Quick Cast-Iron Cinnamon Buns

I may be a fairly neat and organized person, but somehow I’m a disaster when cooking. This morning– since it’s December and apparently that means I must bake all the things– I spontaneously decided to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. In the process, I managed to knock over a jar of ground cinnamon and spray a good amount of carefully-measured flour out of its mixing bowl… and onto the countertop, down the cabinets, and all over the floor (and my apron).

Gabe walked into the kitchen, took one glance at my mess, and said in his most solemn voice (as if surveying a crime scene), “Ahh, I see a baking has taken place here.”

Indeed. Usually I have a fair amount of time to clean up my messes while waiting for dough to rise/cookies to chill/sauce to thicken/etc. but these cinnamon rolls are magical and only need 30 minutes to rise (!!!) so I had to hustle. In the end, the kitchen was clean, breakfast was on the table, and the only evidence of my mess was a very floury apron hanging on its hook. Until next time.

Quick cast-iron cinnamon buns

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Quick Cast-Iron Cinnamon Buns

Buns

  • 3/4 cup (5 1/2 oz.) packed brown sugar
  • 6 Tbs. granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • salt
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted melted butter, divided
  • 2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, warmed
  • 4 tsp. instant yeast

Glaze

  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Make filling: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/8 tsp. salt with a fork until well combined. Stir in 1 Tbs. melted butter until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Make dough: In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp. salt until well combined. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together milk, yeast, 2 Tbs. granulated sugar, and 2 Tbs. melted butter until yeast is dissolved. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until a rough dough starts to form. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 2 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball.

Shape buns: Roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 x 12 inches, with the long side facing you. Brush 2 Tbs. melted butter onto the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch edge on the perimeter unbuttered. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on the dough and spread it out evenly with your hands. Press lightly to adhere the mixture to the dough. Roll the dough up tightly away from you to form a 12-inch cylinder. Pinch the ends together, and the seams as well. Use a serrated knife to gently slice the log into 8 equal pieces.

Brush the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 1 Tbs. melted butter. Place the cinnamon rolls, cut side down in the skillet, one in the center and seven in a circle around the center. Lightly cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Brush rolls with remaining 2 Tbs. melted butter. Bake rolls on the center rack until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Make glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth. Spread over warm rolls and serve immediately.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen.

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Homemade Pizza Dough

I know this might be a bit polarizing, but I’m going out on a limb here: thin crust is the best kind of pizza. Don’t get me wrong; I love soft, puffy pizza crusts piled with toppings, and I’ll even tolerate deep dish from time to time. But my favorite kind of pizza crust is the kind baked in a blazing hot wood-burning oven that snaps like a cracker when you bite into it. (The crust, not the oven.) Magic.

I don’t have a blazing hot wood-burning oven, but I do have a pizza stone, a peel, and a kickin’ recipe for pizza dough.

This is one of those recipes that I have memorized. 3 cups flour, 2 tsp. yeast, 2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 cup water. That’s it. I’ll often mix up the types of flours I use, but the rest stays the same. Roll it out nice and thin, and you have delightfully crispy pizza crust. And no worries, I’ll be sharing a recipe for the delicious pizza you see below soon!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (may also swap in up to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for a nuttier, healthier crust)
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low while gradually pouring in the olive oil. Slowly add the water until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. (You can also mix and knead everything by hand.) Add more water or flour, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to get the right consistency.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let stand until puffy, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack and heat to the highest heat possible. (Mine only gets to about 450°F.)

Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface. Transfer to a pizza peel that has been heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Jiggle the peel back and forth a bit to make sure the pizza slides instead of getting stuck. Cover your dough with the toppings of your choice and slide the pizza onto the pizza stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crispy.

Source: “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Yesterday was a chilly Sunday. Like -28° windchill. So after a brief run to the grocery store to stock up for the week, I spent the rest of the day hunkered down in our apartment. But it sure didn’t feel that cold.

Sunlight streamed through our windows and heated up the place to a balmy 76°. I sat at the dining room table, soaking up the sunshine and trying out new stitches on my sewing machine. At the other end of the table, Gabe diligently studied his law books, stopping every so often to read me something he found absurd or funny or infuriating. The cat sprawled languidly at our feet, basking in the sunshine.

And in the oven, two loaves of cinnamon swirl bread rose over the tops of their pans and turned golden brown, sending a sweet aroma cascading through our tiny apartment. I paused for a moment to reflect on the scene in front of me. As much as I dream of the day Gabe and I buy a house together, I know I’ll look back on our 600 square feet of living space with poignant nostalgia. It may be small, but it sure is cozy. And the oven makes great bread.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 5 cups (635 grams) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) mixed whole grains*
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, honey, and yeast. Whisk in egg and butter. Meanwhile, stir together flour, whole grains, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the milk mixture just until combined. The dough will be wet and lumpy. Let stand for five minutes.

Fit the dough hook attachment to the stand mixer, and knead the dough on low speed for six minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand. The dough will be very sticky, but you can add a little more flour if it’s impossible to work with. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a bowl, and let stand for ten minutes.

