Candied Apple Pie – a family recipe

slice of candied apple pie

My brother in law, Justin, is pretty amazing with a pie plate.  He’s been known to ship his cherry pies across the country just because someone requested it.  I tasted one the first year he was married to my sister in law, Julie, because he mailed one to us in Tulsa for Thanksgiving since he and Julie couldn’t come and were stuck working in Atlanta.  It was amazing and it made me doubly glad he married into the family. 🙂  He is a man of many talents and you’d never expect this hunter/carpenter/plumber/electrician type guy to be a whiz with baking, but he is!  And he loves it and you can tell.  There’s a pride in what he bakes that can literally be tasted.  Matt and I feel so fortunate that we have two more enthusiastic hands in the kitchen around the holidays in Justin and Julie.  We’re a family centered around the table with forks in hand!

This recipes was one he made over the Christmas break.  He first made a candied cherry pie and followed that up with this candied apple pie, which was so beautiful and rustic, I had to take pics and then, I had to have the recipe after I tasted it – amazing.  I know pie season is over and New Years Resolutions are done, but if you have room in your heart for one more pie this winter, make it this one.

candied apple pie

Candied Apple Pie
makes one, 10″ pie

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter, very cold and in small cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup ice water, more or less as needed

In a stand mixer, add the first cup and a half of flour, the salt and sugar, and gradually beat in the butter by small handfuls until each addition is pretty well incorporated.  When all the butter has been added, add the last cup of flour and mix slowly to combine.  Add tablespoons of water until the dough just comes together when pressed between your fingers.  Wrap the dough in a plastic bag (I use a bread bag) and flatten out into a disc and let chill for at least 30 minutes.  When ready for the pie, take it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit on a lightly floured counter space for about ten minutes, and then divide the dough, not exactly in half, but let one half be a bit bigger than the other.  You’ll use the slightly smaller half for the top of the pie.

For the Filling and Assembly:
3-5 lbs Granny Smith apples (or any firm, tart apple), cored, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick of butter (8 tbs)
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 egg white

In a 10″ cast iron skillet melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.

Peel and slice the apples (this little gadget is worth buying!). In a large mixing bowl,  stir 1 cup granulated sugar with the cinnamon and mix in the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the bigger of the two pie crusts and lay into the skillet, on top of your brown sugar/butter mixture.  Fill crust with apple mixture.  Roll out the smaller crust over the top and crimp edges and and trim any excess. Cut several single blade-width vent slots. Baste top with lightly whipped egg white then sprinkle with white sugar. Cook at 350 degrees for one hour.

Serve right out of the pan with ice cream or wait a bit for it to cool and the caramel in the bottom will be extra gooey.  It’s up to you.  If the bottom seems to be sticking and won’t come out, simply warm the skillet on a burner over low heat until the caramel melts and you can remove a slice.


skilled apple pie

A Blueberry Morning

Blueberry Muffins


It’s super cold – winter blew in last night leaving everything gray and bone-chillingly cold.  We are having a lazy day inside and all I can think about are these warm blueberry muffins with cold butter and hot blueberry syrup soaking into every crumb.  My mom made this combination quite frequently for us, growing up.  I associate them with cold, Sunday mornings. We needed something rather fast while getting ready for church, yet warming at the same time.  Something Mom could pop in the oven and then have time to get ready, herself!  She would boil the blueberry liquid and add a little sugar to make a wonderful blueberry syrup to pour on top of the muffins.  That was always my favorite part.  Just HOW blue can I make this muffin?

So when I saw a can of wild Maine blueberries in the grocery store, my mind went instantly to these muffins and I had to make them for us.  Mom’s were better, but that’s to be expected 🙂  Stay warm, today, Lubbock!

Blueberry Muffins with Butter Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup*
makes 12-16 muffins

12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh, frozen or I used a can of blueberries packed in water – that part is important if you use canned)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 16 muffin tins with papers and spray the papers with non stick spray.  Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, powder and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Reserve the juice that comes in the can of blueberries and put it on the stove in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer during the baking time of the muffins.

