Category Archives: Baking

Post-Christmas treats

Christmas has gone by so quickly that I can hardly believe it was even here in the first place. This year, it was very relaxing and we enjoyed a nice break with each other and our friends. On the second day of Christmas, I made cinnamon rolls – one of my favourite desserts. I came across a delicious recipe on whatscookingamerica.net. These cinnamon rolls are the perfect addition to any meal as a dessert or a wholesome breakfast.  The best part is that they are very easy to make, and you can save some by freezing the dough and using it at a later time.  Click here for step-by-step freezing/thawing instructions. Bon appétit!

Harvest Cinnamon Rolls

Dough
1 cup milk (heated approximately 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs room temperature and beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional)*
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast

Add all ingredients in the bread machine or mixer, and mix until an elastic dough results.  
Cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size (after rising, rolls should be touching each other and the sides of the pan).
After dough has risen, roll and stretch the dough into approximately a 15 x 24-inch rectangle. Brush the cinnamon filling over the top of the dough with a spatula or a pastry brush.

Sprinkle Cinnamon Filling over the butter on the prepared dough. Starting with long edge, roll up dough; pinch seams to seal.

With a knife, lightly mark roll into 1 1/2-inch section. Use a sharp knife or slide a 12-inch piece of dental floss or heavy thread underneath. By bringing the ends of the floss up and criss-crossing them at the top of each mark, you can cut through the roll by pulling the strings in opposite directions. Place cut side up in prepared baking pan, flattening them only slightly. T
he unbaked cinnamon rolls should not touch each other before rising and baking.

Cinnamon Filling

1/2 cup butter, melted or softened
1 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Soften the butter; set aside. In a bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon; stir in chopped nuts (optional).

Cream cheese frosting
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract or oil (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract or oil until well mixed and creamy. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use and then bring to room temperature before spreading.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Spread frosting over the cinnamon rolls while still warm. Best served warm, but room temperature is also great!




Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for approximately 20 to 25  minutes or until they are a light golden brown.

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Sweet Cottage Cheese Pastries “Branzoaice”

Growing up in Transylvania (Romania), weekends used to be dedicated to baking and of course eating. My mom used to bake all the time, all kinds of cakes and pastries. My sister and I were addicted to anything sweet and were always willing to offer a hand to speed up the process :). Sometimes, I can just think of a certain dessert and feel that I’m in my mom’s kitchen, eating and laughing with my family. And the smell is surreal…It’s amazing how our brain can bring back memories that feel so alive and tangible.

This Victoria Day long weekend, I’ve decided to make “Branzoaice”, a Romanian pastry made with farmer’s cottage cheese and raisins. “Branzoaice” comes from “branza” which means “cheese”, so the literal translation is something like “made from cottage cheese”. Traditionally, they’re eaten during Pies’ Saturday (Sambata Placintelor), the last Saturday before the Easter Fast. In any case, they make a great dessert/brunch idea. Simply irresistible…Bon appetit!

For the dough:
500 g all-purpose flour
1 egg
200 ml milk – at room temperature
75 g butter (melted)
1 t pure vanilla extract
4 T sugar
2 t yeast (I used quick rise)
lemon zest from 1 lemon

Step 1: Mix ingredients together  (except butter) in a bread machine or mixer. At the end, add in the melted butter and mix well. Add more milk if the dough feels too dry. Let it rise for 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

For the filling:
250 g sweet cottage cheese (farmer/pressed style)
1 egg
5 T sugar (or more to taste)
handful of raisins

Step 2: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together, add more sugar if necessary.

Step 3: Preheat the oven at 360F. Transfer the dough on a well floured board or countertop. Spread the dough in 2 cm thick layers. Cut 10-12 cm squares. Fill each square with a bit of filling and fold it; brush over beaten egg. Transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet and let rise for another 15 minutes or so. Place in the oven and bake for approx. 40 minutes or until golden.

Holiday Cookies – Packaging and Design

With the holidays around the corner, everyone is looking for that special gift for their loved ones. There are so many things you could offer as gifts. This year, why not offer something from the heart like homemade cookies? Make it your little holiday project that will sure fill your heart with joy. The mere fact that you took the time to bake will impress your friends and family. Cookies can be wrapped up nicely like any presents would. Or, just think of them as clothes and accessories. Mix and match to create your own style or make it unique with that special person in mind. Below are a few tips from Myrecipes.com and Martha Stewart’s website. I’ll be using these myself in the next couple of weeks.

1. Place cookies in glassine bags or wrap individually in cellophane, and tie with colorful ribbons.
2. Package cookies in small wooden boxes lined with colorful tissue paper.
3. Wrap preety boxes and/or containers with seasonal gift wrap, art paper, ribbons and twill tape.
4. Try repackaging. Use everyday items, such as egg cartons or takeout boxes, and dress them with colorful holiday decorations.
5.  If you’re on a budget, use inexpensive glass containers and put a bow on top.
6. Use cookie jars. This way, you’re giving two gifts in one.
7.  Package cookies in small wooden boxes lined with colorful tissue paper.
8. Heap cookies into inexpensive tins lined with tissue or parchment paper.
9.  Wrap cookies in wax paper, secure with a ribbon, and tie a cookie cutter to the ribbon.
10.  Present cookies in small compotes, wrapped in sparkling celophane, and adorned with small ribbons.

Image Credits:  www.marthastewart.com; www.myrecipes.com; www.theblackapple.typepad.com; www.countryliving.com