quick cinnamon rolls

I've been making these cinnamon rolls from Company's Coming Cookbooks for a loooong time.  I can remember making these for my family when I was in highschool and I used to make these all the time for my roommates when I was in university.  These treats are super-easy to make and really good to eat.  They're a good combo of buttery, flaky biscuit and brown sugar-cinnamon - perfect for a weekend brunch.

Biscuit Dough

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup milk

Cinnamon Topping

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts or raisins

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it looks coarse and only small pieces of butter remain.  Pour in about 3/4 cup milk and stir together with a fork - add more milk if necessary to make a soft dough (but not sticky).  Turn out the dough onto a floured counter top and knead lightly a few times, the roll out the dough into a 12 x 8" rectangle.

In another small bowl mix the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together.  Drop about 1 tsp into the bottom of each muffin cup then spread the remaining cinnamon mixture over the dough.  Sprinkle nuts or raisins on top, if desired.  Roll the dough up (starting from the long side) then gently pinch the seam closed.  I generally trim the ends, then slice the roll into 12 equal pieces, placing each one into a muffin cup.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the rolls look golden brown on top.  Remove the pan from the oven and invert it on top of a cookie sheet (so that all the yummy cinnamon mixture sinks into the rolls).  Serve warm and watch how quickly they disappear.

Recipe from: Canadian Living

A while ago I visited the Rembrandthuis Museum - the 400 year old canal house that Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked in for 20 years.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the museum. It was nice to be able to explore the inside of a canal house and see how the house would have looked when Rembrandt lived there.  There were also several Rembrandt paintings, as well as paintings by his students.  The museum also had a large collection of Rembrandt's etchings and had a lot of information on the etching process and how Rembrandt's style was unique.  If you've only got a few days to explore Amsterdam, I wouldn't kill myself trying to get here, but if you have a bit more time this museum might be worth checking out.

quinoa cups

Have you jumped on the quinoa bandwagon?  I love the stuff - I find it so versatile.  It's also a good source of protein, fiber, iron & vitamin B12 (and some other good stuff).  You can adapt it for any meal time too - I've had it as a substitute for oatmeal, it's good as a salad for lunch, we use quinoa instead of rice with stirfry and you can even use it in a dessert.

I found this recipe last week, and knew it would be one I would be making again & again.  Really, you could make so many different combinations...ham & cheese, sundried tomato & olive, anything you have on hand really.  I'd say to aim for roughly one cup of meat/veggies, 1/4 cup fresh herbs, 1/4 cup of some type of onion and 3/4 - 1 cup cheese of some sort.  Oh, one more thing: you can make these in a regular-sized muffin tin or in a mini-muffin tin (for a bite-sized treat).  The bite-sized ones would be perfect to bring along to a summer bbq or potluck.  If you try this recipe out, let me know what flavour combo you tried - I'd love to hear how it worked out!

Quinoa Cups

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (about 3/4 cup uncooked)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup packed spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh-grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Cooking Quinoa: Ok, this is what works for me, but I know there are probably multiple other methods.  My water to quinoa ratio is 2:1.  Start by rinsing the quinoa in cold water then put it in a saucepan.  Add the correct amount of cold water.  Bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pot and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.  That's it!

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a muffin tin by spraying with cooking spray (if it's not non-stick).  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, season with a bit of salt & pepper.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.  Bake for about 25 minutes.  Allow the quinoa cups to cool in the muffin pan for a few minutes before removing them.

Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

an adventure in blueberry muffins

These blueberry muffins were my first baking attempt in the Netherlands, and they really were quite an adventure.  First of all, I had to find the ingredients that I needed.  The grocery store near our house is just a little one - they have the basics, but not everything.  I made a lucky guess and picked up all-purpose flour and white sugar (there were lots of choices).  All of the flour and sugar comes in 1kg packages - really small compared to home; I'll likely be going through a lot of those.  I couldn't find baking powder or baking soda, so when I got home that day I translated them so that I would know what to look for the next time.  Eventually I found 'bakpoeder' at a larger grocery store, but I still couldn't find 'zuiveringszout' (baking soda), so I found a British import grocery store and found a box of Arm & Hammer - good enough!  Ok, so I also needed to find buttermilk, which is common here.  The problem was more that I forgot to translate it before I went to the store, so I ended up guessing.  I did manage to find buttermilk, but it wasn't just plain buttermilk - it was raspberry flavoured.  The last thing I needed was blueberries, which I also found at the store.  I should have bought two packages because one package was barely one cup, so my muffins were a little short on berries.

