Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ideas Are Brewing

I spent three mornings over the holiday weekend (Thursday through Saturday) working at the Inn, enjoying cooking with friends and learning a few new things to get ready for my solo stint between Christmas and New Year's. The more I work with both the Innkeeper and the Bistro Chef, the more ideas I get for possible breakfast dishes later on.

And the more I work at the Inn, the more I see little ways that I can help out. Both of my friends look for ways to provide good food in an economical manner, and they both know how to revive dishes or individual ingredients for a second round to get the most out of them. For examples, pears can be bought for a fruit salad, and leftover pears can then be sauteed and carmelized for a French toast topping. (And once they're cooked, they can last a little longer in the refrigerator.)

We also save leftover brewed coffee, storing it in the refrigerator to use for iced coffee later on. Of course, right now there aren't many takers for iced coffee. So I looked at the quart container of coffee placed in the fridge Thursday and thought about how we could use it up before it had to be dumped.

And then... inspiration struck! (Don't worry, it didn't do much damage.) Coming from my background as a baking fanatic, I thought that the coffee could replace water in baking some sort of yeast bread.

So I persuaded the Innkeeper to let me take the coffee home and experiment. She readily agreed, and this morning I started making a variation on cinnamon rolls.

I warmed the coffee and stirred in honey before mixing it with the yeast, and then I added the usual flour, dry milk, and salt as well as some cocoa powder and espresso powder. After that, I threw in the eggs and oil needed for the sweet dough, and I whirled it all together in that super-duper new mixer. (Local ingredients: honey, whole wheat flour, dry milk, eggs.)

It rose very quickly, so I barely had time to whip up the filling of butter, honey, and spices before it was time to roll out the dough.

Now, I admit, I went a little overboard here. I doubled the amount of butter called for in the filling, thinking that the original amount wouldn't spread over all the dough. Boy, was I wrong! I ended up with so much luscious filling that as I rolled up the dough, it oozed out the side and made it difficult to keep a tight roll. Messy work!

As you can see, the combination of too much filling and a loose roll meant that my mocha rolls ended up more like mocha "roses" with the petals unfolding slowly. I didn't worry too much, though, as all that extra filling was bound to make the rolls all the more decadent and sweet.

The results were reassuring: this batch might look a little sloppy, but the taste was spot on, with a rich mocha flavor accented with just the right amount of spice. I invited the Innkeeper to stop by to pick up some to take home, and her quick sample of my experiment caused her eyes to widen in wonder and delight. Needless to say, I have her approval to make another pan full of mocha rolls to tuck into the freezer at the Inn for future use... as well as her approval to use the leftover coffee any time I want!

Because you never know when more ideas will start brewing...

Mocha Cinnamon Rolls

My favorite cinnamon roll recipe comes from the whole-grain baking book Uprisings: it always results in a tender dough with just the right amount of spice and sweetness. It's also easily adapted for other purposes, as I discovered today. Don't knead this dough too hard or add too much flour, and you'll end up with a sweet roll that simply melts in your mouth. (Oh, and don't eat more than one at a time... they are dangerously rich!)

2 T active dry yeast
1 1/3 c warm coffee
1/4 c honey
2 1/2 c unbleached flour
2 c whole wheat flour
1/3 c nonfat dry milk
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 T espresso powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm coffee. Stir in honey and allow to proof. Sift together dry ingredients and add to coffee mixture in two or three additions. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, and mix. Add flour if needed to make a sticky dough.

Turn dough onto floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic. This dough will be very tender, so do not knead too much flour into it. Cover dough with a clean towel and allow to rise until double, about 30 minutes.

Cream together butter and honey. Add cinnamon and cardamom to make a spreadable filling.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a large rectangle approximately 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Spread with filling, leaving a strip about 1" wide uncovered at one narrow end. Roll from the other narrow end, creating a spiral log and trying to keep the dough tightly rolled. Press uncovered end into the log, sealing the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13" baking pan. Slice log into 12 wide slices. Arrange rolls in prepared pan. Allow to proof slightly while oven heats. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes, until rolls are fully baked. (Because the filling is the same color as the dough, it may look like some of the dough isn't fully cooked; be aware of the difference.)

Eat while warm, and enjoy!

Makes 12 large luscious rolls


At 11/27/2007 11:48 AM, Blogger Dunford said...

I'm really intrigued by using liquids or beverages besides water to make yeast breads. This looks like the ideal Christmas morning recipe: my gf and everyone in my family love cinnamon rolls and coffee more than anything, and now I can combine the two!

At 11/27/2007 12:07 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Dunford, it really does open up the possibilities when you think about it, doesn't it? If you get a chance, check out the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook as it offers yeast bread recipes that sometimes include orange juice, ale, and such. (No coffee, but oh well!)

This would definitely be a good Christmas morning treat. I had thought about making a glaze or cream cheese topping... might be good, might be a little much, but give it a try if you're interested!

At 11/28/2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous bri said...

How totally inspired! I have a similar thought process in the kitchen, so it's fun to see what got you to such a fun idea. I thought you were going to say something like tiramisu (which is always fabulous, but far less original). Whenever my husband and I make Chinese green onion pancakes, we use beer to help with the leavening, so taking a new look at the liquids really is a great idea. No one in the family drinks coffee around here, so we don't have any leftover, but I love the inspiration to look around differently. How about matcha (green tea) rolls? Hmmm....

At 11/29/2007 9:15 PM, Anonymous Mimi said...

Excellent job improvising. I have baked recipes for banana bread and various cookies using leftover coffee, but I've never thought about using it in yeasted bread. Your rolls look scrumptious!

At 12/01/2007 1:36 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Bri! Matcha in some yeast bread would be lovely, too, if I could find it nearby... though I wonder about genmaicha... hmmmmm...

Thanks, Mimi! I hadn't even thought of using coffee in banana bread, but that opens up more possibilities. And I'm sure I can find a few cookie recipes that would work well, too!

At 3/16/2008 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I omitted the cocoa, used all white flour, added raisins, and replaced dry milk with skim milk. I did the 2nd rise overnight in the fridge. All of this worked well and produced a great crunch on the top/outside of each bun. I'm not a big coffee fan though, and there was a taste of stale coffee that I don't adore. I'm going to start adding honey to my non-coffee cinnamon buns though. Maybe next time I'll try old coffee in chocolate cake and see how that goes.

At 3/17/2008 6:58 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Sounds like a good variation, well suited to your own tastes. Good job!


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