Fold the blueberries into the batter and divide among the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Remove and remove from the pan, letting them cool upside down for about 10 minutes.  Split, add a copious amount of salted butter and drown in blueberry syrup.  Cheers.

*adapted from Alton Brown’s Blueberry muffin recipe

Lemon Cream Crepe Cake with Pomegranate Seeds

crepe cake with lemon buttercream and pomegranate seeds 2Crepe Cake with fuilltine and lemon buttercream

So yesterday, I got myself all in a fluster about crepe cakes – talked too much about it and had to go make one.  Tough plight.  I had some pomegranate seeds from a spectacular sale at the grocery store this week – two HUGE ones for $3, and thought they’d be so pretty on top of a cake.  I sweetened up Alton Brown’s crepe batter and made a lemon zest butter cream that went perfectly with the delicate crepes and tart pomegranate seeds.  I think this would be such a wonderful addition to a Christmas party spread – it’s so bright and happy!  Those flecks of brown in the butter cream are a baker’s pantry staple called feuilletine, a ginger-snappy flavored crisp that is used for crunch in various confections at Momofuku Milk Bar.  I remember it being a huge mess to make, and we had about 4 cups of it, just sitting there, unused, so I decided to add it in the cake for crunch and I really loved the addition!  This step can be left out OR you could crumble up actual ginger snaps and I think that would be fabulous!

This cake is for a frosting lover.  The buttercream makes a lot and I used all of it. Think: very slender, ladylike slices and you won’t be overwhelmed.  Plus some black coffee or tea and you’ll have yourself an amazing bridal brunch/wedding shower/baby shower show stopper!
Crepe Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Pomegranate Seeds Crepe Cake with Lemon Buttercream, topped with Pomegranate Seeds

Vanilla Crepe Cake with Lemon Butter cream and Pomegranate Seeds
makes about a 20 layer cake

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 tbs sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
Butter, for coating the pan

1 cup ginger snaps, crushed fine
1 cup pomegranate seeds from one large pomegranate

In a large cup, place all ingredients except the butter and blend with an immersion blender for a full minute, making sure all the flour is incorporated.  Then drizzle in the melted butter. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat a small non-stick pan over medium high. Add butter to coat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. This takes a bit of practice and your crepes might look like mine and have tiny fingers coming off the sides.  They’ll taste the same, promise. Cook the first side for about a minute until edges brown and you can run your spatula around the edges to loosen.  Slide your spatula under the crepe and flip over.  Cook for another 10 seconds and set aside in a stack to cool for assembly.

For the Butter cream:

1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 lemon – zest and juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest of
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine butter, sugar and salt and beat till well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice, zest and vanilla and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Place a crepe on a cake stand on top of a dot of buttercream to hold it in place.  Spread about an 1/8th of a cup of frosting on the crepe, evenly spreading.  If using, sprinkle with crumbled cookies and top with another crepe and repeat the process until you’re left with one crepe.  Top with remaining buttercream and coat the top of the buttercream evenly with pomegranate seeds.  Freeze, uncovered, for about 30 minutes for ease of slicing!  Wrap before storing in the fridge, but the buttercream will keep the cake quite moist.  ENJOY!

vanilla crepe cake

Happy Halloween!



These cute little pumpkin tarts took about 30 minutes.  I had leftover pie crust in the fridge, and I only had enough to make three of these little guys.  But that’s all we needed, anyway!  Today was fun – lots of fall-ish events, the festival at the church, trick-or-treating at our friends house, having a greasy bacon cheese burger at Spanky’s – okay, so that last part wasn’t necessarily fall, but I associate that place with football season!

