Some days require a pick me up and there’s no shame in allowing yourself a simple pleasure to help you navigate through the rest of your afternoon or evening with a smile on your face. Especially if that smile was brought on by the warm yeasty scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns.
I made these a few weeks back on a particularly rough day. I spotted Oh, Lady Cakes' Small Batch Cinnamon Buns and felt that something like that would be the perfect reward for a day hard won. I switched them up a bit by using some organic almond butter I had laying around and tossing in some bittersweet chocolate. I'm a total lunatic for dark chocolate and almonds in any way/shape/form so this was a natural pairing for me and one I hadn't tried in a cinnamon bun before. They are decadent and barely sweet - just the way I like things. If you prefer sweeter sweets, add a bit more sugar or switch to sweeter chocolate.
Cinnamon-Almond Butter Buns with Bittersweet Chocolate
adapted from Oh Lady Cakes
makes 10-12 servings
2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (between 105-108˚F)
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
4 cups unbleached flour
1/4 - 1/3 cup all-natural almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp room temperature butter
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp melted butter, for topping
2 tbsp coarse sugar (like turbinado)
For the dough:
Mix the yeast and warm water together in small bowl, stir gently once or twice, and let sit until frothy, 5-10 minutes.
In another small bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar, stirring until sugar is melted. Add the milk and mix to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and the milk/butter mixture. Using a fork, pull the flour, bit by bit, into the well while stirring. Once the dough comes together in a ball, start kneading it in the bowl to grab up all the rest of the flour. Dump onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5-6 minutes until smooth. Place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled, 45mins -1 hour.
Line countertop with parchment paper and dust with flour. Roll dough out into a 1/2” thick rectangle.
For the filling:
Combine everything but the chocolate and stir to combine. Taste and add more cinnamon if you feel it’s necessary. It should taste sweet and equally of almonds and cinnamon.
Spread mixture over the rolled out dough. Sprinkle chocolate over the filling. Starting at the short end, tightly roll the dough up. Cut into 10-12 equal rounds, place in a large, buttered/oiled baking dish (they should be touching each other). Let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375.
Brush buns with melted butter and sprinkle the coarse sugar (optional). Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in pan.
It’s rare that we talk about cookies around here. If we’re being honest, it’s rare that we even eat cookies around here.
Not because we don’t like them. Oh helllllll no! We like them a little too much. A plate piled high with 2 dozen cookies magically turns into crumbs in a matter of hours around here. Especially when there’s cold milk in the fridge. We can’t help ourselves! I’d feel bad if I wasn’t certain this was a universal issue. Who among us can practice self control while the scent of freshly baked cookies is wafting through the air?! The answer is; nobody. Not one single soul. And if you’re about to tell me “Kelly, I can totally control myself around cookies”, then I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. I’m sorry. It’s just too painful.
I’ve got a backlog of a few healthy post-Thanksgiving dishes, ones that I’m entirely proud of, I really wanted to share with you all, but after yesterday, after THE cookie… they ended up on the back burner so we could talk about THE cookie today. Mondays are hard and deserve some gooey, melting chocolate wrapped in a warm brown-butter dough and speckled with crunchy toasted pepitas. I want to make your Monday better with cookies. Can’t you just let me do that? And promise me you’ll whip up a batch like…TONIGHT. Even this afternoon? As soon as humanly possible? Right this second?! I know I can count on you.
Brown Butter, Toasted Pepita & Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Buns in my Oven
makes approx. 2 1/2 dozen
If pepitas aren’t your thing, you could absolutely swap out for your favourite toasted nut. However, they really are a great addition to the cookie so try them if you’re feeling like something a bit different.
If you don’t enjoy a salty kick in your cookies, halve the amount of salt added.
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
300g (approx 1 1/2 cups) bittersweet chocolate chunks/chips (Camino makes the best if you can find some)
3/4 cup pepitas, lightly toasted in dry skillet
In a heavy skillet (not a non-stick pan, they make it too difficult to see the colour changed in the butter), melt the butter oven medium heat. Let it cook, swirling the pan every minute or two, until golden brown and nutty smelling, 10 minutes. Don’t let the bits in the bottom burn -that means you’ve cooked too long. Remove from heat and pour into a shallow dish. Refrigerate until re-hardened (if it’s not completely hard, that’s ok).
Preheat oven to 350.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or using your hand-mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs in, one at a time and scraping the bowl in between. Add vanilla.
Mix the baking soda, salt and flour together and add it slowly to the batter, mixing only until combined with each addition. Try not to overmix. Add the chocolate and pepitas and stir again just until they’re incorporated. If it’s a bit too dry, add 1 tbsp milk or water just to moisten.
Drop 1 1/2 tbsp balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until edges are just lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack, pour cold glass of milk, dunk cookies in milk and slip into a euphoric cookie-coma.
