Monday, May 19, 2008

"Guilt-Free" Cinnamon Rolls

These are quick and easy cinnamon rolls. While they are about 1/2 the calories of the more traditional recipes, I wouldn't actually call them completely "Guilt-Free"; they're still really sweet. I've made them twice with good results. I got the recipe from Cooks Illustrated's Cooking Light magazine (Spring 2008).

The recipe calls for a lot of equipment, fortunately I keep a pan of hot soapy water to hand whenever I bake.

Once my counter was clean (and the previously standing dishes washed), I changed the washing water, and dug out the ingredients.

The dough ingredients were mostly familiar, but I hoped the strangers amongst them would be easily warmed. The microwave made quick work of melting the butter and bringing the skim milk up to 110 degrees. They initially mixed well, but kept separating every time I put the large measuring cup down to tend to other things. The maple syrup did little to help these familiar ingredients keep mixed.

Using the dough hook of my Kitchen Aid mixer, I mixed the four, yeast, and salt together. Then, turning the machine to low, and giving the liquid an extra wisk to get it to at least pretend to be mixed, I drizzled the liquids into the dry ingredients as the Kitchen Aid slowly turned the mixture over and over again.

I had a few problems figuring out when the dough was ready. The recipe calls to allow the dough to be mixed until it's shiny and smooth. It was sticky, but I don't have the experience to know if that was OK. I guessed it was, and turned it out onto a floured silicone baking sheet.

The recipe calls for the dough to be shaped into a ball. But it came out of the Kitchen Aid mixer in a fairly ball-shaped lump. I worked it over for a minute or two (adding flour so it wouldn't all stick to my hands), then dumped it in a metal bowl that was well greased.

I then put the metal bowl in a warm oven, covered with a towl.

After washing my hands (and my equipment), I got to work on the filling. This meant melting more butter. I mixed the butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt together in the same large measuring cup I used previously.

When the dough came out of the oven, it hadn't risen much. I put it back on the lightly floured silicone sheet, and rolled the dough out to the size of the sheet. I sprinkled the sugar and cinnamon mixture over the dough, but ended up using the backside of a spoon to press it all in. I think I rolled the dough out too big because I had a devil of a time trying to get the sugar mixture as even as it looked in the picture.

Rolling was easy enough, but it took some practice to roll the dough tightly enough so that when I cut it, the dough roll didn't fall apart.

The cut dough then went into a 13x9 inch baking dish that was liberally lubed. I covered the dish with plastic rap, then the dish went into a warm oven for 40 minutes while I did up the dishes and tried to scrub the flour off the counter, and the floor.

After 40 minutes, the rolls had puffed up a little. I took them out and set the oven to heat to 350. When it was ready, I took off the plastic covering and set the rolls into the oven to cook. I then went back to finding more errant flour in the cubbards, on doors and in drawers in my kitchen.

When the timer went off, I returned to the kitchen and took out the rolls. They were soft and smelled strongly of cinnamon. I made the icing as the rolls cooled on a wire rack, then poured icing over the rolls. Note to self: next time line the counter with some parchment paper before icing the rolls.

They tasted great. The icing was gooy and the rolls soft and delicious.

Cinnamon Rolls

A lighter version of the more traditional rolls, these are quick and easy to make. They taste best if fresh from the oven, but can be stored overnight if they are frosted first.

Categories: Desert, Rolls, Yeast
Cuisine: American
Serving: 1 roll.
Yeild: 12 rolls.
Time to make: 45 minutes.
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes (includes rising time)
Author: Katie Henderson,
Source: Cooks Illustrated Cooking Light (Spring 2008)
Copyright: Cooks Illusrated
Sering ideas: Great for breakfast, or as a snack in a meeting.


