Thursday, October 30, 2008

Love Dish: Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

There are many things I love about Molly Wizenberg - her blog, of course, her witty writing, her fabulous pictures, her delicious recipes. But what I think I may love most about Molly is that she decided to share this recipe for cinnamon rolls a few months ago in her Bon Appetit column. They are perfect - light as air, intensely moist and cinnamon-y, and deliriously decadent. And if, like me, you have a brand new, fancy-shmancy KitchenAid mixer and have sworn to bake every bakeable thing your little heart ever dreamed of baking, these definitely need to be near the top of your list.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For dough: Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. (*Or, just switch to your dough hook attachment and keep kneading in the bowl). Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15x11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quick Dish: Gnocchi. Yes Gnocchi.

Ok, I know when you want to throw together a quick meal, your first thought isn't, "Hey, I think I'll make pasta from scratch!" But hear me out. All you need is a potato, an egg and a little flour, and in about 20 minutes you too can be enjoying your own fresh little pillows of heaven.

Here's all you need to remember:
1 large russet potato
1 lightly beaten egg
¼ cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Easy right? That's the basic ratio, and it will give you 1-2 healthy servings' worth of gnocchi. Just multiply this amount by the number of servings you want to end up with.

(FYI - I originally got this no fail ratio from a certain too-skinny, too-smiley Italian Food Network star. I wish I could hate her, but heck, this is a great recipe).

Here's how to make them:

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Microwave the potato until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Cut the potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well, then mash in the salt and pepper. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the egg; discard the remaining egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended – do not over knead.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long).

Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. If you have one of those fancy, ridge-making doohickies that give your gnocchi their trademark ridged look, by all means, now’s the time to bust it out. Rolling the pieces over the tines of a fork works just as well, too. To be honest, though, I usually skip this step: time consuming + unnecessary = not a quick dish.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the water.

Now’s the time to add them to a pan of sizzling butter and thyme or sage, or you could simply toss them with olive oil and fold in some fresh mozzarella. Crispy prosciutto is also a good addition. So is basil. Oh, I could go on…

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Say Potato, You Say...Mash?

The Washington Post's weekly restaurant review is up, and the focus this go-round (finally) is Commonwealth in Columbia Heights. Tommy S. is a fan of the place, particularly the assorted cured meats, innards and other unidentifiable meat creations offered on the charcuterie plate, as well as the hearty Sunday night roasts. Oh, and the scotch eggs (that's eggs rolled in sausage and then fried, people), pictured at right.

So what say you, readers? Are you a fan of Jamie Leeds' swanky take on British pub fare? Or is it just a little too British-y/offal-y for your tastes?
(Photo: WP)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Newest Guilty Pleasure: Chocolates at Locolat

Is $8 too much to spend for 4 teensy little pieces of candy? Probably. But when they're lovely and artsy and from Locolat, the teensy little Belgian chocolate shop on Florida Avenue in Adams Morgan, you can almost convince yourself it's worth it. Almost.

Pictured above: pistachio chocolate - fresh pistachio paste covered with bittersweet chocolate ganache; feuilletine chocolate - crunchy, KitKat-like filling made with hazelnut paste and feuilletine and covered in ganache; and a vanilla macaroon (rose macaroon not pictured - willpower lost prior to photography).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quick Dish: Brussels Sprouts

Well, we're back. And weirdly enough, it feels like we never left. Rory and I have gotten right back into our pre-wedding/honeymoon routine, including sexy activities such as buying groceries and cleaning the bathroom. In fact, the only thing that really seems to have changed (besides my name and some pesky legal details, of course) is the weather here in my fair city. When we left at the beginning of October, the days were still fairly warm. Now, walking to the neighborhood Harris Teeter this Sunday, my requisite t-shirt and flip flops ensemble was just not cutting it. So apparently summer left while we were gone. Bummer.

The only cure for my the-honeymoon's-over-and-now-it's-cold-out blues? Fall comfort food, of course. Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite fall vegetables, and believe it or not, they're real comfort food to me (which probably has something to do with the amount of butter and garlic I always use with them).

Brussels sprouts are super versatile, both to cook and to pair with other fall flavors. One of my favorite ways to prepare them, which happens to be my mother's way, is a great verion for purists: simply boil the brussels spourts whole for about 15 minutes, then add butter, garlic powder - yes, I said powder - and s+p to finish. In recent years, though, I've been branching out in my cooking methods. Roasting, for example, brings out a wonderfully nutty flavor to the sprouts - just halve them and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, place on a lined baking sheet, and roast at 450 for 45 minutes, and see for yourself.

Sauteing is probably the quickest and easiest way to cook Brussels sprouts. Tonight, that's the version I chose. I took a bunch of whole Brussels sprouts, about 20 or so, cut off the bottoms and removed their loose outer leaves, and sliced them finely. I added a tablespoon of olive oil to a hot nonstick pan and added two cloves of finely chopped garlic and 2 slices of finely crumbled fake bacon. (You could add real bacon, too; Ijust didn't have it on hand). After a minute I added the sliced sprouts to the pan and tossed to coat with the flavored oil. I sprinkled with salt and pepper, added 2 tbsp of butter to the pan, and continued to saute, tossing often on medium high heat, until the sprouts were tender but firm and beginning to caramelize. Served alongside some skin-on mashed potatoes, I was in my happy place - and definitely looking forward to the bounty of fall.

So, what's your favorite way to cook these little beauties?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shameless Self Plug

Shh - I'm still technically on my honeymoon, but I couldn't resist sending out a little shameless request for help. Check out the link below to EndlessSimmer's pine nut recipe contest, and if you are so inclined, please take a minute to vote for yours truly - but only if you're a fan of bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed goodness, of course.