Monday, December 26, 2011

Quick Cinnamon Rolls

EDITED: I added pictures this year, but the pictures are of a double batch!  Doubled, the rectangle measured 9" x 26" when rolled out.  Merry Christmas! 

Happy Holidays everyone!  Growing up, my family always had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning.  They’re a treat, they’re fast, and we could eat them in the living room while we played with our new toys.  A few years ago, I got sick of how gross they were, even if they were tradition, so I decided to make them from scratch.  The first year I made the recipe from New Best Recipe, which is my all time favorite cookbook, but I didn’t care for how many ingredients there were, and they had cloves in the filling, which in my mouth didn't jive.  So I went about putting together my own version, and this is what eventually formed.  I will warn you, these are SWEET, but since we only have them once a year, they are an awesome treat, and still a great thing to eat in the living room while the next generation plays with their new toys.

You will need

For the dough-

2 cups flour ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/80 oz = $.04 x 11oz = $.45)
2 ½ tsp baking powder ($1.59 per 10 oz, $1.59 per 10oz, $1.59/ 59.06 tsp = $.03 x 2.5tsp = $.07)
2 tablespoons sugar ($3.67 per 5 lb, $3.67/ 80 oz = $.05 x .94oz = $.05(ish))
5 to 6 Tbsp organic butter plus 1 to 1 ½ for brushing ($4.99 per box, $4.99/32 Tbsp = $.16 x 7.5 Tbsp = $1.17)
¾ cups organic milk ($6.35 per gallon, $6.35/128 oz = $.05 x 6oz = $.29)

For the filling-

¾ cup unpacked dark brown sugar ($.99 per 16oz, $.99/ 2.35 cups = $.42 x .75 cup = $.32)
¼ cup granulated sugar ($3.67 per 5lb, $3.67/80 oz = $.05 x 1.88oz = $.09)
2 teaspoons cinnamon ($1.97 per 2.37oz, $1.97 x .067 oz = $.13 x 2 tsp = $.26)
1 tablespoon melted organic butter ($4.99 per box, $4.99/32 Tbsp = $.16)

For the icing-

2 tablespoons organic butter, melted ($4.99 per box, $4.99/32 Tbsp = $.16 x 2 = $.32)
1 cup sifted powdered sugar ($1.77 per 32 oz, $1.77/7.5 cups = $.24)
3 tablespoons organic milk ($6.35 per gallon, $6.35/128 oz = $.05 x 1.5oz = $.08)
½ teaspoon homemade vanilla ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 2.46 ml = $.02)
Spencer uses the pastry blender to mix it up.
Heat the oven to 450.  Combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a bowl.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the milk and mix it in with a rubber spatula.  Add a bit more milk if the dough isn't cohesive (Side note- this is essentially a biscuit, so mess with the dough as little as possible or it’ll get tough).  Dust a rolling surface with flour, and pat the dough into a rectangle.  Brush the dough with 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons melted butter.

In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and butter.  Spread this evenly over the dough, leaving a bit of room around the edge.  Press the sugar into the dough.  Roll the dough longwise into a log.  Cut the log into eight pieces by cutting in half, the cutting the halves in half to keep them uniform.  Fit the rolls into a greased 9" round cake pan.  Bake on the middle rack for about 23 minutes or until the tops are dark golden brown. 

Meanwhile, combine in a small bowl melted butter, powdered sugar (if you don’t  sift it, it looks terrible but will taste just fine), and vanilla for the icing.  Add enough milk to make the icing slightly runny.

Always a hit, there won’t be any left! Hence the lack of pictures....
Try It:

$3.59 for 8 buns

Buy It:

$2.00 for 8 buns


Worth the extra $1.59 and time, I promise.  Try It.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Marshmallows, Take II

After posting my Hot Cocoa link on Facebook, one of my many awesome cousins, Meghan, asked if I had tried Marshmallows.  I told her I had, but they were horrible, so she offered her favorite recipe plus a few tips so I could try again.
Homemade hot cocoa with a homemade marshmallow.

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart, back in 1996.  It’s really not so different from the AltonBrown recipe.  Though I followed them loosely, Meghan's tips were definitely helpful:

1.       Watch the candy thermometer closely.
2.        Pour out onto a silicone sheet.  Dust top and sides with cornstarch then flip and coat that side. This makes everything a lot less sticky for cutting.
3.       Coat scissors with vegetable oil then cut over a bowl of cornstarch so they fall in there. Fish them out and shake off excess powder. (using cornstarch instead of confectioner's sugar helps to keep them from becoming overly sweet)

You will need

2 ½ Tablespoons unflavored gelatin -about 3 packets of Knox ($1.79 per 4 packets, $1.79 x .75 = $1.34)

1 ½ cups granulated sugar ($3.67 per 5 lb, $3.67/80 oz = $.05 x 11.25 oz = $.52)

1 cup light corn syrup ($2.49 per 16 oz, $2.49/2 = $1.25)

¼ tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02/4 = less than $.01)

1 Tbsp (homemade) vanilla- recipe called for more ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 14.7867648 ml = $.15)

Confectioner’s sugar or corn starch for dusting
Watching the thermometer with all the patience I could muster!