These little tarts could be made with any shape cookie cutter and of course, after tonight, jack-o-lanterns will be out! So use a leaf or circle and cut out some cute shapes – whatever you do, these are seriously fun and delicious!
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Pumpkin Tarts

half a recipe of pie crust (or just store bought – one circle)
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
3 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix the puree with the sugar and spice and set aside.  Roll out your dough, cut into shapes and run your finger dipped in water around the edge of the bottom layer.  Place one to two tablespoons of filling on the bottom layer (will depend how big your shapes are).  Slightly roll out the top layer a little more than the bottom, cut out designs that you wish, and place on top of the filled bottom layer, pressing down the edges.  Brush melted butter on the tops of the tarts and sprinkle with coarse sugar, or any kind of sprinkles!  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

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Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce


Last weekend we were invited to our friends’ house for a dinner party.  The theme was Cajun and so Matt made a humongous pot of gumbo, which has been many meals this week and is very good, and I made this sweet potato pie that was obliterated by the end of the night and I sadly didn’t have any leftovers for breakfast.  I’m actually glad it got gobbled up because that’s instant portion control. I shared one slice of this pie with Olive, she ate most of it, and I enjoyed every bit.   I had a lady at church last night say, “I’d love to live in your house so that I could eat your food, but then I’d be 7,000 pounds.”  I’m not exactly sure this blog is conveying the truth if that’s the overall sentiment!   I’m also not sure I’m conveying properly the amounts of these foods I DON’T eat.  I made three batches of The Cinnamon Rolls over the course of two weeks and I think overall, I ate two whole cinnamon rolls, maybe three.  But it wasn’t a couple each batch, or “the whole pan” like a lot of people swear they’d eat if they made it themselves at home.  I don’t think people give themselves enough credit.  Of course you wouldn’t eat the whole pan.  How on earth would that be enjoyable to have a stomach ache because of something you baked?  Maybe that’s the whole problem with portion control with indulgent foods.  People get a feeling like they need to “eat the whole thing” to pretend like it never happened, to remove it from sight and further temptation.  They feel “bad” eating it in the first place and so why not eat it badly?!  Whatever the reason, it’s a wrong mindset.  And one I hope to never impose on Olive-that rich foods are somehow bad and we should feel guilty or gain 7,000 pounds for eating them on a weekly basis.

During the week, we eat simply.  Bowls full of beans, rice, sauteed chard and potatoes and steamed fish, beet pasta, roasted carrots, butternut squash soup-that was this week.  These do not make the most riveting blog posts, nor do I always remember to take pictures of “regular” meals.  Perhaps I should!  Maybe it would help balance out peoples’ fear of the occasional pie or butter sauce.  My hope for myself and anyone who loves to cook is that we find a good balance and that we effectively remove all GUILT from eating.  Find a way.  Whether that’s eating smaller portions or just meals made from fresh, good ingredients that couldn’t live in a box if they tried.  Maybe if that was the norm, and eating at home was what we did 6 days out of the week, than a crazy good, gooey brownie on the weekend or a night out at a restaurant would seem like the treat it is, instead of the impending portion of guilt that it’s come to be.


This pie was light and fluffy almost like a souffle.  It wasn’t overly sweet and so it went AMAZINGLY well with the butter rum sauce I decided to make at the last minute.   I think it would be perfect without the sauce, but it was the gilding of the lily for a festive occasion like a dinner get-together.   I also adore the website I adapted this from – The Gumbo Pages!  That is the best website name, possibly ever.  And the recipe was clearly from someone who never had to write it down.  A lot of “approximate” measurements and “about this much” kinda talk.  I love the nature of a recipe like that.  And I love that this recipe came from someone with the nickname “Pie Man.”  Honestly, how can you go wrong with that combination?


Sweet Potato Pie with Butter Rum Sauce
makes one, 9″ pie

3 cups cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
dash of salt
1/2 cup sugar

Boil the potatoes whole in plenty of water (covering them by about two inches) for about 30 minutes, until tender all the way through.  Peel them after they’ve cooled a bit and give them a rough dice.  Mix the potatoes in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until they are smooth and very few lumps remain.  Mix the eggs with the cream and spices, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth and gradually mix it into the potatoes.  Add the salt and sugar and let the mixture blend on medium for about 5 minutes. Pour filling into UNbaked 9″ pie shell, bake for 40-45 minutes at 350-325.  Serve with butter rum sauce or whipped cream!

