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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns

The ooey gooey topping of a sticky bun along with the crunch of the pecans is a combination of flavors and textures that is difficult to beat. I decided to try my hand at making my own version this holiday season. As baking goes when you have family around, distractions happen which lead to mistakes, which lead to lessons learned.

This go-round, my misstep was not separating out the butter I needed for the different steps of the buns. Instead, I had all of the butter sitting out to reach room temperature and didn’t section the amounts off as I typically do. Can you see where this is going? When everything was ready, I excitedly started making the dough. When it came time to knead, it was a silky texture but seemed a bit wetter than expected. I was still excited thinking about the soft flaky texture of the rolls. The moment I put the dough into the oven for its first rise, it hit me. I had added all of the butter – the butter for the filling and for the topping as well as that for the dough. Nothing left to do at that point other than see what happens, right?

Since the dough was so buttery, some separation occurred during the rise but folded back in fine during the kneading. Adding more butter for the filling onto the already over-buttered dough had my laughing pretty hard. I love butter, especially on white breads, but this seemed excessive. After rolling and cutting the rolls, I noticed they didn’t fill out the pan as nicely as I’ve seen in photos. Maybe it will change when they go in for their second rise… They kind of did, but there was still room for the topping to rise up instead of it being trapped beneath the dough. That meant that while baking the rolls, much of the topping boiled over the sides and onto the oven. This resulted in quite the mix of amazing smells and burnt smells in the kitchen. In hindsight, I should have tried to bake the rolls longer since they were so moist. I also waited too long to turn the rolls out as the topping mostly stuck to the pan and not the rolls. Nothing some scooping out and plopping on top couldn’t fix.

Stuck toppings for pecan sticky rolls
Most of the maple pecan sticky roll topping stayed in the pan. Time to scoop!

All said and done, the rolls turned out ok, a bit dense but ok. Now my first attempt at them is done and I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do for next time. These rolls are actually super easy to make (when you pay attention) and I’m really excited to add these to my repertoire.

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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns via Sally’s Baking Addiction

Dough
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more to flour work surface

Heat milk to about 95ºF. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attached. Whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.

On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Then add the eggs one at a time. The butter won’t really mix into the mixtures, so don’t be alarmed.

On low, gradually add the flour. Once it’s all added, beat the mixture on medium high until dough is soft and supple, about 6 mins.

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead with hands for 1 min. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely and let sit in a warm place* for 1-2 hrs, or until doubled in size. (*can heat oven to 200ºF, turn oven off, then place bowl into warm oven)

Pecans
Pecans to top some maple pecan sticky rolls

Topping
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ baking dish. Spread pecans in an even layer in the pan. Set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted, then bring to a boil for 3 mins. Remove from heat and pour on top of the pecans. Set aside.

(back to dough) Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly flour surface and roll it out into a 12″x18″ rectangle. Make sure dough is smooth and even.

Filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Spread softened butter all over the dough (since the dough is still generating heat, the butter will further soften once placed on the dough, so bits that are harder to spread will spread more easily if they’re let to sit for a minute). Top evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18″-long log. Cut the log into 12 even rolls. Arrange them in baking pan. Cover tightly with foil and let rise in a warm environment (could be the same oven) for 30-40 mins.

(remove rising dough from oven but leave it covered) Preheat oven to 375°F. Place uncovered rolls in oven and bake for 25 mins or until golden brown. If some parts are browning more quickly than others, cover the rolls loosely with foil to slow down the browning.

MaplePecanRolls
Very buttery maple pecan rolls
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Matcha cake roll with honey Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC)

Matcha, also known as green tea, is a hit or miss flavor for many. Some simply do not enjoy it at all. Some may find it too grassy, a common complaint of strong matcha. Others find it quite pleasant. I enjoy weaker matcha flavor, typically when blended with dairy.

Back in late 2017, I began venturing away from American buttercream frosting and trying both Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams. I came across a recipe for a honey-sweetened SMBC and had some matcha waiting to be baked with. I had to try a matcha roll cake.

