Quick Cinnamon Orange Rolls

fullsizeoutput_17aThe count down to Christmas is in full swing and it has me thinking about the act of gift giving. As a child our family of six would pile into the car and drive two hours to the nearest mall on Black Friday. It was especially magical when the year’s first snow would coincide with this family outing. I would have my allowance in my hand and head out to find the perfect gift for each family member. I doubt I had more than ten dollars to spend but that didn’t bother me. One year I found the perfect snow globe for my twin sister. I was mesmerized by the snow floating and swirling around the little figurine. Waiting a whole month to give it to my sister felt like an eternity. It was one of my earliest memories of the anticipation of giving and not just receiving on Christmas day.

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Though I love finding gifts for others, it can also be a source of stress, especially this time of year. I want each and every gift to reflect thought and care. I want each gift to be perfect. But let’s be honest – this is a tall order for any package. It’s good to keep it in perspective. The true gift is the time and thought goes into each oen. This in and of itself is an act of love. I think of the gifts I’ve received over the years and the time and effort required and feel so much gratitude.

To me the gift of time and attention is one of the most thoughtful and lasting presents we can give each other. There are a multitude of ways to show our affection and love this season and they don’t all have to be wrapped in bows.

But I really would like a snow globe of my own.

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Quick Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Baking breakfast is an especially kind act of love and these orange cinnamon rolls are just the trick. They come together quickly and require no wait time or frosting. Cinnamon rolls are always a favorite in our family but I find the timing for breakfast challenging. Normally, this means that breakfast is ready closer to lunch. So when I saw this recipe in Cooks Illustrated, I had to give it a try. The technique is similar to making biscuits. I added orange zest and nutmeg to punch up the holiday cheer.

Tip: Altogether you will need about 8 tablespoons of melted butter. Three tablespoons are used in the filling and dough and are best measured precisely. The other 4-5 tablespoons are used to grease the pan, brush the dough before adding the filling and brush on the rolls before baking. I melted it all at once and then measured it out as needed.

Ingredients:

Filling:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon melted butter

Dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (I prefer aluminum free)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 – 1 teaspoon orange zest (I used a mandarin orange)

1 1/4 cup buttermilk, warmed (butter will stay in liquid form when added together)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use some melted butter to grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter and mix. The mixture will stick together slightly when pressed. Set filling aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter to the warmed buttermilk. Pour into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will be shaggy.

Dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times so that dough becomes smooth. Roll out the dough to a 12 x 9 inch rectangle. Brush with a couple tablespoons of melted butter, leaving an inch or two around the border. Spread filling evenly on top and press it down gently.

Start with your hands on the long edge nearest you. Begin to roll the dough away from you. Once your dough all rolled up, use a bench scraper to cut the dough into 8 even pieces.

To transfer the buns to the pan, pick them up one at a time and gently pinch the under side of the bun to help keep the filling in place. Put 7 rolls around the edges and 1 in the center of the pan. Brush with the rest of the butter.

Bake on the center rack for 23-25 minutes. The buns will be dark golden brown and the filling will be bubbling beautifully all over. Err on the side of over baked if not sure.

Let cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Serve directly out of the pan.

Like most baked goods, these are best eaten right out of the oven, but I found them completely acceptable 1 – 2 days later. Store in a air tight container. I wouldn’t feel bad at all about baking them the night before and then warming them back up in the oven (or microwave) in the morning. I would suggest transferring the buns to an air tight container though so that they don’t stick to the pan. Enjoy!

Orange Chia Seed Muffins with Orange Ginger Glaze

The other day I bought a baking mix (gasp!) and the side of the box said “Don’t just say it bake it” and then gave examples.  If you want to say “We’re so proud of you!” make snickerdoodle cookies. If you want to say “Thank you for all you do!” make  a hummingbird cake. Lastly, if you want to say “I love you!” a cherry dump cake would be in order. At first I was a little horrified. Is this what I do? Do I bake for my family instead of saying the words that my heart feels?

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Communication can get trickier as the boys get older. It can be hard to know what to say or when to say it. It feels like the majority of what I say in the course of the day is either correcting behavior or giving instructions. I want to be sure that words of support and praise are said in between the “please put your clothes away” interactions that happen so often. As I was putting my little one to bed last night, I said “I love you” and he said “I know”. Whew.

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As we head into the holiday season, food and gifts all get rolled into one massive expression of gratitude and love. This year I want to be sure to use the words that go along with the baking. I appreciate you. You mean so much to me. I love you. Baking really is an act of love and a tangible way to show that you are thinking about a person. There is a reason most recipes make enough for a crowd – muffins and cookies are meant to be shared.

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I thought these orange chia seed muffins would be perfect for this week. Muffins are such a great go-to for breakfast, lunch boxes and after school snacks.

Now go put away your clothes.

