Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Avid Baker's Challenge: Overnight Cinnamon Buns

I've been really busy with work these past 6 weeks or so and haven't been able to bake as much as I would have liked. I was sad to miss the last assignment of the Heavenly Cake Bakers, Zach's LaBomba - thank you Marie, this has been a lot of fun! And, luckily for us HCBakers who came late to the kitchen and haven't yet finished the book, Knitty Baker is picking up the torch.

For now though, I'm very late to the party for the Avid Baker's Challenge this month, but hey, better late than never! May's assignment was Overnight Cinnamon Buns from the wonderful Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions. Although I've only made a few recipes so far from this book, they really do seem pretty fool-proof. My only continuing complaint is the lack of pictures in the book. *lightbulb!! I should print out a picture of each recipe I make and tape it into my book.*

Overall, these cinnamon buns were fantastic and I will definitely be making them again! They were pretty easy to make which was nice because I've always thought that cinnamon buns = hard and intimidating. And they made me want to throw a brunch party, because, really, there's not much else better than pulling a hot tray of cinnamon buns out of the oven, drizzling on a sugary glaze and them serving hot to the ooohs and aaahs of hungry family and friends! The texture was light and airy (due to the potato?!) and the flavor was great - a hint of orange, cinnamony but not too sweet, and a yummy glaze. Next time though I think I'd like a bit more filling and a bit more glaze.

I was too impatient to make this a true overnight baking adventure so I went with a more traditional rising cycle. I checked a few other similar recipes in the book and "about an hour/doubled in size/until your finger pressed into the dough leaves an indent" seemed to be the standard, so that's what I did. I let it rise for about 50 minutes until it was a bit more than doubled in size. The dough was still a bit sticky so I wasn't able to see if my finger would leave an indent but since the other telltale signs were there I figured I was good to deflate and roll it out. Flo's doughs are always so nice (and easy) to work with! The only thing I was confused about was - unless I somehow missed after several readings - the recipe never indicated when/where to add the orange zest. I ended up just adding it to the dough at the last minute. I think it also would have been nice added to the filling mixture.

mise en place

mixing the potato, milk, butter while the yeast proofs

yeast gets added to the potato mixture and after a bit gets all light and foamy...I love baking
because it's really a big science experiment!

finished dough, ready to rise. It was a little sticky at this point, but
I didn't want to toughen it up by adding more flour and continuing to knead it
so I kind of just left it alone...all good in the end.

while it's rising, I'll make the filling. I used pecans instead of macadamia nuts
and added a bit of cardamom in with the cinnamon and nutmeg.


divided in half and ready to roll out

filling sprinkled on

rolled up and ready to slice. I used the dental floss technique to slice it
(sorry for the blurry picture - I was trying to slice and take the picture at the same time)

I didn't have two quarter sheet pans so I used a half sheet pan and put all the buns on together...
worked perfectly!

after the second rise...ready to bake

smells delicious

mise en place for the glaze

I like the addition of nutmeg to the glaze...
it's my favorite spice, but I never would have thought to add it to a glaze.

glazed and ready for eatin'!


such a light and tender crumb

Bye for now...

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I am an absolute baklava fanatic...and a bit of a baklava snob. I hate dry baklava and I hate artificial tasting baklava - you know, the kind that leaves a film on your tongue and is all grainy (I think when made with oil instead of butter)? Yuck.

So what was a budding young baker to do? Into the kitchen and learn to make it myself! Years ago I found a recipe and gave it a go and boy, oh boy, fresh baklava is just amazingly delicious. It's nutty (obviously!) and sweet - but not super sweet like in many restaurants - and the honey syrup has a light lemony flavor which seems to get lost when it's commercially produced. Sadly, I've lost that wonderful recipe from so many years ago (and also whatever skill I might have had with cutting the perfectly shaped piece - as you will see below) so I turned to the ever-handy google in search of a new recipe. I came across these 2 that looked pretty decent (from allrecipes and epicurious), and adapted them to better fit my tastes (and what happened to be in my pantry). If anyone wants my full recipe, leave me a comment and I'll email it to you.

mise en place (I used a combination of walnuts, pecans
and blanched almonds and lightly toasted them before grinding them)
my spice mixture includes cardamom and freshly ground nutmeg

lemon zest added to the ground nuts

I added lemon peel, cinnamon sticks and a vanilla bean to the syrup mixture

8 buttered filo layers go down as the bottom and top
(although next time I'll add about 5-7 more to both bottom/top)

a sprinkling of nuts then 2 more buttered filo, repeat until you run out of nuts

top with 8-15 more buttered filo layers and slice before baking
here you can see my insanely weird (and too large) slices

baked to a golden brown

pour the cooled honey-sugar-lemon syrup over the hot baklava


it's calling my name...

the top and bottom layers were crispy and the middle, nut-filled layers were soft and chewy...YUM!

I originally made this baklava about a month ago and decided to make it again this morning. This time I got the slicing down perfectly! A few pictures from this morning...

ahhh...these pieces look much better than those above!

for this batch I used more nuts and more layers on the top and bottom so the slices are a bit taller

Bye for now...