I’ve started doing bi-monthly sweet-treat posts on the Milk Shop Blog to bring you all a little something to up your cavity count (surprisingly, I am a cavity virgin - so I think you’ll be ok, too!)
This month, I’ve shared a recipe for Pistachio-Rosewater Cupcakes that bring the flavours of the Middle East and nestle them into a North American tradition. They are simple, delicately flavoured, and oh-so-very-pretty to look at.
Head on over and see the recipe here!
As I was flying 40,000ft in the air over the British Columbia Rocky Mountains, something struck me (aside from the usual “I’m probably about to die. I better eat another crunchy Cheeto just in case!”)…
I really need to eat some vegetables.
Yes, these are the thoughts that scatter throughout my mind when I’m not thinking about how the airplane is inevitably going to kill me (I get terribly psychotic on airplanes - the only cure is booze and candy… but isn’t that the cure for anything anytime?)
The past week has been a never-ending feast of all things cream-sauced, butter-filled, sugar-crusted and hollandaised… my gut is feeling a little worse-for-wear to say the least. The very least.
I returned home Saturday evening, tired, jet lagged and hungry, to a lively bundle of freshly cut, ruby red and green Rhubarb from my great friend Ashley’s Mom, Wendy. Keeping in mind my promise to eat more veggies and fruit this week, I got busy making some White Peach & Rhubarb Galettes.
…..what?! Pie isn’t considered healthy? But it’s got fruit in it! Well jeez, guys. I can’t be held responsible for that!
In all seriousness, these are not exactly healthy. But what they lack in nutrition, they make up for in utterly delightful flavour. The combination of the sweet, floral white peaches, tart rhubarb and gentle rose-water flavour is perhaps one of my new favourites. Just eat them in moderation (and don’t keep sneaking past your boyfriend to pick pieces of the dough off in the fridge and chew them as fast as you can so he doesn’t know… but he always knows).
Individual White Peach & Rhubarb Galettes with Rosewater Pastry
Pate brisee adapted from Martha Stewart
Note: White peaches, which have a lighter flesh colour and are slightly more floral in flavour than typical yellow peaches, are recommended but not mandatory in this recipe.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
1 tbsp rosewater
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of a food processor (which you can chill for 30 minutes prior to dough making for optimal results), add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse for 5 seconds to blend.
Add the butter, rosewater and 2 tbsp of the ice water and pulse. Add more ice water, 1tbsp at a time while pulsing until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. When you pinch it, it should easily come together.
Pour out and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight (can be frozen and stored for 1 month).
1lb (about 4 cups) trimmed rhubarb, sliced into 1” chunks
4 very ripe white peaches, pit removed, sliced thin
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1/4 cup cornstarch
coarse sugar for finishing
Toss all ingredient in a bowl.
Once dough has been chilled, divide into 8 equal sized portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece to a 7-inch round, 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the rounds to 2 baking sheets. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of the filling into the center of the dough. Fold edges over the filling leaving an opening in the center.
Once all the rounds are filled and folded, brush the dough with water and sprinkle with coarse (turbinado or sanding) sugar. Place the trays in the fridge while you pre-heat the oven t0 400 degrees.
Bake for 25 minutes until crust is golden. Turn heat down to 375 and bake until fruit filling is bubbling and set.
Remove and let cool on a wire rack with parchment paper underneath (to catch all the saucy drips).
Serve on their own, with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.
Isn’t it odd? In a beautiful, bewildering, can’t-seem-to-wrap-your-head-around-it, how did I get here sort of way. The idea that one single day can bring about so many exciting opportunities, so many changes, exchanges, smiles, frustrations and successes never ceases to amaze me. Life is absurdly fascinating.
I woke this morning feeling the same as always; tired, unmotivated to emerge from my comfy cocoon for the sake of work and wanting to stay in bed and snuggle with Ryder a little longer. I walked the same streets I do every day. McLeod to Gladstone. To Bank. To Slater. I sat at my desk, like thousands of days before. I ate my lunch, leftover ginger scallion meatballs with chicken stock, heated in the office microwaves, as always. I walked to the store to buy a birthday card for a friend. I said hello to some usual suspects, the perpetually cheerful homeless gent who sets up camp on the corner of Albert and O’Connor Street, the disinterested security officers who sit, sharing in discourse about the hockey game and the Subway around the corner, my co-workers poking fun at each other. I met Mr GL on Gloucester St for a ride home. I walked in the door to be greeted by an excited Ryder, her low grumbles stifled by her favourite florescent orange ball crammed far too deep into her gullet. My work bag fell from my shoulder onto the same cherry red chair it always does.
And then my phone rang. A number I wasn’t familiar with. I sat and listened, for what felt like an hour, and received some potentially life changing news. Good news, I should say. But until next week, I must stay tight lipped about this news.
And so I’ve come here to share the things I am allowed to share. Brownies! Sweet and salty brownies, to be more precise.
