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Instead of the clichĂ©d chocolate desserts, get creative this year for Valentine’s day and think out of the box. Impress the man of your life with more than gifts and flowers by cooking for him instead of booking a table for two in some damn expensive restaurant. If you dnt feel like messing your kitchen for dinner, keep the surprise for the following morning with these absolutely divine cinnamon rolls bursting with colour and flavour.

Stuffed with fresh juicy strawberries and smothered in cream cheese icing, these yeasted sweet buns, from Tatyana’s Everyday Food, can be assembled on the eve, defrosted and baked in the morning as you lay the table for breakfast and he gets ready for work. I think it should work just as well for guys who want to win over their lady love with their kitchen skills on V-day.

STRAWBERRY CINNAMON ROLLS

Ingredients:

For the Yeast Dough

1 cup warm milk

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon kitchen salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Strawberry Filling

1 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup butter, softened

3 cups chopped strawberries

3 to 4 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup heavy cream

For the Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup cold heavy cream

1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kitchen salt

Method:

  • For dough, combine the warm milk and sugar in a large bowl, then sprinkle the dry yeast over the top.

  • Allow the yeast to proof for about 5 minutes then whisk until smooth. Add the melted butter and eggs.

  • Add the salt and whisk it again. Begin adding the flour, whisking at first, then switch over to a spatula.

  • Once dough comes together, turn out onto a well floured surface. Knead for few minutes until smooth.

  • Set the dough in a warm corner of your kitchen area to proof until it is doubled in size for about 1 hour.

  • After proofing, turn it out on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a large rectangle.

  • It should be about 13 x 20-inches. Spread softened butter over it, making sure to spread to every edge.

  • In small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the butter.

  • Make sure to spread to every edge. Top with strawberries and sprinkle with a few tablespoons of flour.

  • Starting at one edge, gently roll the dough into a Swiss-roll like log, ending with the seam facing down.

  • Using a sharp knife, divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

  • Transfer the rolls into the prepared pan. Cover the pan with a towel and allow the rolls to proof again.

  • Proof the rolls for about 30 to 45 minutes till they double in size. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.

  • Bake proofed rolls in preheated oven for 10 minutes. At the 10 minute mark, remove rolls from oven.

  • Pour over heavy cream. Return the rolls to the oven and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Remove from oven when rolls are golden brown. Transfer them to a rack so that they cool completely.

  • Meanwhile, prepare icing. Whisk together cream cheese, cream, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth.

  • For thinner icing, add more heavy cream. Spread icing over hot cinnamon rolls. Makes 12 large rolls.

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

Rice pudding is a well known comfort food all over the world. We know it here as ‘kheer‘, a creamy milk-based dessert from India that gets prepared and eaten on auspicious occasions [or anytime you have some left over or overcooked rice that needs to be converted into something better and sweeter!] Mexico also has its own version of rice pudding which combines condensed milk and cinnamon to give arroz con leche, a thick rice pudding, though similar types of this dessert are popular throughout Central and South America with slight regional variations.

The recipe, taken from Mommy’s Home Cooking, is sweet enough without the addition of sugar I believe. My can of condensed milk has been waiting for so long in the kitchen drawer that it turned into dulce de leche on its own helped by the blazing summer we have been experiencing lately. The only way I could enjoy my arroz con leche was to let it chill for a couple of hours before topping it off with a dash of powdered cinnamon and nutmeg.

ARROZ CON LECHE

Ingredients:

5 cup whole milk, warm

1 to 2 cinnamon sticks

2 strips of lime zest

1 pinch of kitchen salt

1 cup long grain white rice

1/2 can (196g) condensed milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Ground cinnamon, to taste

Method:

  • Heat, in a medium-size heavy saucepan, over medium heat 3 cups of milk and cinnamon stick.

  • Add lime zest, and salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered. When it starts to boil reduce the heat to low.

  • Add the rice and cook for 10 to 15 more minutes or until milk is almost completely evaporated.

  • Continue adding milk, stirring constantly, 1/2 a cup at the time, until it is absorbed by the rice.

  • With the last 1/2 cup of milk, add condensed milk and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened.

  • Be aware that as the rice cools it thickens. Turn off the heat. Add butter and stir to incorporate.

  • If the cooled pudding is too thick, enough add heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency.

  • Let cool uncovered. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with ground cinnamon to taste. Serves 6-8.

Arroz con Leche

There are days when you can think of nothing but dessert. Most days, to me, include some time devoted to fantasying on the next sweet treat my kitchen will welcome. I usually go by my to-do baking lists but sometimes an odd recipe catches my eye and I sometimes cannot hold back the impulse of forgetting my plans and jumping out of my comfort zone to see what this one particular set of ingredients and instructions would churn out.

I like Deb and I have been a huge fan [and subscriber] of her ridiculously funny blog, The Smitten Kitchen, for many years. Her easy snickerdoodle recipe makes the best version of these dainty little cookies I know of, with beautifully cracked edges and soft,almost cake-like centres. Dunked in cinnamon-sugar, they are sure, in her own words,”to make your home smell like the heavens descended and landed right in the middle of the kitchen”.

SNICKERDOODLES

Ingredients:

1 3/8 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon kitchen salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

7/8 cup white granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven.
  • Line the baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper and set them aside.

  • Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and kitchen salt in a large mixer bowl.
  • In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 3/4 cup sugar.

  • Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  • Add egg and beat. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. Chill the dough for an hour.

  • Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining sugar and ground cinnamon.
  • Using a small ice-cream scoop, form balls of the dough, and roll them in cinnamon sugar.

  • Place them about two inches apart on baking sheets. Bake till the cookies are set in center.
  • After about 10 minutes, they should begin to crack around edges but they will not brown.

  • Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool five minutes before transferring cookies to the rack.
  • They keep in an airtight container up to one week. Makes about twenty 3 to 4-inch cookies.

Snickerdoodles

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