Welcome to The Gadget Chef

Ok so I'm not really a chef, but I do like to play one in the kitchen. I'm your everyday average guy, who is really into 2 things, food and gadgets! And I love combining the two and experimenting with that.

I've tried many gadgets out there, some with success and some with miserable failures. But my biggest goal is to limit what space I take up with what gadgets. As a person with a less than sizable kitchen, counter top real estate is so important I can't be the type that has several gadgets out all the time, and I'm also the type that if it's not out and handy, I'm likely not to use it.

So through the course of this blog I will give out some info on those items I've gotten over the years and how I use them, and some recipes, and be sure to share yours too, or comment if you've tried them

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls similar to Cinnabon

Copycat recipes are out there all over the internet for just about anything, sometimes they are good sometimes they aren't even close.  The one thing you can't always find or confirm are the brands they use to get that exact taste.  When I made this version of the Cinnabon copycat, I used a couple generic branded items, and I would say that if I used a couple alternative brands, my results would have been practically indistinguishable from Cinnabon, or at least taste so good as to be a wonderful alternative.  Even the generics I used resulted in delicious rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls (Cinnabon Copycat Recipe)

Let's start with the ingredients:

1 Cup warm Milk
2 Eggs at room temp
1/3 cup melted butter
4 1/2 cup flour (I used bread flour)
1 tsp salt (as normal for me I use Kosher salt)
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active yeast

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
another 1/4 cup butter to spread on the dough

Cream cheese icing:
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

Let's begin to make these wonderfully rich treats.

Warm up the milk, you can microwave it for about 45-50 seconds, you want it warm but not hot.  I used my Kitchenaid bowl and dissolved the yeast in the milk, then added the eggs, butter, salt, sugar, and flour.  Using the dough hook, I started it slow until it was mixed then raised the speed a bit until it combined everything and pulled most of the dough off the bowl and gathered on the hook.

Once your dough is completed, take another bowl and either spread some oil or nonstick spray over the entire bowl.  Now roll the dough to cover the entire ball of dough in the oil or nonstick spray.  Next cover the bowl and let sit for in a warm area till it's about doubled in size.  Should take about an hour or two.

As you are approaching the end of your rising period, it's time to prep the cinnamon sugar mixture for the filling.  This one is easy, take the 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon and 1/4 cup of melted butter, mix them together making a nice little sugary mixture.

Once your dough has doubled in size, take it out onto a well floured surface.  Roll your dough out to a fairly uniform thickness, size and thickness I think are a personal preferences, I made my dough just under a  1/4" thick or so.

Next spread the 1/4 cup of melted butter over your dough, following the butter spread your cinnamon and brown sugar mixture over the dough, then roll up the and cut your rolls and place them into a well greased pan.  Give them some space between each roll, because now you are going to cover them up and let them raise a bit more.

While your rolls are rising again, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once your oven is up to temp and you are satisfied with the rising of your rolls, I wouldn't go much more than 30-40 minutes on rising time, bake the rolls at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  Now is also your chance to begin making the icing.

For the icing, I used my KitchenAid with the whisk attachment, creaming the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt.  Next I added the powdered sugar and slowly brought the mixer up to speed as it incorporated the powdered sugar.  Just in case you are impatient like me, take your time with this and start out very slow, or you might have a cloud of sugar all over your counter and you.   Once the powdered sugar is incorporated into the mixture, you can run it at high speed for a bit to really whip up the icing.

Once your rolls are done, I let them cool just a bit, but still very warm so the icing melts all over and into the rolls.  Enjoy fresh out or wrap them up and save for later.  A batch of these made on Friday evening could give you breakfasts for the weekend, or shorter depending on the number of sweet teeth you are satisfying.

Now I had mentioned at the beginning that I used some generics in this recipe, and I do believe certain brands would have made the taste impact on these to make them so close to an actual Cinnabon roll that you might find yourself believing you picked up a pack on your way home.  So the 2 generics that I used that I will swap next time for some name brands are the cinnamon and the cream cheese.  Cinnamon should be no surprise, go for the Cinnabon brand if you want that authentic taste.  The cream cheese I would go for Philadelphia brand, the off brand I used was fine, but it still doesn't have that same taste that Philadelphia has.

Whether you consider this a copycat recipe or just another cinnamon roll recipe, these are some very fine cinnamon rolls, hope you enjoy them as much as my family has.

Good luck in the kitchen!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Easiest bread yet

Ok, so I definitely have been derelict in my blogging duties.  Unfortunately work gets in the way with way too much, one of these days perhaps I will figure out the solution to that, thus far the only thing I have come up with is to win the lottery, but unfortunately I keep forgetting to buy a ticket.

Anyway, I've had a request from my sister to write about an easy way to bake bread, so this is for her, but should also help others, I hope anyway.  Her big problem with my the dutch oven bread was she lacked a dutch oven.  Well, she also lacks any loaf pans as well.  The one thing she does have, a pizza stone, which shouldn't surprise me, as her husband loves pizza probably more than my wife, and thats saying a lot.

Now I came across a couple references online for the worlds simplest recipe for bread to remember, and I cannot argue with it at all.  Just remember 6-3-3-13.  So what is 6-3-3-13 you might ask, here goes:

6 cups of warm water
3 tbsp of Yeast
3 tbsp of salt
13 cups of bread flour

Now before you look at that and say "How much bread are you planning on making?"  I personally have NEVER utilized this recipe in its entirety.  I cut it in half and make 2 nice loaves, but remembering 3-1.5-1.5-6.5 just isn't as easy, so I remember the larger batch size and cut it in half.  And in case you are wondering 3tsp = 1 tbsp so to halve the recipe it's 4 1/2 tsp of yeast and salt.  If you ever have issues with conversions I highly suggest WolframAlpha, it's absolutely wonderful for math issues and conversions.

