Friday, December 27, 2013

Cinnamon Buns

I loved cinnamon buns as a child—they were a rare treat from the donut shop or grocery store.  In high school, while working in the local shopping mall, during the break of my shift I used to reward myself with Cinnabon’s 900-calorie cinnamon bun.  These were extra-large, warm, and super cinnamon-y rolls like no others I had experienced.

I haven’t eaten at a Cinnabon in decades, but my passion for these treats never abated.  Last year my friend Liz shared an easy cinnamon bun recipe that requires no yeast.  It is healthier than traditional recipes that call for much more sugar and butter.  This version is an adaptation of Liz’s recipe.

Makes 9 buns

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (reduced fat is acceptable)
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons cream cheese (reduced fat is acceptable), room temperature
2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1.     Preheat oven to 425 F.  Spray an 8 or 9-inch square or circle pan (metal, glass, or ceramic) with vegetable cooking spray.  Set aside.
2.     In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients together.  Set aside.
3.     For the dough, in another small bowl melt 2 tablespoons of butter and cool.  Then add buttermilk and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid has been absorbed.  Gently knead to incorporate remaining flour.
4.     On a well-floured surface (such as a baking sheet, which will contain the mess), continue to knead the dough for 1 minute.  Pat the dough into a 12 x 9 inch rectangle.
5.     Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and use your fingers to spread it on the dough.  Spoon the filling evenly across the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Use your fingers to firmly press the filling into the dough.
6.     Roll the dough along its long edge, pressing firmly to form a tight log.  Pinch the edge to seal.
7.     Use dental floss to cut the log into thirds; then further cut each piece into thirds.  To do this, slide the floss under the log and cross the ends to cut through the dough.
8.     Place each roll sideways into the pan (see photo below).  Pinch the ends if needed and gently press to flatten and adhere the filling to the dough.

9.     Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the buns are lightly browned.
10.     While the buns are baking, in a medium sized bowl make the glaze by mixing the cream cheese and buttermilk.  Slowly add the powdered sugar until the glaze is smooth.  Set aside.
11.     Once the buns have baked, cool for five minutes and then spoon on the glaze.  Serve immediately from the pan or transfer to a platter.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chocolate Earl Grey Cake

My friend Ashindi made this treat for me a couple of years ago.  It’s a delicious and unusual chocolate cake which is perfect for the Christmas season.

Earl Grey is a type of black tea flavored with bergamot oil, which is extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange.  It is thought to have been created for Charles Grey, British Prime Minister in the early 1830s.  Earl Grey tea has long been used to flavor baked goods, confections, and sauces.

4 black Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup boiling water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces plain yogurt (approximately 1/2 cup)


1.     Brew tea bags in 1 cup of boiling water.  Steep for 10 minutes.  Remove bags and set tea aside.

2.     Break chocolate into small pieces and melt in a microwave (heat for 1-2 minutes on high) or over lowest heat on stovetop.  Set aside.

3.     In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

4.     Preheat oven to 350F.

5.     Butter and flour Bundt pan.

6.     Using a hand mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until well mixed.

7.     Add yogurt and cooled chocolate.  Mix thoroughly.  Add cooled tea and beat on low to prevent splattering.

8.     Add half the flour mixture and beat into liquid ingredients.  Add remaining flour and mix well.

9.     Using a spatula, transfer batter to Bundt pan and smooth the top.

10.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out nearly clean.

11.  Remove from oven and cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.

12.  Unmold cake and cool to room temperature.

13.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Almond Fudge (Badaam Paak)

Badaam paak is a North Indian sweet commonly served on auspicious occasions.  I made it recently for a Diwali celebration.

Most recipes include the following ingredients, though the proportions vary.  Some versions also include desiccated coconut (for additional sweetness and texture) and milk powder.

Makes 32 2-inch squares

16 ounces unsalted butter (4 sticks)
20 ounces semolina (sooji)
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
2-3 generous pinches saffron
18 ounces almonds, coarsely chopped
20 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 ounces pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon white poppy seeds (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottom pot on medium heat.
2. Sauté semolina, cardamom, nutmeg and saffron until mixture is fragrant and light golden brown.  This will take 15-30 minutes depending on the pot and the heat.  Semolina can burn quickly so stir constantly and pay attention to the mixture closest to the bottom of the pot.
3. Add 16 ounces almonds and stir for 2 minutes.  Then add condensed milk and stir until well mixed.
4. Divide mixture into two 9x9 inch metal baking pans.  Use the back of a spoon to distribute the mixture evenly.
5. Sprinkle with remaining almonds, pistachios and poppy seeds.  Press with the back of a spoon to ensure that nuts and seeds adhere.
6. Cool for 30 minutes at room temperature.  While still warm, use a sharp knife to cut into squares or diamonds.
7. Store in an airtight container lined with wax paper.  Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and in the freezer for 6 months.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spiced Apple and Honey Ice Cream

This year we are hosting our first Rosh Hashanah dinner.  Instead of the traditional brisket or roastchicken, we are serving chicken fesenjan, a Persian dish that contains pomegranates, a fruit often associated with the Jewish New Year.

For dessert I made this ice cream which includes apples and honey, which symbolize a sweet new year.  The Ashkenazi community first linked these ingredients with Rosh Hashanah in late medieval times; now the association is widespread throughout the Jewish community.

The apple has particular significance for several reasons: Rosh Hashanah is believed to be the day when God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the garden is believed to have had the scent of an apple orchard; ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties; the apple is also considered by some to represent the feminine aspect of God and eating apples represents our hope of being well-judged by him.

This ice cream can be served alone or as an accompaniment to honey or apple cake.  Other dishes that can be served at Rosh Hashanah include pomegranate couscous, noodle kugel, and honey cake.  Each of them contain some of the ingredients associated with this holiday.

Serves 10


Spiced apples
3 large apples, cored, peeled, sliced, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of salt

Ice cream
3 cups heavy cream
9 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vodka or other neutral alcohol (optional, to lower freezing temperature)
1/2 cup apple sauce (ideally one with a strong, spicy flavor)

1.     In a medium saucepan, combine the spiced apples ingredients.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the apples are tender and all the liquid has evaporated.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Let the apples cool and then place them in the fridge to chill.
2.     Pour 2 cups of heavy cream into a large bowl and set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.
3.     Combine the milk, sugar, salt, and remaining heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once the mixture is warm and just begins to bubble, slowly pour about half of it into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium high heat.
4.     Cook the mixture, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until it thickens and coats a spatula or spoon (about 170-175° F).  Pour the mixture through a strainer into the large bowl with cream (this will remove any egg that has cooked).
5.     Mix in the vanilla and vodka.  Thoroughly chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.  Lay plastic wrap on the mixture so that a skin does not form.
6.     Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker, and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  About 10 minutes before the end of the cycle, add apple sauce to the ice cream.
7.     In the final minute, add the cooled spiced apple mixture until well incorporated.

8.     Remove and store in an airtight container for up to three months.