Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing is more comforting in cold weather than a fresh, warm and gooey cinnamon roll, am I right or am I right? Yeah. I’m right. Cinnamon rolls have always been there for me, through the good and the bad. If you’re having a tough day there’s nothing that 2 (or 3 or 4 or 6) warm cinnamon rolls won’t fix.

What happens in my home lately goes like this: I write and test recipes, photograph them, and then I’m left with copious amounts of pastries and snacks. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? I’ll admit that it’s very dreamlike until there’s a

Bûche de Noël taking up an entire shelf of your tiny French refrigerator. Your conscience says no, but your body and your heart say yes and before you know it, you’ve blacked out and eaten enough for six people. Just kidding, what? Of course I would never do that. That’s just ridiculous…

This recipe will make 6 cinnamon rolls. You can make it by hand, or with the help of a mixer. I recommend using the mixer for this because it can be tough to incorporate the second half of the flour, but it can be done!

I like to bake mine in a muffin pan. This constricts the area they grow in, and pushes them up to be taller, which I like. The sugary filling also caramelizes around the bottom of the muffin pan, giving you a truly sticky and gooey roll. This is my favorite part. But! Never fear, they don’t have to go into a muffin pan! For larger, fluffier rolls, just pop them on a baking pan. They will spread more, and they will still taste amazing.They will also get a little more crispy, so if that’s something you prefer you should just nix the muffin pan idea.

Ingredients:

¼ cup (50g) of white sugar

½ stick (56g) of butter, cut into cubes

1 pkg (7g) instant yeast

2.75 cups (350g) of all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup (120g) whole milk, warm

1 teaspoon salt

For Filling:

Room temperature butter, or melted

¼ cup (55g) brown sugar

½ cup (50g) white sugar

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

1. Combine warm milk with yeast and set aside.

2. In bowl of mixer, combine sugar, flour, salt, and butter (not warm but not cold). Run on low speed with paddle attachment until you see no more butter chunks, about 5 minutes.

3. Add beaten egg to milk and yeast mixture.

4. With machine running on low to medium speed, pour in the liquid. Let combine fully, then turn up the speed for 1 minute. Turn off mixer. Cover with a kitchen towel and proof for about an hour or until doubled.

*At this point you can refrigerate overnight and shape the next day, then proof for 1 hour if you prefer.*

5. Empty the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle (my measurements are about 7″ x 9″). Don’t roll it too thin or your rolls won’t hold up well. Butter the entire surface and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and a bit of salt. Roll up the rectangle and cut it into six rolls. Proof for one hour.

6. Egg wash and bake in an oven on 375 degrees for about 14 minutes or until a lovely brown color is reached. Drizzle with a mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons of milk… Or enjoy it without the glaze!

Thanks for reading, like my new Facebook page for more updates!

The Baker’s Secrets: Tips & Tricks I Learned in Professional Bakeries

I’ve been lucky enough to work in some great restaurants and bakeries, like Bakeri and Ovenly in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve worked with some great people, and I’ve learned from some really awesome people. The industry is a rough place and finding your way through it as a young baker or cook can be exhausting and unforgiving. That being said, it’s also taught me a lot of skills that I will hold onto for the rest of my life! Working in professional bakeries is truly a treat. Some of these tips and tricks you may already know… I would give you a cookie if I could. 😉

1. Scale, scale, scale. The only way you can ever rely on a recipe to produce the same product time and again is if you scale it. When I started baking, I didn’t know this. I showed up to a trail in a restaurant and was asked to scale something. I confessed my lack of knowledge regretfully, and didn’t get the job. Now, my scale is my best friend and I take full advantage of its powers. You can snag one for around $20. 

2. No room temperature butter? No problem. Over the 2 years and some change that I worked with Shuna Lydon, she taught me more than anyone has ever taught me in my life. Honestly! One day at work she was quizzing the bakers, asking “what do you do when you need to room temp butter for a recipe, but all of your butter is cold?” Various answers came up,  ranging from “microwave?” (NO!) to “top of the oven?” (NO!) and a few others. It turns out the best way to bring butter to room temperature quickly is to slice it thinly and let it sit for 10ish minutes. When you slice the butter into thinner slices, it takes much less time to warm up than if it was still one big cold block. 

3. Also while working at Bakeri, I learned the art of lifting pies, loaves, and tarts out of their pans with parchment paper. I’m not saying Bakeri invented the wheel when it comes to this technique, but this was the first place I learned it, and I cherish it for that and many other reasons. It’s simple: before lining your pie or tart, put a piece of parchment in the bottom of your pan. It doesn’t change anything – except the amount of difficulty you can sometimes face getting your pie out of the pan! When your pie is done baking, let it cool, then lift it out carefully using the parchment you so intelligently thought to place underneath your gorgeous creation. 

