dough. All the dried fruit was about a cup’s worth, meaning these were packed with fruity goodness. I was tempted to soak them in some booze first but this is a holy holiday; I’m not about to get struck by lightning or spontaneously combust into flames over some boozy fruit.

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Not only was I tempted to booze these buns up, I almost didn’t add the cross. Before y’all smite me, let me explain. I’ve mentioned it several times here already but in case you didn’t know, my folks are not fond of any type of icing or frosting. Shameful, I know but that’s just how they roll. I’m quite the opposite (thank goodness) but I didn’t want my parents to skip out on these, considering I made these with them in mind. I even contemplated just doing some of them but that’s just not right. The whole point of these things is the cross; hence the name “hot cross buns.” What are they without that strip of frosting? A roll. It’s just a roll. I threw caution to the wind and crossed them all, hoping I didn’t just make a huge mistake.

While these buns are traditionally supposed to be eaten on Good Friday, we had these for Easter Sunday. And despite the presence of icing, these were actually a big hit! Not surprising, considering the circumstances. Even though the dough was a little tricky to work with, the buns came out super soft, chewy, and studded with fruit. The icing cross actually made these buns, adding an extra hint of sweetness to these lightly sweetened buns. Crazy what a little icing can do!  No one missed the tasteless, slimy, and sticky mess from the box this year.

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While this wasn’t what we used to do for Easter back in the day, it may be the beginning of a new tradition. Something tells me this won’t be the last time I make these, either.

Hot Cross Buns – adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

Makes 18 buns

Buns:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsps Active Dry Yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 heaping tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 scant tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps salt

Filling:

  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 cup mixed, dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, currants, apricots, etc.)

Glaze:

  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of milk

Icing:

  • 1 egg white
  • Powdered sugar
  • Splash of milk

Directions:

  1. For the buns: combine 2 cups of milk, stick of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan. Heat until butter is just melted. Mix should be warm but not boiling. Take off heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the mix into a bigger bowl. Sprinkle the yeast onto the liquid mix and add the 2 cups of whole wheat flour, and the 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir to combine; the mixture should be sticky. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  3. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon and other spices. Set aside for now.
  5. Lightly flour your surface. Turn dough out and slightly flatten. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the spiced sugar, and about a third of the dried fruits. Fold the dough over onto itself, flattening slightly. You should have a “plain” surface of dough. Sprinkle some more spiced sugar, dried fruit, and fold the dough over again. Repeat this process once more. No worries if you have left over spiced sugar.
  6. Portion and form the dough into dough balls. Place on a lined baking sheet and cover. Proof for 30 minutes to an hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  8. For the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white with a splash of milk. Brush the risen balls of dough with the beaten white.
  9. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Remove from the pan and transfer to wire racks to COOL COMPLETELY.
  10. For the icing: beat the egg white with enough sifted powdered sugar to make a thick icing. Add in small amounts of milk, if needed, to reach your desired consistency.
  11. Place icing in a ziplock bag. Snip the corner off and pipe icing crosses onto each roll.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of soy, 2% and rice milk without any issues
  • I also used the remaining egg white/milk from the glaze for the icing  
  • Sift the powdered sugar for the icing; trust me

 

Banana Bread

I love bananas. Not only are they delicious, but they’re accessible and go well with pretty much anything. I have yet to meet anyone who hates bananas (besides Ree but I’ve never met her, though). I am down to eat bananas in any shape, way or form; except when they’re brown and spotty. I know what you’re thinking; “that’s when bananas are their best because they’re super soft and super sweet” but I don’t like eating them straight up when they’re at that stage. When they are, they’re closer to death via trash can than being eaten.

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When picking my bananas, I try to get them as green as possible so that they’ll ripen to my liking at home. I find that the bright yellow bananas at the supermarket get all spotty and close to death when I bring them home quicker than the greener ones. I like my bananas bright yellow, with the slightest tinge of green because they’re not too sweet but a bit tart, starchy, and delicious. I’ll even eat them plain yellow and with minimal spots but as soon as they start getting really spotty and turn black, they’re dead to me.