For the dough:

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/3 cupsskim milk, warmed to 110 degrees
3 tablespoonsmaple syrup
2 tablespoonsunsalted butter, melted
3 1/2 cupsunbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra for the work surface
1 packagerapid rise, or instant yeast
1 teaspoontable salt
1/2 cupdark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cupsgranulated sugar
2 teaspoonsground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoontable salt
1 tablespoonunsalted butter, melted
1 cupconfectioners' sugar
4 tablespoonslight cream cheese
1 tablespoonskim milk
1/2 teaspoonvanilla extract


  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a large bowl and a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off.
  4. Combine the milk, syrup and melted butter together in a large measuring cup.
  5. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook.
  6. Turn the machine to low speed and slowly add the milk mixture.
  7. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mxi until shiny and smooth (4-6 minutes).
  8. If the dough is wet and not forming a ball, add up to 1/4 cup more flour as needed, and knead the dough for 2 more minutes.
  9. Turn the dough onto a heavily floured work surface, shape it into a ball and put it in the greased bowl.
  10. Cover, and let the dough rest in the warm oven for 10 minutes.
  11. While the dough is resting, mix the filling together.
  12. When the 10 minutes are up, put the dough on a lightly flowered work surface and roll it out into an 18x12-inch rectangle.
  13. Sprinkle the surface with the filling and press it evenly into the dough. Leave a 1/2-inch border along the edges.
  14. Starting at the long edge nearest you, roll up the dough into a cylinder.
  15. Brush he border with water and press to seal.
  16. Using a chef's knife, slice the dough into 12 rounds.
  17. Place them in the prepared pan, with the cut side up. Cover the pan with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray, and return them to the warm oven until the rolls have nearly doubled in size 30-40 minutes.
  18. Remove the pan from the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. the rolls will continue to rise on the counter as you wait for the oven to heat.
  19. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls until they are a deep brown, 20-25 minutes. Rotate the pan from back to front 1/2 way through baking.
  20. When the rolls are done, make the icing by whisking the ingredients together until smooth.
  21. Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the rolls out on to a cooling rack. Remember to put a piece of parchment paper, or a pan beneath the rack!
  22. Cool 10 minutes, then spread the icing over the rolls.


The color and size of the rolls are more important than the times given in this recipe. If the rolls have not doubled in size after the second rise, give them 10-15 minutes more time and turn the oven back on to 200 degrees. When the oven is at that temperature, turn it off immediately.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Light Lemon Bundt Cake

I recently purchased Cook's Illustrated Light Recipes (Spring 2008). The first recipe I tried was their "Best Light Lemon Bundt Cake" by Julia Collin Davidson.

I was pretty nervous and time was fleeting.
Gathering my ingredients together, I gave them (and my kitchen aid mixer) a pep talk. Thinking to save time, I filled a tub with hot soapy water and did the dishes before starting.

Reading down the list of ingredients, the recipe seemed straightforward. All the ingredients were old friends. I thought it should be fairly straightforward.

With the kitchen straightened, and the floor swept, I set to work. I lined up the ingredients with military precision. I measured out the dry ingredients (2 cups sugar, zest of 3 large lemons, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder) and let the kitchen aide mixer run them through the obstacle course. By the time they were done, they were a unit.

I set out another bowl and whisked the wet ingredients together (1 cup 2% milk, 3 large egg yokes, 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 tablespoon vanilla).

After cleaning out the kitchen aide mixer bowl, I whipped three egg whites up into a froth. A pinch of cream of tartar and 1/2 a cup of sugar made the eggs stand up straight and stay at attention.

I then mixed the wet mixture with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then mixed the wet mixture with the dry. Once they merged, I added the egg whites. It was then that I noticed the 3 1/2 cups of flour at 1/2 teaspoon baking soda were AWOL. I gingerly added the ingredients to the already mixed cake, and the egg whites began to sag. It was at that time that I noticed I should have only added 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the cake, not 2 cups. Ack!

Resigned to my mistakes, I poured the batter into a pan coated with a paste, made from 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon flour. The cake went into a hot (350 degree F) oven, and I set the timer for 45 minutes.

When it was done, and cooling, I made up the glaze (1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 5 teaspoons lemon juice).

Just before leaving, I poured the glaze over the cake and let it sit for 10 minutes, then I wrapped it in plastic and left.

The cake was really well received; a bit heavier than the recipe said it would be (but then with the egg whites deflated, the texture of the cake made sense). I'm definitely going to have to try this again - with the proper recipe.

Lemon Bundt Cake

A light and lemony cake that is designed to please. The unique form of a bundt pan makes this cake perfect for glazing with either a lemon sugar glaze, or even just plain old confectioner's sugar. The lemon flavor is quite strong and offsets the sweetness of the cake.

Makes 16 servings.
Time: 1 hour + cooling time (1-2 hours).