Orange Chia Seed Muffins

Adapted from Joy the Baker, this muffin tastes quite decadent and straddles the line between muffin and cupcake. The top is nice and crisp with a balanced orange flavor. The chia seeds are slightly nutty and give some textural interest to the muffin. I have a feeling it would be a welcome addition to any breakfast table.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Zest of one orange (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (I use full fat)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice of 1/2 orange (about 2 tablesoons)
  • Granulated sugar for topping if desired

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4  + 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice, plus more if needed

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups or spray with cooking spray. Whisk flour, sugar, chia seeds, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, salt and orange zest in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine sour cream, butter, eggs, vanilla extract and orange juice in a small bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a spatula until flour mixture is just incorporated. Spoon into prepared tin and sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired. Bake for 18-20 minutes. The muffins will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. Let cool in the muffin tin until cool enough to touch and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Mix glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Add an extra squeeze or two of juice if the glaze is too thick to dip muffins in to coat. I like my glaze thick enough that it doesn’t drip down the sides of the muffin but thin enough to not need a spoon to spread it. Add a tablespoon of powdered sugar if the glaze is too drippy. Dip muffins in glaze and serve. The glaze will harden as it dries. Muffins are best the same day they are made but you can put a little life in them the next day by warming them in 350 degree oven for a couple minutes. Enjoy!

 

Toasted Poppy Seed and Lemon Scone with Rhubarb Compote

April has turned to May and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, it is an obvious time to reflect on motherhood. My oldest turned 10 years old last week and I’m suddenly surprised that I’ve been doing this for that long already. I am just so proud of him and excited about this coming year. I remember those early years of mothering and how hard they felt. Everything was new and uncertain but also fiercely emotional. It’s not as new anymore and it’s easier to trust my parenting instincts as the years go by. I’m so thankful for all the moms that I’ve had in my life to help light the way. Friends who listened and talked me through sleep deprivation, picky eating (I talked a lot about this one), and new schools.

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I firmly believe that raising humans is the hardest, yet most important work of all.  Over the years, I’ve learned (or am learning, ahem) that parenting is not about creating a certain outcome but is more about finding out who these little humans are and helping them along the way. They are not my mirror and so they do not necessarily reflect me. Yet, I am responsible as well to ensure that they get all that they need so that they can grow up and continue the cycle. So lets celebrate motherhood and our own mothers for the blood, sweat, and tears that were poured into us and that we in return are pouring into our own children.

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This Mother’s Day is extra special because my mom is going to be traveling across the country to visit and will be here to celebrate with us. As I was thinking about what I wanted to make for her, as well as for my own family, I landed on lemon poppy seed scones. Scones that are flaky yet can hold up to a bit of compote or jam. Scones that announce that spring is here. Scones that can be eaten slowly over a cup of coffee. These ones fit the bill. The tangy lemon combined with the nutty crunch of poppy seeds keeps me coming back for more. I find many lemon poppy seed recipes to be a tad fussy (syrups and glazes) and so I love the simplicity of this recipe. I especially like the sparkling sugar that gives a nice sweet contrast. I used lemon extract that was given to me by Ballard Extracts, and I have to say, that I really like how the extract worked to let the poppy seeds share in the lime light.

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Rhubarb grew in our back yard growing up and I remember eating it raw right after pulling up a stalk. Rhubarb has a delightful sour taste that reminds me of grapefruit and has a texture similar to celery. It breaks down quickly when cooked and the pretty jeweled tone is a beautiful complement to the sparkling scone. I couldn’t stop dipping my scone in the compote so I finally just cut the scone in half and layered half with butter and compote. I would suggest doing the same!

 

Toasted Poppy Seed and Lemon Scone

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Dreamy Cranberry Scones.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (I prefer aluminum free)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter. Remove from refrigerator and cut into cubes right before incorporating into mixture.
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
  • 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar

Preheat the oven to 400° degree Fahrenheit and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a dry non-stick skillet, toast the poppy seeds on medium for a few minutes until they smell nutty. Remove to a small bowl and allow to cool. This is important because you don’t want warm poppy seeds to melt the chilled butter.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cooled poppy seeds. Using fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until the flour looks like sand and stays together when squeezed. Work quickly so as not to warm up the butter too much. I like to stick the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so to firm up the butter before moving on to the next step.

Mix lemon extract into heavy cream and pour into flour. Use a wooden spoon and mix. You will have a shaggy dough. Dump out on a clean counter top and knead 2 or 3 times to bring the dough together. Flatten dough into a 8 in circle. Use a bench scraper to even out the edges. The circle should be about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to the baking sheet.

Cut into 8 triangles. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle sparkling sugar on top to your hearts desire.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotating once for even baking. The scones are done once a toothpick comes out clean and the scones are golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack. Scones are best eaten the same day, but you can freshen them up in the oven for a few minutes the following day or keep scones refrigerated over night and bake off the next mirning. You will need a few extra minutes for baking if refrigerating over night.

Rhubarb Compote

Adapted from Food52.com. I love this compote and along with slathering it on a scone, it is also lovely swirled into yogurt. You won’t want to skip it! Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to your tastes. I found 1/3 cup to be right for me but you can start out with a 1/4 cup and adjust from there.

  • 1/2 lb rhubarb stalk, chopped
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium low. Add rhubarb, sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir to combine and continue to stir to keep sugar from burning. The rhubarb and sugar will create a syrup on the bottom and bring to a simmer. Simmer and stir for 10 minutes. The rhubarb will soften and you will begin to smell the happy scent of the sour and sweet rhubarb. Take the compote off the burner once the rhubarb has softened and the compote is mostly smooth, with only a few chunks remaining. Cool and refrigerate. Serve on the side.