Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

Guys, it’s no secret that I’ve been slammed lately, especially with the upcoming holiday ebook. My friends have been helping me out by offering to do guest posts for this blog and I’m incredibly lucky to have friends who are, in addition to being generally awesome, talented bakers.

Today’s guest post is brought to you by my friend Noah. Noah is probably just as passionate about baking as I am, and, realistically, is probably a more talented baker. While I’m intimidated by things like potato breads and pie crusts, he’s fearless in the kitchen and readily tackles the things that I frequently avoid. After all — it was Noah who taught me how to stop worrying and love the pie crust.

In today’s post, Noah walks us through the wonders of cinnamon rolls, and why it’s worth it to wake up in the so-called "hour of the wolf" to churn these beautiful babies out:

PS — In case you’re wondering where the other three cinnamon rolls went, we ate them. Yep. No shame.

Without further ado, Noah:

It’s a funny thing. There’s a food truck in my hometown, located in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, that’s known for their excellent cinnamon rolls. It’s a symbiotic relationship wherein people come for a bun, feel guilty, and leave with new running shoes. And it’s working because both businesses have been going strong for as long as I’ve been a seeing, thinking human being.

I don’t have much to say about cinnamon rolls other than a good one is a wonderful thing, while a bad one fills you with regret. I still shudder when I think about the cinnamon roll that I had in Snowville, Utah. It came with a slab of BUTTER on top of the icing. There’s some pretty country in remote parts of Utah, but you might consider bringing your own food.

I like this particular recipe for cinnamon rolls because it has more going on other than just lots of sugar and butter. The acidity of the buttermilk helps produce a light and moist roll that is good on its own. But it’s really the glaze that makes it; the cream cheese buffers the sweetness of the icing and makes the texture silky and enticing. The only real challenge is that if you want to make these for brunch, you’re going to have to set your alarm clock for the hour of the wolf (that is to say, predawn).

Here’s the thing, though — waking up before dawn to bake things from scratch can be a major bummer if your attitude isn’t right. Recently I’ve found a way to make it work with my own symbiotic relationship of sorts; that is, watching soccer as I bake. Here on the west coast, games in the English Premier League kick off pretty early in the morning, which for me is the perfect diversion from waiting around for dough to rise. Baking is improved by soccer and soccer is improved by baked goods (although goals also greatly improve soccer, sigh). What I’m saying is waking up at ungodly hours to mix dough is unpleasant, and yes, waiting for dough to rise is like being chained to your kitchen. But if you can find a way to make it part of your schedule it’s undeniably rewarding.
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Another Sneak Peek: Twelve Days of Christmas Desserts (A FREE eBook)

A few weeks ago, I announced that I was working on Twelve Days of Christmas Desserts, a FREE holiday ebooklet filled with, yep, Christmas desserts. All photography, recipes, and writing is by yours truly, of course. I’ve been making steady progress on it, and am excited to share with you guys the cover:

The ebook will feature twelve desserts that I like to make for the holidays, including:

  • homemade peppermint bark
  • salted caramel ice cream
  • chocolate crinkle cookies
  • spiced crème brûlée

and more!

For now, here is a teaser of one of my favorite holiday cakes — Gingerbread Cookies & Cream Cake. Be sure to click on the image for a close-up:

And be sure to subscribe to my Twitter account to get notified when the book is released!

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! Today’s post will be short and sweet, since I imagine many of you guys will be either in the kitchen and/or spending much-needed time with your family or friends. In any case, that’s the way it should be.

Since my family isn’t American, I’ve never really celebrated Thanksgiving. I guess Erlend and I have been dating long enough that we’ve started our own traditions, which is that we roast a duck instead of turkey (since neither of us are particularly big fans of the latter). This year, with two additional housemates in tow, we’ve created an Asian-style feast to accompany the duck, including char siu buns, momofuku-style brussels sprouts, and this chocolate and pumpkin pie. And yes, while the chocolate and pumpkin pie is admittedly out of place, I wanted to make one as an homage to a more traditional Thanksgiving. Oh, and because it is delicious.

And of course, this year, I’m thankful for:

Finally finding a home for myself in Portland, OR. And I don’t mean that just in the literal sense (because, yes, I did buy an actual house this year, and my goodness I’m incredibly grateful for that too), but in the greater sense — after three lonely years in three unfamiliar cities, it’s a relief to really, truly know that Portland is where I want to be.

Having an awesome job at a technology company that I believe in, with team members I respect and a boss that I admire, all the while allowing me to afford luxuries like a Canon 5D Mark II, a West Elm dining table and a coat from Pendleton’s Portland Collection.

For my health. A few years ago, I had let my body deteriorate to the point where I couldn’t sit up straight properly and my poor posture was inducing carpal tunnel syndrome at the age of 20. Grim, right? How since then, I’ve biked across the country from New Hampshire to Vancouver, run a countless number of miles on both roads and trails, learned how to climb a 5.10d route with relative ease, and now have the ability to deadlift 225 pounds and clean 75% of my body weight.