Butter Rum Sauce

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
a few pinches of kosher salt to taste
2 tbs rum

Let the butter melt with the cream and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add salt until it tastes right to you – let it take some of the sweetness away and give it some depth.  Add the rum and mix well and serve!

Pot Roast Pies

Pot Roast Pie
It’s official.  I’m in fall-cooking mode.  Bring on the orange vegetables and the slow cooked meats and the braising liquids.  Bring on the pies with custard fillings and mulled wine.  Let the apples stew in cider and the cinnamon sticks abound, we have officially fallen into the best time of year!  I love how the natural seasons for foods are meant to put a little extra meat on your bones to survive the cold winter months.  Even though most of us have climate controlled air year round, I still appreciate the way shopping seasonally will naturally guide you through the year.  I am jumping the gun just a tad, but since the 10 day forecast has us in the 40s at night and the 70s in the day, I’m embracing the way things feel.  I have waiting a long, hot summer to start dreaming of stews and caramelized butternut squash.  I’m ready.

Let’s start with bringing back the Sunday pot roast.  Matt and I want to have that tradition for our family.  Growing up, we both regularly had pot roast on Sunday afternoons after church.  It’s the natural ease of letting something cook on the stove or in a slow cooker while you’re at church.  Mom always make yeast wheat rolls to go with it.  Some of my favorite food memories came from that meal and I will feature her winning recipe on this blog soon!  Matt has made a few amazing versions and I tried a recipe I saw on Pinterest yesterday and it was remarkably easy and very flavorful!  Then, today for lunch, I played with the leftovers and came up with little pot roast hand pies, covered in pan juices.

Pot Roast Pie with Pan Juices

This was a good move in all directions.  Leftover pot roast from yesterday with potatoes and carrots.  Chopped up a few pieces of each component and tucked spoonfuls into the only pie dough worth memorizing and baked.  I didn’t want to add too much of the leftover cooking liquid from the roast inside the pies because I didn’t want them to be soggy as they cooked and leak out everywhere.  So, once the pies came out, I ladled warm, beefy pot roast juices over the pie itself and it soaked up just enough for the crust to not be too dry, yet it remained crispy and flaky and buttery.  Best. Fall. Lunch. Ever.  Too bad the baby wouldn’t partake.  She really missed out.  Too many eggs for breakfast, I guess.  Although, I think on a day when she is super hungry, she will really like this.  I can just see her cute little hands holding a tiny pie.  Ah, well.  Maybe next time!

Sunday Pot Roast Pie

Balsamic Orange Pot Roast*
serves 4-6

4 – 5 Lbs of Beef Chuck Roast
2 cups water
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbs of Soy Sauce
1 Tsp of Salt
1/4 Tsp of Red Pepper Flakes
3 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – Pressed
Zest of one orange
a few fingerling potatoes
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 2″ pieces

Put the roast in your slow cooker and surround with the potatoes and carrots.  Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the roast.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Eat and enjoy and the next day…

The Best Pie Crust Ever
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.
2 sticks of cold butter, chopped into little pieces
2 cups of flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup ice water

Put a cup of flour in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and add the salt.  Mix to blend.  Add half the butter by small handfuls, beating on low until all the butter is fully incorporated into that cup of flour.  Then, add the next cup of flour and beat on low until completely blended.  Then, add the water sprinkle by sprinkle until the dough comes together and stays together when pressed with your fingers.  Separate into two discs, wrap in plastic and let chill for at least an hour.  Take out 20 minutes before making the hand pies so they will roll out easy.


Take a few components from the leftovers – a bit of roast, some carrots and potatoes.  Chop well!  Heat up the juice from the leftovers on low on your stove.  Roll out your pie dough and cut out 4″ circles.  Fill the circles with 2 heaping tablespoons of roast mixture.  Place another 4″ round of dough on top and crimp the edges.  Brush with a beaten egg and bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned.