Not only did both recipes turn out well, they worked together perfectly. The buttery flavor and smooth texture of the SMBC was a match with the rich matcha. Not only that, but I managed a pretty nice swirl with the cake. This is still one of my personal favorite bakes.

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Matcha Swiss Roll (from the Little Epicurean)

1 cup (112 g) cake flour
2 Tbsp (14 g) matcha powder
1 tsp baking powder
5 large eggs separated
3/4 cup (156g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Like jelly roll pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together cake flour, matcha powder, and baking powder and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and milk until pale in color.

In another clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium-stiff peaks.

Add dry flour mixture to yolk mixture. Fold to combine. Add whipped egg whites in three additions. Gently fold to incorporate egg whites.

Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Use offset spatula to spread batter into an even layer. Bake for 8-10 mins until cake springs back to touch. Remove from oven and run a mini offset spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.

Invert the cake onto a clean kitchen towel. Slowly and gently remove the parchment from the cake. Use the towel to roll the cake into a log. Let the cake rest on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Once the cake is cooled, unroll the cake. Add generous amounts of filling. Use an offset spatula to spread filling to an even layer.

Use your hands and the towel to gently roll the cake back into a log. Place the seam at the bottom of the cake to prevent it from unraveling. Cover log with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins to allow the filling to set up. Slice a bit off of each end for a smooth presentation.

 

Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Wife Mama Foodie)

Makes 4 cups of SMBC

4 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cups honey or maple syrup (or half of each)
1 3/4 cups butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla extract (I only needed 1 tsp for flavor)
Notes: Make sure your bowls are very clean. Do not get yolks in the egg whites.

Combine sweeteners (honey/syrup) and egg whites together in a heat-safe bowl (top part of a double-boiler). Place it over a pot of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat for 4-5 mins or until the thermometer reads 150-160°F, stirring often. If your mixture ends up lumpy, strain it before beating.

Use whisk attachment on a stand mixer and begin beating the egg mixture on high speed until it is thoroughly cooled, fluffy, and holds its shape well (beat to stiff peaks, can take 8-15 mins, mine took less time).

Switch to the paddles attachment and begin adding butter little by little (I sliced my butter and added 1 Tbsp at a time). The mixture can become curdled (it did), but it will come back together after you beat it for several minutes (it did). Turn the mixer to high speed and beat for several minutes to incorporate lots of air and make the buttercream fluffy. When it is nice and fluffy, mix in the vanilla. If your buttercream is warm, stick it in the fridge for 30-60 mins and then beat again for a few minutes. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

*see original posted recipe for instructions on using arrowroot or cornstarch to lighten the SMBC

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Apple Strudel

Earlier this year, a neighbor expressed frustration at the difficulty she was having finding a good apple strudel in town. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I offered to bake her one and she jumped at the chance. SmittenKitchen’s recipe is one that I’ve had bookmarked for a while and I was excited that I was getting the chance to try it out. If you decide to give this recipe a try, be sure to read her comments and tips before you get started. I found them very helpful in understanding what I was getting into. This was my first run at apple strudel or anything like it.

This recipe makes a very large strudel! I was easily able to stretch my dough out and roll up a strudel that was easily 20″ long and robust! It was so much strudel that I decided to offer it up in quarters. I offered my neighbor two quarters but she opted for just one and one quarter was plenty for 1-2 people. In the future, I will half or quarter the recipe unless I’m providing for a larger affair.

