Better than a Bakery Cinnamon Buns

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Fresh from the oven and waiting for some glaze.

I like to mark a new year by posting the most un-diet thing possible. Last year’s new year post featured a mind-blowing chocolate cake. This year I would like to share a new baking adventure that created the most lovely cinnamon buns that have passed my lips. These yeast-dough buns are fluffy-yet-dense, lightly sweet so as not to compete with the cinnamon and sugar, and bake up into monster buns that you think you won’t finish but you absolutely will.

I have certainly indulged in Cinnabon buns, bakery buns, been served cheater “Land of Nod” buns that I find too sweet with no spiral fun, but I have never made them myself. I can’t believe it took me so long! These will be a brunch staple for sure, the shear impressiveness of a pan of these right out of the oven begs for an audience.

I used Michael Smith’s Cinnamon Rolls recipe and followed it exactly. I wouldn’t change a thing, either. The glaze to finish (not pictured) is the final touch- it’s not too sweet and gives just the right finish. My KitchenAid mixer was a big help with this one, although you don’t need to mix with the dough hook for too long. The dough comes together fairly fast and is a pleasure to knead into a smooth, elastic ball. It rose quickly (hint: I put it in my warm utility closet to speed the rise time) and rolled out like a dream. Almost like play-doh for adults. And it tastes better. I think you could make the dough the night before, let it rise and then store in the fridge to be ready for the morning, since it does take a couple hours from scratch.

Cutting the roll for baking.

Cutting the roll for baking.

Best kneading ever.

Best kneading ever.

And if you’re intimidated by yeast, kneading, rising time, etc., etc., don’t be! I have no real dough experience beyond pizza dough, and this was a dream. You’ll feel so accomplished after baking these, like Laura Ingalls Wilder would be impressed, I dare you to make them- and then tell me about it- or invite me for brunch.

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Morning Glory Muffins

I’ve been in a baking mood this month, so far churning out several batches of muffins and last week’s chocolate cake, but am starting to feel a bit guilty at the thought of making one more sweet treat. So today’s mission was to make something that had some amount of nutrition hidden amongst its tastiness.

There is a chain of cafes that started in Calgary called the Good Earth, which I miss regularly. I see that they have expanded into BC and Saskatchewan, and can only hope that one day they will make their way to Ontario. Kingston’s closest equivalent would be the Sleepless Goat, but I almost don’t want to insult the Good Earth with the comparison. The Good Earth is always clean and comfy, while still maintaining a bit of a hippy vibe and serving healthy, earth friendly food. While the Goat is undoubtedly earth friendly, their lack of cleanliness seriously limits my visits there.  One of my favourite things from the Good Earth is a Morning Glory muffin, with one of their fabulous lattes made with fair trade espresso. The best breakfast!

With these muffins in mind, I trolled the internet for recipes, and came up with my own version of the muffin. I’m happy to report that they do the Good Earth proud, and came out beautifully domed and dense with healthy goodness. A perfect breakfast treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 apple – peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 cup sultana raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  2. Mix ground flax seed with water, let sit for a minute. Then add eggs and beat mixture. Stir in oil and vanilla, then add grated carrot and apple.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Gently stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Big Breakfasts

If I had to pick one that thing that keeps Kevin & I together, it would be our love of breakfast. Breakfast is definitely our glue. I’m not saying there’s nothing else that is important in our lives, of course, but I feel that if we ran into trouble some day, a breakfast like this would be the first olive branch. Kevin makes an egg over-easy that cannot be beat. And obviously, the way to La Gourmandesse’s heart is through her stomach.

Having traveled in Europe and Asia, I can say that the Canadian thing I have always missed the most is bacon and eggs. In the UK, they know how to do it right, and I love the addition of fried tomatoes and mushrooms, and baked beans. But in France, all I could ever think was that baguette with jam was not going to take me very far. And in Asia, I never quite got behind the noodles or rice for breakfast, although I would love some more tropical fruit in my life.

