Tag Archives: cinnamon rolls

The best food gift


The aluminum pan makes it easy to give a generous amount of homemade cinnamon rolls. No returns necessary.

OF COURSE THE BEST FOOD GIFT is (usually) something homemade. A lot of cookies and candy are exchanged this time of year, and I’ve enjoyed some marvelous biscotti, truffles and shortbread, but in years past I’ve also received homemade applesauce, spaghetti sauce, flavored vinegar and herbal salt, among other edible delights.

This week I made a couple pans of cinnamon rolls for my neighbors, and another for a special breakfast at home. They have some wheat and spelt flour along with all-purpose flour, no frosting and very little fat — so while I wouldn’t say they were “healthy,” they are not too destructive. And they have plenty of cinnamon and raisins, with a few walnuts on the top. My basic recipe is here.

Cinnamon rolls are more flexible than you might think. You could add other spices (cardamom), leave out the raisins or the nuts or add in some different things (dried cranberries and pistachios?) You can make the dough and shape the rolls the night before you want to bake them, and they will rise in the refrigerator. Once baked, they can be frozen or reheated.


Toby’s Feed Barn (what a great name) is a terrific general store in Point Reyes Station, California

CINNAMON ROLLS will make your house smell wonderful.  And, best of all — if your neighbors are anything like mine — are the big smiles you’ll get when you appear at your neighbor’s door with a pan of the rolls, still warm from the oven.


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Filed under baked goods, bread and pizza, breakfast, winter

Pleasures of baking

oatmealbreadSome days it’s seems as if we’re living in a bread-phobic culture, but regardless — I love to bake. Bread, challah, pizza, cinnamon rolls, scones and biscuits, are all regular visitors to my kitchen.

In the week before Passover, I’m appreciating them even more as I contemplate the eight days of doing without both the eating and the baking of bread (though I may try baking my own matzo this year).

Ah, the baking. The magic of creating something that can grow and transform, the thrifty satisfaction of turning such basic ingredients into appealing and sustaining foods, the fragrance in the kitchen. . . .

Yes, it takes time, but most of that is not active hands-on time (though the hands-on part is fun), and, besides, it’s a good way to slow down and be productive at the same time.

I’ve heard it said that many people are afraid of yeast (yeast-phobia?) and that’s a shame. It is really not so scary! If you are new to bread baking, you do not, repeat NOT, need a bread machine. What’s the worst that can happen? Your bread doesn’t turn out? You haven’t wasted a lot of money or time, and some birds in the neighborhood might be grateful for your efforts. Anyway, we learn by mistakes — don’t we?

I’ve been making bread doughs with yeast or sourdough starter (whether knead or no-knead) for a long time, so I’m pretty confident that I know how the dough should feel, and I rarely look at a recipe.

I know if I start with a cup of water, for example, how much I will need of yeast or starter, flour and salt, and what approximate ratio of whole grains I should use (Yes, I’ve had a few brick-like breads, when I overloaded the dough with whole grains, but the bread was still edible. More or less.)

Or if it is a dough for challah or sweet rolls, I may add an egg and a little oil and honey to the dough, depending on what’s on hand.

mini challah

I often make miniature challah (rolls, really) and put a few in the freezer

cinnamon rolls

I shaped part of the challah dough into cinnamon rolls and let them rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Next day, I popped them in the oven, for Sunday morning freshly baked rolls!

Of course, if you haven’t baked much before, recipes are useful guidelines. Professional bakers weigh their ingredients for consistency, but for the home baker, that’s not necessary.

When it comes to quick breads (scones, biscuits, muffins, etc.) I do look at measurements a bit more carefully, though there is still room to play around.

bigbiscuits Last week I followed my tried-and-true biscuit recipe (which you can see here) with my new, and bigger, biscuit cutter. This informative New York Times article on tender biscuits and scones offered some tips, and I wanted to see whether cutting my biscuits with a sharper cutter would make them better. I also learned that placing biscuits close together would make them rise up rather than spread. Makes sense.

biscuitsonplateThe biscuits were delicious. But were they actually better than the smaller ones? Not really. Either way, these are great and go with nearly everything.

biscuitsandfreshjamP.S. I know it looks as if we consume an unconscionable amount of baked goods. So let me just say that these photos were taken over the last month or more. Really.



Filed under Uncategorized

Bread therapy

When I wrote the last post, more than three weeks ago, I was looking forward to getting my cast off and getting back to work in the kitchen. But  those first days out of the cast were discouraging.  My hand was so stiff and weak it was basically useless.

