Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

I woke up one day earlier this year with a craving for Cinnamon Rolls.  I tried to ignore it for as long as I could... but then I gave in and looked up a recipe and baked these irresistibly delicious rolls.

I do have to say, also, that I LOVE Paula Deen and her appreciation for butter.


Cinnamon Rolls
Servings: 12-15 rolls (depending on how thin you cut them) 
Prep Time: about 1 hour 20 min, Cook Time: 30 min

1/4 ounce package yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour

1/3 cup melted butter, plus more for the pan
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, or pecans (optional)(I've also crushed some sliced almonds and used those)

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoon vanilla
3-6 tablespoons of hot water (enough to make it smooth)

In a large bowl, mix yeast, about two cups of flour, sugar and salt.  In a mircowave safe measuring cup, mix water, milk and butter, heat until butter is just melted, not until very hot.  Add liquid mixture to large bowl, add egg and mix until smooth.  Add about two cups more of flour and mix until the dough comes together and is easy to handle.  Gently knead dough on lightly floured surface (or in the bowl), the more you knead the tougher the dough will get, so DON'T over knead, just enough to incorporate everything plus a little.  Place in well-greased bowl (or keep in the bowl you were using, I don't grease mine) and let rise until doubled, usually 1 - 1 1/2 hours. I usually cover mine with a damp cloth and put it in a barely warm oven.

When doubled, punch down dough.  Roll out on flour surface into a 15x9 inch rectangle.  Spread melted butter all over dough, I softened my butter and spread it out leaving about a 1-2" bar across the top of my rectangle free from butter.  Mix sugar, cinnamon and optional walnuts or pecans and sprinkle over buttered dough.

Beginning at 15 inch side role up dough and pinch edge together to seal.  Cut into 12-15 slices; thin, serrated knives work well.  Coat bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes.  Again, I like putting the pan in a barely warm oven with a dish of hot water underneath, because I think it makes them more moist.

Bake (with a dish of water underneath) at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Once rolls are done baking, mix melted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency.  Spread over slightly cooled rolls.  Serve warm.

Based on Paula Deen's Recipe with my own additional suggestions.


Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum, which can be used in both sweet and savory foods. Cinnamon trees are native to South East Asia. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC.

The Old Testament makes specific mention of the spice many times: first when Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon and cassia in the holy anointing oil; in Proverbs where the lover's bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.  In Song of Solomon, song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents her garments like the smell of Lebanon.

It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god: records show that gifts of cinnamon and cassia were brought to the temple of Apollo at Miletus.  It was too expensive to be commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome, but the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year's worth of the city's supply at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina in A.D. 65.

Through the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world.  Sieur de Joinville accompanied his king to Egypt during the crusades  in 1248, and reported that cinnamon was fished up in nets at the source of the Nile out at the edge of the world.  In Herodotus and other authors, Arabia was the source of cinnamon: giant Cinnamon birds collected the cinnamon sticks from an unknown land where the cinnamon trees grew and used them to construct their nests; the Arabs employed a trick to obtain the sticks.  This story was current as late as 1310, although in the first century, Pliny the Elder had written that the traders had made this up in order to charge more.

Portuguese traders finally landed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the beginning of the 1500's and restructured the traditional production and management of cinnamon by the Sinhalese, who later held the monopoly for cinnamon in Ceylon. The Portuguese established a fort on the island in 1518 and protected their own monopoly for over a hundred years.

Dutch traders finally dislodged the Portuguese in 1638.  The Dutch East India Company continued to overhaul the methods of harvesting in the wild and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.

The British took control of the island from the Dutch in 1796. However, the importance of the monopoly of Ceylon was already declining, as cultivation of the cinnamon tree spread to other areas, and coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate were becoming more popular than traditional spices.

Some interesting Health Benefits of Cinnamon:
  • Just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with diabetes. 
  • Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
  • Cinnamon has been shown to reduce the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
  • It has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.
  • Patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month.
  • When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
  • Smelling cinnamon can boost cognitive function and memory.
  • Cinnamon fights the E. coli bacteria in unpasteurized juices.
  • Cinnamon is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

(Citations: Paula Deen's Website, Wikipedia: Cinnamon, 10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon)

Update: This is what I found on the Husband's plate after he ate THREE cinnamon rolls:

They are obviously Husband approved.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Real Butter Beer

The second to the last Harry Potter movie came out not too long ago.  I was going to post this then, but I forgot for a while... so, without further ado:  Butter Beer

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and WizardsIf you want more Harry Potter recipes, you can check out this book (but it's mostly made for young adults and will not contain my recipe for Butter Beer, because I didn't write the book). Also, I don't actually have this book, but it looked like it might be fun.
I started researching Butter Beer after I first read about it in the Harry Potter books.  According to Mugglenet, this is the recipe for Butter Beer:
1 cup (8 oz) club soda or cream soda
½ cup (4 oz) butterscotch syrup (ice cream topping)
½ tablespoon butter

Step 1: Measure butterscotch and butter into a 2 cup (16 oz) glass. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, or until syrup is bubbly and butter is completely incorporated.
Step 2: Stir and cool for 30 seconds, then slowly mix in club soda. Mixture will fizz quite a bit.
Step 3: Serve in two coffee mugs or small glasses

This sounds disgusting to me.  I will admit that I haven't tried it.  But I can imagine it.  Maybe for some people it would taste good.  And that's fine, you go ahead and try it, and I'll believe you if you say you liked it.

