Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is comes from my wife's side of the family and  since I end up modifying it every time I thought I would write it down and take some pictures this time.  In the past I have adapted this recipe to make monkey bread, you can do this by rolling the dough into small balls and covering with the cinnamon sugar mixture and baking in a bundt pan.  These rolls take a fair bit of patience but the wait is well worth it.  

Duration: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: moderate

Dough Ingredients:
4 cups flour 
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dried yeast

Sprinkle Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper ( optional )

1/2 stick of softened butter ( to spread on dough )

Initial Dough Instructions:
Mix and kneed dough into a nice round ball. This dough should be very soft.  A soft dough will not leave itself on your fingers but it should feel a little sticky.  Set dough aside in a lightly greased bowl in a warm ( 75 degrees or so ) location for an hour. The dough should expand to at least twice its original size.

Cinnamon roll Topping in greased pan
Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter ( a stick )
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (opt )
1 cup of walnuts or pecans

Topping Instructions:
In a sauce pan on a low heat melt butter. Once butter is melted add the rest of the ingredients then stir and bring heat up to medium. Be careful to not burn this. After a couple of minutes reduce to a low heat and cover with a top for a couple of minutes.

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray and pour out topping into the pan.  Set aside to cool while waiting for the dough's first rise.

Putting it all together

Rolled out and topped with the sprinkles
With a rolling pin roll out the dough into a long rectangle.  I choose to roll my dough fairly thin ( about a 1/4 of an inch thick ).  Thicker dough achieves wider rings on your rolls. Keep in mind, however, to make a nice long rectangle.

Spread softened butter evenly across the dough and liberally cover this with your sprinkles.  You may not use all of your sprinkles but keep in mind a warm buttery piece of toast is a great place to use up this cinnamon sugar mix.

Roll up the sprinkled dough into a long tube. Dough stretches so feel free to grab the ends of the tube and give a gentle tug and a shake to gain a little more length. To keep things easy I like to cut the tube up into 16 even rolls.  Cut the entire tube in half then cut those two smaller tubes in half cut those four tubes in half and finally cut all remaining eight tubes in half.

If your toppings haven't cooled to less than 100 degrees you will  have to wait.  We don't want the rolls to cook yet.  If the topping pan is warm to touch but you can leave your hand there comfortably then this is about right.  Evenly place your 16 rolls directly on the toppings in the 13 x 9 inch pan. Give them a little shot of cooking spray to keep the air from drying the surface.  Set this entire pan aside for one more hour.  During this time your rolls will roughly double in size.  About 45 minutes into this hour preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pan in oven and bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes.  Before you pull them out place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. When you pull the pan from the oven immediately quickly flip it onto the parchment paper.  Allow the pan to sit for about a minute on top of the rolls.  Gently pull up on corner of the pan and slowly remove it.  The hot topping has no desire to stick to the pan and will stay on the rolls.

That's it!  Enjoy!!

Cinnamon Rolls straight from the oven ( they didn't last long)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tomato Romano Basil Bread

Tomato Romano Basil Bread
Most Saturday mornings I wake up well before anyone else in the house. It is a perfect time to get after making some bread.  Most bread I make takes around 2 1/2 hours to complete.  This is due to a one hour initial proof and then an additional hour of rising in the pan and finally a 25 minute bake.

I love Italian food and that was the inspiration for this loaf.  Romano cheese, basil, olive oil and tomato blend together wonderfully. I am not thrilled with the pictures I took of the loaves but the smell and taste is fantastic.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 2 1/2 hours

Key ingredients for Tomato Romano Basil bread

6 cups flour
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup diced Romano cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey


Mix all ingredients together. Turn dough out onto counter and kneed manually for a few minutes to make sure the dough is well combined.  This dough should be pretty moist. If it sticks to your fingers add more flour until it doesn't.  Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl that is at least twice the size of the ball.  Place the bowl in a warm place (in the winter I put it on a hot pad on lowest setting). Allow dough to proof (rest) for 1 hour.

Turn out dough from bowl onto counter and split into two equal parts.  Kneed and form into two loaf shapes.  Place these loaves into a greased medium to large bread pan.  Allow these loaves to rise for an additional hour.

After 45 minutes of the final rise preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once the bread has risen for one hour cook the loaves for 25 minutes.  If you want a darker crust on top you can turn on your broiler for a couple of minutes.

That's it! Enjoy!!

Easy Pie Crust

Why buy a pie crust when you can make a fresh one?  Any pie crust you make will be flakier and tastier than one that has been sitting in the freezer at your supermarket.  These pie crust recipes are great for pies and quiche.  I think you will be surprised at just how easy they are to make.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 20 minutes

2 Crust Recipe


2 Sheets wax or parchment paper ( wax is easiest )
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
3 tablespoons cold water


Pie Crust rolled between sheets of paper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ingredients ( sans wax paper ) in a bowl with a spoon. Split into two equal portions and form into balls.   If you are using parchment paper lightly dust the paper with flour before placing a ball in between two sheets.  With a rolling pin roll out the dough between the sheets until you form a nice circle that is wider than your pie pan.  Pull the top sheet off of the crust and invert the remaining paper / crust onto the pie pan and work the crust into the pan, releasing it from the other sheet of paper.