The last hand of nanners we brought home got spotty fairly quickly. I’m not sure why it happened so fast but I purposely let a pair of them get even closer to their death; right before any fruit flies showed up for the funeral. I had been dying to make banana bread (heh no pun intended), so I took advantage of the situation. It’s one of the two ways I’ll eat a banana on its death bed; the other being in a smoothie. Even though I needed a third for this recipe, I trucked on with my two lonely, almost dead nanners.

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I chose this recipe for one reason and one reason only: there’s booze in here! If you know me, you’ll know how much I love putting liquor in almost everything I bake. The irony here is that I barely drink. I raid my dad’s liquor cabinet regularly when baking. He hates it but I do it anyway! My mom got a bottle of Jim Beam Honey Bourbon for Christmas, which he swiftly added to his collection since she’s not much of a liquor drinker. I’m not much of a drinker either but when I saw this, I had to taste it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about bourbon, and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I popped open the bottle and took a swig. It was warm, sweet and went down easy. I think the best thing about drinking liquor straight up is that warming sensation it leaves going down your throat, and this stuff definitely does that! We still had a bit left in the bottle, so I threw some of it in the batter.

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The banana bread loaf came out a bit short, probably because I only used two bananas, but it was delicious. The loaf developed this beautiful brown crust that covered the soft and tender cake. The bananas are front and center, bringing their distinct taste and sweetness forward. Although it is virtually undetectable, the honey bourbon added just a tiny extra bit of sweetness to the bread that you just can’t get from sugar. Overall, it was just yummy. I fought my impulse of wanting to add chocolate chunks but I may have to next time. Toasted walnuts would also go extremely well in this cake.

I don’t know what it is about banana bread, but it makes me want to intentionally kill all my bananas just so I can make more!

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Deb’s Jacked Up Banana Bread – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4  light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon honey bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Up to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix.
  3. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Like nuts in your banana bread? Throw them in! Toasted and chopped walnuts or pecans would work fabulously in here. Same goes with chocolate chunks (just don’t toast them!) 
  • Want a super chocolatey banana bread loaf? Deb got your back.
  • I used honey bourbon but feel free to use whatever dark rum you have, or leave it out entirely if you’d like. 
  • The original recipe uses 1/3 cup of salted butter. If using, omit the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 
  • Did you notice this is a one bowl wonder? 

Cinnamon Raisin Coconut Bread Pudding

A large bag of sliced white bread recently came into my possession, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. In my house, we eat homemade whole wheat bread (~special snowflake alert~) because it doesn’t make my head hurt, and because it’s easy to make. We stopped buying bread months ago, so eating a slice of processed white bread (or anything highly processed, really) brings an unwanted sugar shock to my body. Since I didn’t want the loaf to go to waste anyway, I decided to make something with it.

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I have never made bread pudding before. It has been on my list for quite a while but I never got around to actually making it. I feel like a bread pudding made with whole wheat bread would be really weird, so that’s why it was still on my list. I’ve always dreamed of eating a challah bread pudding, but that’ll probably be another time. Anyway, with this bag of white bread in hand, I finally took the plunge.

Bread pudding is basically a custard. It actually reminds me of baked French toast; which could probably be a loosely based version of this depending on who you ask. I reckon if you leave the slices whole, it’d be a baked French toast. So, this custard. I am actually really familiar with custards; thanks to my mom, the flan queen. This custard isn’t exactly like my mami’s flan but they are similar. It’s egg and milk based; the two main ingredients in custard. Granted, my mami’s flan has a higher ratio of eggs and milk, but I think I’ll discuss that at a later time 😉

Anyway, this bread pudding is kind of another version of my blondies because I threw a bunch of random things in here that I had lying around my cupboard. I had some coconut milk left over from some caramel sauce, sweetened shredded coconut from a batch of cookies, raisins left over from my breakfasts, and of course the star of the show: the white bread. Technically, you’re supposed to use day old bread but considering we were keeping this loaf in the fridge, I used it as is. I also threw in some cognac because booze makes everything better (and because I ran out of vanilla and wanted some extra flavor in there). I did get a little heavy handed with it, though. Oops! I topped it with some turbinado sugar for crunch before baking and before I knew it, I had bread pudding.

