Author: eostroff

Adventures in Baking No. 38: Cinnamon Rolls!

Adventures in Baking No. 38: Cinnamon Rolls!

Cinnamon Rolls with a twist, of course. I had a few hours to myself on Monday and wanted to make a sweet bread. Then it hit me: cinnamon rolls!

Except I’d just made gingersnap dough, and goodness, the ginger had tasted amazing. Craving that gingery sharpness and some chocolaty sweetness, I decided to add both to my cinnamon rolls.

In short, I was improvising! Frankly, it was the most fun I’ve had baking in a long time – not that I’m implying that the other times I’ve baked weren’t fun. It’s just that improvising – having no idea what will happen – is more entertaining. I could end up with something delicious or something disgusting, and when I generally know what’s going to happen for most of my day, that uncertainty is a wonderful, exciting luxury.

So I mixed my ingredients together – out of order, of course, because I’m horrible at reading instructions – to form an enriched dough. Then I let it prove for about 90 minutes, keeping myself busy with making basic brownies while I waited.

Because I’d chopped the butter into the dough by hand rather than use the food processor (I hate the food processor), there were still little pieces of it in the dough.

Once it had proved, I pressed the dough out into a rectangle.

Now, here’s where I messed up – twice! First, I read the instructions wrong and thought I needed to slather the dough with 3/4 cup of softened butter, not the 3/4 of a stick that it specified. Second, I forgot the butter. I just left it out. I was so excited to add the cinnamon sugar and the ginger and the chocolate chips that I just forgot to add the butter. I didn’t even realize until I’d already rolled up the dough and pinched the seam, so I couldn’t even fix my mistake!

My filled dough – it was smothered in cinnamon, ginger, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and sugar!

I really freaked out at first, because I thought I’d left out 1 1/2 sticks of butter. I relaxed a little when I reread the directions and saw that I’d only left out 3/4 of a stick of butter – but I only relaxed a little. That’s still a sizable amount of butter I forgot!

Alas, I forged ahead. I figured it’d probably still be okay, so I formed the dough into a ring and let it prove. This was NOT the shaping instruction provided by the recipe, but I decided I didn’t care and wanted to make a wreath rather than individual rolls.

really improvised on this one.

After another 90-minute rise, I slashed the dough at semi-regular intervals and twisted to separate the segments.

My slash-and-twist technique only kind of worked; some portions were still kind of flattish.

Then I baked it for 40 minutes. Afterwards, I realized I should have given the wreath an egg wash to get a nice brown sheen; however, the bread still looked pretty festive (despite the chocolate leaking out the sides).

My filling really oozed out of the bread while it baked, but it was still tasty!

I improvised a glaze while the bread was baking out of powdered sugar, water, meringue powder, and vanilla, and once the bread was cool enough I piped it messily across the top! I was actually pretty proud, because the bread looked fancy! (Which, as everyone knows, is highly unusual for me.)

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I just kind of drizzled it all across the slashed parts in a haphazard fashion, and it came out looking okay! I call that a win.

When I cut into the bread, it had a nice crumb and beautiful swirls of filling.

My bread had nice swirls and a soft crumb (with airholes!).

Plus, my filling tasted amazing: the ginger and chocolate went really well together and added wonderfully contrasting notes of sharpness, spiciness, and sweetness. I will definitely improvise a variant of this again!

Baking Chronicle No. 37: Black and White Pound Cake!

Baking Chronicle No. 37: Black and White Pound Cake!

For my birthday a few months ago, my sister got me a beautiful bundt pan from King Arthur Flour! I’ve been waiting for an occasion to use it, which presented itself last Friday when I was invited to a party!

After browsing possible bundt cake options on King Arthur Flour’s website, I settled on the Black and White Pound Cake recipe (find it here), mainly because it’s hard to go wrong with both chocolate and vanilla.

First, I made the vanilla cake batter. It was pretty standard except for the fact that it required buttermilk, which I don’t have normally. Instead of going to the store, I substituted using milk and lemon juice. The proportions normally make 1 cup, and I needed 1 1/4 cups, so I just guesstimated how much of each ingredient I needed rather than do the math. Then I mixed everything together to make the cake batter!

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My vanilla cake batter looked a little lumpy and curdled, but it turned out fine!

It looked a little curdled, but the instructions said that was okay, so I proceeded to make the chocolate batter. Basically, I mixed some of the vanilla batter with cocoa powder, water, espresso powder, and baking powder (powder galore!). Then I preheated the oven and greased my pan!

My chocolate cake batter came together really easily.

