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.