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I gotta be honest. Another one of the reasons I kept putting off making bread pudding was because of something else. One of my neighbors loves bread pudding, so she tried making one. Her final result was a thick and gray blob that had nuggets of dry white bread. How the bread was still dry in there is beyond me, but it turned me off the stuff forever. I was terrified that this bread pudding was going to end up tasting like a regular slice of dry white bread. Thankfully, it didn’t! It was actually kind of amazing. The bread was completely soaked in this boozy and spicy custard; its insides were soft and moist, each bite melting in your mouth. There was a hint of crunch with every bite, thanks to the turbinado sugar topping and toasted coconut shreds. The raisins plumped up, adding some chewiness against the softness of the custardy and crunchy bread pudding.

It was so good; I ate it warm, room temperature, and cold from the fridge! It was delicious every single time. I still got the sugar shock from the bread (and the sugar) but it was so worth it, I’d eat it again in a heartbeat; despite the consequences. I’m glad I actually made this because it really got my gears going. There are so many different variations that I want to try, including a challah bread pudding. I’ll just try and remember to go easy on the alcohol next time 😉

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Cinnamon Raisin Coconut Bread Pudding – adapted from allrecipes.com

Makes one 9″ round pan, or 8×8″ square pan

  • 9 slices of white bread, cubed (crusts included)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon rum (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cube or break bread into small pieces and place in an 8×8 inch square baking pan (or 9 inch round pan). Drizzle the melted butter over bread, and sprinkle with the raisins and half of the shredded coconut.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, coconut milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and rum if using. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly press down with a fork/spoon/spatula until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining coconut and turbinado sugar.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Cool slightly before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you’d like a thicker custard, sub one of the whole eggs for one egg yolk. 
  • It took every ounce of my being to not throw chocolate chunks in here. Use whatever toppings you’d like or have on hand; it’s bound to be delicious anyway!
  • If you have a crust aversion, cut them off the slices of bread before cubing. 
  • You can also use milk, half and half, or heavy cream in place of the coconut milk. 

Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits are one of the perfect breakfast foods; next to pancakes and oatmeal, of course. Yes, oatmeal is in the top three but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, biscuits are perfect because like rolls, they are the perfect vehicle for a number of different fillings and toppings, and don’t necessarily have to be exclusive to breakfast.

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When we think of biscuits, the word “buttermilk” is not that far away. Buttermilk biscuits are traditional, although they can also be made with heavy cream, too. When I was a kid, the only biscuits that were made in my house were the ones that came in the can. One twist (and maybe a bang) and the carton would pop, revealing one long, indented log of dough. My folks were fans of the ones that had those peelable layers but I was a classic biscuit kind of girl. We bought those on and off for years, and then eventually moved on to the frozen kind. We’d buy this huge bag of frozen biscuit pucks that’d thaw on the way home from the store; turning into one giant biscuit conglomerate that was impossible to separate without any casualties. Obviously, we stopped buying those as well.

It had been a long minute since we had biscuits, but I missed them and often longed for them at breakfast time. Armed with a carton of buttermilk that recently came into my possession, it was time to quell my craving. I went to the trusty Smitten Kitchen for a foolproof recipe that can be put together in minutes. These biscuits are basically a one bowl wonder that can be done two ways; drop or cut outs.

I made these twice within a week and decided to try them both ways. I didn’t make many adjustments to the recipe; aside from switching half of the flour for whole wheat. The dough comes together fairly quickly and is easy to work with. For the drop biscuits, I used my 1/4 cup measure to spoon out them out onto the baking sheets; just to make sure I got the right amount per biscuit. For the cut outs, I patted the dough onto a floured surface and cut out the rings using a biscuit cutter (that you may have seen in last week’s post). The important tip Deb outlined in the cut outs is DO NOT TWIST THE BISCUIT CUTTER WHEN CUTTING OUT THE BISCUIT. She says this limits the biscuits from rising into fluffy layers and I believe she’s right. I mean, I didn’t want to try twisting it to see what would happen but it’s science! So, she’s got a point.

