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Posts tagged ‘baking’

little bird love letter

20 November 2011

dj

after a year, i still can’t believe my mom is gone. it just feels like she’s back in New England, and we’ll be seeing each other again soon.

i spent this weekend doing those things we enjoyed together. with Tootie in tow, we began our journey at a local nursery, progressed to mom’s favorite shopping mall and stores, grabbed a bite of Asian fusion. we bought the ingredients to make her favorite meals: my top-secret chile recipe, lamb rib chops with roasted herb fingerlings and bacon-laden brussel sprouts, perfect northwest mac and cheese. i cooked all of it, and  we raised our glasses to toast her.

the truth is, in the year since mom’s passing, there have been more downs than ups (reminds me of the Upson Downs schtick in Auntie Mame, which we watched countless times). sometimes i call her to let her  know i’m on the way home. sometimes i make way too much food. sometimes i just stand in her room, breathing in the essence that lingers in the air. always, i set a place for her at the table.

i’ve found solace and joy in shaping pie dough and in tweaking new baked-goods’ recipes. i remember how mom’s face would light up with an adorable expression when she tasted something she thought was mmmmm (translation: yummy). the very last thing i baked for mom elicited that kind of enthusiasm: a cinnamon roll based on a brioche recipe from Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Cafe.

mom and i had seen Boston-based Chef Chang on an episode of Food Network‘s Throwdown (her sticky buns whooped Bobby Flay’s, btw). mom was thrilled that Chang’s bakery was in Bean Town. i was thrilled with the anticipation of  exploring an amazing sticky bun recipe. i immediately placed an order for Chang’s soon-to-be printed cookbook. (if you’re looking for a well-written, conversational baking book, with delicious fare, flour is definitely it. would highly recommend as a must-have.)

as part of my homage to mom (who at 80-plus still remembered her high school French), you’ll find the recipe for little bird cinnamon rolls here.

today, might head down to Pike Place Market, grab some chai at Starbuck’s original storefront, and pick up a rhubarb or white chocolate and cherry piroshky. wherever i go, i’ll be missing you, little bird.

little bird cinnamon rolls
makes 8 healthy-size rolls 

INGREDIENTS 

for the dough (based on Joanne Chang’s basic brioche)
2 1/4 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
5 eggs
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons euro butter, at room temperature, cut into 12 pieces

for the filling
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup dried currants (optional)

for the frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey (modify this based on your desired sweetness level)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

DIRECTIONS

  1. butter a large bowl; set aside.
  2. in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water and eggs.
  3. using the dough hook, beat the ingredients on low speed, until they come together, around 5 minutes. (scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.)
  4. after the dough has come together, continue to beat for another 4 minutes; the dough will be dry/stiff.
  5. on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time; make sure the butter has been incorporated  into the dough, before you add another piece.
  6. once all the butter has been added, beat on low for 10 minutes, until all the butter has become one with the dough.
  7. after the butter is thoroughly incorporated, beat on medium speed for another 15 minutes, until the dough is soft and shiny. this takes a while, so be patient and vigilant; it will happen.
  8. with the dough in its now-smooth and shiny state, beat on medium-high for 1 minute, until the dough, when tested, stretches and can give a little.
  9. gather up the dough and place in the large bowl.
  10. cover with plastic wrap (so it’s touching the surface of the dough).
  11. place in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to proof. (i do the latter, then get up in the morning and move to the next step, so we have fresh rolls for breakfast.)
  12. butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  13. in a medium bowl, mix the dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, salt and 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, until it becomes a sort of paste; set aside.
  14. on a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle, 1/4-inch thick.
  15. with a brush (i use silicon), spread the 1/2 tablespoon butter over the surface of the dough.
  16. evenly spread the filling paste over the entire surface of the dough, pressing down gently with your hand.
  17. sprinkle on the currants, if using, then press in gently.
  18. beginning with the short side of the dough, roll tightly to create a spiral with the filling.
  19. pinch very gently to seal the log.
  20. even the ends of the dough log, by trimming with a bench scraper.
  21. cut log into 8 even pieces, around 1 1/2 inches wide.
  22. evenly space the rolls in the baking dish, and cover with plastic wrap.
  23. let the dough rise in a warm place for around 2 hours or until they’re touching and puffy.
  24. preheat oven to 350F.
  25. bake the rolls on the middle rack until golden brown (this takes only 22 minutes in my oven), around 30 minutes.
  26. while the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.
  27. with a hand mixer fitted with a beater attachment, mix the cream cheese until it’s fluffy.
  28. add the honey and vanilla paste, and continue to beat until smooth and completely incorporated; set aside.
  29. let the rolls cool in the baking dish for 20 minutes (so the frosting doesn’t completely melt, when you spread it on).
  30. spread the frosting over the tops of the rolls.

serve with a good cup of coffee (or tea, of course). crank up the Ink Spots Java Jive, and kick back. coming at you, ma, Air Mail Special. love you always.

little bird baking company takes flight

29 July 2011

dj

some things never change. like my commitment to following my own true north. consistently choosing that road not taken has likely taken me considerably longer than most would care to tread. but i’ve strived to savor the journey. guided by that true north—inspired by and celebrating my mom—i plan to spend more time blazing trails in my kitchen, bringing little bird baking company to life.

my mom was witty. hip. smart. generous. warm. funny. with a wicked sweet tooth and an equally wicked New England stubborn streak. with an open heart, she embraced and enchanted nearly everyone she met. from the beginning until the very end, my mom was my champion and confidante. it is in her honor—and with gratitude and love—that i dedicate little bird baking company.

for a while, i’ll be practicing tried-and-true recipes and perfecting new ones. with friends and family as judges, i know i’ll receive honest feedback to help refine and uplift my results. as always, i’ll share my experiences with you through recipes and stories. and i’ll keep you informed as this new baking adventure unfolds.

breathing life into little bird wouldn’t have been possible without the talent and generous spirit of my friend Todd Connor of yellow plum design. Todd gently kept me from sliding down many a slippery slope in these past 10 months; i’m blessed by his presence.

if you spot a cairn of chewy chai-spice sugar cookies along some byway, know that i’ve left it for you. i look forward to hearing about your adventures.

dj davisson