Make this recipe will have your house smelling amazing! The apple filling is mouth-watering. The aroma of the panko right before it’s ready is so buttery. The hardest part of making this dessert is waiting for it to bake and cool before you can dig in!
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Apple Strudel 

Raisins:
1/2 cup (180 g) raisins
2 Tbsp (30 mL) dark rum (I omitted this and just did straight raisins)

Dough:
1 cup + 3 Tbsp (150 g) all purpose flour (and more for dusting)
3 Tbsp (45 mL) neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
1/3 cup water

Filling:
2 lbs (905 g) firm apples (around 5-6 apples) – this round I used Fuji apples and they worked well. Keep in mind that you may need nearly all of a 3 lb bag of apples since the sell weight includes the cores and skins which are removed
Juice of one lemon (or 2 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 Tbsp (115 g) unsalted butter, divided (I ended up using another 4 Tbsp while buttering the baking strudel)
3/4 cup (40 g) plain, unseasoned panko
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting

Make the dough:
Place flour in a small or medium bowl. Add oil and water and mix with a spoon or your index finger until a rough dough forms (this happens quickly). Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 10 minutes. After 10 mins, the dough should be soft and silky to the touch. (This dough was really easy to work with.) Form it into a ball and place it on the counter and upend the mixing bowl over it. Set aside for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples (I did this as a first step as it takes me a long time, roughly an hour, to prepare so many apples):
Peel, halve, core, and slice thin in one direction. Then halve and slice crosswise to create thin squarish rectangles of apples. Place them in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the raisins (and any rum left in the bowl).

Prepare the panko crumbs:
In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt 3 Tbsp butter and add the panko and sugar. Stir to coat and cook, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly. Stir until crumbs are an even golden brown and very fragrant. Don’t let them burn. Scrape into a small dish and set aside.

Apple strudel filling
Panko and apple raisin filling for apple strudel

Heat oven to 400°F and line one large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the remaining 5-9 Tbsp of butter in a small dish.

Place a clean pillow case, towel, or bed sheet (I went sheet) on a table or counter space. The sheet should be at least 24″x32″. The long side should be horizontal and closest to you. Lightly flour the sheet. Place the dough in the middle and sprinkle it very lightly with flour. Roll the dough in both directions until it’s 10″x13″ or as far as the rolling pin will take it. Make sure the dough is not sticking to the cloth. If it is, reflour the surface. Ball your hands into loose fists, put them under the rolled-out dough, and gently start stretching the dough using the backs of your hands. Alternate this with pulling the dough gently with your fingers to continue stretching the edges thin, too. If holes form, pinch the dough back together. Continue stretching until the dough is about 16″x24″.

Assemble:
Brush the dough evenly with about half of the melted butter. On the right side of the rectangle, a few inches from the end, spread the panko crumbs (crumble them first if they’ve been sitting for a bit) top to bottom in a thick line, leaving a little more than an inch margin at the top and bottom of the strip.

Wrapped strudel
Rolled apple strudel ready for the oven

Scoop the apples with a slotted spoon, leaving any accumulated juice in the bowl. Pile the apple mixture on top of the panko. Gently pull the right edge of the dough up and over the filling as far as it will go without tearing. Working carefully, use the sheet to roll the strudel up all the way. This can be done by pulling and lifting part of the sheet closest to the roll slowly so that the whole strudel rolls itself bit by bit. Place the parchment paper from your baking sheet at the edge of the roll and roll the strudel onto it. Ideally, the strudel will be panko-side down, but if it’s not, roll it again, carefully. Use the parchment paper as a sling to get it and the strudel onto the baking sheet.

Brush the strudel generously all over with some of the remaining butter. Bake for 15 mins, then brush again and return it to the oven, having rotated the pan. Repeat this once more, baking for a total of 45 mins. If your strudel leaks, don’t stress. It’s ok. Mine went the first 15 mins without leaking but during the second 15 mins, it sprung a leak. It still turned out fine.

Leaky strudel
Apple strudel sprung a leak

The strudel should be crisp to the touch and a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 mins on a cooling rack. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before slicing and serving.

Uncut apple strudel
Nearly 2 feet of uncut apple strudel

Note: handle the strudel as little as possible as it will begin to break and crumble if you try to move it or roll it too much after it comes out of  the oven.

Sliced apple strudel
Sliced apple strudel