Anyway you make these biscuits, they come out fluffy, buttery and delicious. The taste was reminiscent of a scone, which makes sense as biscuits and scones are closely related. The whole wheat flour lends a bit of nuttiness to the tender and crumbly biscuit. I personally prefer the drop biscuit because there’s less mess/clean up, and because the uneven surface lends to more brown and crunchy bits. With that, my biscuit craving was finally settled. Like a fresh loaf of sandwich bread, homemade biscuits will always be within reach. Whether you decide on dropping them or cutting them out, these will make a great addition to your breakfast table anytime.

Buttermilk Biscuits – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

makes about 10 biscuits; depending on size and thickness

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour(s), sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large, wide bowl. Using fingertips, a pastry blender or two forks, work butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. The butter pieces should be about the size of peas; don’t fret if there are bigger pieces.
  3. Add buttermilk and stir until large, craggy clumps form. Reach hands into bowl and knead mixture briefly until it just holds together.
  4. To form biscuit rounds/cut outs: Transfer dough to floured counter and pat out until about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick. Using a round cutter (2 inches for regular sized biscuits, 3 inches for the monstrous ones), press straight down — twisting produces less layered sides — and transfer rounds to prepared sheets, spacing two inches apart.
  5. To make drop biscuits: Drop 1/4-cup spoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing two inches apart.
  6. Both methods:Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly, and serve warm.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used 1 tbsp sugar in my biscuits; not too sweet or too savory. Add according to your desired sweetness. 
  • My favorite ways to eat a biscuit is with sausages, scrambled eggs, and cheese. I also love them with butter or plain. Serve these babies up with whatever you like; butter, jam, eggs done any way, cheese, lox, ham, etc. The options are endless!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Another loaf of bread! I have been definitely getting almost knee deep in some bread dough lately and while it is a challenge, I love it. This is my second documented attempt at sandwich bread. It’s actually my fourth or fifth attempt at a sandwich loaf; the others were not reserved for this blog! I made a lot of mistakes the first couple times, but I kind of have the hang of it now.

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This loaf is very different than the last loaf I posted. There is plenty of kneading time in this recipe but a shorter wait time, which is a way better trade off. As a result, you have the fluffy and soft bread you’re used to buying at your local grocery store but tastier and fresher.

For this post, I knew I wanted to take as many photos as possible because I feel that many are turned off of making bread completely by hand. I know I was when I started, so having visual aids help. To sort of demystify the process, I got creative. I just want to preface by saying that I have very accessible and beginner type equipment. I take my pictures with my little digital camera, and video tape with my rinky-dink handheld. It’s not the best, clearest quality but it still works.

I used my handheld this time, to tape how I formed the dough into a loaf! Loaves are folded using the envelope method, which is folding the dough in thirds, then once again in half before placing into the bread pan. These GIFs will demonstrate the process.

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Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently flatten your turned out dough, using your fingertips, to about the length of your bread pan. Mine is larger than the standard size; which is why dough is bigger. Starting from the end closest to you, fold it into the middle of the dough and flatten slightly.

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Grab the end furthest to you and fold into the middle, flattening slightly. This is why it’s called the envelope method; because it’s similar to how we fold letters before inserting into an envelope!

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After folding, gently flatten the dough using your fingertips. We’ve got one more fold coming, so the flatter it is, the easier it is to complete the final fold.

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Grab the end closest to you and fold it over; starting in the middle. Kind of like folding a paper in half, make sure the ends are all even.

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Once folded, pinch the edges together. Start at one end, and work your way to the other end. Dust off any excess flour, so that the edges will stick.

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Once the edges are pinched together, roll the log onto its seam. Gently pick up your log and place it into your greased loaf pan. If your dough elongates to a length longer than your pan, do not fret. Do what I did; the “dump and squish.” It’s not a technical term, yet! Place the dough in the pan and gently push it in with your fingers until the dough is comfortably in the pan. Cover and set aside for its second and final rise.