First thing we do is start out with the water and salt, and mix it up, remember this water needs to be warm, but not hot, then add the salt, I stir it up to dissolve all the salt into the water.  Next we add the yeast to this WARM salt water mixture.  I want to stress it a lot that this is to be warm not hot water.  Yeast is a living thing, so you have to be nice to it, throw it into a scorching hot bath and it's not going to work for you, give it a just a warm bath, and they will wake up and be ready and willing to go.

Once you have the salt and yeast mixture, let it sit for a little bit, 5-10 minutes, give those guys a chance to wake up from their dried sleep.  Next we can add the flour.

Now let's talk a little bit about flour for a minute, if you notice I specified bread flour, thats because bread flour contains higher proteins which will create more gluten, gluten is important for bread, that stringy gluten is what holds it together while the CO2 given off by the yeast expands it, you can make bread with all purpose flour, but it will not rise near to the point of a batch with bread flour, it's well worth the extra effort to keep some bread flour on hand for your bread.  Another thing I've done with this, is mixed it up a bit, I have made batches with 3 cups of wheat flour and 3 1/2 cups of bread flour for a wonderful light wheat.  If you choose to use all wheat flour, it's more than likely going to turn out much denser and not rise near as much as if you use a mixture of the 2 flours.  But play around with it and find what you like, I think I might try a few alternatives and see what I can get to come out in the future.

I guess I should take a step back, you can most certainly do this all by hand, but I utilize my Kitchenaid with my bread hook to mix it up and knead it all in the bowl. let it go until it's practically cleaned the edge of the bowl of any residual dough and attached itself all onto the hook.  Next you see a lot of bread recipes that say oil a bowl, then be sure to get all the dough completely covered in oil then let it rise, and I can certainly understand that methodology, it keeps the dough together and let's it rise nice and not stick to the bowl when you are ready to get it out, but we are talking easy, so my method, take a plate and stick it over the mixer bowl and walk away for a couple hours to let it rise.  Just be sure it's in a relatively warm place, if it's too cold your bread isn't going to rise near as good or as fast, so be weary of drafty areas.

Once it's doubled in size, which like I said, takes about 1.5-2 hours,  you are ready for the next step.  Now I don't have a lot of counter space and cleaning up a well floured surface is just an absolute pain to me, so what I do is take my cutting board and flip it over to a nice smooth side and throw some flour on it.  Flour your surface well, and get plenty of flour on your hands as well.  Take your dough from the bowl onto your floured work area, it's going to be sticky and soft, but be gentle with it, we don't want to overly deflate it, we aren't kneading it again, just preparing to bake.

So now you have a lump of dough on the counter, divide it into 2 (as evenly as you can get it) portions.    Now cover them with flour and try to nice and easily form them into pretty little round flour covered upside down bowls. I always fold it over so the bottom is where it all comes together since you won't really see that.  Once you have your lovely little bowls of dough, cover them up, as it's time to let them rise just a bit more.

At this point you can heat your oven up with your Pizza stone in it to 400 degrees.  The time it takes to it to warm up is usually good amount of time to let your dough rise again, thats my usual guestimating timer, and it really hasn't failed me yet, but you could have some super heated oven that only takes 2 minutes to get up to temp, ok ok ok, wait about 10-15 minutes, sheesh.  This should allow your bread to raise a bit more and the pizza stone to heat up.

Now comes the tricky part.  Open your oven up, and pull out the rack a bit (it's easier with 2 people so you don't cool down your oven too much with the time it takes to get the dough in there and close the door, but eventually you get pretty quick on your own too), once you have easy access to your stone, GENTLY pick up your dough trying not to screw up your shaping job or deflating it, and drop it on your stone.  No it's not going to be perfectly round or beautifully shaped at this point, but this is homemade bread, you are going for taste, and that little bit of difference of shape assures everyone that you made this from scratch!

Now once you have it on your stone close it up in the oven and bake it at 400 for about 30 minutes.   This is the best time if you haven't already to go back and at least rinse off your mixing bowl, because if you let that dough dry on there, it's going to take some major soaking and scrubbing to get it off, believe me I know from experience.

After you have enjoyed those 30 minutes of bakery quality smells wafting through your household, it's time to remove it from the oven. Take a couple of clean towels or clean oven mitts and just grab the bread from the stone, don't worry about being too careful with, it's going to have a nice crispy crust and be pretty firm.  Now let it cool on a wire rack, and whenever you are ready you have a delicious bread for whatever your heart desires, and on a side note, if you have some pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese,  and some pepperoni  if you like, it can make wonderful little pizzas.

Don't forget to repeat the cooking for your second loaf, it's still sitting on your counter ready, and probably a little bit larger than your first loaf since you let it rise while you baked your first.  Thats just a bonus!

Now I like a firmer crust on my homemade bread, but some people I know don't, and this trick works with bread from a bread maker as well.  If you want a softer bread, after it's cooled down to almost room temp place it into a bag, this lets the moisture soften up the crust.  Personally we usually let it cool overnight before placing it into any type of container be it a bag or a large tupperware, whatever is handy at the time.

There you have it, my easiest method for bread, hope you enjoy it as much as we have, we have went through a lot of loaves in our household, but after buying a 50 lbs bag of bread flour at Costco, we have plenty of ingredients.  And if you look at what an artisan bread loaf costs you at the grocer's bakery or a place like Panera, you can save a fortune and still have that wonderful quality bread, and maybe once or twice a week spend a few hours to make your bread for the week.   You really won't be disappointed!

Best of luck in the Kitchen!