Erlend, my boyfriend of four years (which is crazy to think about) — for growing up with me, and for putting up with my shit for as long as he has. For being my best friend.

My mom. For being a such a wonderful role model and how, when I was younger, she taught me so many important things, both major and minor, that pertain to almost all facets of my life. It’s only now that I realize their significance and how these lessons become more and more valuable every day.

My friends — whether here, San Francisco, New York, or London — knowing that I can rely on them no matter where we are or whatever distance separates us. How with technology, they are only ever an email, text or funny gif away. And how, despite only seeing each other once a year (or in the unfortunate case of my British friends, every 3 years), when we meet, it’s as if the time and geography that separates us doesn’t exist. I’m talking about you, Masterson, Julie, Tracy, Dan, Kiron and Nathan.

You and the rest of my readers. For taking the time to visit this site and read about my baking adventures, for your kind comments and your encouragement about this crazy, all-consuming hobby of mine. And, for putting up with my terrible iPhone photos in the beginning.

    Without further ado, the recipe. But first, some baker’s notes:

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    Salted Caramel and Apple Crostata (with a Surprise Ingredient!)

    So do you guys know what the difference between a crostata an a galette is? Apparently nothing! The only difference is that a galette is French in origin, while a crostata is Italian. Aside from that, both are free form pies (that is, made from pie dough but not molded into a pie plate), often times filled with fruit. The crust dough shares the same ingredients as pie dough — flour, butter and just a touch of sugar and salt.

    Today’s crostata crust, however, has a secret ingredient. Want to know what it is?

    Aged Gouda cheese.

    Now before you run away in a panic, I swear to God that I’m not crazy! I was skeptical at first too. But the recipe is from Valerie Gordon’s SWEET cookbook, and Valerie Gordon is the owner and founder of Valerie Confections in Los Angeles’s hip Silver Lake district. Her baked goods have been praised by Alice Waters and Nora Ephron, as well as Bon Appetit, House & Garden and Food & Wine. According to Valerie, apple pie and cheddar cheese is an old-time favorites in the diners and coffee shops of yesteryear and her recipe for crostata, which uses Gouda cheese instead of butter in the crust, is simply an update to the classic. When baked in the oven, the cheese caramelizes and provides a wonderful contrast to the salted caramel and apple filling:

    Unless you’re looking for it, it’s almost impossible to tell that there is actually cheese in the crust.  I mean if you’re a cheese lover, don’t panic — there’s definitely a salty, savory quality that’s hard to miss in this crust that reminds me of the super-grilled parts of a grilled cheese. But despite this, it’s almost as if the cheese takes on a new flavor, one that’s more similar to caramel and butterscotch. Valerie’s addition of cornmeal to the crust is also some kind of genius, giving the crostata its unique, crunchy texture and beautiful golden color.

    So yeah, cheese in pie crusts? I guess I’m one of the converted now. Bring it on. Can’t wait to try the other recipes in Sweet:


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    12 Days of Christmas Desserts is Here!


    In case you missed my previous posts, 12 Days of Christmas Desserts is a free cookbook that my friend Sze Wa and I have been working on in the past month. The cookbook includes 12 brand spankin’ new dessert recipes to celebrate the holidays, with recipes for:

    1. Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
    2. Peppermint Bark
    3. Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Brown Butter Crumbs
    4. Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
    5. Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange Blondies
    6. Chocolate Pareil Meringues
    7. Ginger Cake with Caramel Sauce and Pumpkin Ice Cream
    8. Peppermint Marshmallows
    9. Spiced Creme Brulee
    10. Gingerbread Cookies & Cream Cake
    11. White Chocolate Cream Puffs
    12. Golden Cupcakes

    This mini ebook is completely 100% free for my readers. It’s my holiday gift to you guys, as a thank you for being such loyal readers.

    Before we begin though, I will point out some nifty tricks within the book. You can actually click each recipe on the Table of Contents page (seen above), and it will actually take you to the page where the recipe is.

    Similarly, you can use the final page of the ebook to (1) visit my blog by clicking the logo and (2) share the ebook on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest by clicking on the social media icons:

    And of course, the writing and photography is by yours truly. The recipes come from a variety of sources. Some were reimaginations of my favorite stocking stuffers like peppermint candy canes, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and Ferrero Rocher bonbons. Others pay tribute to Christmas traditions and memories from my friends and family, while some are inspired and guided by some of my favorite bakeries, like Miette in San Francisco and Baker & Spice in Portland, Oregon. One recipe, for Golden Cupcakes, even pays homage to the Christmas carol that the book is named for.

