Monday, November 22, 2010

Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls

There is a wonderful lady whom I have known since I was in high school. Her name is Gail. She is one of the sweetest people I've ever met and everyone who knows her, loves her. And in addition to her being an all around delightful person, she makes the best cinnamon rolls of anyone I know. They bake up light and fluffy and not too sweet. She always served them warm, frosting them right after taking them out of the oven. If I got to have one of those cinnamon rolls for breakfast, no matter what happened the rest of the day, I had a great day.

These delicious cinnamon rolls have been on my mind for a while. The trouble is: the process of making them is quite time consuming. If I wanted these warm cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I would have to get up about 4 hours before I planned on eating them. And as most anyone who knows me can tell you, I am not a morning person. At all. I figured that there had to be an easier way. Therefore I, of course, consulted my mother, my go-to person for most things edible. She has a recipe for refrigerator rolls that she also uses for her cinnamon rolls. The dough is refrigerated overnight to proof and then shaped and baked the next day. We decided that Gail's recipe could be treated in the same way and should turn out just fine as long as I didn't leave the dough in the fridge long enough for it to sour. (Sourdough cinnamon rolls are quite revolting, in my opinion. I've accidentally let my mom's recipe sour before with not-so-tasty results.) So, I decided to try letting the dough do it's initial rise in the fridge overnight.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hello World!

Welcome to Pans and Needles, my cooking and knitting blog. I recently realized that more than half of my tweets are about food or my knitting projects. Since there is only so much information one can squeeze into 140 characters, this blog was born. I'm aware that it is quite presumptuous to think that many people would be interested in reading about my projects, both edible and not. That's okay. It's as much about me keeping a record of my creative endeavors as it is about sharing my successes with the world. So I will be here as long as I can manage it, tooting my own horn, patting myself on the back and occasionally mourning my failures. So come along with me for the ride.

Just a bit of a disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer and most pictures will be those I take with my phone. Perhaps I will find time to learn to take better pictures with a better camera, but for now, my focus is on the finished project.

Today's adventure actually began yesterday. I was craving some caramel apple crisp and decided to wing it, no recipe, no directions, nada. Apparently, that wasn't such a good idea. I peeled and cut up a beautiful Honey Crisp apple and sauteed it in a skillet with butter, a couple tablespoons of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. When the apples were soft, I put them in a bowl and proceeded to make the caramel. I ended up cooking it too long, to soft crack stage, and when I mixed it with the apples and topped it all with granola, the results were very disappointing. Way too sweet, way too crunchy, the caramel coated the granola and made it difficult to chew, and fairly inedible for anyone over the age of seven. (Seriously, kids will eat things sweet enough to make their teeth hurt.) So rather than have the caramel apple crisp-type dessert that I was craving, I had a chocolate-banana muffin instead. Very disappointing.

Today, I went about things a bit smarter. I took the time to fish out a caramel recipe that I have used before with wonderfully tasty results. I loosely followed the recipe and ended up with a decadent, slightly thickened, caramel sauce that will pair perfectly with a tart Granny Smith or Fuji apple. I decided to skip the apple, however, and just drizzle it over some vanilla ice cream. Yum-o! And yes, I did eat a bit with just a spoon.

Simple Caramel Sauce 

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream - heated to at least 110 degrees, but not boiling
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Pinch sea salt

Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a 3-quart sauce pan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, cover and boil for 4 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking without stirring until the mixture has turned a medium golden-brown. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, wash down any sugar crystals that gather on the sides of the pan.

Off heat, whisk in the heated cream, lemon juice and salt. Be careful because the caramel with bubble and foam up. Whisk until the foaming has subsided and the caramel is smooth. It will be very hot, hot enough to cause serious burns, so handle with care. Without scraping the sides or bottom of the pan, pour the caramel into a glass (not plastic, it could melt) storage container, cover and let cool. You can serve it warm or chilled. It will thicken slightly as it chills.

For a thicker sauce, more the consistency of peanut butter, reduce the heavy cream to 1/2 cup. StumbleUpon