Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cinnamon Rolls

A few weeks ago, I hosted a breakfast extravaganza for Mom, Dave, Lenny, Jerome, John and myself. I served two different kinds of waffles, vegetarian sausage links and patties, Mom's fruit salad, and the cinnamon buns described in this entry.

These cinnamon rolls are based on the Fruit Sweet and Sugar-Free cookbook's "The Best Egg Bread" and "Our Famous Cinnamon Rolls" recipes. I've made a few little alterations. I've included both still photos and little movies in the description. Please let me know what you think!

Do ahead:
The day before, make the cinnamon roll filling below.

Cinnamon Roll Filling:
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons flour

1. Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree F oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool, then chop them coarsely either by hand or via a food processor.
2. Boil one cup of water and add the raisins. Cut off the heat when the water returns to a boil again, and let the raisins plump for 10 minutes. Drain the raisins and store them in the fridge until needed.
3. Cream the agave nectar and the butter until well mixed. Stir in the cinnamon and flour, then the walnuts. Refrigerate this mixture until you're ready to use it.

Make the Egg Bread:
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons agave nectar
6 tablespoons softened butter
3 eggs beaten
2 teaspoons dry baker's yeast
2 teaspoons salt
5 - 5 1/4 cups unbleached white flour

1. Scald the milk with the agave necar over medium heat.
2. Combine the scalded mixture with the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. After the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the eggs, yeast, salt and 5 cups of flour until it forms a soft dough. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Place the well-kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

5. After the first rise (about 1-2 hours), gently deflate the dough and knead it in the bowl for about 1 minute. Then cover it again, and let it rise again until doubled.

Assemble the Cinnamon Buns:

1. After the dough has risen twice, roll it into a rectangle measuring 18 inches by 20 inches. Cover the rectangle with the chilled filling, leaving 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of space at the top of the rectangle. Sprinkle the raisins on top.

2. Beginning at the side closest to you, tightly roll the dough and mixture all the along the length of the rectangle until you've made a spiral.

3. Use a serrated edge knife to cut the roll into equally sized portions. I cut mine about an inch thick because I didn't want gargantuan rolls.

4. Place each roll 1-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap for their third rise.

5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and slightly crusty.

6. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze.

Cinnamon Roll Glaze:

1/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk (get this as powdery as possible by putting it in a ziplock bag and crushing it with a rolling pin)
2 1/2 tablespoons of unsweetened apple juice
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. Whip all the glaze ingredients until just foamy.
2. Generously brush the rolls with the glaze while they're still warm from the oven.
3. Chow down with friends!

I deviated a bit from the recipe because I wanted to freshly bake these the morning of the event. I had refrigerated the rolls after their third rise, and I think this affected the dough a bit. They were somewhat hard after baking, but not altogether bad at all. I had enough dough and filling leftover to make two loaves of cinnamon bread. I gave one to Mom and Dave, which they enjoyed. I also had some of the glaze leftover. This did not store well, and in fact, separated. The foamy bit on top really reminded me of marshmallow fluff. Overall, flavor was good, and the loaves fared much better than the rolls. This makes me think that it was cook's error, and that I should have sliced the rolls much thicker. A B- would be a fair grade.

Next time, the waffles, which were far superior to the cinnamon rolls. They should have been, their recipes came from the Dorie Greenspan "Waffles" book.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Take on Isa's Gingerbread Apple Pie

My apologies to Isa Chandra Moskowitz as I write the following words: I have de-veganized yet another of your wonderful recipes from Vegan With a Vengeance. I admit, I like butter. A lot. And, it made a great pie that John's Aunt Dot really enjoyed. Dot wasn't the only one, either.

It's such an easy pie to make. The only time-consuming part was slicing the bag of Granny Smith apples thinly because I did it by hand, not via a mandoline (a good birthday gift, hint, hint, hint) or a food processor (mine doesn't slice -- another good gift idea). I'm looking forward to making this a whole grain recipe. The crust really lends itself to tinkering in that way, especially given the liquid sweetener.

Here's my altered version of the recipe. It takes a few more liberties than usual, especially with the crust to account for the sugar/agave exchange, but it was definitely a success!