Place a hand pie into a shallow bowl and ladle a warmed cup of leftover pot roast juice over the pie and serve immediately!

*recipe adapted from The Chic Site

Literal Banana Bread

Banana Oat Bread
We always have bananas around here.  I realize my last post was about bananas and I apologize for the redundancy.  They are the most logical, good-in-a-pinch snack or breakfast for a little one.  I cut them up and put them in oatmeal most mornings, so one day when I had a lot of ripe ones and it was cloudy out, I thought that I’d do a literal banana bread and mix banana into the dough and add a lot of oatmeal to kinda make a bread version of my daily breakfast.  I really loved how rustic it turned out.  It was really great warmed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon – as most things are.  I always think of how I could improve something the second it comes out of the oven.  With this, I think thick slices dipped in batter and turned into banana French toast would be amazing.

Banana Oat Loaf

Banana Oat Bread*
makes two loaves

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 oz yeast
1/2 stick butter, softened
generous 1 1/4 cups water
2 large bananas, chopped
1 bowl of oatmeal, muesli or granola

Put the flour, salt, yeast and butter into a bowl.  Slowly add water to the bowl and mix carefully by hand until the dough becomes elastic.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then cover the bowl and set aside to rest for two hours.

Divide the dough into two, then add a chopped banana to each, using your hands to mash the banana into the mixture.  This makes the dough crazy sticky, so add enough oatmeal to each to regain the original texture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.  Roll each dough into a ball, then press into the bowl of oats, so that the dough becomes completely coated.  Place the loaves on a baking sheet and let rise for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Using a knife, deeply score the top of each ball into 8 sections.  Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*adapted from the amazing book, 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood.  

Parsnip Puree with Coriander Brown Butter


I remember the months of making Olive’s baby food with great fondness and happy farewells.  While it was fun to show her new foods, I was all too glad to stop blending and pureeing things like chicken pot pie or beef stroganoff.  Because while certain foods look nice pureed, others look like…gray.  And gray just isn’t an appealing color in the food world.

Whenever I see recipes for purees, I instantly think, “That’s baby food” because it was to me.  I never followed the rules of how to feed your baby what at what age, except for the standard “biggies” like honey, peanut butter and strawberries.  I just always blended up whatever we were having and it always worked out great.  Her first foods weren’t bland cereals, but full flavored vegetables.  Olive ate and enjoyed nearly everything my trusty immersion blender wanted to create and I think, because of that, she isn’t very averse to strong flavors, spices and seasonings.  I always seasoned her baby food.  I’d hold back on the salt more than what my palette would prefer, but I felt that her food should taste good and that if we enjoyed it, she’d enjoy it!

Today’s recipe fits a lot of current trends.  Substitutions for those evil, fear-inducing potatoes?  Check.  Browned Butter?  Check.  Calling baby food a puree and feeling fancy while serving it for dinner?  Check.  I made this dish last night as a side to lamb chops and roasted broccoli.  (Olive gnawing on the lamb chop ranks up there with Greatest Moments Ever.)  We all enjoyed it and I think it will make an appearance again during the fall season.  Those crusty bits that Olive called bacon?  Yeah, that’s roasted garlic.  Totally awesome.  If I could do anything, I’d make parsnips not so sweet.  And then, by George, they’d actually taste like mashed potatoes!  🙂


Parsnip Puree with Coriander Brown Butter*
serves 4-6 as a side

2 lbs parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
5 TBS unsalted butter
2-4 TBS milk
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves chopped garlic

Boil the chopped parsnips in salted water until tender.  Transfer to a food processor, or to a large bowl if using an immersion blender.  Add two tablespoons of butter, the milk and salt and pepper and blend until smooth and creamy and no chunks remain.  Add a dash more milk if you want.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

In a stainless steel skillet over medium heat, add the remaining three tablespoons of butter, coriander and chopped garlic.  Swirl the butter around until bubbling and starting to brown.  Keep the garlic moving around so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat and pour over the parsnip puree to serve!