Steaming mixer
Beautifully glossy mallow.

I followed the recipe closely, up until the part where you pour it into an 8 x12 glass baking dish.  I couldn’t find my silicon mat, and I didn’t have a glass 8 x 12, so I heavily dusted a 9 x 11 metal cake pan with confectioner’s sugar, patted out the mallow with confectioner’s and wet hands like it said, and let it sit overnight…. Okay, more like 22 hours, I got distracted what with the holidays and visiting family.  Then I pried it out of the pan with a long icing knife (it did not release easily).  

I cut it with a chef's knife; I wanted them to look uniform because if they turned out well, I would gift them.  Working in batches I tossed the cubes of mallow in a lidded bowl of cornstarch.  To shake off the excess I rolled them in my palms like they were cookie dough balls.
My block of marshmallow turned out onto the cutting board
My messy but effective cubing process
They were easy to make, not a hassle.  But I have two big issues with food in general, made a little ridiculous with pregnancy: 
1.       I am very smell sensitive, always has been.
2.       I have weird issues with texture, which is why I don’t care for shrimp or fish roe or jello. 

What does this have to do with marshmallows?  Well, I never got over the smell of the gelatin.  I thought it was a good idea that there was a full day between the making and the tasting, hoping that the memory of the smell would fade.  Not so.  As for texture, it was actually quite nice.  I think watching the thermometer like Meghan suggested helped that a lot. 

In the end, I just didn’t care for them.  To me, they just taste like barn.  I don’t think that other people taste what I taste, though.  My sister liked the first batch, and my mother-in-law liked these okay, too.  I think it’s just me!

Try It:

$3.26 for 26.4oz, or $.12/oz.

Buy It:

$.97 for 10oz, or $.09/oz for store brand regular sized marshmallows. 


I think for my personal use, I’ll Buy It.  Other people seem to like them, so I think I’ll still gift them, but this is the last time I try gelatin based marshmallows.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hot Cocoa Mix

I used to drink a lot of Swiss Miss.  I know, it’s not that exciting, but coffee is out of the question for me after about 4 o’clock, and I love to wrap myself around a mug in the afternoon.  I decided a while back that I wasn’t going to buy anymore hot cocoa, I was going to make some myself.  Now that it’s getting chilly, I thought I’d actually get on that.

I did a lot of looking for both drinking chocolate (the uber-thick rich kind) and hot cocoa (like Swiss Miss).  As much as I love drinking chocolate, it sounded like something you need to make a batch of and enjoy with grown up friends, not something you can spoon out and warm up and sip on the couch while your kid runs around like a crazy person.  

Among all the hot cocoa recipes, I liked Alton Brown’s the best- it was simple, it had good ratings, and despite the disgusting marshmallows, Alton generally makes great stuff.

You will need
2 cups powdered sugar ($1.77 for 32 oz, $1.77/ 7.5 cups = $.24 x 2 = $.48)

1 cup cocoa powder ($3.00 for 8 oz, $3.00 x 2.8125 cups = $1.07)

2 ½ cups powdered milk ($3.89 for 3 cups, $3.89 x 5/6 = $3.24)

1 tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02)

2 tsp corn starch ($1.49 per 171 tsp, $1.49/171 tsp = $.01 x 2 = $.02)

1 pinch cayenne pepper (less than $.01)
Hot Cocoa ingredients, ready to mix.
All shook up.
 Throw it all in a Tupperware and shake it up.  He doesn’t say so, but I would highly recommend sifting the cocoa and sugar.  I hit a couple clumps when I was drinking, and it was not pleasant.  I scooped a ½ cup of the mixture into two different mugs.  I poured hot water in one, and whole milk in the other.  The water one was very cocoa-y, and very tasty.  Then I tasted the milk one- it was rich and creamy and delicious.  I will say that once it cooled a bit it tasted a little sweet, so I may tone down the sugar next time, but milk is the way to go if you ask me.

Milk on the left, water on the right.  Both delicious!
Try It:

$4.83 per batch that makes 5.56 servings, or $.87/serving.

Buy It:

Swiss Miss is $5.49 for a 19oz canister that makes 28 servings, or $.19/serving.


Well, it was tasty, but was it 4.5 times tastier?  It’s a tough call, but I’m going to say yes.  This will be a Try It for me from now on.  The price will go down a little if I buy the larger sizes of powdered milk and cocoa, but not by much.