This loaf was tall, dark and very handsome! Sliced, it’s fluffy, nutty and slightly sweetened; thanks to the whole wheat flour and honey. My slices were so large, one slice was enough to make a sandwich! It was so delicious and disappeared very, very quickly. It was such a hit with my family that this recipe will 100% be my standby for loaves. I’m seriously considering not buying store bought sliced bread anymore!

I had fun making this loaf, and the instructional GIFs. I plan on making more instructional stuff  in the future; possibly with better lighting and clearer video quality! I hope that these little GIFs will help you want to try making a homemade loaf of bread. It is a bit labor intensive but the end result is most definitely worth it.

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread – adapted from Gold Medal Flour

Makes two small loaves or one really large loaf

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1/2cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups very warm water (120°F to 130°F)
  • 4 1/2cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 3/4 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add honey, butter, salt, 2 1/2 cups very warm water and 3 cups of the whole wheat flour. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Beat in remaining 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour.

  2. With spoon, stir in 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups of the all-purpose flour until dough pulls cleanly away from side of bowl.

  3. On lightly floured surface, knead in remaining 1/2 to 1 cup all-purpose flour; continue kneading 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening or cooking spray; place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover; let rise in warm place 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  4. Generously grease 2 (8×4- or 9×5-inch) loaf pans or one large loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray. Gently push fist into dough to deflate; divide in half. Shape dough into loaves using the envelope method (pictured above) and place in pans. Cover and let rise in warm place; 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

  5. Heat oven to 375°F. Uncover dough; bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If loaves aren’t your thing, these could easily be split up into rolls. After the first rise, portion into rolls, making sure they are evenly distributed. Cover and let rise as normal. Bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes.
  • This bread can last up to a week in a bag or large plastic container at room temperature. I’d put it in the fridge after a week, if it lasts that long!
  • Not into two loaves (or a really big loaf) of bread? This recipe can be easily halved. 

Blog updates:

I added a mini Blogroll to the sidebar; I’m going to keep adding faves as I go. So far so good! I also added the Instagram widget (above the Blogroll), so you can see what’s happening in sort of real time! If you’d like to follow me, my Twitter and Instagram links are above that widget; either way, I am @lalaluluj on both sites.

No Knead Sandwich Bread

I know I’ve mentioned this here before (several times, actually) but my family and I are carb lovin’ fiends. We all have this immense love for bread. It’s actually kind of shocking how much bread four people can go through! It is a definite staple in my house, and the fancier the better. The biggest fiends in the house are actually my sister and me. We have the reputation of finishing loaves of bread within a day, often in one sitting. Shameful, I know.

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Sometimes, when we would go food shopping, my dad would pick up a double bag of challah bread from the bakery section of the giant supermarket. The bag brought two moderately sized loaves; enough to probably feed 8-10 people. He’d usually give one away and we’d keep the other. No joke, my sister and I would tear into that loaf and scarf down more than half in one sitting. We’d just keep tearing off chunks and eating until our willpower would show up, and we’d try to put the rest away. I have to say, when my sister and I go hard, we go HARD.

These days, we’re not limited to challah bread. While it is on my baking bucket list, I’ve jumped into more serious forms of bread baking: the sandwich loaf. Coincidentally, we ran out of our store-bought loaves earlier this week, so I jumped at the opportunity to make my own. I tread lightly when it comes to bread, not only because of the carb lovin’ fiend in me, but because it is a lot harder to do everything the good old fashioned way. On one hand, I’m glad I get to really get to know what it’s like to make bread by hand but it is A LOT of work. I wish I had the convenience of a stand mixer or a bread machine but til then, I’m gonna continue to get down and dirty with my dough.

I decided to make it easy on myself, and chose a no knead bread recipe. I’m not really too familiar with the science behind no knead doughs, so I wasn’t sure how this was even going to work. Skepticism aside, it worked and it was a cinch. The only difficult thing about this recipe is the wait time. The bread rises for five hours, proofs for another hour, bakes for about 30 minutes, and then you need to wait ANOTHER hour for it to cool before slicing. I was basically hounded all day by my sister, asking if the bread was done!