Cook for 15 minutes.

That's it! You are now ready to add whatever fabulous ingredients you have dreamed up.

1 Crust Recipe


1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons oil


Same as 2 above.


These two recipes are from my wife's aunt Elaine Jelinek and are found in a private recipe book that was dedicated to her grandmother Aunt Susie ( yes that was confusing to me as well ).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cranberry Lemon Soda Bread

Cranberry Lemon Soda Bread
I get a lot of inspiration for cooking from watching cooking  shows. Our family lives about 30 miles out of town so ingredients on hand typically determine how I will make something. It is not at all uncommon for me to take an existing recipe and adapt it to those available ingredients.  The trick is, of course, trying to make sure I have a good stock of staples.  This recipe is an adaptation from The Barefoot Contessa.   The most notable changes are switching out cranberries for currants, honey for sugar, 100% white flour for 1/2 whole wheat, lemon zest for orange and finally skim milk + lemon juice for buttermilk.  That sounds like a big list but in my opinion the trades are reasonable.

Difficult: easy
Duration: 1 hour


4 cups flour
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter
1 3/4 cup skim milk
1 large egg
1 lemon's zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Mix the ingredients. I use my kitchen-aide but if you don't have one just use your hands.  This mixture will be very sticky.  Form into a round loaf, place on top of the parchment on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 45-55 minutes.  To test if is done cooking; stick a toothpick into the top of the loaf and if it pulls out clean you are done.


Instead of pulling the post down I decided to leave this up.  I personally do not like this recipe.  I think it is recoverable and that would include adding quite a lot more honey.  The cranberries were simply too tart and the bread did not have enough sweetness to offset the tartness.  If I take some of our incredible strawberry jam that we make from local strawberries and slather up a slice it becomes reasonable to me.  But I am completely of the opinion that this has everything to do with how wonderful that jam is.  

If you want to try what I think my next attempt would be I would double the honey ( 1/2 cup ) and switch from 1/2 cup chopped cranberries and go to 1/2 cup of cran-raisins.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Parmesan Spinach Cracked Pepper Wheat Bread

Parmesan Spinach Cracked Pepper Loaves

This warm loaf of wheat bread combines the flavors of cracked pepper corns, the salty dryness of Parmesan cheese and the moist earthy texture of spinach.  It may seem a little unconventional but you will love the results.  I can't wait to slice mine to make grilled cheese sandwiches and serve with a tomato bisque soup.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 2.5 hours

Makes 2 medium loaves


2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2.5 cups unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons honey
5 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, small cubes
big handful baby spinach, chopped

Instructions -

Mix together all of the ingredients leaving out the spinach and Parmesan cheese.  This dough should just be on the edge of sticky but shouldn't leave itself on your fingers.  Add water or flour to get to this level of softness.  Once your dough is well mixed kneed in the spinach and Parmesan cheese.

Dough ready to rest for an hour

Set the dough aside in a large greased bowl in a warm (75- 80 degrees is ideal). I have to place mine on a heating pad on it's lowest setting because it is in the middle of winter in Nebraska and nothing in my house is 75-80 degrees.  Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour, it should double in size in this hour.

Punch down the dough and split into two.  Kneed into two small loaf shapes and place into medium sized greased loaf pans.  Place these pans back into a warm location for another hour. The loaves will rise to above the top of the loaf pans in this time.  About 45 minutes into this hour you will want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Rising on the heating pad

Bake the two loves in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

That's it! Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Small Stack Whole Wheat Pancakes
Nothing beats hot pancakes freshly made on a Sunday morning.  This recipe is so simple anyone can make it.  Even more fun is you should feel free to experiment by adding your own blueberries, raspberries or whatever you find in season and desirable.

Difficulty: Easy
Duration: 15 - 20 minutes


3/4 Cup Milk
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Egg
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat skillet to medium and spray with cooking spray.  Mix all ingredients together with a whisk in a bowl.  The mix should be pretty wet something like the consistency of applesauce.  If you think it is too runny just add a bit of flour.  If too dry add a bit of milk.  It is probably best to just try it on the skillet if you are unsure.

Drop the mixture in the center of where you want the pancake to cook, it will spread out evenly from there (unless it is too thick).  A quarter cup measuring cup works really well for me as it is the size of pancake I like to make.

Allow to cook on one side until nice and brown.  Be careful not to flip too early or the pancake will loose its shape.  You can lift a corner of a pancake up and see if the bottom is browning to your satisfaction.  The pancake will cook for a longer time on the first side.  

This recipe is good for about 9 pancakes and is easy to double if necessary.