Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Coffee Cake with Pecans

I think I'm just slightly obsessed with cinnamon rolls. Maybe it's the cinnamon sugar? Maybe it's the cream cheese frosting? Maybe it's the bread? Maybe it's an excuse to eat something sweet for breakfast? Either way, who can resist a cinnamon roll? I know I can't.

In about two weeks, I'll be headed to San Diego and a part of me is looking forward to buying a Cinnabon cinnamon roll at the airport before the flight. Those oversized cinnamon rolls are so freaken' delicious! The smell alone is just so badass! Please...can I just have one now?

It's been years since I've made cinnamon rolls but I didn't want to make a cinnamon roll. I'll leave that up to Cinnabon. But I still had a craving for it, two weeks is way too long of a wait. I just had to have something cinnamon-y. Therefore, this Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Coffee Cake with Pecans will do!

If you are a fan of the innards of a cinnamon roll, this is for you. Innards is probably not the best word to describe something so delicious, but who cares. It's fluffy, sweet and reminds me of the center of cinnamon rolls. The pecans give it a little somethin' somethin' to cut through the sweetness and give a little crunch. Don't like pecans? Leave it out or substitute it. I'm not one to judge what you do in your kitchen. Either way, it will be delicious!

Cinnamon and Lemon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
Original recipe by Flo Braker
Makes a 9″x 5″ pan 

Sweet Yeast Dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted to be spread over the dough

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the Sweet Yeast Dough
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]). Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.

Meanwhile, make the cinnamon sugar mixture by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. [I suggest using a ruler and getting this as accurate as possible, for a prettier loaf that will fit better in the pan. I also suggest making sure both sides are floured, so that the dough will be easy to lift up later.] Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. With the dough sliced but still together, sprinkle the dough lengthwise with the cinnamon sugar mixture, followed by the pecans. Take each rectangle and top one over the other. Continue to top with rectangles, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with the cinnamon sugar.

Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. It might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.

Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.

The recipe recommends you tilt and rotate the pan while tapping on a table to release the loaf. I just carefully ran a knife around it. Flip the loaf over onto a cooling rack, then flip onto another rack so that it’s right side up. Spread the top of the warm cake with the cream cheese icing, using a pastry brush to fill in all the cracks.

-Aaron John

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Guacamole and tortilla chips...soooo freaken good! It's weird, avocado on it's own I have issues with, but guacamole is a whole different animal I can eat all day. Give me guac and tortilla chips and it's crack to me.

It may be the only green "condiment" I would gladly gobble up. Remember when they used to make colored ketchup in green and blue? That was disgusting. Why? Probably because it was just an unnatural color of green or blue. Guacamole on the other hand is the most delicious green color you may ever see in a dip.

Creamy, chunky, spicy from the chiles, burst of red color from the tomatoes, freshness from the cilantro and a slight tang from the lime juice...oh lawdyyy...don't leave me in a room with guac and chips. So easy to make and so delicious!

Recipe by Me

2 ripe Hass Avocados
1 lime, juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely diced
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 roma tomato, diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

With a fork, mash together the avocados, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, salt and pepper until smooth yet still chunky. Add in the onion, cilantro and tomato and mix until combined. Chill for about 1 hour so the flavors can mingle.

-Aaron John

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"The Hundred-Foot Journey"

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" with friends, before it is released on August 8th. It all started when I was contacted by the Publicity and Promotions Coordinator for Disney in Seattle asking if I would like to attend. Of course my answer was 'Yes!' This was the first time being on the VIP list for an event and let me tell you, it felt AMAZING. Having my name on reserved seats at a movie theater...when does that happen? For all I cared, that could've been the Oscars.

This movie was heartwarming, funny and reminded me why I love food so much. The basic premise was a family from India moves to France, establishes a restaurant and competition ensues with the restaurant next door. For me, this movie was about never being afraid to venture out, despite the obstacles that are present. New journeys will always contain times of triumphs and failures but at the end of the day, true success will occur when you are not only happy about the success you have achieved, but how you've achieved your success and who you've become along the process. You'll never be truly happy unless those factors come together and form you into the person that you are today. This is true to my life right now. Oh man, now I'm getting teary eyed. Ha!

I did not read the novel so I don't know how accurate it is the the story, but I really liked this movie. One of my friends that went read reviews before we watched it and thought he wasn't going to like it. Turned out, he liked it! If that isn't a good sign, I don't know what is.

-Aaron John


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