It was definitely worth the wait! The loaf filled my house with the aroma of freshly baked bread, which was enough to send us into a tizzy. Hot out of the oven, it resembled the ordinary bread you’d find in the grocery store. When finally sliced, its crackly and crunchy exterior revealed a soft, yeasty and spongy interior. The five hour rise allowed the bread to form a million nooks and crannies (can I even say that if I’m not describing English muffins?) that are just ready to be filled with sweet butter or jam. It doesn’t exactly resemble the spongey bread you’re used to but it is surprisingly chewy, toasts beautifully and makes a mean grilled cheese. It has only been two days, and half the loaf is already gone! I’m planning on making more bread (really soon, actually), so expect more carbs in the coming weeks. For now, let me get back to this loaf before it completely disappears!

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No Knead Sandwich Bread – adapted from Food52

  • 3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Combine the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add water and stir together with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let proof at room temperature for around 5 hours. At this point the dough can be used immediately, or covered with plastic wrap and kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  2. Turn the dough out on a floured surface, sprinkle some flour on the dough and lightly knead 3–4 times. Shape dough into a large rectangle. Fold one third of the dough into the center, followed by the other third.
  3. Place seam side-down in a buttered loaf pan. Sprinkle some flour over the top and cover. Let rise for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Preheat your oven to 450°. Dust the top of the dough with a little more flour and score with a serrated knife. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the top of the loaf has just begun to brown. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat and all purpose flour. If you have access to bread flour, please use it! The texture will be different but delicious nonetheless. 
  • The original recipe didn’t say what temperature the water should be, so I used warm (a little warmer than body temp.); just to be on the safe side. 
  • I used a large loaf pan and made one big loaf. Alternatively, you can use two small loaves.

Pizza Two Ways

Ah, pizza. One of my favorite ways to get my carb fix.  I haven’t had pizza in forever, so I was definitely due. My sister and I used to regularly indulge in a slice from our local pizzeria, where they’d heat up and fold our slices into a brown paper bag. We would pull out the slices and proceed to eat the folded piece of cheesy dough, cold tips first. After deciding to get healthy a few years back, pizza was on my imaginary ‘do not consume’ list. Pizza, along with all fast food, was immediately shunned because of its high calorie count and lack of nutrients. While I am still living a healthier life, it was time to reintroduce my favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods back into my life, but with a huge change.

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Over the years, I have become one of those people that believes that everything tastes better if it’s homemade. Anything can really be made at home, with a little search and effort. Not only will it taste lightyears better, but you will get some extra satisfaction upon realizing how easy it was and because you did it yourself.

As a New Yorker, I have a set of standards for the ‘perfect’ pizza. Every New Yorker compares every single slice of pizza to the one they used to eat as a kid; which undoubtedly becomes their ‘standard’. Now, New York style pizza traditionally has a super thin crust that can be crisp, a thin layer of greasy mozzarella cheese, and is mostly foldable. My friends and I used to open up our slices blot the extra, unnecessary grease before digging in. I knew I wanted something similar to what I used to get from my pizzeria but with a healthier twist.

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

This pizza dough is exactly what it’s name states. The recipe, from King Arthur Flour, is indeed “The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make.” It was a cinch to make, and came out ridiculously delicious. In an effort to make the crust relatively healthy, I switched out about half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I also added some vegetables to mine because everything is automatically healthier if it’s loaded with veggies; bonus if there’s vegetables on your vegetable. The result was a super crispy but slightly chewy crust. I rolled it out as thin as I could go, in an effort to imitate the pizza slices of my past. I was pleased at its stability when picked up, and it held on to my multitude of topping pretty well. Now, the crust didn’t fold but that didn’t even matter anymore. And the best part? NO GREASE! My family and I enjoyed this pizza, so this recipe will definitely be made again.

During my pizza crust recipe search,I also came across one of the trendiest ways to eat pizza without the guilt a regular, carby slice might bring. In an effort to have a healthier pizza, and after seeing it everywhere on the internet, it was time for me to try the famous cauliflower crust. I had to try this crust because it was already deemed healthy eats, solely on the fact that it was made with cauliflower. I admit I was a bit skeptical but I love trying new things, and anything that gets more veggies in me is an automatic win. I held out hope for this crust and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not your traditional pizza, like the one above, but it is still a nice substitution; especially if you’re doing the low-carb thing. You kind of have to eat this with a fork and knife though, as it won’t support itself when picked up.

