Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Cream cheese cinnamon rolls . . . what a great thing to partake of on Christmas morning! This happens to be the second Christmas in a row that we have woken up and feasted on cinnamon rolls, last year it was after present opening and this year it took place before. The big difference is that this year I was prepared and decided to make up the rolls the night before so I could relax with my family on Christmas morning. Boy am I glad I did!  

These particular rolls are amazing and have just the right combination of sweet bread, raisins, nuts, and icing. Although they are a bit of work on the front end they are definitely worth it! My husband is still talking about them a few days later and already has a request in for the next batch.

Stay tuned for the abbreviated step by step photos after the recipe. You can find many delectable treats at the site where I got this recipe. (Thanks for a great recipe, Joy!) Enjoy!

(Oh, by the way, if you like your icing drizzled you only need to make half a batch. If you like it coated heavily, stick with a full batch. Get it . . . "stick".)

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Joy the Baker

1 -1/4 oz package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water, heated to 115 degrees 
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.

Add the butter and continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. Set the dough in a large greased bowl to rest. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, salt, and cloves into a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Work the dough for about 1 to 2 minutes. Once it's no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it is smooth and spreadable.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10x10 inch square or circle. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough. Fold into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and it into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.

Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and use the rolling pin to gently roll it into a 10x20 inch rectangle. You may find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. You will roll from the short sides of the dough.

Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. The rest of the butter will be for after the rolls are baked. Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch border at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough.

Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife (or dental floss), trim off the uneven edges (or keep them in for a few uneven slices). Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices.

Nestle slices, cut side up and evenly space in a buttered 9x13 metal baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate the rolls overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth.

Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle over the rolls. Serve immediately.

 The yeast getting frothy . . . the dough getting kneaded 
(or rather beaten to death in the kitchenaid) . . .

Dough ready to be gently kneaded, then set to rise for the first 2 hours . . . filling mixed . . .

Kneaded after rising . . . cream cheese spread . . . first fold . . . second fold . . .
third/fourth fold . . . rolled out in rectangle . . . filling spread . . . 

Perfectly sliced rolls (notice the dental floss) . . . ready for a second rising (or the fridge) . . . 
perfectly golden brown!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - No Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I wasn't able to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge this month. I am a bit sad because it is the first time since I started back in February that I have not participated. I'm probably not even supposed to post the blog checking lines above since I didn't participate, but I still wanted you to be able to see the challenge this month and all the stollen that is out there from the other Daring Bakers.

I really, really thought long and hard about making the stollen (aka fruitcake) but I just decided that this was one time I was going to have to say no. You know, when you get too much on your plate and something has to give. This was it. Not only do we have a bit on our plate, but we are also fasting from sugar so it seemed a bit of a hoop to jump through to make it and then take it for others to enjoy at a Christmas party or something. I am certain they would have enjoyed it, but I ended up taking a savory dish instead of a sweet so that I could enjoy it too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

For some reason these cupcakes were the thorn in my side! You can probably tell by the photo that I really couldn't get a great shot of these. That's because they were almost impossible to frost. I actually frosted these in two batches. The first batch frosted fairly well because the cupcakes had only been baked the night before and weren't overly moist. The frosting was a bit thick and gave me a bit of a hassle by pulling up the top layer of the cake so it then got mixed into the white frosting. And while it wasn't great for look, it didn't happen with all of the cupcakes.

Not so for the second half of the batch. Yikes! These had been in a covered container for about three days and while the cake was extremely moist, it was too moist. The frosting pulled the top layer of cake off so fast in was amazing. And frustrating. And I didn't even get to taste them because I am fasting from sugar. But those who did try them said they were very good.

If you do attempt to make these cupcakes I would suggest sticking them in the freezer for a bit before you frost them to give the top layer of cake a chance to harden up. I should have done this but didn't have time. Also, you can either make the cupcakes from scratch or you can do the abbreviated version from a box. Enjoy!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes
Makes about 18 cupcakes 

1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peppermint Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
16 hard peppermint candies, finely crushed (about 1/3 cup)
Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cupcakes, place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Spread about 4 teaspoons frosting on each cupcake; sprinkle evenly with candies.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mini Caramel Apple Pie

Mini desserts are just so cute! And around the holidays it is so much easier to swallow (pun intended) a sweet dessert if it is small and bite sized. These were fairly easy to make. I think the most time consuming part was peeling and grating the apples. They were delicious, especially with a bit of ice cream on the side right after they came out of the oven. Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
Makes 12 servings (I actually got a bit extra)

2 refrigerated pie crusts (for 9-inch pie)
4 large tart apples, peeled and grated
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

caramel sauce/ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Unfold piecrust and cut dough into 12 equal pieces and line each muffin cup.