Knead a couple times by hand, and let stand for ten minutes, covered with the bowl. Repeat one more time. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 60-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Make an egg wash by whisking together egg and water. Lightly butter two loaf pans. Set aside.

When the dough has risen, place it back onto a floured surface and divide into two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 x 16 inches. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture. Working from a short end, roll the dough up into a loaf. Pinch the ends together to seal in the cinnamon sugar. Place the loaf into one of the buttered loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover the two loaf pans lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough has risen over the edge of the pans by about one inch, about 45-60 minutes. Halfway through the rise, preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped, and the inside temperature should reach 190° F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the loaves from the oven and let stand, in their pans, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the loaf pans to loosen the bread, and gently turn the loaves out onto the cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes two loaves.

* For the whole grains mixture, you can use any of the following: rye flour, rye meal, rye flakes, cornmeal, cooked grits or polenta, rolled oats or oat flour, amaranth, uncooked ground quinoa, cooked whole quinoa, quinoa flakes, or cooked brown rice. Measure by weight to get the best results. I used 70 grams of Bob’s Red Mill seven grain cereal and 90 grams rolled oats, both uncooked.

Source: Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen.

Wheat Hamburger Buns

A few days ago, as I was putting groceries away, I suddenly sensed a peculiar smell in the air. Was something burning? I quickly scanned the kitchen appliances in case I had accidentally left something on during my grocery run. Nope, my kitchen was resting quietly in between shifts.

I turned my nose toward the open (hallelujah!) balcony door, and suddenly it hit me. People were grilling.

It’s been a long, hard, bitterly cold winter in Minneapolis, but finally there’s hope. Birds are chirping, snow mounds are melting, and the days are getting longer. The other night a ladybug flitted onto our screen door and the cat just sat and stared at it, transfixed by the sudden emergence of tiny wildlife.

People are grilling again.

In preparation for my favorite season, the time of sun-drenched cookouts, camping trips, and the acknowledgment that everything tastes better outdoors, I’m sharing my favorite hamburger bun recipe. Sure, you can pick up an eight-pack from the store. But the days are longer now, which means there’s plenty of time for baking. And hamburgers taste so much better on freshly baked buns.

Wheat hamburger buns

Wheat hamburger buns

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Wheat Hamburger Buns

  • 3 Tbs. warm milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and one of the eggs until well combined. Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and gradually add the flours while kneading on low speed. When dough starts to come together, add the butter. Continue kneading for about 6-8 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky but should form a ball. You can add a little more flour or knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary, but try not to add too much flour as it will make the dough tougher.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, then cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours. (I usually heat my oven to its lowest temperature and then turn it off to create a warm place for dough to rise.)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough and divide into eight pieces for large buns, or ten pieces for medium buns. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rest for another 30-60 minutes, or until slightly puffed.

Meanwhile, place a large casserole or metal baking dish filled with water on the lowest rack of the oven, and place the other rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a small bowl, beat together remaining egg with 1 Tbs. water. Brush each bun with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake buns for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Let cool completely on a cooling rack, then slice and serve.

Makes 8-10 buns.

Source: Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Annie’s Eats.

Homemade Pita Bread

So I realized a little while ago that I had alluded to making pita before on this blog, but I hadn’t actually posted the recipe. Ay dios mio! I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seats just waiting for a pita bread recipe. So here you go!

Pita is actually an incredibly easy thing to make, and homemade pita is leaps and bounds better than the dried out store-bought stuff. I used to dutifully take whole wheat pita pocket sandwiches stuffed with tuna salad for lunch, but now I actually look forward to eating it. Because it’s supposed to be delicious!

Note: This recipe is part two of my latest composite recipe series. See part one, Israeli salad, here. There’s one more post coming. Can you guess what the final recipe will be?

Homemade pita bread

Homemade Pita Bread

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 Tbs. honey or sugar
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together flours, salt, yeast, and honey. Stir in olive oil and a cup of warm water until a ball of dough forms. Add more water if necessary. Knead on low speed for 6 minutes. (Alternatively, you can stir all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon and then knead by hand for 10 minutes.)

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. (I usually heat my oven to its lowest temperature and then turn it off and use it as a warm place to let my dough rise.)

Punch down dough and divide into eight equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400° F with a pizza stone set on the bottom rack.

Roll out each piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a round shape about 1/4-inch thick. Working with two to three pieces at a time, place rolled-out dough onto the heated pizza stone and bake for 4-6 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Remove from pizza stone and place on a plate. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve immediately.

Source: The Fresh Loaf.

Homemade Naan

Can you believe that I never had Indian food until college? Growing up in a small Midwestern town will do that to you. But now Indian takeout is one of my absolute favorite things. Besides the warm flavors and spice combinations, the fact that so many Indian dishes are vegetarian is a nice bonus for a couple of people trying to exclusively purchase humanely raised meat.

