Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The bike is back!

Today's to-do list: bake biscuits, do a couple loads of laundry, and get an Illinois driver's license. However, it was supposed to get up to 80 degrees and I realized it would be insane to go sit at the DMV all day. So I took a much needed adventure around Chicago.

After a little bike maintenance (I hadn't ridden since November!) I met Kyle and some of his friends from work for lunch in the West Loop.

Then, I rode to Oz Park, where I sat on a hill in the sun and watched a high school baseball game--the lions won! There is a Lush store near by so I went there and bought some soap that smells exactly like the Sticky Lemon Rolls I just made. After a little bit more wandering in and out of stores, passively looking for a pair of Toms, I started my ride home. The Map Room is really close to my house and for some reason, I hardly ever go in. Riding past, I realized I should treat myself to a beer. I asked the bartender for something citrusy and un-filtered. She poured me the Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse and it was perfect!

I rode 8.6 miles today. It felt awesome. I kind of forgot how obsessed with my bike I am. This morning I was trying to set up my camera on a trash can to take a photo of me and my bike, luckily my landlord was walking by and helped me out; he thought it was pretty funny I wanted to take a picture in the alley.

When I got home, I opened a few more windows in our apartment. Thurston and Lucy couldn't be happier.

In a little while Kyle and I are meeting some friends for dinner at Costa Rican restaurant with a huge patio. Ahh, what a great start to spring.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sticky Lemon Rolls

This recipe for Sticky Lemon Rolls was posted on The Kitchn last week and I have had the tab open on my browser ever since. I finally got around to making these rolls last night and they just came out of the oven a few minutes ago. This recipe was great because had never made cinnamon rolls before and I am totally crazy for lemon. They came out with the perfect texture--really fluffy and slightly crunchy on the top and bottom. When adding the powdered sugar for the glaze I just did it to taste, so the glaze wouldn't be too sweet. Also, I decided to do everything by hand and it was fun. My fancy mixer is great, but kneeding dough to perfection is very satisfying!

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast

3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F or warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 lemons, zested
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced

In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.

(If you do not have a stand mixer, stir together the ingredients by hand, then turn the soft dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough by hand for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.)

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. (Reserve the juice of the second lemon for the glaze.)

Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blueberry & Buttermilk Tart

My first tart!

This was so satisfying because it worked. And it is delicious! Today was the first day of the year that the heat was off and a window was open. The fact that I was making this summery tart made the experience even better. The recipe can be found here. I didn't modify the recipe, however, I mixed everything by hand (let the butter soften first); there was no point in hauling my heavy mixer out for three minutes of mixing. When making the tart I totally forgot to build the crust up around the edges, so I was really worried the custard was going to seep to the bottom of the tart mess everything up but it turned out just fine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Granola No-Bake Balls

While looking for something to bake tomorrow I found this simple recipe for peanut-butter granola balls. We have some almond butter so I decided to take a little inspiration from the Martha Stewart recipe and whip up a snack. I was winging it so I didn't measure anything out, everything is approximate but it should still work fine.

Granola No-Bake Balls

3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 heaping tablespoon of each: ground flax seeds, wheat germ, unsweetened coconut, unsalted sunflower seeds, roughly chopped almonds
2 tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan) butter
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup almond butter
just a tiny pinch of salt
1/4 scant cup dried cherries

Toast all dry ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven (better yet, the toaster oven!) at 400 degrees. Keep a close eye on them, the toasting time will vary depending on how crowded the pan is. Remove when lightly browned.

Combine butter, sweeteners, almond butter, and salt in a small sauce pan. Warm on low heat until just melted, while stirring to combine. Add dry, toasted ingredients and dried cherries slowly into liquids, stirring to check consistency. When the mixture is sticky and no liquid remains at the bottom of the pan spoon into individual paper muffin liners. Put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the balls cool and set up.

I have a pantry full of things that I could throw in next time and make something a little different...chocolate chips and cherries? Pecans and blueberries?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vegan Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread

This weekend I am going to New York and finally get to visit to Babycakes! Kyle and I will be visiting some great people and my personal goal is to eat and drink my way through Brooklyn. I don't think it should be hard; we have some great places lined up to try.

My friend Brenna will be checking on our crazy cats over the weekend and I wanted to bake something to share with her. I started with this recipe from Epicurious but knew I wanted to make it so Betsy, who has dairy allergies, could eat it as well. Then I realized that I should really just go all the way and make it vegan. This was my first attempt to take a conventional recipe and replace multiple dairy ingredients to make it vegan. So here is the new and improved recipe!

Vegan Cranberry-Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes 2 loaves

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups cornmeal
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups soymilk "buttermilk", add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes to make soy-buttermilk
1 cup Earth Balance, melted
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 very ripe banana, mashed
2 tablespoons flax seeds plus 6 tablespoons water, whisk in bowl with fork
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
raw sugar for sprinkling tops of loaves

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 2 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pans with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, cornmeal, wheat germ, sugar, salt, and baking powder in large bowl. Whisk soy-buttermilk, melted "butter", maple syrup, mashed banana, flax seed paste, and extract in medium bowl. Combine liquids with flour mixture; stir just until blended. Stir in chopped pecans and cranberries. Spoon batter into pans. Sprinkle tops of loaves with raw sugar.

Bake bread until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean, tenting bread loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack; cool.

For more information on vegan baking replacements look at the Post Punk Kitchen