4. The changing of seasons affects your baking, and so does the weather. If it’s super humid or raining outside, your pate brisee might need a little less water than it does on other days. If it’s especially wet outside, good luck with meringues! This can also change the baking time of pastries. Actual changes are slight, but worth noting and being prepared for.

 
5. My very first professional pastry job was in a hotel restaurant in NYC. My chef’s name was Crystal, and let’s just say she had a LOT of patience. She also taught me the art of mise en place. Mise en place is important. In French it literally means “to put in place.” It sounds like a fancy term that maybe only professionals utilize, but it’s much more than that – it’s a roll call for all of the ingredients. You can count the ingredients and cross check it with the recipe you’re preparing. Missing one? Not anymore. When you’re preparing a complex or time sensitive recipe, measuring out all of your ingredients can be the small step that makes all the difference. 

6. You can’t always trust ovens. Crazy, right? It’s true – some ovens run hot. Some ovens run several degrees under what you set them at. If you have a sneaky suspicion that your oven can’t be trusted, buy a thermometer and confront your oven to its face. It won’t be offended. Also, all ovens are different! This makes “bake times” on recipes only a suggestion. You should always keep an eye on what you’re baking. Check on it halfway through the time you think it should be done and give it a rotation. Never hurt anything! 

7. Cleaning as you go is arguably the most valuable skill you can have in the kitchen. (I still struggle with it.) Sometimes I get too excited about what I’m doing and forget that I’m leaving a trail of bowls, pots, and pans in my wake. If you have a small kitchen, like I do here in France (I can touch both walls if I spread out my arms), cleaning is even more important. I need to practice what I preach with this one. 🙂

8. You are your own biggest critic (most of the time). That small imperfection that just ruined your day will more than likely go unnoticed by everyone else. This doesn’t just go for professionals, but for home cooks and bakers too. Don’t be too hard on yourself! 

Like my Facebook Page for more updates. 

** All of the opinions in this post are my own and have nothing to do with the persons or bakeries mentioned. **

Photos are from Bakeri, 105 Freeman St Brooklyn, NY 

Alexander’s Apple Pie

Lately I’ve had pie on the mind, and Thanksgiving only made it worse with everyone posting their pie photos. If I had made it home to North Carolina, I would have definitely made a pie to bring to dinner! Instead, Leo and I had a small Thanksgiving meal together at home with a nice bottle of wine. After dinner we chased it all down with a Religeuse au Chocolat from the bakery on our corner. A fair trade, I’d say. 

To scratch my pie itch I decided to make an apple pie. My recipe is inspired by Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ famous Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Although I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting their pies in Brooklyn, I’ve always loved the idea of pouring a cup of salted caramel into an apple pie. What could be better? A splash of whiskey, of course.  I can honestly tell you that I have never had a better piece of apple pie than this creation right here, and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it. Holy cow.

I used my own pie dough recipe, which you should all try of course, but if you don’t have time you can use store bought pie rounds. For a pie that will piss off all of your relatives because it’s so good, I would highly recommend making your own pie crust! 

For a 9" Apple Pie 

2 prepared pie crusts, 1 lined in pie pan

6 apples

Juice of one lemon 

Splash of whiskey 

3 tablespoons of all purpose flour 

½ teaspoon ginger, fresh if possible

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

1 teaspoon salt 

A generous grating of fresh nutmeg 

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 

For the caramel (Blackbirds’ recipe):

1 cup white sugar 

¼ cup water 

1 stick of butter 

½ cup of cream 

Generous amount of salt (to your taste)

1. First, prepare your caramel. Combine sugar and water in a medium sized pot. Stir to combine, and leave over medium heat until the mixture is clear. Whisk in butter bit by bit. Continue cooking the caramel, and when it reaches a lovely copper-like color, remove it from heat immediately and slowly pour in the cream while whisking. The mixture will expand, so be careful!  

2. Squeeze lemon juice into a big bowl and add a big splash of whiskey. Peel and slice apples thinly, and mix them into the lemon juice. Add a sprinkling of salt, and all spices. Finally, add the flour and toss it around to cover all of the apples evenly.  

3. Pour apple mixture into lined pie pan. Pile it up a bit higher than the crust, because the apples will reduce significantly! You may need more or less than six apples depending on their size. 

4. Attach your other pie round to the top with your method of choice. I did a lattice with some braid work, but you could easily just put the whole top on completely if you don’t want to create a lattice. 

5. Egg wash the entire crust, and sprinkle the top with a bit of raw sugar if you have it, and some chunky sea salt. Bake on 400 degrees until the pie is golden brown. The caramel will bubble, and a little may leak out. This is normal! To test, poke an apple with a knife to check doneness. My apples had some bite left in them, which I really loved. 