3 cups cake flour + 1 tablespoon (for dusting the pan)
2 cups sugar, divided (1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup lemon zest, finely grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, yokes and whites divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon (for the pan), melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Lemon glaze (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. The oven rack should be in the lower-middle position.
  2. Lightly coat the bundt pan with a paste made from 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Whisk the remaining flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, lemon zest, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a second bowl, wisk together the milk, yokes, oil, butter, and vanilla together.
  5. In a third bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer. When the eggs are broken and foamy, add a pinch of cream of tartar and increase the speed of your mixer.
  6. Continue to whisk the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar is added, continue to beat until the egg whites are shiny and foam stiff peaks.
  7. Slowly whisk the milk mixture and lemon juice into the flour mixture until the mix is smooth.
  8. Fold one third of beaten egg whites into the batter until combined.
  9. Fold remaining two thirds into the batter until combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top. Clean the edges of the pan.
  11. Bake until deep golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. A toothpick should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Halfway through baking, rotate the pan.
  12. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before inversing the pan.
  13. Leave the cake for 1-2 hours to cool it. When cool, either dust with confectioner's sugar, or drizzle with glaze.

Lemon Glaze

Makes 1 generous cup, enough to glaze 1 cake.
Time: 5 minutes.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
5 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt


  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Move the cake to a cooling rack over top of a piece of parchment paper.
  3. Drizzle cake with glaze and let it set for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Leftover chicken

I love roast chicken. It's become our new quick meal as roast chickens in this city are pretty cheap when purchased fresh from a deli. The birds are fairly small, but they are more than enough for a meal for two plus leftovers. This has, unfortunately, led me to throw away or freeze far too many chicken parts. To try and reduce waste, I've compiled a list of recipes for what to do when you have cooked chicken.
  1. Stir fry with chicken. Whenever it comes to Chinese recipes, I always turn to the Tigers and Strawberries blog. Her recipe is amazing. My modifications - leave out the cornstarch, use 1/2 the amount of dark soy sauce, and add in more vegetables (bell peppers, celery, water chestnuts, ...pretty much whatever I've got).
  2. Chicken fried rice. This low calorie version tastes pretty good to me. I add ginger (about 1/2 an inch, peeled & diced) and sometimes replace the peas and carrots with a bag of frozen oriental or Thai mix.
  3. Chicken pot pie. Sandi Richard's book, Cooking for the Rushed, has the simplest and most tasty chicken pot pie recipe. I typically make it without the biscuits on top, preferring to make standard buttermilk or baking soda biscuits to serve alongside it.
  4. Easy Chicken Enchiladas. This is a new recipe for me, but it's very similar to one I regularly make. What I really like about this one is that it came with a recipe for Fast Enchilada Sauce; so now I can make my own.
  5. Chicken Fajitas. I leave out the salt and the cornstarch and only occasionally add the lime juice. I replace the onion powder with a diced scallion, and the garlic powder with a minced clove (or two) of fresh garlic.
  6. Jambalaya. This tasty version appeared in Cooking Light (Jan 2000). It's far more simple than most versions I've found and the shrimp can easily be replaced with cooked shredded chicken.
  7. Kung Pao Chicken with Ho Fun Noodles. Another Chinese dish that works as well with cooked chicken as raw. I don't use the cornstarch, but otherwise don't modify the recipe much. I like it with all the optional ingredients; but I don't always have them on hand.
  8. Pizza Calzones. The recipe doubles easily and is great to make ahead and freeze. Making the bread does take some time, but if made in advance and kept frozen, it takes about 30 minutes to warm up and cook.
  9. Chicken a la king. This can optionally be made with peas and carrots.
  10. Spicy chicken with poblano peppers and cheese. A great spicy fall dinner. I usually serve it with just a salad. The recipe itself is very forgiving and I don't usually roast the skins off the peppers.
  11. Stock. As a last resort, I'll throw the skin, bones and carcass into a crock pot with an onion (roughly cut and not peeled), a carrot (washed but not peeled) and a stalk of celery. Fill with water to cover and set it on low for a day.

So what do you do with your leftover chicken?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Meal plan, April 5th, 2007

otissery chicken, bagged salad Crockpot hamburger soup for 3 Marinated butcher's blcok steak, baked potato/sweet potato & steamed vegetables Sauté chicken with lemon sauce, mixed green salad Mexican pie & kale for 6 Spagetti & meatballs BBQ salmon (or trout) and steamed vegetables