Fortunately, I soon met with an occupational therapist who showed me how I could slowly but surely train my hand to work again. One of the things he had me do was to knead and grasp and pull a wad of therapy putty.

kneading2I brought some putty home to work with, but I also thought that bread dough might be a nice alternative material. So I have been kneading dough ever since, and the results have been quite tasty.  Here’s some of the baked goods I’ve been making the last few weeks.


Cinnamon rolls


Oatmeal bread

applebluecheeseLast weekend I made a kind of pizza with a cornmeal-y crust, topped with roasted apples, red onions and blue cheese. It was inspired by Melissa Clark’s apple tart in The New York Times (but I substituted red onion for the shallot and didn’t use all that oil in the dough). Very nice for dinner or hors d’oeuvres.

lavashAnd today I made lavash crackers, with a recipe that came originally from Yvette van Boven’s Home Made cookbook. I kneaded the dough for a good 8 minutes (my right hand helped just a little) and rolled it out into sheets in my pasta maker. My goodness — what nice crisp crackers!

Usually, I love to knead bread dough and find it relaxing, almost meditative.

But it hasn’t been like that at all lately.  I make my weak left hand do the work and it hurts. But it is therapeutic. And the results are doubly appreciated.


Filed under bread and pizza, musings

On a (cinnamon) roll….

Mmmm…. the delicious scent of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.

Winter is a great time to make these  (you can heat your house at the same time you create these delectable rolls) –and it’s easier than you might think!

You can tell the yeast is active when it bubbles and rises up the glass

I have a basic yeast dough that I make pretty often, and I usually keep some in the fridge so I can bake when the urge strikes.

  • Put about 1/4 cup of lukewarm water in a glass, add 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar, and let rise for about 10 or 15 minutes to be sure the yeast is active.
  • Put the yeast mixture in a bowl, with another cup of lukewarm water, a teaspoon of salt and enough flour (bread flour and whole wheat flour, up to half the total) to make a moist, but not sticky dough (it’ll be about 3 cups or more).
  • If you want a richer dough, add eggs, oil or melted butter, and/or sugar or honey to the liquid before stirring in the flour. You can also use milk instead of water, or add powdered milk.
  • Knead on a floured board, then place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for a couple of hours. Or put in the refrigerator, covered (make sure you have room for the dough to expand) overnight or longer. The dough will slowly rise and just needs to be brought to room temperature before you shape it. This method doesn’t require you to knead for very long.
  • To make cinnamon rolls, roll the dough out into a big rectangle, brush the top lightly with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins or currants if you wish. (Or try a variation, like cardamom-sugar with toasted almonds) Roll the dough up, starting from the shorter end, and cut into segments.
  • Place the rolls in a lightly oiled pie pan, leaving a little space between them, and cover with a cloth. Let the rolls rise for 30 to 45 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake about 30 to 45 minutes, till golden brown.

You can bake them just like this for plain cinnamon rolls, but if you want the deluxe version, here’s a little trick I learned many years ago: put a good amount of cinnamon sugar on a large plate; then brush the outside of the rolls (sides, top and bottom) with water and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.

If you want to turn your cinnamon rolls into sticky buns, stuff walnuts between the rolls and put some more cinnamon-sugar into the spaces.

Cinnamon rolls after rising overnight in the refrigerator, before baking

You can also make your cinnamon rolls the night before and bake them in the morning. Just cover the pan with the rolls with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight. They will rise and look like the photo above. In the morning, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes.

Let cool for just a few minutes, then turn the whole pan upside down on a plate, scooping any cinnamon sugar on top. Sunday brunch, anyone?


Fennel-golden raisin twists

In my quest for a treat that has no-or-little fat and is not very sweet, I’ve been using the same dough to make fennel-golden raisin twists. A local bakery used to make something like this, and they were my pastry of choice with a cup of coffee. But since they stopped making them years ago, I decided it was time for me to figure out the recipe.

I added golden raisins to my basic yeast dough and let it rise once. Then I took a little ball of dough for each twist, and formed it into two ropes. I dipped each little rope of dough briefly into water and then rolled the in a mixture of cornmeal, sugar and fennel seeds (you can experiment with proportions) before I twisted them together and pinched the edges.

I let them rise for about half an hour, then baked in a preheated 350 degree oven. They take between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the size, and they’re ready when they’re golden brown.

The cornmeal gives a nice crunch and there’s just the right touch of sweetness from the sugar in the rolled mixture along with the raisins.

If your bread dough has no fat or eggs, these treats will be best the day you bake them, but you can just make a few at a time and keep the rest of the dough refrigerated. Otherwise, they’re good warmed up the next day. In any case, you’re not likely to have too many leftovers…..


Filed under baked goods, bread and pizza, breakfast, dessert, Uncategorized