Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ridiculously Early

Since I got back from England I've had this problem with waking up stooooopid early. Today is another example. 5:30 on a Saturday! Ah well, plenty of time to get things done, I suppose.

And one of those things to get done (albeit a bit impromptu)?

Cinnamon Rolls.

I haven't made these since my friends and I went away for a winter cabin weekend in February. They were part of the smorgasbord of food I provided that weekend, and were the staple at breakfast that snowy Saturday morn. But since then, my friends have been begging me to make them again.

So today I will. It's a friend's birthday party tonight, and there's a work birthday on Tuesday, so double batch it is! And no one knows I'm bringing these :)

They're better than Cinnabon, I promise. So do my friends. And my family.

And aside from how they taste, I love that this recipe can be vegan. I like knowing I can cater to whomever, and because this recipe doesn't use egg (the binder is flax "egg") by swapping out butter for vegan margarine and milk for soymilk, you can make the recipe vegan.

Now - on to the fun stuff.

I found this recipe the summer I was vegan ('09) and have searched thoroughly for the blog I originally found it on, but cannot find it. I've found numerous blogs that say that exact same thing, but no recipe. So - if you happen to be the vegan blogger who created these - you are a god. I've un-veganized it (sorry), and I've altered the rising times. In my opinion, more rising is better!

Now - a few notes about making cinnamon rolls. It is a process. It is not difficult, but you have to have time and patience. Do this when you KNOW you will be at or around home for at least 6-8 hours. The longer they rise (during each step) the better, lighter, fluffier, and gooier they taste. I'll edit this with a picture tomorrow at breakfast :)

Cinnamon Rollz (click here for a pictorial version)

2½ t active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
1 cup 2% milk, warmed
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed whisked together with 6 T hot water
⅓ cup butter, melted
4½ cup unbleached flour
1 tsp salt 
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2½ Tbsp ground cinnamon

1 cup butter, softened
Frosting (I usually need to double this)
2 cups icing sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter
as much milk until you get desired consistency

1. Mix yeast, sugar, and heated milk in a large mixing bowl and let stand until foamy.

2. Add flax egg, melted butter, flour, and salt. Mix well and knead for 5-10 minutes. The dough should be firm and smooth, not sticky. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm room to rise at least 2 hours (I use my oven on the "proofing" setting. The damp cloth is very important, otherwise your dough will get too dry).

3. After the dough has doubled, turn it over in the bowl and let it rise for another hour.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.

5. Roll dough into a rectangle. (To clarify - make a large, thin rectangle. This is the most annoying time consuming part of the recipe, but it's worth it. You want to roll the dough out as far as possible until it springs back, then let it rest about 5 minutes, this allows time for the gluten to rest and restructure. Repeat this process until your rectangle is as large and thin as possible, then proceed to the next step.)

6. Spread dough with butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12-16 sections with a sharp knife. 

7. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

8. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

9.While rolls are baking, beat together butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving. And if your friends and family are like mine...make extra frosting.

Note: These can be par-baked. Bake them for 10 minutes, allow to cool, then put them in the fridge for up to 4 days. When ready to serve, remove from the fridge and put them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Alternatively, cook for the full time, refrigerate, then heat in a low-temp oven (200 degrees) for 20 minutes, or microwave until warm.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Catch up x2

I keep thinking anyone following this blog will think I've forgotten about it, but I haven't!

My trip to England was fantastic - there will definitely be a post about that!

As for now, I've been working overtime because we've got a crazy amount of stuff to get caught up on at work, and have been playing catch-up at home from having been away for a week. Things are slowing down now so hopefully I'll get a post out this weekend! Thanks for being patient :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Cake

Here it is! The big CAKE post, as promised!

Last week, as mentioned briefly between work and work and sleep and work and baking, I wrote about the cake baking/display/design contest my company had as part of our 2014 fall charity week. Before I get to the cake: Story time.

Around the beginning of August my friend (G) convinced me to take part by saying, "If you bake the cake, I'll make the display." It seemed simple enough, so she emailed and said we would represent Habitat for Humanity. But, as with 98.3% of things in life, the closer the event got the more complicated the expectations became.

To start, I was going to do a checkerboard cake in the blue, green, and white with a little half-built sugar cookie house on it. I even made a test cake, which turned out very, very well. Then we got an email for a meeting to discuss the rules and expectations for the event, and we had to go straight back to the drawing board. So what news did we get?

The cake had to have 50 servings. They would be selling tastings. There would three prizes - one for display, one fore money raised, and one for cake tastings. At a later meeting, I decided I had to bake a cake with 100 servings when I discovered other people were baking cakes that large. I told the event coordinator, "Game on." And put on my big girl apron.

I have never in my life made a cake this large. I make very, very good cake, but decorating was never the point for me. I just think that if you're going to eat cake (or cupcakes...or any baked good whatsoever) it should be astonishingly delicious. I even vet all the recipes I use before I serve them to people (sans immediate family and very good friends, because who else are you going to test things on?).

This was an undertaking for me, and I am quite proud of the results. In addition - G made an outstanding display. I'm only posting pictures of the whole thing, because without the display the cake isn't anywhere near as impressive. And the best news? We won two of the three awards.

Best Display.

Best Cake.

Job well done, and go team! We were especially happy about the best display award because we had such tough competition from the American Cancer Society team. They made a very pretty cake, but it lacked any adherence to the rules we were given to incorporate our cake into our entire display and to "embrace your charity". G and I spent about an hour overall coming up with a plan for our design, and a collective 30 hours implementing it through baking and paper-crafting. And on top of that, we got super creative during set up the day of.

I should really just stop rambling and let you enjoy the pictures. Here they are:

The full display...cake and roads and awesomeness.

Having that Tonka truck in the display was a mission of mine. It's holding the chocolate covered pretzels!

Little digger, diggin' cake!

This little guy was my mom's favorite.

This was probably the only certainty I held about the cake the entire time. That there would be a little dump truck dumping rocks onto the cake. Nevermind that I didn't actually find the little rocks until just days before the event...I knew this would be a feature of the cake!
Half eaten! The closer half was yellow tie-dye cake (blue, green, and white, Habitat colors) and the far half was devils food. There was a mix of frostings - both vanilla and chocolate buttercream were represented :)

 And that's it for now! Hope you enjoyed it...stay tuned for some yarn themed crafting next time!