Brenna’s Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Thanks to Brenna Ozment, guest baker, photographer,
and author of this post!

I am not an experienced baker, but I have done holiday baking as assistant to my lovely sister Jessica. Here documents the most elaborate baking endeavor I’ve attempted on my own.

I saw three bananas in the fruit bowl slowly turning black and decided to make something for the family. We all love cinnamon rolls yet they have had a sporadic appearance on the table. I settled on Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls from the Cooking Classy.

I definitely didn’t learn from that silly project in elementary school, where they give you a whole list of directions like “write your name on the chalkboard” and then at the end it says to not do any of it, and I definitely didn’t read the recipe directions in their entirety before I started baking. This recipe is intense! The dough needs to be left to rise twice, exact temperatures for the milk and butter mixture when you add the yeast. Anyway, I decided to wing it.

First purée the bananas with lemon juice. I just put them in a standup mixer and squeezed some fresh lemon juice in. I really hope no one finds a stray lemon seed… oops. Meanwhile, I heated the milk and diced butter mixture on the stove. Then I removed the banana bowl and put a new bowl where you add the oil and the milk/butter and let it cool (no thermometer so I just guesstimated) and add the yeast then let it stand for 5 minutes. Thank god for timers on stoves. Next you add the sugar, salt, egg yolk, and 2 cups of BREAD flour and bananas. The directions say to use a paddle attachment; I just used the whisk ones and kept stopping it to fold the dough around. Also, I just used bleached white flour. Then add more flour and corn-starch with a different attachment (I used the same one again) and let it rise for an hour and half.

When I came back I had forgotten where I was in the directions and so I re-read it like 5 times skipping around trying to find my place. Not very time efficient, but that’s the way I roll! In a small bowl I added a bunch of light brown sugar, and dumped in some cinnamon and nutmeg. Measure, you ask, I answer: why?!

Separately, add more flour and baking powder to the now risen dough. I kneaded it with my hands, not the mixer, despite it covering my hands as it is very very very sticky by this point. Next lay it out on a surface that is very floured and roll out with a rolling-pin. Keep a little cup of flour next to you so you can re-flour your hands and the roller constantly. Next, spread melted butter with a spoon, spreading it around with the back of the spoon, on the now flattened dough. Pour the awesome cinnamon roll filling on the dough. The more square you make the dough when you roll it out, the less likely you will have two oblong rolls when you cut. Once it is rolled up (be careful about the dough sticking underneath!! Pull lightly!!) use a large non-serrated knife to cut it into 12 rolls. They will flatten: when you pick them up and put them on a buttered cooking pan, reshape them circular. Then cover AGAIN and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake and then put some awesome stuff on top like cream cheese frosting and nuts.

They are in the oven now… I am very curious if my “winging it” will work. Baking is not always forgiving to this approach.

They look okay, but they are came out looking very powdery from the flour on the outside of the rolls. So, perhaps butter the outside of the rolls so the flour looks like its gone after putting them on the pan.

*A few hours later*

Now that I have awaken from a very pleasant sugar coma, I must say, those rolls are awesome. They may have been better had I followed the directions precisely, but I can’t imagine by much. Cooking is an experiment! And although I thoroughly enjoyed mine, when I am make challah bread tomorrow, I will follow those directions as close as possible and read ALL the directions diligently before I begin.

Summer in the City: Fresh Blueberry Pie

A teacher friend of mine, using her summer vacation to cross things off her bucket list, revealed to me her intention to lose her pastry-making virginity. She consented to have the occasion documented. Here is the result.

I’ve made a pie crust or two in the past, but with highly inconsistent results. Apparently, the keys to success are SPEED & TEMPERATURE.

As with all flour related cooking experiments, the gluten development (or rather the lack of it in this case) is the important factor in a delicate, flaky pastry. Gluten is the protein structure that forms when gas is released as bread rises; a high protein flour will allow the stretchy, chewy, workable dough ideal for say, pizza crust. So alternatively, using a low protein flour and discouraging gluten formation will result in a more delicate pastry.

Keep the dough ingredients chilled and work the dough as little as possible. Chill both the fat and the water. As for the type of fat used, butter is great for flavor, and shortening for texture- a combination works especially well.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and Joy of Cooking

Pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

In medium bowl, mix 2 cups flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl, adding 1-2 teaspoons more water if necessary. It should still look dry. Pinch some of the dough to see if it clumps together: if it does, it’s ready.

Gather pastry into a ball. Divide in half; shape into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 425°F. With floured rolling-pin, roll one disc into a sheet 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Roll sheet of dough around rolling-pin & transfer to the pie plate. If it tears or cracks, just pinch it together again and use scraps & water to repair any holes.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, 1/2 cup flour and the cinnamon with the blueberries and spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice and the butter cut into small pieces. Cover with top pastry. Cut slits in it and crimp the edges either with a fork or by pinching around the edge with your fingers. Cover edge with a strip of foil to prevent the rim from getting too brown.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Cool 2+ hours for the increased possibility of intact slices.

Better Than (No) Sex (Cup)Cakes

Per the advice of my roommates, I’ve amended the recipe name. This lascivious chocolate dessert may quell the fervor, but it’s certainly no substitute. That being said, I still recommend the challenge!

Better Than (No) Sex (Cup)Cakes

  • 1 package devil’s food cake mix, prepared according to package directions (for me, this included 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, 1 1/4 cups water)
  • 1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
  • 3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered toffee, chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  1. Bake cupcakes according to package directions. Make slits across the top of the cupcakes, making sure not to go through to the bottom.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Spoon the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cupcakes, letting it sink into the slits. Sprinkle with the crushed candy liberally while still warm.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more candy chunks and swirls of caramel.

End of Season Shortcake

The autumnal equinox officiated the end of summer last week (September 23), and with it comes the end of peach season. To honor both summer and one of its more divine gifts, what could be more appropriate than shortcake?

Biscuits, prepared with Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking & Pancake Mix, according to recipe on the box:

  • 1 cup of baking mix
  • 1/3 cup milk and
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil

Combine, knead, roll, cut and bake.

Cool Whip topping or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Whip cream until soft peaks begin to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until peaks form. Do not over-beat, you’ll end up with butter.
  • fresh peaches, sliced  (about 1/2 peach per serving)
  • honey  (to taste, approximately 1 1/2 tsp per serving)*
Halve biscuits. Layer sliced peaches and whipped cream to form a sandwich. Drizzle with honey.

Rhubarb, pear, & cranberry compote parfait

As the only meal where the entrée very well may have a higher sugar content than even the most indulgent desserts, breakfast is easily my favorite meal.  This deceptively healthy treat passes as breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack and is one of best efforts to thwart my monstrous sweet tooth. An added bonus, rhubarb is in season for a bit longer and can still be seen at very reasonable prices. Though I doubt I’ve ever seen more than the stalk of the plant available at the grocery store, be aware that the leaves are toxic.

Compote:
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed, washed, cut into 1 inch lengths
4 ripe pears, peeled, cored, halved, each half cut into large chunks
whole berry cranberry sauce, half a can
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup water

Parfait:
compote
1 cup greek yogurt
blueberries, fresh or frozen
chopped walnuts

  1. Place the water and cranberry sauce in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until sauce melts.
  2. Add the rhubarb, pears and cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 5 minutes or until fruit is tender and liquid thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
  3. Layer yogurt, compote, blueberries, and walnuts in a serving dish.