*recipe from Real Simple magazine this month, in which they gave us four entire weeks of dinner planning.  I’m not going to squander that work done for me, so we’re eating through Week 1 and enjoying it very much.  Especially the lack of effort part.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Rolls

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Rolls

RECIPE UPDATED!  I made some changes and they’re even better, now!  Go make these, QUICK!

For the South Plains Fair this year, I decided to enter the cinnamon roll category, if for no other reason than to de-throne my friend, Rod from his previous win in the category.  A little healthy rivalry makes everything more fun and I KNOW his are amazing.  But in the night, right before drifting off, I came up with what I figured would be a wonderful way to make the filling for the cinnamon rolls and the icing.  The dough, I figured, could be altered to fit in with the rest.  So I got kind of excited to embark on the process and after killing the yeast in my dough from boiling hot butter in the first round, I ended up with a good second batch of dough and proceeded with the plan!  I think the secret to anything truly delicious in a baked good is butter.  And I figure everyone knows, but in case you don’t, browned butter is the goodness of butter x 1,000,000.  So at every turn, I turned the butter into browned butter and I formed a paste with the filling instead of doing the traditional method of smearing on a lot of butter and then dumping sugar and cinnamon, which, when rolled up and cut, inevitably dumps out a little on your cutting board.

The paste. was. genius.  I’m not even going to act humble about this.  I browned the butter with two vanilla beans that were split (holy mother that was a great smell) and once browned, I combined the sugar and a little less cinnamon than the original recipe called for and formed this amazing smelling liquid that I let firm up in the fridge a bit so that it would harden up enough to be spread like jam instead of being liquid.  It made the filling so incredibly easy to get perfectly uniform so that each cinnamon roll had exactly the same amount of filling.

And then…The Icing.  I’m definitely not one of those people who says something is “too sweet” when it comes to desserts.  Desserts are supposed to be sweet.  However, the traditional powdered sugar and milk icings for cinnamon rolls can be just SUGAR and nothing else and I thought a cream cheese icing would be too strong a flavor for the delicate brown butter and vanilla beans.  So I used heavy cream, milk, powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste (so it would be pretty and flecked) and THEN I gradually added tiny pinches of kosher salt and stirred after each addition, until the edge of the sweetness was taken off and it was perfect.  I will henceforth salt all my icings.  Just a bit – it MATTERS!  I was amazed at how good these turned out and….

TA-DA!  Blue Ribbon!  I was quite giddy!

And then sad, because my husbands absolutely perfect bread didn’t place and my thoughts were that it was too sophisticated and the fair is a veritable sugar bomb.  I think it just depends on what you respect when it comes to traditional bread, and Matt is a purest.  4 or 5 ingredients at the most.  This guy is the most amazing baker I know!  Anyone can make a good bread if it’s slathered in sugar and butter, but only a true baker can make a bread SING with only 4 ingredients.
These were our submissions – Matt submitted his biscuits, baguette and traditional boule.  All perfect and the best I’ve tried, but sometimes in a sea of bundt cakes and chocolate sugar loaves, plain bread doesn’t get noticed. A shame, really.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Cream Icing
makes about 16 rolls, depending on how thick you slice them

For the Dough:

1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (bread machine yeast
1/4 cup sugar
4 TBS unsalted butter, browned and cooled
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 3/4 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp salt

For the Filling:
12 TBS unsalted butter, browned with two split vanilla beans
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 TBS cinnamon

For the Icing:
1 heaping cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2-3 TBS whole milk
a few pinches of kosher salt

Make your Filling first!  Brown the butter in a large, stainless steel skillet (non stick you can’t see the butter browning) with the split vanilla beans, mushing them around as they warm up to release their seeds.  Once browned, remove from heat and stir in your sugar until fully incorporated.  Then add in the cinnamon, stirring to combine.  You can do this a day in advance – you want this paste to be slightly firmed up so put it in the fridge and stir it once in a while until it’s the consistency of wet sand.