In a bowl, combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and oats. Fill each crust to the top with the apple mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.

To prepare the topping, combine cream cheese, sugars, and vanilla in a bowl and beat until well blended.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and spread the topping on the mini pies. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Bake 5 minutes longer, or until the edges are golden brown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip

Hot artichoke dip, yum! This is most likely the richest, creamiest hot dip that you will ever consume in your life. In fact, the reason why in the picture the bowl looks like it is barely filled is because that is all I could scrape out of the pan after everyone dug in. It is a very easy recipe to half, and half was plenty for 6 people as an appetizer. It reheats okay, but the cheese and the fat in the mayo tend to separate a bit, kind of like alfredo sauce with leftover fettucine. And don't make the same mistake I did of trying to remember the recipe without glancing it. I ended up melting 2 cups (2 CUPS!) of butter by mistake. Enjoy!

Hot Artichoke Dip
2 cups artichoke hearts (chopped)
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 cups real mayo
1 small can green chilies (diced)
tortilla chips, bread, or whatever you want to use for dipping

Chop and dice. Mix, heat, and eat!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Iron Cupcake Challenge - Black Forest Cupcakes

After taking the summer off I decided to give the Iron Cupcake Challenge one more go. The theme this month was Germany. I scoured various sites trying to find out what Germany is known for, besides beer and bratwurst, and I found quite a few different things. The one recipe that seemed to stand out to me though was Black Forest Cake. I love chocolate, I love cherries, and I love whipped cream! What could be better than the three of them combined and all wrapped up in a cute little package.

I found a recipe on a site that I have frequented before so I figured I couldn't go wrong with her recipe. Well, that might not have been true. It's not that the recipe was bad, it's just that it wasn't really great. For some reason the cupcakes just tasted kind of ho-hum to me, and that's even after I brushed some of the cherry liqueur on the top of the cupcake as well as using a dropper to drip it into the cherry filling. My biggest dilemma now is what to do with the other 374 mL of Kirschwasser Cherry Brandy. Hmmmm . . .

I did enjoy my first experience with using the cone method to fill a cupcake! It was especially fun to try it on a mini cupcake since there isn't much room for error. All in all the cupcakes went together smoothly, if not a bit time consuming, but the overall taste just wasn't what I was hoping for. Maybe next time. You might find you enjoy them more than I did!

Black Forest Cupcakes
Source: Annie's Eats

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. espresso powder
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups buttermilk

For the filling:
1 lb. fresh cherries, washed, pitted and destemmed
2 tbsp. sugar
Maraschino cherry juice or cherry liqueur

For the frosting:
1¼ cups heavy cream
6-7 tbsp. sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:
Fresh (or maraschino) cherries, with stems
2 tbsp. sugar
Chocolate shavings

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line wells of cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder together; whisk to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full.  Bake 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes or 18-20 minutes for full-size cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, add the fresh pitted cherries to a bowl. Mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher until the cherries are no longer completely intact. Mix in the sugar and toss to coat the fruit.

To fill the cupcakes, use the cone method to remove a portion from the center of each cupcake. Spoon in about 2-3 cherries. Drizzle some maraschino cherry juice (or cherry liqueur) over the fruit.  (Additionally, this can be brushed over the edges of the cupcake to further deepen the cherry flavor.)

To make the whipped cream frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating on medium-low speed, slowly increasing as the cream begins to thicken up to medium-high speed. While the cream is being whipped, gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar a spoonful at a time. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to overbeat!)  Fold in the vanilla extract.

Frost the filled cupcakes with the whipped cream. Garnish as desired with a cherry and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Little Camper's Birthday Cake

Our family's youngest member celebrated his birthday this past Friday! His request for a cake included a road, campground loop, and a camping trailer that looks like ours. I thought I did a pretty good job of getting all the requested items on and then some considering that it was only a 9x13 cake. Think what I could have done with a half sheet or full sheet!

This was also the first time that I made sugar cone trees, and I must say that the frosting has to be just the right temperature to pull those things off. Too cold and the frosting won't squeeze out, too warm and it's like soup dripping down the cone. By the way, the freezer works great for storing them so that little eyes can't see them and so that the needles don't drip off your trees. Enjoy!