Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Ah, the fall. It’s finally getting chilly, the leaves are falling, and I can wear a jacket out without immediately suffering from heatstroke. I’m excited about the weather and upcoming holidays, among other fall things.

The best part about the fall, though, is that the best fruits and vegetables are now in season! Of course I’m talking apples. Technically, they’re always in season but apples are in their prime in the fall. I’m dying to go apple picking one day. I’d make apple EVERYTHING. Yeah, right; I’d probably eat more than half the apples straight up! Anyway, I planned on making a bunch of apple things this fall and may have a couple more recipes up my sleeve, but let’s start with these muffins.

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I’ve discussed a few times on here how much of a muffin fiend my dad is. While he believes the corn muffin is the “one true muffin,” he can’t really say no to anything apple related. Apple cinnamon is one of his favorite combos for pastries. I’m talking turnovers, danishes, pies, whatever. Out of all of those things, I’ve only attempted one and did not get his seal of approval. Sad, but I’m working on it!

I decided on muffins for my first apple entry this year because of my dad, and because I wanted to switch things up a bit. Last year, I made an apple cake (from one of my favorite bloggers) that went over really well. I wanted to remake that success but in miniature form. The muffins themselves are actually pretty simple, which almost guarantees its deliciousness.

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Before I get into the muffins themselves, let me wax poetic about these liners. If you’ve been following me since last fall, you know how I feel about muffins in cupcake liners. They’re a no go for me. Now, the recipe states to use these things and then grease them. WHO DOES THAT?! How do you even grease a cupcake liner? I don’t know but that doesn’t make sense to me AT ALL. I went to Target (holy grail) a couple months ago and bought these liners, in preparation for some cupcakes I had planned. I didn’t use them to make the cupcakes (go figure) but considered them for these muffins. I had a mini internal debate right before it but I went ahead and used them. Since they’re parchment, I skipped the greasing (still a weird concept to me but okay).

Can I just say these things are the biggest blessing to my non-cupcake-liners-for-muffins heart? OMG NOTHING STUCK TO THESE LINERS. N O T H I N G. I was amazed, thrilled, and surprised with the result. I mean, see for yourself. The muffins came clean off the liner. I got to enjoy the ENTIRE muffin, without a single crumb sticking to the liner. Very impressive, Target. Four for you.

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Back to the muffins. They were awesome. Just the right amount of cinnamon and apples. I should’ve cut the chunks a tad smaller, but will keep that in mind for the next recipe. The cinnamon sugar topping goes perfectly well with these muffins, considering the muffin itself isn’t that sweet. It was fluffy and moist too, thanks to the buttermilk. Besides the fact that the muffins were delicious, I was way too impressed with the functionality of these liners. I’m still impressed, actually.

For my first apple recipe this season, I think it went pretty well. I can’t wait to see what else I can come up with!

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Apple Cinnamon Muffins – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12-16 muffins

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken (not stirred)
  • 1 cup whole wheat Flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (about 2 large apples, about 3/4 pound whole apples)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with magical parchment cupcake liners and skip the greasing all together. No magical liners? Grease regular paper liners instead. 

  2. Mix together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

  3. Gently mix in the buttermilk. At this point, the batter will look curdled and gross. It’s supposed to, so keep going!

  4. Stir in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in the chopped apples.

  5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar on top. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

  6. Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Get those magical liners. Worth every penny!
  • I tossed my apple chunks in a bit of cinnamon and flour before folding them into the batter. The cinnamon was for extra flavor but the flour was so the apples wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the muffin. 
  • Top the muffins with the sugar topping a tad sparingly. Melted sugar is a pain to get off the pan, just saying. 
  • Use a disher or ice cream scoop to help evenly distribute the batter among the pans. Helps get consistent muffins, and ensures they’ll all be done at the same time. 
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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!)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola

I left you guys with an amazing granola bar recipe a couple weeks ago, and am back with another. This one isn’t for bars, though but is equally as delicious.

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The same week I posted about these bars, Dana from Minimalist Baker, posted this super simple recipe for granola. If you don’t know who Dana (or her husband John) is or what Minimalist Baker is about, check out their blog right here. I love receiving their emails about new recipes because as the blog title says; their recipes are minimalistic and delicious with little to no effort, and there are no laundry list of ingredients. They keep it simple, straightforward and their pictures are mouthwateringly beautiful. I knew that when I saw this recipe in my inbox, despite the fact that I had just posted granola bars, I had to make it. It was like fate or something. Either way, I got it done.

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Dana’s recipe is already as simple as it gets in terms of ingredients and process. The recipe as is happens to be vegan, which is awesome already, and can even be gluten free. I am neither of those things, so the only non-vegan ingredients in mine was dark brown sugar and real chocolate chips. Another thing I love about this recipe is that you aren’t limited to using the mix-ins listed. I don’t know if Dana intended to make this recipe customizable but I can already think up several variations that would be awesome with this same formula. What I’m trying to say is that this won’t be the last time you’ll see granola on this blog!

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I love putting my granola on Greek yogurt but this stuff is good on its own, in a bowl with milk, or maybe even atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s crunchy and super peanut buttery. The coconut oil in there adds an extra hint of nuttiness; which was already there from the toasty and golden brown oats. It’s not super sweet, so it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. And the chocolate chips are a nice unexpected explosion of creaminess with each bite.