But of course I couldn’t limit myself to simply ordering Indian food whenever a craving struck. As much as I liked being on a first-name basis with the BiteSquad folks, I really wanted to try making some dishes myself. Related side note: my sister got me a mortar and pestle for Christmas, which basically means I’ve crossed the threshold from tinkering home cook to obsessive recipe tester. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, my first foray into homemade Indian food was naan. I’ve already cracked the code to pita, vetebröd, and challah, so bread seems to be my natural entry point into new cuisines. Naan was a great place to start, since it didn’t require the purchase of any crazy spices or new cooking utensils. This recipe is surprisingly easy! If you can make pizza dough, you can make naan. And it’s absolutely heavenly right off a hot skillet.

Homemade naan

Homemade Naan

  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 2- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • unsalted butter, melted, for brushing the tops
  • freshly chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Whisk in salt, olive oil, greek yogurt, and egg until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in 2 cups of bread flour. Turn dough onto a floured counter and knead until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour as needed.

Place dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Divide dough into 8 even pieces and form each piece into a ball.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Roll one ball of dough into a circle about 6 inches wide and 1/4-inch thick. When the skillet is hot, place the piece of naan in the center of the skillet and cook until large bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is lightly browned. Flip the naan and cook the other side until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and place on a plate. Brush with melted salted butter. Repeat the steps of rolling, cooking, and brushing with melted butter until all the naan is cooked. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro (optional) and serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef via Budget Bytes.

Homemade Bagels

Returning from a lovely but busy vacation, I had little motivation to cook. I basically just wanted Indian food or sushi delivered to my door for days on end. But now I have my mojo back. This became rapidly apparent when I decided to make homemade bagels last night. Starting at 9:00 PM. Hey, when inspiration strikes, go with it!

I’ve made bagels before, but they turned out a little lumpy and flat. I think it was my shaping method. Take note: I highly recommend sticking your thumbs in the middle to make a hole rather than forming a log and joining the ends. It makes for prettier bagels. I also think the overnight resting period in this recipe plays a key role in developing the flavor.

Making homemade bagels takes a fair amount of time and some strong biceps, but it’s so worth it. Next up, homemade cream cheese? Hmmm, I’m thinking about it… that would take some serious mojo.

Homemade bagels

Homemade bagels

Homemade bagels

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Homemade Bagels

Sponge

  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Dough

  • 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour

To Finish

  • 1 Tbs. baking soda
  • egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbs. water)
  • cornmeal, for dusting the baking sheets
  • desired toppings (see below)

Make the sponge: In large bowl stir together yeast and flour. Stir in water until a sticky dough forms. Cover and place in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, or until bubbly and doubled in size.

Make the dough: When the sponge is ready, stir in the additional yeast, salt, and honey. Stir in 3 cups of bread flour until a ball forms. (You can use a stand mixer for this step if it’s easier.) Turn the dough onto a counter and knead for at least 10 minutes by hand, or 6 minutes if using a stand mixer. If the dough is too sticky, add additional flour. If it seems too dry, add a few drops of water. The dough is done when it’s firm but pliable and satiny smooth, not tacky. It should also pass the windowpane test.

Divide the dough evenly into 16 pieces and form each piece into a roll. (I used a kitchen scale to help divide the dough, and each piece weighed 3.3 ounces.) Cover with a damp towel and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with oil.

Shape each roll into a bagel by sticking your thumbs through the middle and carefully turning the dough until an even hole forms. The hole should be about 2 inches in diameter. Place the shaped bagels on the parchment-lined baking sheets and spray lightly with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for another 20 minutes at room temperature.

Time for the float test: Place a bagel in a bowl of water to see if it floats within 10 seconds. If the bagel doesn’t float, place it back on the baking sheet and let the bagels continue to rest for another few minutes. Try the float test again. Once the bagel floats, place the baking sheets (still covered with plastic wrap) in the refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight, or up to two days.

When it’s time to bake the bagels, preheat oven to 475° F. Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil and stir in baking soda. Prepare egg wash by beating together egg and water, and gather your toppings. Remove bagels from refrigerator.

Carefully place bagels in boiling water– 3 or 4 at a time– and boil for one minute. Flip bagels over and boil for one more minute. (You can boil them for two minutes on each side if you want chewier bagels.) While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the empty spots on the parchment-lined baking sheets with cornmeal. Using a slotted spoon, remove bagels from boiling water and place on baking sheets. Brush bagels with egg wash and sprinkle with desired toppings.

Bake on center rack of oven for 5 minutes, turn the baking sheet 180° and bake for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. (At this point you can bake for an additional 3-5 minutes if you want darker bagels.) Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 16 bagels.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen

Bagel Topping Ideas:

Everything: Stir together 1 Tbs. each of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated minced onion, and dehydrated minced garlic. (You can also add caraway seed and kosher salt, but I’m not a fan.)

Cinnamon sugar: Stir together 1/4 cup of brown sugar with 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon.

Cheese: Freshly grated parmesan or asiago.

Garlic: Simply sprinkle with dehydrated minced garlic.

Onion: Simply sprinkle with dehydrated minced onion.

Sesame: Yup, just sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Poppy seed: Okay, you get it. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.