August 21, 2010

Cooking to Say Thank You

The Last Cinnamon Roll with Cream Cheese Icing

Four years ago one of my most wonderful friends, (V) moved to New Zealand to pursue teachers college. As is often the case when people head overseas, she fell in love with the country and with a boy, (Orange) and never returned home. One of the great things about being in New Zealand has been being able to spend mass quantities of time with V and Orange. They’ve been super accommodating with my comings and goings and have allowed me to use their apartment as a home base while I’ve traveled around the country. Originally I’d planned on staying in New Zealand until December when my visa expired, (I’ve been here since last December) but a huge change in plans will see me heading home to Canada next week. Issues with my crazy landlord meant that I also moved out of my apartment sooner than I had anticipated. V and Orange came to rescue me, packed my things into their car and brought me back to their place where I’m spending my final days in New Zealand. To attempt to repay them for their generosity I’ve been cooking dinners and treats. Both of them work during the day so I occupy my time by cooking up elaborate meals for all of us to enjoy when they get home. For example, a couple nights ago I made lasagne with fresh pasta, homemade tomato sauce and b├ęchamel sauce with veggies. Somehow, an entire pan of lasagne disappeared in less than 24 hours. I had made a large quantity with the thought that some of it could be put in the freezer for a quick dinner another night. V has repeatedly told me that nothing in their house makes it into the freezer because Orange will gobble it down before it has the chance. Turns out she was right. What didn’t get eaten for dinner went into packed lunches the next day and that lasagne was gone in no time.

Lasagne with Fresh Pasta, Tomato Sauce, Bechamel and Veggies

On another day I decided to make cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting. I used the No Knead Challah recipe to make a big batch of dough so that along with the cinnamon buns, I could potential make another tasty treat a day or two later. So V and Orange arrived home one night to discover a plate of cinnamon buns. With her hand poised over the plate, ready to snatch up a bun, V asked me if I had taken photos yet for my blog. I said since it was dark, I’d wait until morning to take photos with natural light but that they could dig into the cinnamon buns right away, thinking surely there would be some left over. The next morning there was but one lonely cinnamon bun. I suppose I should just take that as a compliment but it‘s not as impressive taking pictures of one cinnamon bun compared to a whole tray of them.

Braided Challah with Sweetened Cream Cheese and Blueberries

Seeing as though the first batch was such a hit, I then used the leftover challah dough to make a second batch of cinnamon buns, this time around I added diced apples to the filling to make them apple cinnamon rolls. These disappeared just as quickly, as well as a braided challah loaf that I filled with blueberries and sweetened cream cheese. There have already been inquiries as to when the next batch will be made… The no knead challah dough recipe is so easy to make that I really haven’t got any excuses as to why I can’t make more either. The recipe comes from the awesome book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and I’ve previously blogged about a Nutella and Roasted Hazelnut Challah that I made with this dough as well. But really, the possibilities are endless, the dough is so versatile that you could fill it with any number of sweet options and it‘s bound to be a hit.

Apple Cinnamon Buns with Cream Cheese Icing

Master Challah Dough Recipe

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbl instant yeast
1 1/2 tbl kosher salt (1 1/2 tsp table salt)
4 lg eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, water, honey, melted butter, yeast and salt. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Add in the flour. Stir until you don't see any more dry bits of flour. Cover (not airtight) and stick it in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 4 days. The longer you let it sit in the refrigerator, the better tasting the dough will be.
If you want, you can let it rise for 2 hours on the counter, pinch off the dough that you need to make your Challah. However, with only a 2-hour rise, the bread isn't very flavorful. Still good, but definitely not as good as if you had let it sit 1-4 days in the refrigerator.


Anonymous said...

Your photos are so beautiful! All of the food looks delicious. That one last cinnamon roll is calling my name! hahaha! :)

Anonymous said...

Love the title. It's the sweetest way to say thank you. Love your photos. They are gorgeous.

Jessica said...

Love all your photos! Beautiful!

Joyti said...

My dad lived in New Zealand for a bit...he loved it. Must have been lovely to visit your friend there.
Your challah bread looks does the lasagna.

Couscous & Consciousness said...

So sad that you're leaving New Zealand now, and having just survived the NZ winter you will be headed back to more winter. At least you have the prospect of living in a heated home to look forward to! Love your blog, and hope you'll come back to New Zealand again some time.