Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow Day Shenanigans

Who's a little tired of winter?  <raising my hand enthusiastically>

Here in Virginia, we got a big snow storm that cancelled classes Thursday and Friday, and with President's Day on Monday, that means the kids have been home for 5 straight days in Loudoun County. We've already had 11 snow days, and frankly, I'm done with all of it.  Fortunately for me, my kids are old enough to get their snow gear on and play outside with their friends without my direct supervision, so I had some extra time the past few days. The majority of that time has been watching the Olympics, I won't lie, but I managed to get a few more things done.

After making snowmen pancakes for breakfast (nothing fancy, folks, just three small, connected blobs of pancake batter with chocolate chips for eyes and buttons), the kids went outside and I started making this:

I had seen this recipe for chocolate swirl bread and thought is looked so good! It's from the Woman's Day January 2014 issue.  While none of the steps are really difficult, it is a little fussy.  The results were so good, though, I would definitely make it again, but doubling the recipe.  I figure, if I'm going to go through all that work, I might as well get two loaves out of it, because the first loaf will be gone in minutes!

Even though it's a yeast dough, I found it really easy to work with.  Maybe it's the eggs that are in it. When you first turn the dough out, it will look a little shaggy:

But it only takes a couple of kneads to get it nice and smooth:

See what I mean about being easy to work with? It rolls out beautifully!

The chocolate filling is also easy, basically just melting all the ingredients together and stirring until smooth.  If you are not familiar with the spreading tool in the picture below, it's an offset spatula.  If you are spreading anything -- cake batter, bars, icing, fillings -- you really need one of these!  It works so much better for getting everything smooth and even than using a regular flat knife or spatula.  This particular one is from Pampered Chef (the one pictured is the large one. I also have the small spreader). 

Rolling the dough is always my downfall -- I never think I get the roll tight enough.

Making the "braid." Don't worry -- it's not complicated, more of a twist than an actual braid.

Popping it in the parchment-lined pan:

Clearly, I could have done better at forming the dough...

Making the crumb topping, I went old-school, using two knives to cut the butter into crumbs.  When I make this again, I'm going to use the food processor.  So much easier and faster!



You pat in the crumbs before you put the bread in the oven. Here's the finished product:

It's a beautiful bread, worthy of gift-giving, I think. And, as I mentioned before, none of the steps are hard. Don't you want to have some of this??  So, so yummy!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Unexpected Ooey, Gooey Caramel Rolls

I love sweet rolls: caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, whatever.  But most of the time I don't have time to mess with yeast, waiting for the dough to rise, etc. So I was looking for a faster, easier cinnamon roll recipe, when I came across something that sounded pretty good at the blog Iowa Girl Eats (if you've never read her blog, I highly recommend it).  But remember that I had that sweet potato caramel from the experiment last time?  I did, and had to figure out what to do with it, since it's been sitting on my counter for 2 weeks.  So the gears in the brain started grinding away and I thought, "Why not a sweet potato caramel roll?"  The addition of sweet potato is the "unexpected" part. :-)

Now, I am under no illusions that what I came up with is much healthier than any other sweet roll out there, but I did try to cut down the refined sugar, and I thought that adding the sweet potato, using some whole wheat flour, cutting the butter a teensy bit and taking out a little of the salt might help just a bit.

Y'all, they were really good! Which, of course, is why I'm sharing with you, because I wouldn't waste your time with crap.  :-)  I know there are a few steps, but none are very hard, and even the mixing is pretty straight forward.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Preparing the pan with the nuts and caramel topping:

Getting on with mashing up the cooked sweet potato. The heat from the potato will melt the butter:

After adding the flour, you'll get something like this:

Don't worry if it's not really well mixed. You'll knead that together so it gets nice and smooth.

Rolling out the dough is not an exact science...

On goes the yummy cinnamon filling:

Rolled and sliced, then placed in the prepared pan.  See my little wonky one in the bottom right corner? We never leave a man behind, even if it's the sad looking end pieces.  See that bench scraper in the picture on the left? It helps a lot for baking: I used it to help roll the dough (loosen parts that might be sticking to the sheet) and cutting the roll into pieces.

Puffed and ready to take out of the pan.  Looks like I could have brushed off some of the flour, though...

They need to rest, and let that gooey caramel goodness drip down onto the top.

 Voila! Sort of healthy-ish but super delicious caramel rolls!

 Unexpected Ooey, Gooey Caramel Rolls:

(Inspired by this recipe on Iowa Girl Eats)

For the Dough:

about 1 cup mashed sweet potato (or take a small sweet potato, pierce and microwave on high for 7 minutes until cooked - be sure to peel it before using in the recipe)
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Throw warm sweet potato and butter into a mixing bowl and combine (if sweet potato was already mashed, melt the butter and combine with mashed sweet potato). Add buttermilk and combine until smooth.

Measure dry ingredients into separate bowl. Whisk to combine. Add to the sweet potato/buttermilk mixture and stir until the dough comes together. It might look a little shaggy, but that's okay.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times to get a smooth dough. Roll out to a 9x14 -ish inch rectangle (it doesn't really have to be exact).

Cinnamon Filling:

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the Cinnamon Filling:   Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the caramel topping:

1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 Sweet Potato Caramel (or you could substitute pure maple syrup)
1 Tbsp butter

For the pan and caramel topping: heavily butter the bottom of a 9x9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle nuts over. Combine brown sugar, syrup and butter in a small bowl, microwave for 30 seconds on high, then stir to combine.  Pour caramel over the nuts.

After you have all the components ready, spread filling over the dough. The filling has a wet sand kind of texture, so don't worry if you don't get it spread completely evenly -- I didn't.  ;-) Roll up dough from by the long end, trying to keep the roll as tight as you can (I admit I'm not very good at this part).  Cut dough into nine pieces. How do you do this, you ask? Cut off each of the ends, set them aside for now, then cut the remaining roll in half, then cut each of those pieces in half, then in half again.  And there you go.  Put rolls in the prepared pan, then take the uneven ends, smoosh them together a little, then use that as your ninth roll.  press each of the rolls down slightly.

Put pan into a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes. After pulling the rolls out of the oven, immediately turn over onto a serving plate, but keep the pan on top for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove pan. There might be bits of the caramel-nut topping left in the pan. I just scrape that out and spread over the rolls.  Enjoy!  Makes 9.