Thursday, August 30, 2012

favourites: august 2012

August and September are at the top of my favourite months, mostly because I absolutely love summer and early fall, and that's what August and September are. I love summer and its fresh produce, sunshine, colourful beauty and ice cream. And I love early autumn; the cool but not cold days, woollen socks, hot cups of tea and coffee enjoyed outside at the porch (under a blanket), apples (baked into crisps and crumbles), sweaters and boots. I'm excited.

  • Speaking of tea and coffee (both of which I love), autumn is the time to start making dirty chai latt├ęs. For that, it's good to have good spiced chai concentrate.
  • This striped cotton sweater. Beautiful, cozy, pretty. Pair with black jeans and you're done. So, so pretty.
  • Broccoli Mac and Cheese. Um, because really. To be honest, I'm not that big on mac & cheese. I think you need to grow up in the States to love that. Still, this dish seems absolutely delicious.
  • I'm definitely making these raspberry oat bars. These are everything that I love - raspberries, coconut, oats. Simple, yet they look scrumptious. I think these will become a new favourite.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

cinnamon rolls

On Monday, I baked cinnamon rolls. On Tuesday, I started my new job as a full-time nanny for the next 9 months. So far, they have both been great.

Now, my Dad went back to work on Monday. Knowing that he had had a pretty restless night, I called him around noon, telling him I'd bake anything he wanted if he made it through the day. He did, and he wanted cinnamon rolls. Which was good, because the only bad thing about cinnamon rolls is that it takes quite a bit of time to make them and I needed that distraction to forget to stress about my new job.

Fragrant and sweet, cinnamon rolls are perfect any time of the day, although I highly recommend to have one with your afternoon cup of coffee or tea. While it does take time to make a batch, cinnamon rolls freeze well when using thick enough plastic bags and making sure to squeeze out all the air before freezing them.

Cinnamon rolls are also comfort in the form of a baked good. No matter how heavy the weight on your shoulders is, it is worth it to stop and enjoy a cinnamon roll. Don't just eat it - enjoy it. On Monday, I had tons of questions in my mind. Everything had happened so quickly. I had seen the ad for the job only a week before and here I was, already with a work contract. Fear was starting to cripple me. It was all too fast for my liking.

Then, I sat down with a warm cinnamon roll and a cup of tea. Comfort. For that moment, I was happy and all was good in the world. So no matter how heavy the weight or how light the life is, cinnamon rolls are always the way to go.

Cinnamon rolls are very traditionally Finnish (although the origin is said to be Sweden). Cinnamon rolls are actually one of the most popular baked goods here in Finland, and they are baked and enjoyed throughout the year. The way that I have shaped these rolls, on their side, is the Swedish (and lazier) way to do it. Here in Finland, we don't frost our cinnamon rolls and while there is nothing wrong with frosting, this way the cinnamon rolls are more of an everyday treat, in my mind.

It will take a few hours to make a batch of cinnamon rolls, but they are very well worth it. As a batch results in quite a few cinnamon rolls, these are perfect to be shared with family and friends. Your neighbours might also be stopping by if you leave a window open while baking the cinnamon rolls...

Cinnamon Rolls
makes about 30

500 ml milk
20g dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cardamom
200 ml white sugar
1 large egg

900g - 1000g all-purpose flour
150g butter, room temperature

Filling: *
50g - 100g butter, room temperature
4 - 6 tbsp sugar
a tablespoon or two of cinnamon

+ an egg for brushing

Heat the milk to 42C; add yeast and stir until dissolved. Add salt, cardamon, sugar, and stir until dissolve. Lightly beat the egg into the milk.

Add in the wheat flour bit by bit, starting first with a wooden fork and then moving on to kneading with hands. Towards the end of adding the flour, add in the soft butter and work it evenly into the dough. Add flour until the dough feels soft but doesn't stick to your hands.

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place the bowl in a warm place. (I like to place to bowl in a sink and run warm/hot water into the sink.) Once the whole has doubled in size, gently punch the dough down to release any air trapped inside. On a floured surface, gently knead the dough until it doesn't stick to your hands and divide the dough into two.

Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick square. Spread half of the butter evenly on the dough, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar to taste. Tightly roll the dough into a log-like shape. Cut into even-sized pieces. (I made mine about 2 cm thick.) Repeat with the other half of the dough. Lay the pieces on their sides on baking trays lined with parchment paper, leaving plenty of room for the rolls to rise. Cover with a clean tea towel, and let rise for another 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 225C. Lightly beat the egg and lightly brush the pieces with the egg. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Enjoy warm with a tall glass of cold milk or a cup of coffee.

* The proportions of the filling can be adjusted to your taste. The basic is to spread butter evenly on the dough and then sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on top of the butter. I love mine with lots of filling (so, the latter measurements are what I used), but suit yourself.