Gingerbread Apple Pie

The Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup butter -- use salted
1 tablespoon cold water, if needed

The Filling:

2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons arrowroot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the crust:
Sift together the flour, spices and baking powder. Cut in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle the agave nectar over the dough, mixing until the crumbs begin to cling together. If needed, add the water. Set 1/2 cup of the dough aside. Gather the rest in a ball and knead for 5 minutes. Press into pie pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Make the filling:
While the crust bakes, mix all the ingredients for the filling together except the arrowroot. Then, add the arrowroot and mix until it is completely dissolved.

Assemble the pie:
Fill the crust with the apple mixture and crumble the remaining dough over the filling. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil after 20 minutes and bake for 30 minutes more. The filling should be bubbling and the apples should be tender.

When I baked this pie for John's family gathering last month, I baked it for a total of 40 minutes, then popped it in his cousin Holly's oven to finish it while we were eating Steve's (of Bethlehem) pizza. Eating the warm pie was wonderful. Not a piece was left.

I'm having a bit of difficulty linking to Flickr from Blogger (what a surprise!), so if you want to see a photo of the pie, click here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Corn Fritters

This is another slight alteration to a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

Backstory: I'd made some frozen organic corn as a side with dinner. John didn't want any, so I was left with way too many servings for myself. I had been paging through all my cookbooks for recipes I'd altered when I found the "Fresh Corn Fritters" in VWAV. While I'm not a fan of tofu, I decided to keep an open mind and try the recipe. My review is at the end.

By the way, I'm trying to use more video footage in my blog. Please let me know what you think of this technique.

Here's my version:

1 12-0z package of extra-frim silken tofu
2 tablespoons of organic raw agave nectar
4 tablespoons of organic rice milk
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (you can substitute most flours here)(fava-garbanzo might be interesting)
3 cups of cooked frozen corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I grind mine in the salt mill)
Grapeseed oil for frying

In a food processor, whip the tofu, agave nectar and rice milk until smooth.

Add half the corn and pulse until the mixture is chunky, but you can't see too many corn pieces.

Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except the oil.

Now, here's where I made my first mistake -- I used too much batter and didn't flatten the fritters out with the back of my spoon.

The recipe says 2-3 minutes on each side, but I wound up cooking all my batches much longer than this.

The key thing is to use much smaller amounts of batter than you think you'll need, and turn these into wee appetizers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Have French Toast, Will Travel

Last Friday, I drove an hour north to the home of my friend Richard Factor and his lovely housemate, Barbara. Also visiting (and hungry) was Terry, from up the road and across the street.

I descended upon them with a bag of sliced French Bread from Callandra's, a container of my French toast dip and a small bottle of agave nectar for my own use.

Then began the discussion of The Stove. Richard's basement is home to the new stove, which is hardly new since it's been living there for quite some time. It's still there, and not located in the kitchen where it should be, because there is some disagreement between Richard and Barbara regarding the counters. As far as I can tell, the counters will have to be replaced in order for the stove to be installed. However, they also have a sizable kitchen island that matches the counters, and will also have to be updated should they replace the current counters. Have you been through this?

The advantages to replacing the old stove would be many. First, the old stove only has two working burners. Second, they're electric. Third, one of the working burners only works on high, which was very challenging for me and led to my nearly burning the French toast.

All this was discussed while I soaked the day-old bread in my special egg mixture (to be included in the future cookbook). Speaking of the cookbook, while I was shooting this little film of Barbara turning the bread, Richard figured out a name for the cookbook (which will remain a secret until published, but he will get full credit for it).

Here's Richard now making space for my book in their kitchen shelves. I will have between 1 and 1.5 inches for mine. Isn't that nice of him?

It was a gorgeous, yet chilly day. Just perfect for a warm breakfast of French toast with friends.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What's in My Grocery Cart?

A few fellow food bloggers have been writing about what's in their "trolleys." Here in the U.S., we tend to call them grocery carts, although I like thinking about them as trolleys. Reminds me of San Francisco.

This is a big food weekend for me. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to visit Richard and his lovely housemate Barbara and cook my famous French Bread French Toast for them. That's reflected in some of the ingredients in the list below. On Sunday morning, Mom, Dave, and my friends Lenny and Jerome will come for homemade waffles and cinnamon buns (among other delights). Some of the needed ingredients also were in my grocery cart this morning.

