Kitchen Experiments: Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

So far, I’ve been all about apples this fall. Besides the two awesome recipes I’ve posted thus far, this one is a favorite: the simple and delicious baked apple chip.

It all started years ago, when I bought a bag of apple chips that brought like, three in the bag. I loved them but was outraged by the fact that the bag was practically empty. As usual, I uttered an “I can probably make this myself but way better” and started planning. After I figured it out, I made so many and so often, I got sick of them. It’s been quite a minute but I decided to bring them back; for old time’s sake.

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For apple chips, you don’t need many tools and they aren’t as fancy as you may think. First, you need your apples (obviously), a cutting board, and knife. You can use any apple you’d like but I’m very partial to the Granny Smith. For you lucky ducks who have a full sized mandoline, you can skip this step. I cut them so it’s easier for me to core and slice but if you have an apple corer, this is the time to use it. For those like me who don’t have a full sized mandoline, it’s time to cut the apples. I like quartering them to remove the core. That, and a quartered apple is easier to slice once cored.

Now that the apple is quartered, let’s core. Place an apple quarter on one of its flat sides. Introduce the knife to the apple at an angle (like maybe 45 degrees?) and slice out the core. Sounds weird to explain it like this, so I hope the pictures helped! Once that’s done, we can move on to slicing.

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At this point, if you’ve got the knife skillz, you can do it by hand. I do not, so I use a hand mandoline. I call it the ‘handoline.’ Catchy, right? I love slicing with it because I get kind of uniform slices every time. I say ‘kind of’ because depending on the amount of force used when slicing, the end product can end up either too thick or thin. Speaking of which, if free handing, make sure they’re all about the same thickness. This is crucial to the apple chip’s chippyness. And for safety’s sake, use the hand guard. Yeah, I know I’m not using mine but do as I say and not as I do. SAFETY FIRST.

Now that all the apples are sliced, let’s talk toppings. If you’re a purist, you can lay them out on the baking sheet and bake them as is. I’m not, so I like topping mine with cinnamon sugar. I use about two tablespoons of sugar to 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon per apple. The amount of cinnamon varies, depending on how festive I’m feeling. You can pretty much go either way here, and top them however you like. Toss the slices in the sugar and cinnamon, making sure they’re all somewhat coated. On prepped baking sheets (prepped = lined with parchment), lay out your slices carefully. Make sure they’re as close as possible without touching. This isn’t one of those recipes where you can get away with throwing everything on the pan all haphazardly. Take the time to line them up.

At this point, you should’ve had your oven preheating before you even started. For those keeping score, it’s at a whopping 250 degrees fahrenheit. I know what you’re thinking; “does my oven even go that low?” Yes it does! Believe me, I thought mine didn’t either. Now, place your apple soldiers into the oven and bake for AN HOUR AND A HALF. Why so long? Well, apple chips get their chipyness from being dehydrated in the oven. The low temperature and long bake time makes it so the dehydration is done carefully and evenly, so the apples hold their shape and are crisp when done. You really can’t crank the oven up with shorter times to speed up the process. It won’t work, and your apples will burn. Patience, grasshopper. You shall be rewarded.

Midway through baking, flip the slices over and rotate the pans in the oven. Also, watch the apples as they can burn if you don’t. Believe me, I know. After that painstaking hour and a half is over, it’s time for the slices to cool. This is also crucial because out of the oven, the slices are still floppy and not very chippy. We don’t want that. Let them sit on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, and watch your previously floppy apple crisp with delight. The apples turn into chips that still taste very much like apples, with a slight sweetness from the sugar and a hint of spiciness from the cinnamon. They are extremely addicting, so make a lot!

Coolin' chips

Coolin’ chips

I’m glad I brought these back from the mental grave I dug them into. It reminded me of why I started making them (and also why I stopped). I can’t hate them though; they are the perfect snack.

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Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

Makes about four cups

  • 2 large apples (I love using Granny Smith)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. On a cutting board, quarter and core the apples. If you have a full sized mandoline, feel free to core the apples (with a corer) before slicing. Or, you can slice them without coring.
  3. Once quartered and cored, begin slicing the apples. You may do so with a knife or with a hand mandoline (handoline!).
  4. Place the apple slices in a large bowl and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar. Gently toss the apples to evenly coat. Carefully place the apple slices on the prepped baking sheets as close as possible without touching.
  5. Bake the apple slices for an hour and a half, flipping the slices over and rotating the pans halfway through baking. The apples are done when they look a little wrinkly and are dry to the touch.
  6. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before devouring. Any leftovers keep well in an airtight container for a couple of days.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Please watch them while they bake! Multitasking while baking this batch caused me to burn half. Again, do as I say…
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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. 

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. 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I don’t have much to say this week, except that I fulfilled my craving for coffee cake. More specifically, I fulfilled my craving for a crumb topping.

I mean, really

I mean, really

I was watching the Food Network, as I usually do all day, every single day. I don’t remember what show I was watching exactly, but they were making something involving a crumb topping. As soon as I heard “crumb,” my ears perked up; only focusing on the fact that chunky bits butter, sugar and flour were on the horizon. Let’s be real for a sec, anything that involves a special kind of topping, be it a crumb or a crust, is a fantastic dessert. Since I already did (and failed miserably) a oat streusel topped dessert, I went after the crumb.

Coffee cake is one of the easiest and simplest cakes out there.  Most, if not all, are sour cream based. Believe it or not, that’s the best part about a coffee cake (not counting the crumb topping). The sour cream not only adds necessary moisture to the batter, but it helps give the cake a dense but tender crumb. Not to mention it also makes the cake bright and tangy. It’s weird, but trust me it is good. Sour cream isn’t only found in coffee cakes, though. It also goes extremely well in pound and chocolate cakes.

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Let’s talk topping for a second. Crumb streusel is made up of mostly cold chunks of butter cut into, sugar, spices (sometimes) and a little bit of flour. In the oven, the sandy mixture conforms together into a crunchy, lumpy mass that creates chunky crumbs when pierced. Just the thought of crumbling crumbs was enough motivation to make this cake! Now, this specific recipe makes A LOT of crumb topping. I was honestly overwhelmed with the amount the recipe asked for, and almost cut it in half but I didn’t. Trust the recipe; it may seem like a lot but it is enough.

This was my first time using sour cream in a cake, and it certainly won’t be my last. It made the cake slightly tangy, which went perfect with the super sweet and crunchy crumb topping. The middle layer of sugar and cinnamon was a nice surprise, reminiscent of the insides of a cinnamon roll. The thick and brittle crumb topping was the best contrast against this dense and tender cake. Its sweet and salty taste evened out the cake’s tanginess, making it a perfect marriage of differing tastes and textures. It is the absolutely perfect companion to a cup of steaming hot coffee.

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake – adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes one 9 or 10″ round tube cake

Streusel topping and center:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Cake:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Directions:

  1. Make the streusel topping: Mix together flours, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  2. Make the streusel center: Mix together remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 9 or 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl.

  4. Cream butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

  5. Spoon half the batter into pan. Sprinkle streusel center mixture evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle streusel topping mixture evenly over batter.

  6. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.

  7. Make the glaze: Mix together confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle over cake, and let drip down sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Add chopped pecans or walnuts to the topping, like the original recipe suggests for some crunch 
  • If you don’t like extra sugar on your sugar, you can totally skip the glaze
  • Yes, the topping seems like a lot. Half the recipe if you’d like but it was perfect as is
  • Use the butter wrapper from the softened butter to grease the pan

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. 

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!