Welcome, Autumn, to Our Humble Home

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First day of fall hike! Isn’t nature grand?

Hello, All! Autumn is here! I’m about a week behind in posting this edition, but I promise this recipe is worth the wait. As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking to bake a dessert that captured the essence of fall, but was apprehensive about falling into the common “make all the pumpkin things!” trap. This recipe has two very popular flavors commonly linked to fall—salted caramel and pumpkin—but no lie is escaping my lips when I say that these Salted Caramel Pumpkin Buns just might be the best darn things that have come out of the oven in a long while. They’re that good. No kidding.

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One evening, I was at work serving tables like I normal do about five nights a week, secretly thinking about what I was going to bake on my next day off. The restaurant at which I spend my life has the daily newspaper available for us servers to skim through when we have a spare minute. Lo and behold, when I looked down at the paper what section was overtly visible but the Food and Health page. Food and Health—two of my most treasured interests. Coincidence? I think not. There was a delectable-looking photo of cinnamon rolls with “The flavor of fall—pumpkin pie in a cinnamon bun” in large letters as the title of an article. Confession: I have never been a devoted fan of cinnamon rolls. Why? Who knows. I think it may be that one cinnamon roll in my past had a hard crusty texture instead of a soft one. I can’t think of a good reason why I wouldn’t like soft cinnamon goodness, but I normally just do not appreciate them. However, I figured that since my family loves cinnamon rolls, I would try these pumpkin and salted caramel infused ones, hoping that they would be tolerable. I stole the clipping from work and started on the rolls the next week.

Not surprisingly, I seem to be trying out recipes in which I have no experience. I had never made cinnamon buns before this, but was very interested in trying my hand at this new art. So the first day of fall brought the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin to my kitchen.

This adventure started with the making of the dough. This recipe doesn’t involve activating the yeast before mixing the ingredients together, but uses warm milk to activate the yeast while everything is combined. Pretty easy. After kneading the dough, cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

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While the dough was resting, I was working—on the filling. Cream cheese, pumpkin, egg white, and spices make up the filling that lines the inside of the buns.

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After all that was whipped together, the fun bit began. I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle and spread the filling over the rolled-out dough, leaving about an inch of the dough on bottom filling-free so I could get a clean beginning when I started to roll. Hint: the recipe is not a cinnamon roll recipe. No cinnamon is called for in the filling, but I did it anyway. I sprinkled a good amount of cinnamon on the rolled-out dough, partly because I was feeling like a rebel and partly because I like cinnamon. A lot.

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Now, not having rolled a cinnamon roll or a jelly roll or any kind of that nonsense before, I turned to Youtube for videos of kind people who showed me how to roll somewhat easily. To my surprise, it actually wasn’t that hard. The rolled-out dough became a nice-looking log which became 13 little buns after the log was cut with a serrated knife.

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After placing them on a baking sheet that was lined with parchment and misted with cooking spray, I allowed the buns to rest a little longer and rise (20 minutes).

When they looked slightly puffy, I placed them in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. I’m one of those annoying bakers that turns on the oven light every so often in order to see the transformation of the batter or dough. Seeing flat rise to puffy and full is something magical to me. These buns are a perfect example of what an annoying, snoopy baker’s loves to watch. It seemed like they practically doubled in size in a matter of minutes. There they were—beautiful puffy, soft buns. They looked perfect.

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While they continued the perfection process in the oven, I set to work on the caramel glaze. This makes the buns what they are, in my opinion. It turns them into, “Sure, I’ll have a one,” to “I can’t believe I had three.” It’s amazing. It’s comprised of butter, brown sugar, cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt. Bring on the pounds, Autumn. I have my oversized sweaters ready.

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As soon as the buns were out of the oven, they were drizzled—wait, let’s be perfectly honest—drenched. They were drenched with the sticky, gooey caramel.

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Transformation tuesday indeed. They went from that to this.

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These filled the whole house with a mouth-watering aroma and received rave review from every single member of my family. Finally. Pleasing a house of seven people is not easy. In fact, I think they would all be happy if these were the only things I baked for always and eternity. Enough of my talking these up. Try these out, and you’ll see what I mean. Celebrate fall!

Until next time,

Happy baking!

I could not find the recipe on the Couer d’Alene Press website. Credit for the September 17th article and recipe instructions goes to Alison Ladman.

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Buns

Start to finish: 1.5 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings 12

For the dough:

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups milk, warmed slightly

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (which I omitted because it costs about $20 million)

For the filling:

2 ounces (about 4 tablespoons) cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg white

1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the glaze:

3 tablespoons butter

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1/2 cup light cream

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste ( I used regular vanilla extract )

1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt

To prepare the dough, combine all ingredients and mix on low until the dough is soft and elastic (about 8 min). Dough can also be mixed by hand. If so, in a large bowl combine all ingredients but start with 2 cups of the flour then slowly work in the remaining 2 cups as the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead several times. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment and coat with cooking spray.

To prepare the filling, in a medium bowl use an electric mixer to beat together the cream cheese, pumpkin, egg white, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Spread the pumpkin mixture evenly over the rolled out dough, going all the way to the edge except on one long side (leave 1 inch of that long side bare). Starting with that side, roll up the dough into a log like a jelly roll, pinching the sides to seal.

Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 12 rounds. Arrange the rounds on the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and the buns reach an internal temperature of 190 F.

While the buns bake, make the glaze. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, cream, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in the vanilla bean paste and salt. When the buns are cooked, immediately drizzle all over with the caramel. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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