Sunday, November 30, 2014

Swirly Cheese Buns

Growing up, Christmases spent with my dad's side of the family were events I looked forward to all year. The week would be spent sitting around the tree, rarely doing anything other than reading, watching movies, and sneaking off into other rooms to discretely wrap presents. We also spent a lot of time every single day in the kitchen; by the time the 25th came around, my grandmother, my aunts and I had churned out enough varieties of cookies to satisfy all my older cousins (who, strangely enough, would still rather eat raw dough than wait for the cookies to come out of the oven).
Waking up Christmas morning, the house was always filled with the smell of my great-grandmother's coffee cake (which is the most prized recipe I have and will most likely never be making its way online), along with the sweet scent of cinnamon buns. Hers were small and not at all like what you can buy at a mall food court, but they gave me a fondness for small, swirly rolls.
Around this time of year, I always start thinking of those cinnamon buns. They are a sacred tradition to me and I don't ever make them before December, but until then, I have to find substitutes. Last weekend, I threw together this savory variation. The dough recipe is similar to that of a traditional cinnamon bun, but they are filled with lots of gooey cheese, along with some shallots and herbs for extra flavor. They might just have to join in for this year's Christmas breakfast.
 Swirly Cheese Buns

for the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing the rolls

for the filling:
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups grated fresh Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper

To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix briefly to combine. In a medium measuring cup, whisk the yeast into the milk to dissolve. Add the yeast mixture and the melted butter to the mixer and beat on low speed just until a rough dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the filling. Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a rectangle measuring about 12×16-inches. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch border at the edge. Starting with a short side, roll the dough into a tight log. Cut the dough into 12 rolls, each about 1-inch wide. Place 6 of the rolls into each of the prepared pans, spacing them out evenly. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and gently brush it over the rolls. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350 F when the rolls are nearly done rising.
Remove the plastic wrap from the pans, and bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and the cheese bubbles. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

 As any high school student will tell you, senior year requires a lot of caffeine. From staying up late writing college application essays to running to rehearsals and club meetings, we all lead pretty busy lives. My friends and I have an odd obsession with pumpkin spice lattes - besides being overly sweet and artificial in a strangely delicious way, they provide us with the extra bit of energy needed to get through the rest of the day.
 This drink has a bit of a cult following. It's begun a "pumpkin spice" trend, which - with mixed reviews - has been popping up everywhere from donuts to burgers. (Pumpkin spice English muffins, by the way, are not highly recommended. Trust me on this one.) So why not cupcakes?
 These pumpkin spice cupcakes have a generous dose of caffeine themselves. The fluffy cakes have pumpkin, spices, and espresso powder in them; they're then soaked in coffee and topped with the lightest frosting ever. (This frosting is essentially whipped cream with a touch of sugar and cream cheese, but it's insanely delicious.) Top it off with a green straw, and there's your morning coffee.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes 
(slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

for the cupcakes:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
4½ teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
¼ cup brewed coffee, for brushing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, both sugars and the vegetable oil until completely combined, making sure to break up any chunks of brown sugar so no lumps remain. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in two additions, folding with a rubber spatula until no flour pockets remain.
Divide the batter between the baking cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with the brewed coffee. Let each coat soak in before applying the next. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream 
cinnamon and straws, for decorating (if desired)

On medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixer with the whisk attachment until smooth and completely combined, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, scrape the sides of the bowl, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form.
Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Cut straws into small pieces and insert in frosting. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.