One of the things I must've baked at least 4 or 5 times already in the past 3 months is Cinnamon Raisin Rolls. Why this recipe in particular? Because my mum loves the cinnamon raisin rolls from Cinnabon. :D I'm just trying to perfect the recipe so that she doesn't have to go very far to get them when she gets a craving for them. Plus, my mum is probably still my biggest baked-goods fan. Though she eats at a snail's pace, she actually does manage to eat her way through quite a large portion of whatever I bake over a week or so. And that's encouraging enough for me to make more! Seriously, Mums are the Bob-the-Builders of self-esteem. (Though sometimes I wonder if it's not the best thing for me that she always laughs at my jokes, even the terribly lame ones. ;p)
And you know what? Cinnamon rolls are surprisingly easy to make! It's just a matter of rolling everything up and trying to make sure the dough doesn't stick to the surface below while doing so. I still struggle a bit with that portion but nothing a good handful of flour can't solve.
So, I used to make the cinnamon rolls like these, individually spaced out on the baking tray. Until I realized that the outsides were pretty HARD. They were crispy and warm once out of the oven but after being left in a box for a day or two, they would end up pretty hard (thankfully not popping-your-teeth-out type hard but still), which is totally different from the typical cinnamon rolls you get from say, Cinnabon, which are a lot softer on the exterior.
After reading around it online, I realized that the way to make the outsides of the cinnamon rolls soft and moist, is to really SQUISH them in together in the baking pan. Which is why I kept seeing pictures of freshly baked cinnamon rolls all squashed together forming an odd tortoise-shell type design from the top. I'd always thought that was a weird way of baking it but turns out it's actually that way for a reason. DUH.
Tadah! This is how they turned out after baking them squished cheek by jowl. The sides definitely turned out a lot more soft and moist which was what I'd been hoping for BUT -- I had trouble cutting the individual rolls out without leaving behind a shaggy doughy trail of evidence on the sides of each roll. They ended up looking rather...GRIZZLY at the sides. Tough luck eh? When you think you've solved one problem and moved on, you end up with another. But that's life. At least the problems in baking seem finite. A friend recommended that I try placing them in rows in a rectangular baking tin rather than a circular one so that they turn out a more uniform in shape and would be easier to cut out. That was definitely the case! Didn't take a photo of that so maybe when I next try it. Have been busy trying out other recipes. That said, how do the stores get them so beautiful at the sides and soft at the same time? I almost feel like doing a short stint at one of those stores like Cinnabon just to find out what their secret is.
Incase you're wondering, I used this recipe from the website Food Network. Not too sure how I decided upon that, but I tend to google recipes and look at the number of stars garnered by reviewers and also what the reviewers say. Can't go too far off with a recipe that's gotten 5 stars from 400 odd reviewers. :D
(Another way of baking them is to put the rolls in cupcake paper liners to bake them individually, the way they do it at Sadie Rose, a local baking enterprise started by Sarah of Sarah's Loft. Seriously, subscribe to their facebook page and be wowed every other week by incredibly scrumptious looking cakes/breads/tarts/cinna-rolls!! I really wanna take a baking class from them one day but most of their classes are in the mornings. >< ONE DAY SOON.)
Believe it or not, on the same morning that I baked the cinnamon rolls, I steamrolled on and baked chocolate fondant brownies too. It was a particularly productive Saturday morning. God, I miss those days during my electives when I didn't really have to study during the weekends and would wake up, bake, eat lunch, nap. ZZZ.
For the chocolate fondant brownies, I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
My first attempts at using a Bain Marie! Basically it's a 'water-bath' that prevents the melted chocolate from burning by making use of the steam from the boiling water to heat the chocolate, rather direct heat from the flames. It's easy enough to create - just fill up a pot with about half to 3/4 with water, and place another bowl with the chocolate etc on top of it. Then stir the ingredients around slowly as they melt into place.
These chocolate fondant brownies weren't too bad. They came out a little too thin for my liking though! I'd expected them to rise a little bit more but they hardly rose and ended up as rather thin pieces of brownies. The taste is definitely rich and densely chocolate-ly which makes it more decadent than your usual soft, taller, chocolate brownies eaten with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. But you know what? Turns out I prefer the latter. :P My friend, however, who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, told me that she really liked the brownies because they weren't particularly sweet. So if you have a thing for dense pieces of chocolate brownies that are a little more on the rich, dark chocolate side, you might wanna give this a try!
Otherwise, I'd definitely recommend trying THIS RECIPE out. I tried it subsequently and they were pretty much the best brownies I'd ever baked/eaten in quite a while. :D Photos and more details the next time I make them! But they are labelled BEST-EVER BROWNIES on BBC Good Food for a reason.
I'm kinda glad baking's a new hobby of mine. After all, it does keep me away from the shops downtown where I'd probably be spending more money. -__- BUTTTTTTT, the downside is that I've packed on a number of pounds. :((((( I've realized that I probably can't rely solely on the French way of eating to maintain my weight because it ain't really working (my highly sedentary lifestyle after school is a definite contributing factor grrr). So, it's back to the gym for me. But baking is such a huge stress-reliever. Is there such a thing as stress-baking? (Like stress-eating) If not, I'm coining that term and keeping the copyrights for it. :)
Here's the video that actually inspired me to go on my whole cinnamon raisin roll baking craze! It's so gorgeously shot and just makes me want to spend my weekends baking and holding parties so people can come round, eat and be merry.
Here's to the weekend~~~