    Without further ado, here is sneak preview of what’s inside the book. You can click on each image to enlarge, but that’s really just a taste —  you can download the high quality, PDF format of the book here, or by using the button at the end of the preview:
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    Mexican Chocolate Rolls

    After the release of my ebook, 12 Days of Christmas Desserts, I swore I would take the rest of December off. Although I’m really pleased with the results, the project was hatched rather last minute. That is, I had exactly one month to develop, bake and photograph TWELVE original recipes in addition to maintaining my regular publication schedule for this blog. Needless to say, after the book’s release, I was feeling a little burned out and in need of a holiday.

    But whenever I’m feeling down and ready to hang up my kitchen apron, an amazing opportunity always comes along to keep me going. Last spring, it was a nomination for Saveur Magazine’s 2013 Best Food Blog Awards. This winter, it was the chance to participate in the Baking a Difference campaign to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger in America:

    According to Share Our Strength, one in five children in the US struggle with hunger and do not have access to the nutritional food that they need to grow and thrive. In addition to having donated a generous sum of money to the campaign, Fleischmann’s Yeast, Fleischmann’s Homemade Baking Mixes, and Karo Syrup invited several bakers (including myself) to increase awareness for Baking A Difference and bake for a cause. The campaign includes creating baking tips and unique twists on classic recipes to encourage more people to get involved in the Baking A Difference campaign.

    So when Fleischmann’s challenged me to put a spin on their recipe for Beginner’s White Bread, I knew that I wanted to make it special. I didn’t want to settle for any old loaf — this was for a good cause after all! So instead, I came up with these beautiful Mexican Chocolate Rolls:

    Oh yeah, I went there.

    These buns are inspired by your standard cinnamon roll, but with a twist. I subbed out the cinnamon sugar filling with a generous amount of cocoa powder, spiked with Mexican chocolate spices like ground cinnamon, chipotle, clove and cayenne pepper. For those who like a little bit of spice in their food, this dessert is for you!

    And of course, let’s not forget that this recipe is for charity. You can help No Kid Hungry end childhood hunger in America by promoting this post with the hashtag #BakingADifference. Alternatively, use the widget below to follow me on Twitter, tweet at me and No Kid Hungry in order to win a prize pack containing:

    The prize pack is valued at $75 and will help you bake a difference with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. In order to win a prize pack, use the raffle widget below to:

    FOLLOW ME (@hummingbirdhigh) on Twitter. Following me on Twitter gives you 10 entries in the raffle. If you’re already following me on Twitter, the widget still allows you to earn 10 entries.

    TWEET about the giveaway and #BakingADifference. Tweeting about the giveaway gives you 10 entries in the raffle.

    DO BOTH — that is, follow me AND tweet about the giveaway — to achieve 20 entries in the raffle, doubling your chances of winning!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Please note that the giveaway lasts for one week and ends next Wednesday, 12/17/2013 at 11:59 PM EST. Unfortunately, the giveaway is for US residents only.


    And for those who came for the chocolate rolls recipe, don’t fret! I’ve got it for you below, along with some baker’s notes. Enjoy!

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    Golden Cupcakes

    Next week, I’ll be heading to New York City to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and his family. I’m pretty excited about this — historically, I’ve spent almost all my Christmases in the Philippines, where my mom and the majority of her family lives. Christmas in the Philippines is a bit different from your usual Christmas. Oh sure, the Christmas music, decoration and spirit is always there, but the weather is almost always in the high 90s (that’s 35+ for you Celsius users), often bordering 100 F/38 C. And to think that’s considered cooler winter weather! My dad almost always scolds me for complaining about the heat, scoffing, "Please. 96(F) isn’t hot."

    Whatever, Dad. It also doesn’t help that, for some reason, my parents decided to build a GLASS house in the middle of the freakin’ tropics. Seriously — three out of the four walls of the house are made from floor-to-ceiling glass. A beautiful house in pictures and a great, modern-chic house in theory. But guess what happens in practice? A glass house under a bright, equatorial tropical sky with barely any cloud shade turns into a greenhouse. A greenhouse with no centralized air conditioning. Think about that.

    So, yeah — this year, I’m excited to trade in my Christmas sandals and tank tops for a more traditional Christmas. I’ve never been to New York for Christmas before, but almost everybody who has tells me that it’s the city that does Christmas best, especially with real winter weather and a city full of sparkling lights.

    In order to celebrate, I thought I’d make some Golden Cupcakes, one of my favorite holiday recipes from my ebook, 12 Days of Christmas Desserts:

    In case you missed it, a few weeks ago I released an ebook filled with 12 brand spankin’ new holiday desserts. The best part? The book is available to anybody to download for FREE. You can do so by clicking on the ebook’s cover below:

    These Golden Cupcakes are the twelfth recipe in the book. The cupcake is a golden yellow butter cake stuffed with a surprise — a dollop of chocolate hazelnut spread in the center of each cupcake. They are an homage to the Ferrero Rocher chocolate bonbons that my parents used to always get at Christmas time. Because even though I just gave them a lot of crap about the weather in the Philippines, I’ll still miss them this Christmas anyway.
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