Despite the fact that my pan was nonstick, I greased it with Crisco anyway. This is because – paranoid human being that I am – I don’t trust the nonstick labels on products, mostly because it’s no guarantee that a baked good will come out cleanly. I really wanted this cake to come out of the pan, so I made sure to grease the heck out of it before pouring in my cake batter.

To create the swirls seen in the recipe photo, I poured in vanilla and chocolate batter alternately and then swirled the two with a knife. This actually worked (I had my doubts) and produced a nice pattern on the inside of the cake!

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I messily swirled the batters together to create a marbled effect.

Next, I baked the cake, and while it baked I made the glaze out of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and water.

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The glaze was shiny (yay!) and easy to make!

This glaze is now one of my favorites. I mean, it’s so easy to throw together and yet it’s so delicious! Plus, it dries hard enough not to drip down the cake but not so much that it cracks when you bite into it. All in all, a great recipe!

Once the timer ran out, I took the cake out of the oven and started poking it with toothpicks to see if it was done. The cake was baked nearly everywhere, but in one place it seemed to be totally raw. It was a really small section of the cake, too, but still – raw is raw. So I popped it back into the oven for another 2 minutes.

A close-up of the raw portion of my cake.

And then I checked it. And popped it into the oven again. Rinse and repeat, and after maybe another 8 minutes in the oven (over the baking time, I might add) that area of the cake was still not fully cooked. (I know because the toothpick came out covered in thick liquid rather than crumbs.)

I didn’t want to over-bake the rest of the cake, so I took it out of the oven and let it cool before taking it out of the pan.

I’d done the right thing: the cake was beautifully moist and perfectly baked, and it came out of the pan so easily I was absolutely shocked (go Crisco!).

The pattern on the cake was beautiful! Thanks to my sister for such a fabulous pan!

The design was beautiful! It didn’t even need the glaze to look party-worthy.

However, more chocolate is always better, so I spread the glaze onto the warm cake and doused it in sprinkles before refrigerating.

A slice of my cake – this is the last slice left! (It was devoured at the party.)

When I finally got to cut into the cake, it was full of fabulous swirls! Plus, the cake was moist and tasted amazing! I declare this adventure a success!

P. S. I always make a huge mess when I bake. I always clean it up (of course), but is it just me? Does everyone else make a mess when they bake, too? Share your baking stories below!

This is the mess I made making this cake.



Adventures in Baking No. 36: Brigadeiros!

Adventures in Baking No. 36: Brigadeiros!

When I was younger, I used to go to a sleep-away summer camp for a few weeks. Every year, they held an “international” day where the counselors (who often hailed from many different countries) made food! One time, the Brazilian counselors made these amazing truffles called brigadeiros, and I recently made them because they are delicious!

First, a little information about brigadeiros. According to Denise Browning, who wrote the article in which I found the wonderful brigadeiro recipe that I made (find the article here), these truffles are a “popular and beloved” dessert in Brazil and are often made for all sorts of events, including birthday parties and other gatherings.

I can attest as to why these “fudge balls” are so well-loved: they’re so tasty. I mean, these truffles are so scrumptious as to be at the top of my favorite dessert list, and I’ve had a lot of good dessert in my lifetime!

They’re also really easy; they can be made with a stove or microwave, and they consist of only four ingredients: cocoa powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and vanilla.

First, I combined my cocoa powder, milk, and butter and microwaved them for 6 minutes, stirring every 30-60 seconds.


Once the mixture was thick enough for me to see the bottom of the bowl, I scraped it onto a greased plate and let it cool to room temperature.

Look at how fabulously thick it is! I was really proud that I managed to do that with a microwave and without burning the chocolate!

At this stage, I was supposed to add the vanilla, but I was so focused on not burning the chocolate that I kind of forgot. It still tasted fantastic, though!

Once the fudge cooled, I rolled it into balls and coated them in rainbow sprinkles! Then I popped one in my mouth and savored its intense, magnificent flavor!

For any chocolate lover, baking brigadeiros is an absolute must!

Baking Chronicle No. 35: Rugelach!

Baking Chronicle No. 35: Rugelach!

I picked up the special holiday edition of the magazine Bake From Scratch in a bookstore a few days ago, and it’s fantastic! The featured recipes are innovative, interesting cookies with cool flavors! There’s a ton of stuff in here I want to bake, but the first thing I made was Rugelach!

This edition of the magazine is totally AWESOME – the recipes all look really fun and the photos are GORGEOUS!