So, today, we made the best of it: some grease to satisfy the traditional cravings, and some fruit salad to tell ourselves that we were paying attention to health. This is best prepared on a Saturday morning when you can lay around and watch PBS building shows and think about great houses that you will probably never own.

Cheers to weekend indulgences with the person who loves you most.

Beautiful Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

As I mentioned in the Peach Buckle post, I am a big follower of the blog Smitten Kitchen. I’m going to take the risk of looking like a blog stalker, and re-post another one of Deb’s masterpieces. And then I’ll give it a rest for a while, I swear. It’s just that there’s so much great local fruit around lately, and Deb just keeps giving me delicious ways to use it up!

I love blueberry muffins. My mom used to make huge batches when I was little and our family would devour them in a few days. Her recipe was called “Helen’s Blueberry Muffins,” I can still see them written out in her recipe notebook. I don’t know who Helen was, but she made a good muffin.

However, the muffins I made today have blown Helen’s out of the kitchen. They are a masterpiece of a muffin. I think they’d be great with peaches or raspberries too.  I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, so I’m going to be lazy and just give the link to Perfect Blueberry Muffins.

I am usually rushed when baking, but today since I am procrastinating from all the things I should be doing, I decided to go all out with the hand mixer and the sifter.  Actually following the recipe produced the fluffiest muffin to ever come out of my oven.

The only changes I made were to add a drop of vanilla to the wet ingredients, a squirt of lemon juice because I didn’t have a lemon for zest, I used 3% plain yogurt and I baked them in a 6 cup muffin tin. Deb’s recipe made 9-10 medium muffins, so I went for 6 monster muffins. They were perfectly done at 25 minutes.

Blueberry Muffins

Moist muffin perfection!

The Berry Bounty

Wild Manitoba Berries

Make-shift berry container full of the "fruits" of our labours.

Few things are more fun and tasty to me than growing something myself and devouring it. Case in point, my recent penchant for tomato and cheddar sandwiches, with tomatoes courtesy of my patio garden. Living in a city for most of my life, I’d almost forgotten that sometimes tasty things grow wild, waiting to be discovered by birds and bears.

Wild Berry Sangria - Jar

The berries soak up the Sangria.

Imagine my enormous pleasure at discovering mother nature’s gift to us on a recent cottage weekend in eastern Manitoba. I’ve never seen so many wild blueberries and raspberries. It was a reminder of what these fruits used to look like before we engineered them. The blueberries were so tiny, they were hard to spot, and the raspberries were perfect and so delicate you needed your softest touch to capture them.

Wild Berry Pancakes

Wildberry pancakes on the vintage cottage stove.

Braving hungry mosquitos and nasty black flies, we collected many cupfuls over the weekend. I think the cottage road was picked clean before our departure. These tiny treats made for several Sangria adventures and a stack of berry pancakes that rapidly evaporated from the breakfast table.

When was the last time a walk in the woods produced a bounty for your table? I very much enjoyed my reminder that there’s nothing more “local” than sneaking berries straight from the forest floor.

Oatmeal Walnut Banana Bread

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

I love baking. I always have. A lot of my favourite childhood memories involve baking with my mom. Even when that just meant sitting on the opposite side of the kitchen counter and eating pieces of pie crust that were leftovers. She still teases me about that. Don’t ask me why I liked eating raw pie dough (it was the Crisco variety, so it’s not really that gross), perhaps I’ve always had a salt-tooth. At least it’s much better than being the kid that ate glue.

Today I was craving something sweet with some crunch, so I made a pseudo-healthy version of banana bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats (quick cooking)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease loaf pan to prevent sticking.
  2. Combine oats and milk; let stand 10 minutes. Add bananas, oil, vanilla and eggs to oat mixture.
  3. Combine dry ingredients. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until batter is just moist.
  4. Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

I am quite pleased with how this turned out, the outside is nice and crispy and the inside is moist, with no discernable texture of the oats or whole wheat flour.  It is nice and nutty, if you love walnuts, you could probably add a whole cup instead of 3/4.

I enjoyed a slice with a bit of butter and a glass of milk…….ah, childhood memories!