Also, I know (from reading the Harry Potter books) that Butter Beer is supposed to "warm you up" because it has ALCOHOL.

In the UK, underage drinking does not get quite the same reaction as it does here in he US.  In much of Europe, adults will allow their children a glass of wine with dinner, it's not a big deal.  In some ways, I agree with this method, because it allows the parents to have some influence on their children's first experiences with alcohol.  And really, who would you rather have your kids learning from? You? Or their friends?  I don't have any problem with people disagreeing with me about this...

I also have no problem with people that want a non-alcoholic version because they don't drink.  That's totally fine, you just can't have my Butter Beer, and I'm sorry for that.

I enjoyed Harry Potter.  I enjoyed the books and the movies (though I did want to kill Harry in the 5th book, but I'm not going to talk about that).  Once I knew about Butter Beer, I tried to think how it would taste.  I thought about what might be in it.  But I didn't ultimately have a break through until I read this: Bacon Vodka.

Now, I know you're wondering: "How did you get a break through in making authentic Butter Beer by reading about Bacon Vodka?"  Well, I'll tell you.

At about the same time, a friend mentioned scotch and cloves in a facebook post, which gave me the idea of combining the two because the Bacon Vodka concept was still fresh in my memory.  I went to the store and bought a bottle of whiskey (cheap stuff because I am living on a tight budget).  I added spices I had in my cupboard and let it sit in a jar for several weeks.  I had vaguely forgotten about it until I remembered that Harry Potter was coming out soon and I remembered my ideas about Butter Beer.  I bought some Butterscotch Schnapps and A&W vanilla cream soda.  I added  the Butterscotch Schnapps to the spiced whiskey and then two tablespoons of my spiced butterscotchy-whiskey to a glass and poured in the cream soda.

It was everything I had ever hoped.  It was delicious.  So for the sake of humanity and all that is delicious, here is the recipe.


To make spiced Whiskey:
1 bottle whiskey
3-5 cinnamon sticks
20-25 whole cloves
1/4-1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (or about of quarter to a half of a whole nutmeg)
1 index finger size piece of ginger (or about 1 tsp ground ginger)

Mix the ingredients into the whiskey (I put it all in the bottle, since I wanted to make a lot of spiced whiskey).  Put in a cool dark place for several (about 6) weeks, until it gets very dark brown.  You can technically leave it for longer than six weeks.  Then strain out the sediment from the liquid.  Or you can just strain it whenever you want to make butter beer and leave the cinnamon sticks, cloves, etc until you get to the bottom of the bottle.

To make Butter Beer:
1-1 1/2 part Spiced Whiskey
1 1/2-2 parts Butterscotch Schnapps
2-3 Tbsp of the above mixture
1 12-oz can of Vanilla Cream soda

Mix the whiskey and schnapps together, then put 2-3 TBSp of that mixture in the bottom of a cup, pour in the cream soda  and mix well with a spoon.  The exact amounts are somewhat based on your individual taste.  If you like things sweeter, then more schnapps and less whiskey.  Otherwise, vice versa.  You can chill the ingredients first, or leave them at room temperature.  Also, for a creamier option, put 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream in before you add the other ingredients to the cup... it's a really delicious butter beer float!


Well, there you have it.  Now you can enjoy a delicious drink.  Well, as long as you are ok drinking alcohol, and want to wait several weeks to drink it.  But that's not my fault.  If you were here visiting me, you would be able to taste a delicious drink.  So it's your own fault for not visiting me, obviously.

I'll just go ahead and put it out there: If you visit me at my apartment, I will give you Butter Beer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beans are amazing.

Yup, that's right.  Beans are amazing.  Sometimes I forget just how amazing beans are.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants.  The cultivation of beans even predates ceramics!  Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today. There are over 4,000 cultivated varieties of bean on record in the United States alone.  Certain beans, like Kidney beans are actually toxic, but don't worry because boiling them for at least 10 minutes destroys those toxins.  Another method of destroying the toxins (and making the beans more digestible for humans) is to ferment them.