For those of you who don’t know, rugelach is a traditional Jewish dessert that’s kind of a cross between a cookie and a pastry. I’m pretty sure it’s generally filled with fruit jam or cinnamon, but this recipe filled it with Nutella!

love Nutella. It’s probably one of the best inventions since air conditioning.

So I was totally psyched to make this recipe. It was really simple, too: I just had to mix together cream cheese, butter, flour, salt, and sugar to make a dough, and then refrigerate the mixture until it was firm enough to roll.

Next, I separated the dough into three parts and rolled each one out into a rectangle. Then I spread the dough with way more Nutella than the recipe specified (did I mention that with Nutella, more is better?) and rolled each rectangle into a log shape. Then I baked them before slicing the logs into cookies!

The cookies looked rough around the edges (literally) but there were defined swirls inside and they tasted AMAZING!

(The slicing didn’t go as well – they ended up looking pretty messy. But that’s probably me and not the recipe.)

Pretty easy, right? I wholeheartedly recommend finding a rugelach recipe and making it, or buying this magazine (it’s pretty awesome).

The cookies were buttery, sweet, and definitely chocolaty – perfect for me! I’m excited to experiment with different rugelach fillings in the future (maybe I’ll do a project for the winter holidays?), and I think this bake was a (scrumptious) success!

Adventures in Baking No. 34: Honey Spelt Bread!

Adventures in Baking No. 34: Honey Spelt Bread!

Recently my sister gifted me a (fabulous) new cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated! All of the recipes look amazing (and are beautifully illustrated with wonderfully informative pictures), but one in particular caught my eye yesterday – Honey Spelt Bread! This was because I picked up some spelt flour in the store a month or two ago, and I’ve been searching for an occasion to use it – here was my chance! Who doesn’t like spelt and honey?

(On an unrelated side note: apparently, if you run out of light corn syrup because you’re awful at restocking your baking supply cabinet, you can substitute honey in its place! I’ve been using honey for the past week, and honey tastes even better in baked goods than corn syrup does, and I totally recommend using this substitute!)

First, I soaked my spelt flour in water overnight. The recipe called for whole spelt berries but also allowed for the substitution of spelt flour. So, I rolled with it, weighed out my ingredients, and combined them in a bowl before letting them sit at room temperature until the next morning.

When I quietly padded into my kitchen the following morning, I made my sponge out of bread flour, yeast, and water. Then I let it rise for the next 5 hours and 40-something minutes before I became impatient and proceeded with the recipe. (America’s Test Kitchen had specified letting it rise for 6 hours, but honestly, how much was 20 minutes going to affect the rise?)

My sponge rose beautifully! (Side note: doesn’t it look like pumice?)

Next, I mixed the sponge, spelt flour, and the rest of the ingredients together to form my dough.

I mixed my spelt flour into the ingredients by hand. It was very sticky work.

I was supposed to knead it in a stand mixer with a dough hook; however, my infirm mixer lacks a dough hook and (frankly) probably couldn’t handle the dough anyway, so I kneaded it by hand.

This turned out to be a TERRIBLE experience. The dough was a sticky batter; it was like trying to knead brown slime – similar to that kind you make at home or at school for science experiments, with the glue and the fun colors.

My dough was so sticky as to leave HUGE spots on my table!

Except no fun colors could be found here; there was only frustratingly goop-y dough.

I think I kneaded it for 20 minutes (without adding flour; I didn’t dare to add more for fear it would change the chemistry of the bread), and NOTHING CHANGED. I mean, the texture was the exact same – no smooth, elastic dough resulted. It was supremely annoying. Eventually I just called it a day and let it prove.

Then I shaped the bread into a loaf, following the cookbook’s mildly weird shaping instructions, and let it rise again before slashing the top and baking for 40 minutes.

The loaf was supposed to be a diamond-shaped cob; surprisingly, my version was only mildly misshapen compared to the pictures!

(On the subject of slashes: I tried out a fun, decorative pattern after reading a recent email of King Arthur Flour’s, and I think it turned out pretty well! If any of you (my lovely readers) decide to make bread, go find a fun way to decorate your bread! You won’t regret it.)

By the way, the instructions for baking were weird. I mean, I was supposed to put my lava rocks in the oven while it preheated and pour my boiling water into my lava rocks instead of into a pan.

Key word: lava rocks. Who the heck just has LAVA ROCKS in their kitchen? I mean, seriously? I want to know! Who just has lava rocks sitting around?

I know I don’t, or else I wouldn’t be baking – I’d be seeing what cool things I could do with lava rocks.

The inside of my bread had an irregular, semi-open crumb, so I call this venture a success!

