Saturday, November 1, 2014

Back to Business

Since we’re friends, we’ll just go along like it hasn't been, oh, FOREVER since my last entry, ok?  And while I have not miraculously discovered a way to eke out a couple of extra hours in a day, I have at least determined that putting in some extra effort to keep things updated here is worth a little extra in the motivation department.

So, just to catch us up, here’s what’s been happening…

This little man:

…has turned into THIS little man:

He’s celebrated two birthdays since then…

And Eureka!  I have (for now, anyway), ended my search for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe.

I would have included a ‘glamour’ shot here, but as you can see, SOMEONE got to them first…

Quick Yeast Cinnamon Rolls

 2 packets Active Dry yeast (the ‘Quick Rise’ is fine, too)
¼ cup sugar
1 cup + 2 Tbs warm water (about 110°)
1/3 cup melted butter

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
2 cups bread flour
1 ¾ cups A/P flour

1/3 cup softened butter
½ cup (or so) brown sugar
¼ cup vanilla sugar (regular is fine, too)
1 tsp cinnamon

In the bowl of a mix stand, combine the first 4 ingredients.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes to give the yeast time to ‘bloom’.  Beat the egg slightly and add it to the yeast mixture, along with  the vanilla, salt and flours.  Mix on medium-low speed using a dough hook attachment until the flour is completely combined.  Mixture should be soft and slightly tacky, but not sticky.  If it is, add a little more flour.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead just enough for it to all come together.  Roll into a rectangle approximately 18” wide, 12” deep and about ¼” thick.  Spread softened butter evenly to within about ½” from the edges.  Cover evenly with the sugars and cinnamon.  Beginning with the long side closest to you, roll up jell-roll fashion, pinching the roll closed and evening out the thickness.  Divide evenly into 12 slices and place in a 10 x 13 baking pan (I usually line mine with foil to make for easier clean-up).  Cover with plastic wrap and place on top of the oven (the residual heat will help the rolls to rise).  Set oven temperature to 400° and allow the cinnamon rolls to sit for 15 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap and place the cinnamon rolls in the oven.  Bake for 18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool slightly before frosting and serving (and by 'slightly', in our house, at any rate, that generally equates to 'in the time it takes to cover them in frosting').

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz softened cream cheese
2 Tbs softened butter
¼ - ½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs milk

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  If too thick, continue to add milk until you reach the desired consistency.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Since The Little Man has entered our lives, it hasn't exactly left scads of time for theatrical pursuits.  But I was able to perform in a short-run production of ‘The Daly News’, a musical about a family in WWII-era Milwaukee, scattered across the globe in various service roles.  I've always hated the term ‘short-run’, which makes it sound like there wasn't as much work involved somehow.  3 months of rehearsing begged to differ.

Anyway, I played the quippish matriarch of the family, and at one point lamented rationing, and the difficulties it caused in making a ‘Krantz’ for one of the kids’ birthdays.  I had never heard of such a beast before, so naturally I did a little homework and came up with my own approximation of the recipe. 

In all fairness, the original recipe was a bit different, more involved, etc.  But I figure, if you got a good thing going, why mess with it, right?  So, I ever so slightly tweaked my cinnamon roll recipe and used it here.

Chocolate Almond Krantz


2 packages active dry yeast
¼ c sugar
1/3 c butter, melted
1 c + 2 Tbs warm water (about 110°F)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 c bread flour
1 ½ c all-purpose flour


1/3 c butter, melted
1/3 c dark chocolate chips
½ c good-quality cocoa
½ c confectioner’s sugar (plus more if needed)

¾ c slivered almonds, toasted
2 Tbs sugar

Sugar syrup:

2/3 c water
1 ¼ c sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, butter and water.  Stir to combine.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes so the yeast can ‘bloom’ (prepare the filling below while you wait).

Attach a dough hook to the mixer and add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest and egg.  Mix for a few seconds to break up the egg a bit.  Add the flours all at once (the bread and a/p flour was the combo I used, but I’m sure you could do it with all a/p – it just won’t be quite as tender of a dough) and turn mixer on a medium-low setting, allowing to mix until all of the flour is incorporated into the mixture.  If the dough seems too sticky to work with, add an additional ¼ - ½ cup of flour.

To make the filling:  in a medium mixing bowl, melt the butter and chocolate chips (either in the microwave or over a double-boiler).  Stir in the cocoa and powdered sugar.  The mixture should be the consistency of room temperature butter, so add more powdered sugar if your mixture is too runny.  Separate from the chocolate mixture, process the almonds and sugar in a food processor until the almonds are finely chopped.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour and turn out dough.  Form into a rectangle and roll out to about ½” thickness.  How wide should be determined by how you intend to form the krantz – for two loaves, roll out to about 20” long.  For individual (‘mini’) size, roll out longer.  Spread surface of dough with the chocolate mixture to within about ½” of the edge.  Sprinkle evenly with the almond/sugar mixture.  Roll the dough into a log starting at one of the long ends and then even out the log so that it is a consistent diameter from end to end (about 2” for minis and about 4” or so for the loaves).  With a sharp knife, cut the roll lengthwise down the center.  Moisten one of the ends with a little bit of water and press the other cut end to attach.  Wind the two pieces around each other, forming a ‘rope’, and keeping the cut side facing up.  Attach the other two ends together in the same manner that you did the first end.

For loaves, cut the rope in half and place in two greased loaf pans (cut side up).  For the minis, cut into 2 – 3” pieces and place cut side up into two greased muffin pans.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise an additional 15 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.  When dough has finished rising, place in oven.  Bake approximately 15 – 18 minutes for minis and approximately 30 minutes for loaves (test for doneness by inserting wood skewer into center – should come out clean).  If tops begin to brown too quickly, loosely cover with a piece of aluminum foil.

While krantz is baking, prepare sugar glaze**:  Combine water and sugar in a saucepan on the stove.  Bring to a full rolling boil and then remove from heat.  Allow to cool slightly.

When the krantz is done (and still hot), remove from oven and immediately glaze with sugar syrup.  As glaze is absorbed, add more.  You will use most, if not all, of the glaze.

Serve krantz warm or at room temperature.

**The sugar glaze is a good way to ‘doctor’ the flavor a bit.  Add brandy, rum or bourbon (a Tablespoon, or up to ¼ cup) to the water and sugar before cooking (reduce amount of water to compensate).  Or add a scraped vanilla bean to the sugar syrup after cooking and allow to steep for a few minutes.