Today, let's focus on fava beans (also known as: Broad Beans, Bell Beans, Tic Beans, Butter Beans, Windsor Beans, Horse Beans, English Beans, Feve Beans, Faba Beans, Haba or Habas)  These are not to be confused with Lima beans which are sometimes also called butter beans.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, beans were used in voting; a white bean being used to cast a yes vote, and a black bean for no.  Also, beans were used as a food for the dead, especially during festivals. 
  • In Italy, broad beans are traditionally sown on November 2, All Souls Day. Small cakes made in the shape of broad beans (though not out of them) are known as fave dei morti or "beans of the dead". According to tradition, Sicily once experienced a failure of all crops other than the beans; the beans kept the population from starvation. Some people carry a broad bean for good luck; some believe that if one carries a broad bean, one will never be without the essentials of life. 
  • In Portugal, a Christmas cake called Bolo Rei ("King cake") is baked with a fava bean inside. Whoever eats the slice containing it, is supposed to buy next year's cake.
  • European folklore also claims that planting beans on Good Friday or during the night brings good luck.
Broad beans are rich in tyramine, and should be avoided by those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).  Raw broad beans contain the alkaloids vicine, isouramil and convicine, which can induce hemolytic anemia in people with a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and can be fatal (also known as "favism").  Though, hemolysis resulting from "favism" may actually act as a protection against malaria.  Broad beans are also rich in L-dopa.  This substance is used medically in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.  It is also a natriuretic agent, which might help in controlling hypertension. 
According to the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one cup of cooked fava beans contains about 187 calories, 1 g of fat, 33 g of carbohydrates and 13 g of protein.  73% of calories come from carbohydrates, 3% from fat and 24% from protein.  They have 9 g of fiber (37% of the daily value).  Fava beans are a rich source of many essential vitamins, especially B vitamins.  Fava beans also contain many essential minerals. They are a good source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron.  While fava beans are a good source of protein, the protein they contain is not complete and must be paired with complementary proteins, such as those contained in grain products. 
Alright, I'm sure that's enough information for all of you to realize that beans are really awesome.  Now, on to the recipe.

Citations: Wikipedia: Bean, Vicia faba, Cook's Thesaurus: Dry Beans)

A little background:
A bit over a year ago, I went to Scotland with Opal, her mom, and Rita.  Opal's mom has a jewelry company called Billy's a Bad Kitty, and they had a booth at a Scottish art fair during the Fringe Festival.  There was a little restaurant/cafe next to the art fair.  It carried some pies that we would sometimes eat for lunch.  One of those pies was "Butter bean and Brie Pie."  It was possibly the most wonderful taste experience of my life.  Imagine yourself in an extremely old Scottish cemetery.  It's drizzling rain.  You're a bit cold, wrapped up in warm clothes, and you go into the warm restaurant and buy a single serving pie with a beautifully golden puff pastry shell.  You take it back to the booth.  You cut into the pie with your fork and take a bite.  It's magical.  Buttery crust, perfectly cooked beans, flavorful but not overbearing brie, and a slightly creamy sauce  to tie it all together.

I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Well, I came home and dreamt about that pie.  I was still going through me "I don't like baking" stage, so I let it sit there in the back of my mind... waiting for the right moment to strike.

Life happened, I was home for Thanksgiving, and among the things I was sent back to Davis with (Thank you, Mom), was a 12 oz  bag of dry fava beans.  I couldn't figure out what I was going to do with them until I looked them up online, and found out that they're also called butter beans.  And then the pie sprang into my thoughts.  I went and bought a wedge of brie and some frozen puff pastry (yes, I could have made croissant dough... but I was feeling lazy).  I had all the other ingredients at home.  And so it began.


This is the description from Simple Simon's website:
butter beans are casseroled in a vegetable and white wine stock with a good dose of garlic and finished with parsley, cream and lemon juice. Brie is then added to the cooled ingredients prior to baking.

This is what I ended up with (measurements are approximate):

1lb Butter Beans (if you're starting with dried fava beans you'll have to soak them overnight, then blanch them in boiling water for 10min, then cool them and take off the outer shell/thick husk before you boil them with the other ingredients)
2 cups Vegetable stock (chicken broth also works)
3 dashes White wine (I had sherry, and I wasn't going to go buy a bottle of wine just for 1 recipe)
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 large onion, chopped and sauted
1 tsp Parsley
1/4 cup Cream (or 1/2&1/2)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 largish wedge of Brie cut into chunks

Cook beans in broth, wine and garlic until tender.  Stir in sauteed onion, parsley, cream and lemon juice into Butter bean mixture, let cool.

Preheat oven to 400.  Place puff pastry into a muffin pan (I wanted to make small pies) and spoon mixture in puff pastry shells, cover with more pastry, making sure the pies are sealed around the edges (use water or egg, according to puff pastry directions), bake about 10-15min until golden brown.  (For my pies, I ended up taking the pies out of the muffin pan and flipped them over onto a baking sheet and baked them another 5-10min so the bottoms were also browned and puffy).


I know it's cheating, but I really would recommend the Trader Joe's Frozen Puff Pastry... they worked very nicely.  The Husband even commented on how much he liked the pastry shells.

I know I'm going to end up making these again, because they are SO delicious.  Probably for a party this Christmas season.

The Husband is working on getting his finals done for school, so who knows when I'll post next, but I am hoping that I'll have more things to post over the winter break.  For now, I'll leave you with this: