Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

I began searching for good cinnamon roll recipes yesterday afternoon and found a slew of them, including smitten kitchen's blog post when she not only shared her recipe for cinnamon buns but also shared with the world that she herself had a 'bun in the oven'- how cute. Don't worry mom... I'm not about to make any kind of announcement like that. And besides, she didn't go on and on about how good they were (maybe she was slightly more excited about her baby than the cinnamon rolls), and I wanted the ultimate cinnamon roll recipe.

The recipe I chose is from The Pioneer Woman on her cooking blog ( She claimed that they are the best cinnamon rolls in the world and I thought that was a pretty high recommendation, so I took her word for it and made these bad boys today. The cinnamon roll itself is pretty classic, however the icing is slightly flavored with maple and coffee which puts these puppies over the top... in a wonderful way. These are very, very, very good. I will search no more for a go-to cinnamon roll recipe. Also, this recipe is halved, and it still made about 30 cinnamon rolls. Yowza.

- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 package (.25 oz) Active Dry Yeast
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour (plus 1/2 cup extra)
- 1/2 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
- 1 1/2 (heaping) teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- plenty of cinnamon

In a large saucepan heat the milk, oil, and sugar until just before boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to luke warm/warm- about 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the milk mixture and let sit for a minute or two. Add 4 cups of flower and stir together until incorporated. Cover and let rise 1+ hour.

Add the other 1/2 cup flour, along with the baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir to combine. At this point, I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge overnight, however, you can skip this and move straight to making the rolls.

Take the dough and using a rolling pin roll into a large rectangle (mine was roughly 28"x12"). Slowly pour the melted butter on top, trying to keep as much as you can on the dough and not on the counter. Sprinkle the sugar on top and then sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon. Begin rolling the dough towards you, trying to keep the roll as tight as you can. Once fully rolled, pinch the edge closed in order to seal in the buttery-sugary-cinnamony ooze. Cut about 1-2 inches off the ends (the not pretty part) and discard, then cut the remaining dough into 3/4"-1" slices and place in a buttered pan (I used two 9x13 pans, 12 rolls in each, and then put the remaining 7 rolls in a pie pan, totaling 31 cinnamon rolls). Let rise about 20-30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.

While the rolls are baking you can make the icing...

- 12 ounces powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons maple flavoring
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 tablespoons brewed coffee
- 2 pinches of salt

Add all ingredients together in a bowl and whisk until all sugar is disolved. Taste and add any more of the above ingredients until desired consistency/flavor (ex: if its too thin, add more sugar, if its too thick, add a dash more milk/coffee). Pour on top of the cinnamon rolls once they have been taken out of the oven. Eat while warm.... YUM.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pomegranate Margaritas & Lemon Drops!

I celebrated my birthday this weekend and along with eating lots of delicious food, I made and drank a number of yummy cocktails... including pomegranate margaritas and lemon drops. Both are very easy to make and go down all-too-easily.

Pomegranate Margarita

- 1/3 cup tequila
- 1/3 cup triple sec
- 1/3 cup lime juice
- 2 ounces pomegranate juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake
with ice cubes until well chilled. Pour into a glass
and serve with a lime wedge.

Makes 2 margaritas

Lemon Drop Martini

- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake
with ice cubes until well chilled. Pour into a
sugar-rimmed martini glass, serve and enjoy!

Makes 2 martinis

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to make with my dad was chocolate truffles. We'd set up a chocolate assembly line, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Making these alone is not quite as fun as making them with my dad, but its just as messy (and finger-linking-good).

I made these today for a Thank-You-Treat for my research advisor for her help on a recent project. This recipe is a combination of a few that I found while searching online. They are incredibly easy to make and you could add any kind of liquor/flavoring you'd like to the truffle (i.e. peppermint extract, Bailey's, Grand Marnier, Kahlua, etc.) and coat them in any topping you choose (cocoa, coffee grounds, ground nuts, toasted coconut, sprinkles, etc.).

-11 ounces good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-3 tablespoons butter
-3 tablespoons liquor (I used a combination of Bailey's and whiskey)

-8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
-Sprinkles, coconut, coffee granules, cocoa, nuts, etc.

Chop the 11 ounces of chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat the cream and butter just until it begins to simmer- do not boil. Immediately pour on top of the chocolate and let sit 2 minutes. Then stir until the chocolate is completely melted. If it does not melt completely, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Pour into a 8x8 glass pan and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Once hardened (actually once its a fudge-like consistency), remove from fridge and using a spoon scoop out chocolate and roll in your hands until desired size and shape balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate again for about an hour.