For the dough: brown your butter on the stove by swirling it around in the pan over medium heat until solids begin to form at the bottom and it’s giving off a nutty aroma.  Remove from heat and place in a medium bowl and let it cool for a few minutes.  Once cooled (about 5 minutes), add the milk, the egg yolks and vanilla paste.  Whisk to combine.  Then whisk in the yeast.
Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk mixture.  Mix on low speed with a dough hook until thick and slightly sticky.  Knead on medium speed until the dough gathers around the hook, adding up to 2 more tablespoons of flour to get a nice, smooth texture.  Don’t beat it to death.

Remove the dough and shape into a ball.  Butter the mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat in the butter.  Cover with a towel and put it in a warmish place (like on your dryer) for a couple hours until doubled in size.  This is a pretty slow-rising dough.  Don’t lose hope.

Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a shape of about 10″ x 16″ (about 1/4″ thick all around).  Now comes the fun part!  Spread your filling all over the dough with an offset spatula until completely covered, leaving about 1/4″ all around clean for ease of rolling up the dough.  Starting on the long side, roll the dough up tight and then slice about 1.5″ slices and arrange them on a buttered, double lined rimmed baking sheet (if you don’t have one, you can always stack pans together to form a double wall) and cover with loose plastic wrap and set in that same warm place to rise about an hour until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 325 and bake about 30 minutes, until golden brown (mine were done in about 28 min).  Cool in the pan 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the icing by adding the cream to the sugar in a bowl and whisking till smooth.  Then add the vanilla and milk until a nice, smooth texture is achieved.  Then, little by little, tasting along the way, add pinches of salt till it tastes right.  I can’t really tell you how much I added.  Probably two and a half pinches!  Stir till fully incorporated and pour over the rolls!


Cherry Almond Scones

Cherry Almond Scones with butter

Dear goodness, I love a good scone.  Some people think they are too dry or would prefer a muffin, instead.  Cake is cake so there’s really no comparing it with a muffin.  Scones are meant to be enjoyed warm, with a sliver of cold butter and a hot cup of coffee or tea.  How very English.  Their merit of being on the verge of dry is that they pair well with butter and a warm drink.  And like their fluffy muffin-cousins, the varieties are endless.  I love a savory scone with cheddar and onion just as much as a sweet variety.  These particular scones have a magical pairing – almond and cherries!  I bought some hippie soap this weekend with that combination and I didn’t intend to buy soap if I hadn’t smelled it, but there it was, cherry almond soap, screaming, “I’M SO COMFORTING!  INHALE ME WHILE YOU DRIVE HOME!”  And so I did.  And it was a really great car ride.

When I received my copy of King Arthur Flour magazine, one of the first scone mixes inside was cherry almond.  I knew I had to make these on my own, instead of waiting on a mix to arrive on my doorstep.  So, I looked up the nearest recipe online and adapted it to be more almondy (there really is never enough almond-flavored things in the world) and got to baking!  They turned out soft on the inside and crispy on the outside – perfect!  I want to make them again, soon, and figure out a way to make them a little more cherry, too.  Perhaps a swirl of homemade cherry preserves in the dough!  They’re really great as is, though – just don’t forget the (real) butter!

Happy Beginning of the Week!

Cherry Almond Scones with Vanilla Bean

Cherry Almond Scones*
makes 8-10 scones, depending on the cut

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into pea size pieces
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup milk with a tsp of vanilla and a tsp of almond extract mixed in!

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add in the butter and rub with your fingers into the dry ingredients until a coarse meal forms. Add in the cherries and almonds. Add the milk and extracts and combine it into the butter flour mixture.

Form the dough into a 1-inch thick disk and cut it into 8 rounds with a biscuit cutter (You can really cut them however you like.)  Transfer the scones to a greased cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 17 to 18 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.

*Adapted from Anne Burrell