Here's what was in my cart:

2 packages of cage-free eggs (two for $5)
Skim milk
1/2 lb of Boar's Head baby swiss cheese (for John's lunch sandwiches)
1 lb of Boar's Head Ovengold roasted turkey (again for John's sandwiches)
1 package Callandra's sandwich rolls (the BEST bakery in NJ)
2 long Callandra's French bread loaves (for tomorrow morning's festivities and one to send to John's parents in Utah, where good bread simply does not exist)
1 Calladra's panella loaf (also bound for Utah)
1 package of soy sausage patties (for the Sunday breakfast extravaganza--I haven't tried these yet, so I'll post a review afterward)
2 24-packs of Dannon half-liter water bottles (John drinks bottled water almost exclusively)
1 8-slice package of Taylor pork roll (also another item that cannot be had in Utah)
2 small bunches of bananas
1 lemon
1 10-pack of organic baby carrots (for John's lunches)
1 bag of organic spinach
2 packs of Hodgson Mill yeast (for the cinnamon buns)

The bill came to just over $60.00.

Next time, French Bread French Toast on location at Richard's house. Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A New Meme: Your CD Collection

This meme is a bit different than your typical q & a about myself. It's more a snapshot of my CD collection. I hereby invite all bloggers and non-bloggers to participate in whatever way pleases you the most. Please supply photos to go along with each question.

1. How do you organize your CDs (e.g., in alphabetical order or by genre)?
I recently changed from genre to alpha order. As a result, you'll see in the photos in this post that it's like having a wild party. Imgaine Ella Fitzgerald sitting with The's, talking about their groovy tunes! (If you haven't heard of them, they do the Whoo Hoo song in the Vonage commercials.)

2. What is your favorite style of music?
That really depends on what I'm doing. If I'm cooking or making chocolate, it may even depend on precisely what I'm making. One of my current favorites is Juana Molina. She's an amazing musician from Argentina. You can sample some of her music at My favorite song of hers is Slavese Quien Pueda. Most of the time, if I'm writing or editing, you'll find me listening to classical music. Other types, like jazz, require that I pay too much attention to the music to do much of anything else except maybe cook.

3. If you arrange your music alphabetically, what is the strangest combination of artists in your collection?
Tough to say, but probably Beck, Beethoven, Tony Bennet and Bjork might top my list. Although, ELO and En Vogue might come in a close second.

4. Along the same lines, what is the best combination of artists/styles that popped up just because you alphabetized them?
This one probably makes more sense -- Jimi Hendrix and Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Greats. Another would be John Lee Hooker and the Indigo Girls. However, I'd pay good money to see The White Stripes play with Stevie Wonder.

If you enjoyed this little glimpse into my diverse CD collection, please 1. let me know, 2. do one of your own and link to it from the comments here. I'd love to see yours.

P.S. This came about as a result of having to pack up all my CDs in boxes when our bedroom recently was painted. They haven't been this well organized since I first bought the house almost four years ago. Mind you, this is only my collection. John's is in storage since he put his entire collection on his computer to be able to use his MP3 player. He probably has around 250 CDs as well. We'll need to build some serious shelving in our next house.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Great Macaroni and Cheese Debate of 2007

Seems reminiscent of the great grilled cheese debate of 2005, actually. Nonetheless, there has been some chatter amongst the bloggers regarding an article on that has some pretty nasty things to say about Annie's Homegrown Macaroni & Cheese.

First things first, while I love a great homemade mac and cheese, baked in all its cheesy, buttery goodness, I'm also a fan of the quick and easy. Moreover, while Mom raised me on Kraft's ubiquitous blue box, I found Annie's organic and less-chemically-altered version much more palatable as an adult, especially the white Wisconsin cheddar and shells. It's REAL cheese folks! Not processed cheese food.

Additionally, I learned from an Annie's box that if I turned off the gas on the stove once a boil had been re-achieved after the pasta had been added, placed the top back on the pot and let the thing sit while I did other things, I could save on gas! I now do this whenever I cook pasta. It's a simple thing, but sometimes we just don't think that way.

Finally, the recipe the author posts is not an effective way to make macaroni and cheese. When you use grated cheese in the way she explains, you get lumpy bits of cheese everywhere.

If you have the time and want a real dose of old fashioned mac and cheese, go with Paula Deen's. It's easy to make and really cheesy. If you don't have the time and just need a quickie, use Annie's organic. It's a lot better than the author of the Salon article says, especially if you use fresh butter and less milk than recommended.

I know I said I'd write about diversity, but this came up, so that will come later.