Once chilled, head the 8 ounces of chocolate in a microwave safe bowl... 15 seconds at a time, stirring in between each. You want the chocolate to melt and the lowest heat possible, so do not over-microwave it.  Once melted and smooth, set aside and bring out the cookie sheet with the truffles on them. Pour each of your topping into separate bowls and set aside. Drop each ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork to pick it up and tap the sides of the bowl to get rid of excess chocolate. Drop into one of the toppings and toss to coat. Remove from bowl and place back on cookie sheet. Once hardened (just a few minutes) place in mini muffin papers and refrigerate in an airtight container. These will stay good for a few weeks in the fridge, but should be eaten at room temperature.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps

This recipe was recommended to me by two friends who said that I should try them and I am glad that I did (within 24 hours of their suggestion). Its a really nice and HEALTHY appetizer or meal. Full of flavor and very easy. Next time I might play around and add some water chestnuts or bamboo shoots or something else to add crunch. THIS IS FANTASTIC. Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, September 2009.

-1 pork tenderloin (~1 lb.) fat trimmed
-2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
-1 tablespoon white rice
-1/4 cup chicken broth
-3 tablespoons lime juice
-2 teaspoons sugar
-1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 large shallot, sliced thin
-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
-3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
-Small lettuce (bib or mini red-leaf)

Cut the pork into 1-inch pieces and place on a plate in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the rice in a small pan on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it turns a deep golden brown color. Pour rice in a small bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Grind rice with a spice grinder/mini food processor/mortal and pestle until it looks like powder. Set aside.

Once the pork has chilled, add half of it to the food processor and pulse 5 times for 1 second each time. Remove the pork and place into a medium bowl. Do the same thing with the rest of the pork. Add 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce to the pork and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, chop the shallots, cilantro and mint. Mix together the lime juice, sugar, and red pepper flakes and set aside. 

Once the pork has marinated for 15 minutes remove it from the refrigerator. On medium-high heat bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a 12-inch skillet. Add the pork and cook stirring frequently until about halfway cooked. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the rice powder and continue stirring until cooked all the way through (about 3-5 minutes total). Pour pork into a large bowl. Add the shallots, cilantro, mint, lime juice, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. 

Serve over whole pieces of lettuce. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin Steaks (Filet Mignon)

So. This is good. Really really good. Make it, end of story.

Six same sized (6-8 ounces) beef tenderloin steaks (1 1/2-inch thick)
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
1 cup canola oil
Kosher salt

In a small saucepan add together the peppercorns and the canola oil (add more oil if you want the peppercorns to be less potent, less if you want them to be stronger). Bring oil to a boil and remove from heat and cover. Let steep for about 1 hour (this process helps to soften the peppercorns so you don't chip a tooth). Drain the peppercorns from the oil, reserving both separately. Crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or with the bottom of a heavy pan. Spread peppercorns on a work surface and coat both sides of each steak with them. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set a metal rack on a roasting pan and set aside for steaks.

Heat a bit of the canola oil in 2 pans on medium-high heat. Add three steaks to each pan, so as to not overcrowd the steaks. Sear for 1.5-2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in roasting pan. Put in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until center of meat reaches about 130-150 degrees (130 degrees will give you rare-medium/rare meat, 150 will give you medium/medium well meat). I think that 137-142 degrees would be perfect. Remove from oven, let sit 10 minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve.

* Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.
** Also, I saw that a fellow food blogger made this recipe but wrapped the steaks in bacon. Uhh, yum.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Double Chocolate Mousse Torte

I was on the search for the most rich, decadent, dark chocolate dessert that would pair well with a nice bottle of red wine. This cake could not have been more perfect. It is intensely chocolatey and when you cut into it you can actually see each of the three layers in every piece- quite lovely. It is a fun and DELICIOUS crowd pleaser.

Warning: this cake is a time commitment- its not something you can whip up on a moment's notice. However, none of the steps are particularly difficult and most of the "preparation" time is spent chilling in the refrigerator. Recipe from Bon Appetit, 2000.


       Chocolate Cake
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

        Chocolate Mousse
- 1 stick butter, cut into pieces
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup sugar

        Whipped Cream and Raspberry Toppings
- 1 cup heaving whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 container raspberries
- 1/4 cup simple syrup 

To make the bottom layer ("Chocolate Cake")... 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 10-inch springform pan. Dust with sugar and set aside.
In a large saucepan melt the butter and chocolate on low heat, stirring constantly, just until melted. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking between each addition. Mix in the vanilla and salt and then add the flour. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or just until the middle of the cake begins to rise. Remove from oven, let cool completely on a rack. Cover and refrigerate while making the mousse. 

To make the mousse....
Melt butter in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup cream, and vanilla in a small bowl then slowly add to melted butter mixture, whisking while pouring. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes. At this point the mixture may appear broken- this is fine. Remove the bowl from over the water, add the chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside. 

With an electric mixer beat the egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the egg mixture into the chocolate. Pour into pan on top of the bottom chocolate cake layer. Refrigerate at least 6 hours. 

To make the toppings...
With an electric mixer beat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until almost thick. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until desired consistency. Spread over cake. 

Using a food processor blend a container of raspberries. Stream in some simple syrup until the mixture reaches the desired pourable consistency. 

Cut slices of the cake and drizzle raspberry sauce on each piece. Serve, enjoy, moan.