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I’ve been piling it on my yogurt since I made it, and am secretly hoping the stash is never ending. At least I have an idea of flavor combos to make next!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola – barely adapted from Minimalist Baker

Serves 10 (ahem, if you’re lucky)

  • 3 cups + 2 Tbsp rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup creamy natural salted peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 340F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oats and the brown sugar together. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the melted coconut oil, peanut butter, agave, and the salt (if adding) over low heat. Stir until just melted and combined.
  4. Pour the peanut butter mix over the oats and quickly stir to incorporate. Make sure all the oats are moistened. Spread oat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Evenly distribute the oats on the pan, and bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Stir once after the first 15 minutes, and stand by to make sure it doesn’t burn!
  5. Remove from the oven and toss to release the heat. Cool completely on the pan.
  6. Either on the pan, in a large bowl, or directly in your storage container of choice, add the chocolate chips and stir. Enjoy your super easy and delicious granola any way you please! Keeps fresh for up to two weeks. Freeze after that.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Measure the coconut oil in your measuring cup before the peanut butter. That way, your measuring cup is already greased which will make the peanut butter easier to pour out of the cup!
  • I added a pinch of salt into the mix for funsies but feel free to omit it. 
  • Make sure the granola is completely cool before adding the chips!

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!

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!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.

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I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.

One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.

My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.

Bread's ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Bread’s ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.

The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
  • Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
  • Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast. 
  • If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!

Whole Wheat Good Old Fashioned Pancakes

When my sister and I were younger, my mom used to make us a pancake breakfast every Saturday. We’d wake up and watch cartoons, ready to have our delicious weekly special. And special it was! My mom has never been one to follow recipes and this was no different. She’d buy a giant box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and and the accompanying bottle of syrup. Every Saturday, she’d empty a large mountain of dry mix into a bowl, add an egg, and eyeball the milk until she deemed fit. She’d preheat a giant skillet; one with little tiny squares on it, and would melt a glob of margarine. In the giant pan, she’d pour the prepped mix.  The result was a giant, fluffy pancake; complete with the tiny square imprint from the pan, that was perfect to hold a melting mound of margarine. My sister and I would split this massive pancake, and slather it with margarine and syrup while watching cartoons. I still don’t understand how my mom managed to even flip over such a huge pancake, but I guess that’s part of the motherly superpower allure.

As a kid, I used to think everything my mom made was delicious. Actually, that still rings true but as an “adult,” I realized that even though my mom had her own way of making things, it wasn’t always “right.” I am a stickler for following recipes, sometimes to the letter but my mom isn’t. The fact that she didn’t follow the directions on the box doesn’t bother me much because the pancakes came out consistently tasty anyway; it helps that it is box mix. The only issue I have now with our old pancake breakfasts was how she cooked it. Since the pan was so huge and my mom is short on patience; she’d throw all the batter in at once, creating a massive disc of dough. Because of its size, the middle would sometimes come out undercooked and the edges would get slightly burned. The texture of the pancake would go from fluffy to gritty, making us leave more than half of our pieces on the plate.

I watched her make it a few times and noticed she would lid it so it would cook completely. I didn’t understand the error of that method until I was older and actually knew what was happening under that lid. The pancake created steam, which dropped the water it created back into the pancake. A super moist pancake is not the end of the world but it did produce a different tasting pancake. It was still tasty, but it was just weird.

Now that my sister and I are older, and my mom is no longer home on Saturdays, I have taken our weekly special upon myself. I make pancakes almost every Sunday and they are very different to what my sister and I grew up with. I make mine from scratch, using this ultimately adaptable recipe. Apparently, I got snobby with age because I now frown upon anything pre-mixed; including cake and pancake mix. We may not buy the Aunt Jemima pancake mix anymore, but my family is still a fan of the syrup. We usually have a bottle laying around for this exact purpose.

Now, these pancakes are awesome. They may not be my mom’s but I think they’re equally, if not better tasting. I have made this recipe verbatim but here is the modified version I currently use. I’m even positive this recipe could be veganized (something I’m going to have to test). Eating these on the weekends, slathered with margarine and Aunt Jemima syrup, brings back that nostalgia from our Saturday specials. Even though my mom isn’t home on Sundays either, I always make these with her in mind and plan to make them for her the next time she has a free weekend.

IMG_0261

Whole Wheat Good Old Fashioned Pancakes slighltly adapted from Allrecipes.com

Makes 7-8 pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3 3/4 tsps baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups of soy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsps unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder,and salt.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, agave, and melted butter.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just incorporated.
  4. Heat up your lightly greased griddle or pan over medium-high heat. Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.
  5. The pancake is ready to flip when bubbles appear near the edges. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • All-purpose flour works well in this recipe. You could use a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat or just use all all-purpose 
  • If using all-purpose, 3 1/2 tsps baking powder is plenty. Whole wheat flour is slightly heavier than all-purpose, so the extra baking powder helps lift an otherwise flatter pancake 
  • If using all-purpose flour, sift the dry ingredients together
  • White or raw sugar also works in this recipe. If using raw sugar, I would add a little more that a tablespoon because it is slightly less sweet than regular white sugar. Add the sugar to the dry ingredients
  • I use all soy milk in my recipe but use any milk you’d like
  • If you like a flatter pancake, add 1/4 cup more of milk
  • Remember to plate it on a cartoon plate, for added nostalgia
  • If you beat me to the punch and veganize this recipe, please let me know what substitutions you made and how they came out!