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!

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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! 

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** 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! 

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Pâte Brisée (Pie Dough)

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Brisée and I have had a long, tumultuous, on and off relationship. Simply known to most as “pie dough,” this dough can make or break a quiche or an apple pie. If you know a few basic points about pie dough, you can easily make some at home that will rival the pies of your favorite bakery.

Important Tips To Remember:
– Warmth is your enemy when making this dough. If your dough gets too warm, the butter will melt right out (or right in, making a more dense dough).
– Keep all ingredients cold. Your water (ice cold!). Your flour. Your butter. Even the bowl you are mixing it in should be refrigerated!
– Work quickly and confidently. 

This recipe is versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways. I choose not to add any sugar to the dough, but if you must, you can add a sprinkle. It’s nice to have a bit more sugar if you’re making a sweet pie, but if you’re making a quiche or something similar I would avoid it. 

Making pie dough becomes a lot easier when you have the correct tools, such as a bowl scraper or bench knife. This recipe will make enough for two 9 inch pies, or one double crusted pie.

Ingredients:
400 grams all purpose flour (3.25 cups)
200 grams butter (2.25 sticks)
1 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 150 grams of ice cold water (½ cup)

1.  Measure out all of your ingredients and refrigerate them until they’re nice and cold. Cut the butter into small cubes, or slivers. Add the salt to the flour.

2. Work the butter into the flour using a fork, pastry blender, your fingers (quickly!), or a bench knife on a work surface. You want small, scraggly pieces of butter in the flour – not big chunks, but not completely invisible either.
Once all of your butter is blended into the flour, pour the flour out onto a clean work surface. Form a circle shape with a hole in the center, like a big donut. 

3. Pour the water into the hole in the middle and using a fork, mix it carefully to combine the liquid with the flour. Don’t let the water out of the center!
Using your hands, press all of the ingredients together gently until it sticks together. Too dry? Add a little water at a time by sprinkling it from your fingertips. You can also add flour if you find your dough is getting to wet. 

Depending on the day and the weather, you may need more or less liquid! You will understand after making the dough a few times.

4. That’s it! Refrigerate the dough overnight, or at least 1 hour until it’s completely cold. Take care of your dough and it will take care of you!

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Serious Note: Do not over mix or overwork. This photo shows right about where my dough is when it’s finished. I only pack it together enough to hold. Remember, this dough is not going to be completely cohesive. It’s going to be scraggly and shaggy looking. It will not be as wet as you probably think it should be, and you may still see chunks of butter. That’s great! It means your dough is going to be beautifully flaky. In the same sense, really large chunks of butter will disappear and leave a hole in your pastry if it’s too big!

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

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I’ll admit that I’ve been making a strange amount of banana bread lately. It’s because I’ve been testing and tweaking a recipe that I can depend on time and time again. I also had to finally admit to myself that I do, in fact, have a chocolate problem. My past two weeks have been full of chocolate, just like this banana bread. Nothing’s wrong with that!

A few banana bread tips:
1. You can just use all white sugar if you don’t have any brown sugar on hand.
2. Riper bananas are better for banana bread, because the starch in the banana breaks down into sugar over time.  This makes for a stronger aroma as well as a more moist and sweet final product. Yay!
3. Don’t over mix! Once you add the flour, work it as little as possible. You don’t want a tough or dense bread.

*Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

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Ingredients:
114g (1 stick) melted butter, cooled
100g (½ cup) sugar
100g (½ cup) brown sugar
250g (2 cups)  of flour  
2 eggs
150g (1 cup) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

Mash bananas and combine with sugars. Whisk in the butter, followed by the eggs, salt, and vanilla.

Add the chocolate, and stir to combine.

Fold in the flour along with the baking powder and baking soda. Do not over mix.

Pour into a butter/greased loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean and the banana bread bounces back if you poke it with your finger. Note: melted chocolate on the knife doesn’t mean it’s raw! 

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Wrap in plastic once cool to store. This bread will stay moist for nearly a week!

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Pancetta & Parmesan Scones

Pancetta & Parmesan Scones
By: Stacie Merriman
www.FeedYourKnead.com

When I think of scones, sweet dense biscuits with sugary glaze dripping down the sides come to mind. But scones can also be savory. This recipe uses pancetta, which is an Italian bacon, and parmesan cheese. Since both of these ingredients are salty on their own, I did not add any additional salt to the dough. These are perfect with eggs and fresh fruit, and are best served warm. Enjoy!

Makes 8

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (cold)
1 egg (room temp)
1 cup shredded parmesan (use the good stuff, not the crap in the green jar)
4 thick slices of pancetta – about 4 oz. (diced and cooked in skillet)
4 green onions (whites and a little bit of the green)
½-¾ cup buttermilk
egg wash (1 egg beaten lightly with a little water)
Preheat convection oven to 375° (350° if not convection). Line baking sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray.

Dice pancetta and cook in a small skillet. Use a slotted spoon and transfer to a few paper towels to soak up any excess fat.