Important: COOL your pie completely before cutting! Let it set, or you may encounter a runny mess. I let my pie rest for about 3 hours before slicing it up. Where I found such self control? I have no idea.

Thanks for reading! 

Like my Facebook page for more updates.

The Next Recipe You Should Master: Crêpes

image
image
image

Photograph(s) © David Katzenstein

A few days ago I was talking on the phone with my aunt. We talk about once a week and sometimes our talks last over an hour. In our last conversation we were talking about writing, and she told me that the most important thing to remember is “write what you know.”

I began thinking, “what do I know?!” I know cookies. I know pies. I know Southern comfort food. I also know crêpes, and I think everyone else should know about crêpes too.

When I was living in New York, I actually got three separate gigs serving crêpes at events. It was funny to imagine being a Crêpier, but I’m always up for a challenge or a new experience, so I went for it! Two of the events were for Festival Daniou (www.festivaldaniou.com). Festival Daniou is a Brittany-based summer chamber music residency for internationally recognized young musicians that engages with the history, culture, and cuisine of its region through performance. The first three photos on this post are from the first time I made crêpes at the festival! And before you ask – yes, that’s my majestic pouring and wrist swirling in action. 😉

Both events were lovely and I had the opportunity to serve miniature Kouign-amann, profiteroles and classic galettes. Brittany is well known as the place where Kouign-amann and crêpes themselves began. Crêpes were then known as galettes, which means “flat cake.” They were made with buckwheat flour, which gave the crêpe a much heartier, earthy flavor.

I don’t know how many crêpes I’ve made, but I’d guess it’s close to 1,000. When I began making crêpes in my apartment in Brooklyn, I tested several different recipes that the Festival Danilou organizer Simon Frisch had passed down to me from his family! A lot of them were still in French, and they were all handwritten. I tested, failed, burned, flipped, ate, and shared a lot of crêpes with my roommates. It took me at least a week to master the perfect flick of the wrist that would flip the crêpe over mid-air. I still mess it up to this day though! Around that same time my husband bought me my own crêpe pan as an anniversary gift, and the rest is history.

The recipe I’m posting is for regular crêpes with all purpose flour. Perhaps in the future I’ll do a post on galettes, but for now this is a good place to start. The aforementioned anniversary crêpe pan is still in the US (because it’s heavy!), but using a normal frying pan or cast iron is totally fine.

image

I like my crêpes a little thinner and delicate than most, I’d say. If you want a more cake-like, thick crêpe, omit the ¼ cup of water. Or just make pancakes. You could also use only water instead of milk. Once you master the basic crêpe, you can change everything around to find your perfect recipe.

Ingredients for 12-14 crêpes*:
*depends on pan size, egg size, etc.

1 cup whole milk
¼ cup water
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
Butter, for frying pan
1 tablespoon sugar (if making sweet crepes)

1. Sift flour and salt together.

2. Combine beaten eggs and milk.

3. Using a fork or whisk to mix, slowly pour the milk and egg mixture into the center of the bowl of flour. Mix it together gradually, and slowly add more liquid as you go. This will avoid clumps. The total mixing should take about 2 minutes – don’t rush it!

(Alternatively, you can combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse for 30 seconds until combined and bubbly – but why get the blender dirty when you can mix it by hand?)

4. You now must let the batter rest for at least one hour at room temperature. Trust me (or overnight), you don’t want a gummy crêpe.

5.  Heat your frying pan over medium-high. When you drop a pat of butter in the pan, it should hiss and fuss. If it doesn’t your pan isn’t hot enough. You want to maintain this temperature the entire time you’re cooking the crêpes. You also want to keep adding butter, or your crêpe will get stuck. The butter also promotes gorgeous browning. I used nearly a stick of butter making 12 crêpes. I really love butter.

6. Pour about ¼ cup of batter into the pan, swirling with your wrist to evenly cover the pan’s surface. Depending on pan size, you may need more or you may need less. If it doesn’t cover the whole pan, pour in a little more in the vacant spaces.

7. The crêpe will cook on each side for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Loosen the edges of the crêpe with a (heatproof!) spatula, then flip it. Some people use their fingers. Some people use an offset spatula. Some people, like me, try to flip it with a flick of the wrist. Cook all the crêpes and leave them in a beautiful stack under some tin foil if you are serving them soon. If not, they’re just as good reheated in the oven.

Before the flip…

And after. Now all that’s left to do is serve your crêpes however you please!

You could add ham and cheese, and melt it together in the oven…

image

You could add melted chocolate, or Nutella, if you must. 

You could smear some greek yogurt, berries and honey on them.

No matter how you serve them, they’re delicious and versatile!

Like my new Facebook page for more recipes and updates at http://www.facebook.com/thealexanderroberts