Dear beautiful fall weekend,
It was so nice to see you and catch up! Please feel free to unexpectedly drop by more often! What is that? You will only if I bake up some cinnamon rolls and have chili simmering away for the day? Ok, ok….it is a deal. Just keep throwing beautiful weekends my way and I will devote a couple hours to cooking. Maybe this will lead me down a few new paths…
I stumbled upon a new blog this past week – Naturally Ella. I was like a kid in a candy store. . . and to say I was excited would be an understatement. A foodie usually has a few food blogs (or 15) and a few recipes (or 50) marked in their bookmark bar. When I happen upon a new, informative, fresh and wonderfully written blog I have to sit up and take notice. By the middle of each week (or 24/7) I am dreaming up new recipes to try. I find myself always thinking of various food combinations and new ideas.
One recipe I wanted to try this week was a cinnamon roll recipe I had found on the new site. But not just any cinnamon roll recipe. Oh no! It is the BEST flippin’ cinnamon roll recipe you will EVER need.
I hesitate when it comes to working with yeast. I am not super comfortable with it. The thought of making bread scares me a bit. I have just reached the good side of comfort levels when it came to making pizza dough…and it is pretty easy. So I thought to myself…could this be *that* bad? And what is the worse that could happen? I fail and start over again? Ok, I was fine with that. Sometimes in life we need to fail first in order to succeed right? Game on.
The other reason I loved this recipe so much is that it is vegan. No eggs, butter or milk to fuss with…at all. This recipe was so completely different than my grandmother’s recipe from years ago. I felt like a traitor. So, how was this going to work? I am sure Paula Deen would be stumped! First up: the dough.
The milk (soy) was heated up and put in the mixing bowl with the sugar and yeast. It got foamy and I exhaled my first big breath in relief. (Note: no foaminess means trouble with the yeast..so the experts say) I ground up flax seed and mixed it with water (egg substitute – genius!), added in the flour and mixed away. Erin at Naturally Ella says to add in 1/4 C (of up to 1 cup) of all purpose flour at a time giving it time to mix in and form a ball. Past experiences always tell me to not overmix the dough. Yes, my biggest concern at this point was overmixing the dough. But fear not…1 Cup of flour added in later and I left the dough mixing for another 5- 8 minutes. I am not sure if I was supposed to do that or the 5-8 minutes was for the all purpose flour addition. I was trusting my instinct here and it seemed ok to keep mixing. After the kneading, I took the dough (slightly sticky but not tacky at all), shaped it into a ball, plopped it back in the bowl and brushed some coconut oil on top. Covered it up with a fall tea towel and I set it in a draft free place to do it’s rise thing.
I made a few modifications to the recipe that Naturally Ella posted. I swapped out coconut oil for sunflower oil – it is what I had on hand (I didn’t even taste the subtle coconut flavor either). I also used soy milk vs. almond milk (again, what I had on hand..and in my mind soy milk tastes like almonds anyhow). For the sugars I used raw natural cane sugar (for the sucanat as well). Flour: I used whole wheat flour vs. the whole wheat pastry flour called for.
As the dough was rising, and I was relaxing with a hot apple cider toddy, I set out to mix up another recipe by Miss Erin at Naturally Ella. Think back to school lunches…remember those no bake cookies? You know they sort of tasted like pure sugar, oats with a touch of peanut butter? Well Erin was uber smart. She reinvented this classic to be upscale and all fancy…no bake espresso cookies.
If you don’t like espresso…well…you are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. This literally took me 10 minutes from start to finish. And the result? A very rich, decadent, espresso chocolate bite of heaven. I wonder if I could add a touch of bourbon to make them even classier? Hmmm. I sort of went wild with the cookie size. I cut up these cookies for a little dinner party the next day to make it a little more manageable. Also: I swapped out almond butter for peanut butter. I may even cut back on the sugar a little bit next time.
At this point it was time for the next step in the great cinnamon roll project. I have memories of my grandmother making these in the restaurant years, and years, ago. I remember a huge rectangle and melted butter being brushed on the dough with a thick cinnamon/ sugar mixture layered on. Whoa. I rolled out my dough (great to work with – soft and pliable), brushed on coconut oil (I was already feeling uber healthy) and spread on the cinnamon mixture and rolled.
And cut the little beauties up into 8 pieces…
And then put them in the pan and stuck them in the refrigerator overnight. It was another part of my experiment you see. Can I: a) have super strong willpower to not bake these right away and stuff six out of the eight rolls in my mouth when they are still piping hot, and b) bake these up for company at a leisurely pace when needed – without waiting for all the rising/ rolling/ etc.? In fact, bright idea number 3: Freeze them at this point, thaw them out and then bake them up.
You can imagine how excited I was the next morning. I popped these in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350*. I threw together the icing. The coffee was brewing, the cinnamon rolls were baking, the sun was shining. This is true life. This was the moment I had been waiting for. I handed off a cinnamon roll for Sweet Z to try. I stayed back it the kitchen to catch a few photos with the natural light of the morning…while my mouth was watering…and my stomach was growling…to give you this…
I asked Sweet Z for his opinion who was admiring his roll as a work of art. I adored that (and I was maybe swooning a little on the inside). After he took a bite the first word out of his mouth? Exquisite. I thought something can’t be right..really?! I finished up my photo shoot and took one bite. Oh, yes! These were heavenly! So good you wanted to slow down and just peel each layer of cinnamon-y goodness apart with sticky fingers to get to the middle. Which I happily did while reminiscing to Sweet Z about the cinnamon rolls from years ago. I felt as though I had come full circle. I was now an adult making my own decisions, adapting to the world around me and the times we live in, making little changes here and there. It is a comforting feeling for sure.
Stay tuned for the other comforting thing that was thrown down in the kitchen this weekend. How about sweet potato vegetarian chili? Oh and lets make life a little easier and cook it in the slow cooker! Real life. Simple. Delicious. Comfort.
Have a great week readers!