In large bowl combine flour, baking powder, pepper and Italian seasoning. Cut in COLD butter with a pastry blender. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use 2 butter knives to work the butter into the flour. Don’t mix too much, you want to see little chunks of butter.

Add egg and parmesan, mix well. Add pancetta, onions and ½ cup buttermilk and combine well. If the dough is too thick, add a little more buttermilk, one Tablespoon at a time until dough comes together and forms a ball. Lightly flour a board and transfer dough to the board. Pat into a 10” round. Cut into 8 wedges and place on baking sheet.

Brush with egg wash. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Boozy Brown Butter Apple Pie

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There are many wonderful pie recipes out there but, for me, nothing pairs up better with apples than brown butter. The dark, earthy, aromatic flavors perfectly compliment the sweet vibrancy of good apples at their ripest, and I’ve added a little bourbon to tie them together. If you have your own crust recipe that you prefer, please use it! The butter vs. shortening battle is one that will never be won. In making this pie be sure to use good, fragrant apples (I prefer Granny Smith and Pink Lady).  Like anything, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

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Crust:

3 C. Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 t. Salt
1 T. Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Shortening
½ Cup Ice Water (more or less as needed)
1 t. Vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl combine flour, salt, and sugar.
2. Using a pastry blender cut shortening into flour mixture. Work with hands until dough is shaggy.
3. Sprinkle in the water and the vanilla and toss with a fork until just combined. Work with hands until dough is homogeneous.
4. Separate the dough into two equal parts. One will be used to line the pie plate, and the other for the top.
5. This dough can be used immediately, or can be wrapped in wax paper and refrigerated until you are ready to make your pie. If storing for later be sure to let it come back up to room temperature before rolling.

Filling:

½ Cup Unsalted Butter
3 T. Flour
¼ Cup Water
½ C. Sugar
¾ C. Brown Sugar, Packed
2 oz. Good Bourbon
½ Split Vanilla Bean, or 1 Tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
6-8 Apples of your choice peeled, cored, and sliced thin.
1 ½ T. Tapioca Pearls

1. In a heavy pot begin to melt butter on low heat until it is completely liquefied, then increase heat to med-high. Here you must watch carefully as the water begins to cook off and your butter begins to darken. This will happen fast!
2. Continue to stir making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. You’ll begin to notice that the solid fats in the butter turn dark brown. When butter begins to give off a nutty, fragrant smell and you’ve achieved a deep yellow/golden color remove pot from heat temporarily to suspend browning.
3. Once removed from heat mix in 4 T. of flour. Return pot to burner and continue to stir until a paste is formed.
4. At this point you can add your sugar, your brown sugar, and vanilla, bourbon, then water. Stir to combine and boil until it begins to thicken.
5. Add the apples and stir.
6. Here’s where the magic begins!  One of the best reasons to precook the apples like this is it really pulls out the flavor.  You’ll begin to notice the apples breaking down, and the caramel will thin out. The flavors begin to combine and it smells wonderful.
7. The cook time here will vary. If you are using Granny Smith apples you will need to cook them a bit longer. The flavor is the best, but they sure are starchy! When the apples are tender (smaller pieces will begin to fall apart) remove the pot from heat and stir in 1.5 T. of tapioca pearls (these will hold your pie together).
8. Allow to cool as you prepare your crust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Construction:

1. Pour apples into your prepared pie shell and smooth/compress with a wooden spoon to achieve a nice dome shape.
2. Dress pie with a lattice top like I did,  or roll out remaining crust into a circle large enough to cover your pie.  Invert crust on top of pie and, after cutting off any excess dough with a sharp knife crimp edges with a fork. To form a vent cut two slits in center of pie to form an X.
3. Brush the top of your pie with milk and sprinkle with sugar. This achieves a really nice color and texture when baked.

Baking:

1. To catch any potential juices, place pie on a cookie sheet  and position on the center rack of your preheated oven.
2. Bake for 35-45 minutes. As the apples are mostly precooked your main goal is to a achieve a nice golden brown crust.

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Enjoy!

Recipe by Faron Vassen, Instagram: milkandstone 

Rosemary & Plum Galette

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I never really made galettes until I started working at Bakeri in Brooklyn, where we make individual sized galettes. This one is a large one. 

Galettes are the easiest, fastest way to showcase any type of fruit (or vegetable!). Apples, strawberries, pears… Or in this case, plums. 

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All you need is a single pie crust & some nice looking fruit. 

Quarter at least 10 plums, depending how large you want your galette to be. Wrap them up in the pie dough as pictured. Or however you please, really. 

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I added blueberries & chopped rosemary, and then put it back in the freezer so it would be really cold (frozen!) going into a really hot oven (400 degrees). By personal preference I egg wash the dough & heavy-handedly apply a good coating of raw sugar. 

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40 minutes later*, a beautiful pastry emerges. Cut it, dollop some fresh whipped cream on it, and share it with friends – or not. 

*Depending on your oven. Check on it every 10m while baking to catch it at the perfect golden brown color.