Anyway, the crust was nearly burned when I took it the bread out of the oven, which was my fault for walking away and failing to check how brown the crust was around the thirty-minute mark. However, the crumb was wonderful, the shape was fine, and it tasted great! I probably won’t make this again anytime soon (at least, not until I get a dough hook), but I recommend getting this cookbook!

Baking Chronicle No. 33: Lemon-Poppyseed Cookies!

Baking Chronicle No. 33: Lemon-Poppyseed Cookies!

I recently picked up poppyseeds from the grocery store, and I’ve been anxious to use them. So when, while flipping through the Taste of Home magazine (see my last post), I saw a recipe for awesome-looking lemon-poppyseed cookies, I couldn’t resist!

The recipe was fairly simple. It was a shortbread cookie with lemon juice, lemon zest, and poppyseeds. I first creamed the butter and the sugars, then I added the spiced and the dry ingredients. Next, I refrigerated the dough so, once it was firm, I could roll the dough out.

My dough was fairly soft before I refrigerated it, but it was definitely firm after 20 minutes in the fridge and 10 in the freezer.

After 20-30 minutes (some of which the dough spent in the fridge and some of which it spent in the freezer), I rolled out the cookie dough on plastic wrap. Then, when I tried to cut out a cookie, it stuck and wouldn’t come out cleanly. The dough felt too moist and definitely not firm enough to successfully roll, despite having been solid when it had left the freezer.

My rolled-out cookie dough became a total mess once I tried to cut anything out, so I just rolled small balls out of the scraps.

So, I did what I do best: I improvised! I gathered up small, unequal-sized pieces of dough, rolled them into balls, and pressed them flat with a glass. Then the cookies began to stick to the glass, so I used my hands (which is why you can see the impressions of my fingers in some of the cookies).

Eventually I had around 35 semi-uniform cookies! I baked them for 12 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

My cookies right before I baked them. Surprisingly, I managed to make them mildly uniform!

Next, I made a lemon glaze from How to Bake Everything to top the cookies. It seemed a little thin after I had finished making it, but I was reluctant to add more sugar like the instructions suggested lest it lose its wonderful lemon-y taste. Instead, I added corn starch and meringue powder until it felt thicker. Then I messily spread the glaze on the cookis and refrigerated the extra.

The glazed cookies. The merginue powder I added ensured that the glaze dried hard.

The cookies were amazing. The lemon flavor really popped, the cookies had a wonderful buttery texture, and the poppyseeds added a nice nuttiness and crunch! My family loved them and all of my friends who tried them raved about how good they were! I totally recommend getting the Taste of Home magazine just for this recipe, and I will definitely make these again!

Adventures in Baking No. 32: Butterfinger Bites!

Adventures in Baking No. 32: Butterfinger Bites!

So I saw the most recent issue of Taste of Home magazine in the grocery store this weekend, and it was their holiday cookie edition! It looked super cool (and, after reading it, I can confirm that it is) so I got it and picked a recipe to make! My entire family loves Butterfingers, so I made the Butterfinger Bites recipe!

Look at that beautiful, shiny cover! The photographer for this magazine did an awesome job!

The recipe only required 4 ingredients, which was awesome because I love simple recipes! The amazing secret: peanut butter and candy corn tastes like Butterfingers!

First I melted the candy corn in the microwave, which took a few minutes because the candy seized a bit. However, after heating up the candy corn some more, it smoothed out.

My candy corn before I melted it

Next, I added the peanut butter, microwaved the mixture some more, and stirred until smooth.

It took a few tries but the mixture finally came together!

Then I had to work fast to shape the mix into round balls, which was painful (I had to use my hands to roll the truffles quickly or else the mixture would harden).

I successfully shaped the candy corn mix into only minorly misshapen truffles, which I considered a victory considering my general inability to shape desserts!

After that, I let the truffles cool while I melted the chocolate to make the coating. Then I dipped the Butterfinger bites in the chocolate and set them on my Sil-Pats to dry.

I tried dusting the truffles with sprinkles, which only partially worked – the orange sugar sprinkles sunk right into the chocolate, but the pearly Halloween-colored sprinkles stayed on the top and looked beautiful!

I sprinkled the majority of the truffles with the invisible orange sprinkles, so these are the only bites with the right sprinkles.

Once the chocolate dried, I popped a Butterfinger bite in my mouth. It was beautifully sweet, wonderfully peanut-buttery, and it had a great crunch! I will definitely make this recipe again and I highly recommend the Taste of Home magazine!