Pizza is one of those things that is infinitely adaptable, and these recipes were no different. A pizza night with either of these recipes is sure to be a hit!

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The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 3 or 4 pizzas, 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast; or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups 100% whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, yeast, salt and olive oil  in the lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, to proof the yeast.
  2. Add the flour, starting with 5 1/2 cups and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces, for medium-crust pizza; or three pieces, for thicker crusts. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. To roll, work from the center to the outside like pie dough. Let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Turn it over from time to time and roll the reverse side.
  6. Place the rounds on pizza pans; on baking sheets; or, if you have a pizza stone in your oven, on parchment.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450°F. While it’s heating, get out your toppings, which you’ve prepared ahead. Some possibilities include sliced pepperoni; sautéed mushrooms, onions, or peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; and grated or shredded cheese.
  8. Spread pizza or spaghetti sauce lightly over the surface, and add your favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  9. Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven.
  10. Immediately transfer pizzas to a cooling rack, so the crust won’t get soggy. After about 10 minutes, to allow the toppings to set, slice and serve.
Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza – adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes two servings

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper.
  2. Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets—you don’t need much stem, just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower “snow”.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.
  4. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring out the excess water, squeezing out as much as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly mess.
  5. Dumped the squeezed cauliflower into a bowl. Now add the mozzarella cheese, kosher salt, dried basil (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), dried oregano (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), garlic powder (not garlic salt), and a dash of red pepper if you want.  Add the egg and mix with your hands.
  6. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your parchment paper. Pat it down throughly, you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don’t make it too thick or thin either.
  7. Slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want. Slide the parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.
  8. Allow the pizza to cool for one to two minutes. Use a pizza cutter and a spatula to serve up your delicious grain-free cauliflower crust pizza!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat flour and all-purpose for the King Arthur Flour recipe, but it can also be made with only all-purpose. 
  • For the cauliflower pizza, do not fret if you don’t have all the listed ingredients. Use what you have; I promise it will still be equally delicious. 
  • To quickly cool down the microwaved cauliflower ‘snow,’ spread out on a plate or baking sheet and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. 
  • I think both of these recipes can be made vegan. For the cauliflower pizza, you can use dairy free cheese (like my sister does) and replace the egg with a flax egg. Let me know if you try this and how it turns out!
  • Take complete creative freedom when topping your pizzas. I added sliced mushrooms, sliced breakfast sausage, thin slices of bell peppers, and fresh, chopped spinach. The possibilities are truly endless!

Cinnamon Rolls

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream with some cinnamon rolls. In the dream, I baked a batch of rolls that iced themselves. Like, they came out of the oven with a layer of creamy, and melty cream cheese icing. I woke up determined to make something like that, and finally got to it yesterday. These aren’t self icing cinnamon rolls but they are extremely delicious!

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This was my second attempt at making cinnamon rolls and the process went so smoothly. My first attempt, with a different recipe, was a sticky mess. The filling was supposed to be mixed with margarine; which made the filling/rolling very messy, the dough was ridiculously sticky, and the rolls unrolled before they even made it to the pan. Since this experience, and my dream, I set out to try again.

The recipe, from the lovely Lynna at Hearts in My Oven, is a simple but lengthy project. These rolls require two rises, one after making the dough, and the other after the rolls have been formed. Each rise is for two hours. I know, such a long wait! Trust me, it is definitely worth it.

The dough is simple and comes together quickly, even faster if you’re armed with a stand mixer. I am not, so I kneaded this dough by hand. I have to say, this is one of the parts I am most proud of. When I usually make any yeasted dough, I give in and add more flour while kneading to get to the desired result faster. This always ends up backfiring on me because there’s a reason why yeasted dough recipes call for a certain amount and only that amount of flour. Kneading helps develop the gluten that make bread deliciously airy and fluffy. Adding more flour while kneading can lead to a tough end result. Believe me, I know. While I was tempted to add more flour, I restrained and kept kneading. I kept going and going, until the dough became a smooth, lump free, unsticky mass. It happened right before my eyes!

