Monday, April 16, 2012

Bon Appetit and a rewind

In the wee morning hours in those first few months of new-parenthood, my saving grace was the Food Network.  Trivial, I know, but bear with me.  When I brought Julia home from the hospital I remember thinking that I would never sleep again.  When you don't sleep for several days, even the simplest task is magnified and unreachable.  It is easy to believe (after even one sleep deprived night) that you will never be the same again.  Enter the Food Network - a channel that did not require much attention or devotion, but could keep my brain occupied through several late night feedings and inspire me beyond the tired and overwhelmed new-mother role that I was attempting to master.  It was here that I discovered a show in which an ingredient was introduced to 4 master chefs with the task of making something creative.  This seems easy if the ingredient was as basic as garlic, but no, they cook gourmet by somehow combining ostrich eggs, truffles and fruit loops.  I promised myself that when I reentered the world from my fog, I would make meager attempts at creative cooking.
Fast forward 2 years and add another child, which threw me into another short fog (much shorter!)  I just so happened upon vanilla beans in the store recently and I was suddenly inspired to embark on my own journey.  Unlike Chopped, I don't have time constraints or strict judges, which makes the following recipe a more relaxing and conquerable experience.  I found the perfect recipe in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine for Master Sweet Dough.  This recipe provides the dough base and then allows you to get creative with either sticky buns, soft pretzels, a tart, or cloverleaf rolls.  I was initially going to take on the pretzel project with Julia, but the cloverleaf rolls seemed like the perfect addition to our Easter brunch and also allowed me the semi-creative excuse to utilize the vanilla bean.  Isn't that baking at it's finest? Strict directions for a sure-fired good outcome with a little room for creativity.  The following recipe is from Bon Appetit for the Master Sweet Dough.
The strawberry jam was a combination of several recipes (just boil the strawberries with sugar, simmer for an hour and add some lemon juice) - it complimented the sweetrolls perfectly.  Jam is such an easy treat.  I don't think I will ever buy store-bought jelly again!
Vanilla-Cloverleaf Sweetrolls


  • Master Sweet Dough
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (rounded) sugar
  • Special Equipment:

    A standard 12-cup muffin pan


  • Follow directions for Master Sweet Dough, scraping in seeds from vanilla bean as directed.
  • Coat muffin pan cups with melted butter. Punch down dough; divide in half. Roll half of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch-long log (cover remaining dough with plastic wrap). Cut log into 6 equal pieces. Cut 1 piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each third into a 1 inch ball by cupping your hand and pushing dough against work surface as you roll it in a circular motion. Place 3 balls side by side in 1 muffin cup. Repeat with remaining pieces, then with remaining half of dough.
  • Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let sit in a warm, draft-free area until dough rises about 1 inch above rim of muffin pan, 1–1 1/2 hours.
  • Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°. Brush tops of rolls with milk, then sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp. sugar.
  • Bake until puffed and golden brown, 18–20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a wire rack; let cool, 10–20 minutes. Do Ahead: Let cool completely. Store airtight in freezer for up to 1 month. Let thaw at room temperature. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 350° oven until warm, 5–10 minutes.

    This is the best dough I've ever tasted!  Any dough that you kneed by hand and bake to completion wins bonus points.  Nothing beats homemade bread (and jam)!

    Cooking aside, the past few weeks have been packed full of fun.  I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with some  pretty amazing new and old friends and we were able to celebrate some great moments together as a family on Easter and the week before.  
    First and foremost, Charlie is now 9 months old as of the 13th.  Oh stinking Charlie, you always get me with this look:
Lately I have been saying "Noooo Charlie!" when he is doing something that he shouldn't.  For some reason, this cracks him up.  Usually he has this grin on his face at all times.  This boy has my heart.  He surely knows it too!
Charlie and Babci
Julia's imagination has kept our house full of life at all times.  She always wants to know when she can have her friends over and she has some pretty serious conversations with them on her play phone.  Here are some precious moments with her and her friends.
She and Andrew decided to play "The princess and the Lion" - one might think that the lion would be the ferocious one in this game, but who knew how submissive lions could be to this irresistible princess?
Some moments I wonder what might tame this little princess.  Her mind and her body are constantly in motion and sometimes the results are tumultuous.  Usually those moments are flavored with a bit of sweetness, which continues to keep me humble.  
Some time with her Aunt Cookie, Mimi and Papa always seem to bring out the best...
 ...(and of course, wear her out!)

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