Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I LOVE a good cinnamon roll. I am always on the hunt for the most perfect one– soft, warm, and a tangy cream cheese frosting. None of this clear glaze business. When I have a cinnamon roll, it better be loaded with delicious cream cheese. It’s so hard to get the good ones unless you go to an excellent bakery. So the other day when I knew a sweet friend of mine was having a birthday, I  had the perfect excuse to make cinnamon rolls my way. And that included a surprising addition of hazelnuts, because why not?

People, I am craving these again already, and I just made them last week. I woke up this morning and all I could think about was these delicious beauties. I have to make them again soon! I used to be so intimidated by making homemade breads and  pastries from scratch, but it really isn’t that hard if you have patience!

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There is nothing like the sight of cream cheese frosting melting into a hot, fresh batch of cinnamon rolls. These are an adaptation of Nancy Fuller’s recipe. I changed them up by doing hazelnuts instead of pecans, and I put way less sugar in the frosting. I always find that I can cut over half of the sugar in most frosting recipes and it’s still quite sweet. I find that in particular the sweet brown-sugary filling in these cinnamon rolls calls for a tangier cream cheese frosting to balance it all out. And psst… You don’t have to have a standing mixer or dough hook to make these. You have to get your hands a little dirty and you get quite an arm workout in the process, but the payoff is totally worth it.

They certainly aren’t the most perfectly shaped cinnamon rolls. But that’s how you can tell that they are homemade and all the more amazing. The other thing I love about these is that you can keep the leftover rolls in the fridge, pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds when you want one, and they taste like they are hot out of the oven all over again. It’s absolutely glorious!

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Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes around 12 rolls 

Ingredients:

For the dough– 

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting your work surface

2 Tabelspoons butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the baking dish

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

For the filling– 

1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cream cheese frosting– 

6 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

splash of vanilla extract (perhaps a teaspoon?)

2-3 Tablespoons whole milk

Directions:

  1. Make your dough: Place the yeast and 1 cup of room temp water in a large bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. If you have a standing mixer and dough hook, add in the flour, butter, salt, sugar, and egg to the bowl and knead on medium-low speed until the dough forms a ball and easily releases from the side of the bowl (about 4 minutes). If you do not have a dough hook and standing mixer, flour your hands and brace yourself for a mess. Add in the flour, butter, salt, sugar, and egg to the bowl and combine. Use your hands to knead the dough until it forms into a ball, about 10 minutes.
  2. Butter a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen and allow the dough to double in size, about 1.5 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9 glass baking dish.
  4. For the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped hazelnuts, brown sugar, melted butter, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  5. Flour a large work surface. Punch down the dough in the bowl and transfer it to the work surface. Roll the dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle. Spread with the filling, leaving roughly a 1/2 inch border.
  6. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the dough into a cylinder and then slice into 12 rolls. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, in four rows in the prepared baking dish. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until nearly doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes.
  7. While the rolls are baking, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until combined, and slowly add in 2-3 Tablespoons of milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Spread the icing over the warm rolls shortly after they come out of the oven.

*Note: Recipe adapted from Nancy Fuller’s Gooey Cinnamon Buns: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/gooey-cinnamon-buns-with-thick-cream-cheese-icing-3337729

 

Eric’s Pasta

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Remember my first blog post when I said that I have variations on garlic pasta? The version I am sharing today is Eric’s personal favorite. So much so that he generally begs me to make this variation of garlic pasta any time he knows it’s on the week’s menu. It’s a simple dish, and it’s light but still savory and delicious. The sauce is a simple base of olive oil and garlic, with cherry tomatoes and a Parmesan rind added to the mix. The tomatoes start to blister in the pan and release some of their juices while the Parmesan rind melts down and adds a salty, silky touch to the sauce. Fresh spinach and lemon zest are thrown in at the end and it’s all tossed with the hot linguine and some pasta water to bring it all together. Topped with fresh parsley and more Parm…Yum!

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I came up with this recipe one of the first times I went to visit Eric at USC. We did long distance all throughout college and whenever I would visit him in the dorms, we had limited resources. I quickly grew tired of dining hall  options. I wanted something cheap, clean, and easy to make in a tiny communal dorm kitchen. Freshman Eric was skeptical of tomatoes, and this is the dish that totally changed his mind. I have already discussed this in other posts, but I shall reiterate: blistered tomatoes are the bomb. They become sweet little jewels and they totally change the texture and taste of boring old tomatoes. I particularly love this dish because while the tomatoes are cooking in the olive oil, I take a spoon and smash some of them just to get that extra sweetness into the sauce. I also love the final touch of lemon zest, which might seem a little strange with the other ingredients but it really brightens up the dish and makes it taste so clean and fresh.

If you don’t have a Parmesan rind on hand, that’s fine. Personally I store them in the freezer because we go through a lot of Parmesan. The rinds are super handy to throw into soups and pasta sauces. If you haven’t been saving your rinds, you don’t know what you are missing!

If you’re a meat eater and you want something heartier for this meal, you could easily serve it alongside some chicken. Personally, I think this pasta makes for the perfect light dinner or lunch. It’s even better leftover!

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Eric’s Pasta

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

1 lb linguine pasta

 

7 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

1 pt cherry tomatoes

1 (6 oz) package fresh spinach

Zest of one lemon

Fresh Parmesan and Italian Parsley, to go on top

 

Directions:

  1. Cook the linguine in heavily salted water until al dente. It is ideal to use tongs to transfer the noodles directly into the sauce, so you will want to have the sauce ready by the time the pasta is cooked.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, around 3 minutes. Add in the cherry tomatoes and Parmesan rind and turn the heat up to medium-high. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Gently shake the pan throughout cooking and allow the tomatoes to blister and sweeten, around 8-10 minutes. Add in the spinach and lemon zest and stir until slightly wilted. Remove whatever is left of the Parmesan rind.
  3. Directly transfer the pasta from the pot to the pan with the sauce (If you are unable to do this, simply drain the pasta and quickly add it to the sauce pan). Add in a splash of pasta water and stir everything to combine.
  4. Top each plate of pasta with a healthy sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped Italian parsley.