So finally I had all the ingredients I needed, but actually making them was just as difficult.  Our house didn't have anything in terms of baking dishes when we moved in, so I bought a cake pan, cookie sheet and muffin tin as well as a covered baking dish and wooden spoons.  I was sooo excited about all my shiny new kitchen stuff, but I forgot to buy measuring cups!  Ok, so measuring out ingredients for the muffins wasn't going to be very precise - I used a coffee cup and hoped it was close to one cup.  Next they went into the oven.  Every new oven is different and takes getting used to.  This one has a variety of settings: heat from the top & bottom, only the top, only the bottom...I picked heat from the bottom and hoped for the best.  I don't think I let the oven pre-heat quite enough, so the muffins flattened out a bit more than I had hoped - now I know for next time.  

Ok, so the verdict on these blueberry muffins?  Not too bad, considering all the struggles involved in baking them!  They actually tasted really good - they were nice and tender and the blueberry-buttermilk combo is always tasty.  I'm sure I'll be making these muffins again...I noticed some rhubarb at some of the farmer's markets last week, which would make a good substitution for the blueberries.  

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups of fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C) and lightly grease a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.  In a bowl stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest together.  Gently stir in the blueberries and set the bowl aside.  

In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk and oil.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir gently, just to combine, without overmixing.  Divide the batter between the cups of the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs and the tops look lightly golden.  Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  This recipe makes 12 muffins.  

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

blueberry crumb cake

Finally we had a break in the deep-freeze weather.  Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful blue sky and mild temperature.  I actually found the change in weather to be refreshing and energizing...a change from last week when all I wanted to do was hibernate on the couch.  So with my burst of energy I tackled a few projects around the house and spent several hours making a disaster, then cleaning my kitchen.  One of the by-products of my messy kitchen was this Blueberry Crumb Cake that I brought to work today.

Because I adapted the recipe to be larger than the original I ended up with LOTS of crumb topping.  I didn't quite use all of the topping I had mixed up, and there was still a very generous layer on the cake.  But, I think the amount of topping is a personal preference - I loved the crunchy pecans in the topping with the cinnamon and brown sugar, it just made a bit of mess with each bite.  When you're enjoying cake, is a little bit of a mess really such a bad thing? 

Blueberry Crumb Cake

  • 2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped finely
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F with the rack in the middle position.  Grease a 9 X 13" pan and sprinkle the bottom with the breadcrumbs, shake it to coat, then dump out the extra.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of the stand mixer add the flour, sugar and salt.  Stir on low with the paddle attachment until combined.  Add the butter and mix on low until coarse crumbs form.  Remove 2 cups of the flour mixture and set aside for the topping.

Mix the baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour mixture.  Add the buttermilk, egg and vanilla.  Mix on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until the batter is smooth and fluffy.  Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 

Add the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to the reserved flour mixture and stir together.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter, then press down lightly.  **You might not want to use the whole topping mixture, it's really a matter of preference**

Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs (which can be tricky to tell because of the crumb topping!).  Allow the cake to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting.

Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated

cinnamon raisin walnut bread

I love cinnamon-raisin bread, especially in the form of toast, smeared with butter.  When it's in the toaster you can smell it all throughout the house, and you know you're in for a treat.  I had been eyeing this recipe up for a while, so I finally gave it a go on Friday.  Let me tell you, the smell of cinnamon-raisin bread baking is even better than the smell of toast.  In fact, you should make this bread just so your house smells delicious.  

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

  • 3 1/2 cups (16 oz.) bread flour
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup water, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) raisins
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) chopped walnuts
  • 1/ 2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

This recipe makes 2 loaves

Add the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and cinnamon to the bowl of the stand mixer and stir together with the paddle attachment at low speed.  Add the egg, butter, buttermilk and water and mix at low speed until the dough comes together into a ball.  Add more flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or stiff.

Switch to the dough-hook attachment and knead with the mixer on the lowest speed for 8 minutes (or by hand for 10 minutes).  The dough should be should be soft and tacky, but not sticky, so add more flour if necessary.  Add the walnuts and raisins to the mixer and mix for another 2 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead by hand to evenly distribute the walnuts and raisins.

Put the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl, then turn the dough to coat the dough and cover it lightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Divide the dough in half.  Pat each half into a rectangle about 5" by 8".  Mix the 1/2 cup sugar with the 2 tbsp. cinnamon, then sprinkle half of the mixture over the dough.  Roll the dough (starting from the small side of the rectangle) then pinch the seam closed.  Try to make sure the loaf is the same thickness all the way through.  

Put the formed loaves into greased loaf pans.  Allow the dough to proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, or until the loaf rises just above the lip of the pan. 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Bake the loaves on the middle rack for 40-50 minutes.  The top of the loaf should be lightly golden and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the top.  After you take the loaves out of the oven, immediately remove them from the pan and place on a rack to cool.  Allow the loaves to cool for 1-2 hours before cutting.  (If you can resist!)

Recipe adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice