Cinnamon Bun Sunday

Sunday, September 11, 2011

   I can't help myself- I have another baked good for you!

   It is Sunday after all, and Sunday demands leisurely brunches and tall, thin glasses of mimosa. Or, at the very least, home made cinnamon buns. This is the same recipe I used to make the sticky buns I mentioned several posts ago, but I left out the sticky and added a delicious white frosting. If I do say so myself, this bun is perfection.

   All you really need as a well made hunk of brioche dough, and I'm here to show you how. Brioche is my favorite of all home made breads. It was my quest to perfect this golden hunk of doughy goodness that prompted me to covet those big beautiful stand mixers (just try making this dough properly by hand or with a hand held mixer... not fun!). Years later, Steve surprised me on my birthday with one of those gorgeous, silver monsters and the first thing I made was brioche. Heaven.

   It can be tricky getting this dough to turn out quite right, which is why I've taken pictures of the stages it goes through. This dough really transforms as you work with it, as long as you have faith.

   You can shape brioche into loaves and serve thick, buttered slices of it along side dinner, or as french toast. They make incredibly cute, baby brioche molds that make individual sized dinner portions. Or, you can roll it out and make tender, buttery, deliciously golden cinnamon buns! You're really only limited by your imagination with this dough.

   You only need half the recipe for the buns so you can use the rest for dinner rolls or whatever you desire. Or, of course, you could just make twice as many cinnamon buns. Never a bad idea.

   As a preemptive warning, this recipe calls for a lot of butter...

   But just take a deep breath and do it. It's so worth it.

Brioche Cinnamon Buns
The dough is from Joanne Chang's Flour Cookbook

For the Dough:
2 1/4 cups (315 grams) unbleached, all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups (340 grams) bread flour
1 1/2 packages (3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (82 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (120 grams) cold water
5 eggs
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (2 3/4 sticks, 310 grams) highest quality unsalted butter at room temperature

For the Filling:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the dough:
   The night before you would like to eat your cinnamon buns, fit your mixer with the dough hook. To the mixer bowl, add the flours, the sugar, yeast, salt, water and eggs. Beat on low speed until combined, then mix another 3 to 4 minutes. It will be quite stiff and look like this:

   Now, still on low speed, add the butter, 3 tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to be completely incorporated before adding the next. Do this until all the butter is incorporated. It will look shaggy and scary at this point, like this:

   But keep going! Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat on low for 10 minutes. Then, increase the speed to medium and leave alone to mix for another full 15 minutes. Now, turn the speed up to medium high and mix for another 1 to 2 minutes until it pulls all together and looks absolutely shiny and gorgeous, like this:

   Place the dough in a bowl, use plastic wrap to cover, pressing it down onto the surface of the dough, and place in the fridge for 6 hours or up to overnight.

   Remove the dough from the fridge, cut the dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one week or refrigerate for up to one day and use for something else. With the remaining half, use your rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and a rectangle about 12 X 16 inches. Using the melted butter, brush the entire dough surface to coat in butter. Mix the sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle this over the entire dough surface. Sprinkle with the raisins. Start at a longer edge, roll the dough up tightly, like a jelly roll. Cut at 2 inch intervals into disks to make a total of eight buns.

   Coat a 9 X 13 inch baking dish in butter. Arrange the buns in the pan, cover, and place in the fridge over night. Te next morning, remove form the fridge and allow to rise at room temperature 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough is slightly puffed. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.

   Remove form the oven and allow to cool. As they cool, make the frosting.

   In your mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the cream cheese, confectioners sugar, 1/3 cup milk and the vanilla extract until very smooth. If not the desire frosting consistency, add a little more milk.

   Frost the buns generously and serve very warm.

   Makes 8 buns.

And Then I Baked

Monday, September 5, 2011

   Baking is is the ultimate salve for the soul. I bake to relax, to energize, sometimes to mend aches and worries, and sometimes for plain old comfort.

   This past weekend I had one of my dearest friends visit me and it was an absolute blast. We ate amazing food, talked and caught up, ate more amazing food, and shopped to our hearts content! It felt good to have some girly time and I miss her immensely already.

   Last night, after dropping her off at the airport, I soothed my post visit blues by baking a loaf of yeast risen corn bread for Steve and I to dip in our turkey chili. I've been a long time lover of corn bread, especially hot out of the oven and thickly slathered with butter, but this recipe takes the world of corn bread to a whole other solar system. Rather than using quick bread leaveners like baking soda or powder, this is a traditional yeast bread. The kneading lends it a chewy complexity that corn bread usually lacks and the slow, yeast driven rise gives it that bready complexity that I love so.

   Even though today is Labor Day proper of this holiday weekend, I woke up feeling sad that the weekend was coming to a close, that my friend's visit was over, and work would rumble back to life tomorrow. I get this end of the weekend blues sometimes, a feeling that reminds me of how I felt Christmas night as a child- deliciously tired and happy but somehow hollowed by the thought of the much awaited event being over. So I baked some more.

   This time, peanut butter called my name. These cookies are slightly adapted from the Baked cookbook- a bakery I have the great fortune to frequent whenever I chose thanks to my new locale! They are simply redolent with peanut butter- enough to satisfy those of us who already are devoted to this creamy spread, and convert the doubtful that this is one of the word's all time best ingredients.

   Since starting my new job, I always have a good time once the weeks gets going. I hope the same is true for you, but should you need a small end of holiday pick me up, these recipes should do just the trick!

Honey Corn Bread

1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast, or 2 teaspoons
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, plus additional for brushing
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Honey Butter

1 stick softened salted butter
1/2 cup honey

   In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a medium sized mixing bowl if you don't have a stand mixer, add the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and allow to bloom, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, cornmeal, flour and salt. Mix with the dough hook or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth, slightly tacky dough. You may need to add a little additional flour to achieve this texture.
   Coat a mixing bowl in butter. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat the surface in butter. Cover and allow to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours. During this time it will double and maybe triple in size depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
   Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan in melted butter. Shape the dough into a rectangular loaf and place in the pan. Allow to rise, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes. Brush the surface in melted butter and bake for 40 minutes (it will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped at this point).
   Meanwhile, make the honey butter. Use a wire whisk to whisk the honey into the soft butter until very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve the bread.
   Remove from the oven, and use your oven mitts to remove it from the loaf pan. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving sliced with the honey butter.
   Makes one 9 X 5 inch loaf.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1/2 cup all purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 3/4 cups rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 cups M&Ms

   In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt and oats. Set aside. In a large bowl or your stand mixer, beat the butter till creamy. Scrape down the bowl, add the sugars and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, combining after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the corn syrup and vanilla extract. Mix in the peanut butter.
   Add the oat mixture in three additions, beating until just incorporated after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the M&Ms.
   Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a small ice cream scoop with release mechanism or two spoons, portion out rounded 2 tablespoon sized balls of dough, spaced two inches apart on the sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
   Makes 4 dozen.