After resting for two hours, it was time to roll out. At this point, I was kind of nervous. I kept remembering the sticky mess I had the last time I attempted something like this, but I knew this time was different. I laid out my dough and begin to roll. For the first time ever, the dough rolled out with zero stickiness and cooperated with me! So much so, I rolled it out a lot bigger than what the recipe called for!

After laying out the cinnamon sugar filling, it was time for the next nerve wracking part: rolling. This was where things usually got messy but it came together pretty cleanly! Now, I was just internally screaming with excitement. To cut the rolls, you need unflavored floss. I was a little skeptical at first but this is key to this recipe. Sliding the floss under the roll, you cross and yank the floss at the top to cut out a roll. This method results in a clean cut that does not smush your rolls into oblivion, and keeps the sugar filling in place.

Now, the original recipe yielded a dozen. I got 20. I rolled out the dough into a bigger rectangle, which resulted in more rolls. No matter how big you roll this dough, the result is a very fluffy, lightly sweetened roll with a huge punch of cinnamon flavor. I used Martha Stewart’s classic cream cheese frosting to ice a few of these, which really set it over the top. The tangy sweetness of the frosting hits the airy cinnamon roll just right. Make these rolls for this long weekend, I swear you won’t regret it!

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Cinnamon Rolls – Adapted from Hearts in My Oven

Makes about 12 rolls (more if you roll you dough into a larger rectangle)

Dough:

  • ½ cup of milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup of warm water (110°F)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons (one packet) Active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 ¼ cup of all purpose flour , divided

Filling:

  • ¾ cup of brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoonof  ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast: sprinkle the packet of yeast over the half cup of warm water and set aside for 10 minutes, or until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until the butter is completed melted. Remove from heat and let the it cool down until about 100°F.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, egg yolk until combined. Alternatively, you can use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
  4. Next, add the salt, milk mixture, and 2 cups of flour into the mixture until blended.
  5. Switch to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and add 2 cups of flour. Knead by hand until its smooth and not sticking to the sides of the bowl anymore, for about 15-20 minutes. Switch to your dough hook at this step, if using a stand mixer.
  6. In a large metal bowl, lightly oil bottom and sides of the bowl. Make the dough into a ball and transfer to bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a draft-free spot (such as your unheated oven), until dough doubles (90-120 minutes).
  7. While the dough rests, make the filling. In a medium sized bowl, mix the lightly packed brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  8. When the dough is doubled, lightly flour a clean work surface.  Transfer dough and press it down. Roll the dough into a 16x12inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin, with the long side of the rectangle facing you.
  9. Lightly brush the dough with melted butter. Evenly sprinkle the filling on top and pat down gently into the dough with the palm of your hand.
  10. Starting from the long side closest to you, roll towards the opposite end as tightly as you can. Use either a little bit of water or melted butter to seal the ends. Pinch edges to seal.
  11. Line the bottom of a 13x9inch baking pan with parchment paper. Using a unflavored string of floss, cut the rolls into 12 equal pieces. (Slide the floss under the roll and wrap it around the roll to cut/slice.)
  12. Place rolls, cut side up in baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set it in a draft-free spot, until dough doubles in size (90-120 minutes).
  13. Once rolls are doubled in size, preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden brown.
  14. Let rolls sit in pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool down. Spread cream cheese icing on top after cinnamon rolls have cooled for at least 15 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 2 cups

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Place your softened cream cheese and butter into a medium mixing bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add in your sifted confectioners’ sugar in stages, to avoid lumps, until completely incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, and stir to combine.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I made about half of the frosting recipe, as I did not frost all of the rolls.
  • The ends of the rolls may not have any sugar filling. You can discard these or bake them anyway.  Make sure the filling is spread out completely before rolling to avoid empty end rolls. 
  • Store your cooled rolls in an airtight container. For the frosted rolls, I recommend you stick them in the fridge because of the cream cheese in the frosting (it can possibly go bad if left outside). They taste awesome microwaved for about 30s on high the next day!