As you know, I’m not one for sweets. But somehow, once a pinch of salt has been added to the mix, I turn into a mad woman, secretly hogging all the sweets to myself, scavenging for any crumbs that, god forbid, may have fallen from my mouth to the table below. And these Pretzel & Peanut Crusted Cocoa Brownies are no laughing matter. They are intensely cocoa-y, rich and dense. The crunchy, nutty, salty topping only accentuating the incredible chocolatey flavour. I could have easily devoured all 12 of them in one fell swoop…. but I took a deep breath, composed myself and resisted their sexy, salty advances. I wish you all the luck in the world doing the same thing. Truly. It is a feat of strength.
Pretzel & Peanut Crusted Cocoa Brownies
Brownies adapted from Smitten Kitchen, topping is my own
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (flaky sea salt works wonderfully here)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pretzels
1/2 cup salt roasted peanuts
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan (I used an11 x 7 x 2 inch Rectangular Pan, which worked, but the brownies are a touch thin) with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a large heat-proof bowl, add the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Place the bowl over a barely simmering pot of water on the stove (the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the boiling water so try to use a smaller pot + bigger bowl combo). Let the butter melt and stir the cocoa and sugar into it slowly. Once everything is melted, remove from the heat and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon. It’ll still be quite gritty at this point. Let it cool until just warm (not hot - don’t want to cook the eggs!)
While you’re waiting for the cocoa mixture to cool, toss the pretzels and peanuts into a plastic bag and smash with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Leave some larger pieces of pretzel as they give a nice texture to the finished product. Pour into a medium sized bowl and add the peanut butter. Stir slowly until everything has a light coating of peanut butter.
Back to the brownies; Add the vanilla and salt and one egg. Mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the second egg and mix well.
Add the flour to the bowl and stir until no flour-pockets can be seen. Beat with a wooden spoon/spatula for another minute to get everything really smooth and uniform.
Pour batter into prepared pan and top with salty mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean.
Let cool completely before cutting into 2” squares.
We know each other, you and I, don’t we? You could probably even call us ‘friends’ by now, right? I share my deepest darkest secrets with you and in return, you listen, hungrily & wide-eyed, while I do. I think we’ve built up a fair amount of trust in our time together, haven’t we? I thought you might feel the same. And I’m so glad.
You may recall I’ve told you, not once, twice or even thrice… but many times, that I am just not a sweets-person. Salty, crunchy, savoury, cheesy…. those are my homies. And to them, I will always be true. Through thick and thin[-cut bacon].
On occasion, rare occasion, I try something that restores my faith in the land of all things sugar. And in the case of these Biscotti, the ones I’m eating right this second [… and ate this morning for breakfast, and last night for a snack, and one fresh out of the oven] have roused my one lowly sweet-tooth from a useless mundane existence. If I do have a sweet-treat, it’s one or two of something I’ve made to share that I just can’t serve without taste-testing. Mr. GL usually reaps the benefit of those batches. But this time, with these sparkly, cinnamon-sugar dusted Italian cookies, I find myself shooting gluttonous, devouring glances his way every time he reaches for that bag. I consider them mine. ALL mine. And God help anyone who stands between me and them.
When I tell you they are perfect, warm spiced and crumbly, speckled throughout with toasted pecans and crisp around the edges with a layer of baked-on cinnamon sugar… I need you to trust me. They are simply magnificent. Not too sweet, making them easy to, unconvincingly, pass off as a breakfast food, but sweet enough to satisfy that evening craving for just a little treat. Dunked into coffee, or as I’ve become accustomed, in my earl grey, they barrel past my old standby and have quickly become my most favourite sweet-treat. It should also be said that they taste just like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which I became very closely acquainted with as a child. Trust me, friends. Just trust me. You will want these on Christmas morning while you sip your coffee and baileys.
Cinnamon-Sugar & Toasted-Pecan Biscotti
adapted from Joy the Baker
2 cups All Purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/3 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325. And cover two baking sheets in parchment paper. Arrange oven racks to top and bottom third of the oven.
In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.
In you stand mixer or a bowl with hand-mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula. Add 1 whole egg and the extra egg yolk and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl again. Add the vanilla and 1/2 the dry mix. Stir briefly and add the rest of the dry ingredients and the pecans. Scrape the bowl and give it one more quick mix.
Pour half the dough onto each baking sheet and form into logs (2-2 1/2” wide) pressing down a touch.
Combine the cinnamon and sugar for the topping.
Brush the logs with remaining egg whites and sprinkle,GENEROUSLY with cinnamon-sugar. Put one sheet in the upper-third of the oven and one in the lower. Bake for 20 minutes and then switch the pans. Bake for another 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool until you’re able to handle the logs. Once cool use a serrated knife to carefully slice 1/2” thick slices from the log. Place Biscotti cut side down on baking sheet and sprinkle again, very generously, with cinnamon-sugar. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. Cool and then cram as many into your greedy little gob as you possible can.
One final word to the wise; you’ll hide these from everyone in your house if you know what’s good for you.