Sweet Walnut Bread + Sweet Crescent Rolls

We’ve been doing some Christmas baking and sharing, as well as Christmas caroling lately! I love spreading the Christmas cheer to everyone around me! :)

It’s not Christmas in our house if we don’t make this delicious sweet walnut bread. My sister is usually in charge to make it every year, and this year is going to be no different. It always disappears way too fast! This year she decided to make a video showing you how to make it! I’m excited to share it with you!

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This sweet walnut bread is a traditional Romanian holiday dessert. It has a chocolate walnut filling with rum essence. The rum essence is what gives this bread it’s special, unique, and delicious taste!

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And because everything is much cuter in miniature form, I also made mini sweet walnut breads!

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They turned out absolutely darling, and I’m so glad I had the perfect cupcake liners to put them in!

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When you break into one of these soft breads it’s like eating a soft sweet pillow.

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Seriously, these are a chocolate walnut version of cinnamon rolls (these don’t have cinnamon though).

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I had leftover filling so I made these crescent rolls that are also a Romanian dessert. We love European desserts! :)

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Traditionally these are filled with jam, but this time I just used the chocolate filling and they turned out amazing!

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Now it was time to share! We packed some mini walnut muffins together with some crescent rolls and headed to our neighbors to carol and share some of our Christmas baking.

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I wanted to make some Pinterest-inspired packaging, but I’m not too artistic (I had a Pintrosity moment) and since we were in hurry, I just used a regular paper plate wrapped in plastic foil, and tied it with baker’s twine. My sister had the idea of adding the gingerbread tag. It turned out pretty cute after all (I think).

 What have you been baking this Christmas season? What is your favorite Christmas dessert?

Jessica the Baker

Caramel Brownies

I have the most decadent recipe for you today! Has anyone been on Pinterest lately? It’s a dangerous place I tell you, especially around the holidays. You see things like sticky buns, scones, caramel this and caramel that…ooey gooey delicious recipes, and you just want to try them all! At least I do. :) snowflakes,and raindropes 243

 I haven’t done much Christmas baking actually…which isn’t really fun. But I hope to share more recipes with you soon!

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For now let’s talk about these caramel brownies. They are thebomb.com! Really, these are otherwise known as killer brownies because they are just that good!

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You can even add walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, maybe even butterscotch chips or something like that if you really want to bring these to the top! I want to do that next time I make these.

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These would make a p-e-r-f-e-c-t Christmas gift! I know a lot people like to give food gifts around this time of year as well. Who wouldn’t want to receive such a treat? I know I would! :)

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And to make these even more festive, you can even sprinkle crushed candy canes on top!

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I mean, just look at that caramel! I’ve seen these kind of brownies on Pinterest too many times, I just had to try them for myself and I’m so glad I did. We brought them over to our friend’s house and they said they’re delectable. So you gotta believe they’re delicious!

Caramel Brownies

caramel recipe taken from here

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1/2 oil
1 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 cups sugar

Caramel Filling:

14 oz. caramel candies (unwrapped)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Any nuts and chocolate chips of your choice

Powdered sugar for dusting the top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a saucepan mix together melted butter, oil, and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix the cocoa mixture with the egg mixture until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture (without the mixture) until fully incorporated. Pour half the batter in a greased 13×9 in. baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 10 min. or until the brownie firms up a bit.

To make the caramel, combine the caramel and heavy cream in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the caramels are fully melted. At this point you can add any nuts of your choice to the melted caramel. Pour the melted caramel over the bottom part of the brownies. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer, taking care to pour and spread it evenly otherwise it will be difficult to spread evenly over the caramel layer. You can also add more nuts on top and even chocolate chip if you wish. Bake for another 10-15 min. or until the brownies are completely cooked through. Let them cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar (or even crushed candy canes if you want to look festive).

Enjoy!

Jessica the Baker

Thanksgiving Recap

I don’t know about you, but before I could start thinking about Christmas, for a while I was still savoring the wonderful Thanksgiving we had. So today I wanted to share with you a peak into our day.

Note: Be prepared for a blog post overloaded with pictures because I have so many to choose from, I simply have too many favorites!

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My sister Becky was in charge of the decorations and she did a marvelous job! Check out her side of the story on her blog here. She got a lot of ideas from Pinterest (of course) but she really put them together in a beautiful way

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There were a lot of little special touches that made everything look special, and a lot of them were just things we had lying around our house

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Our Thanksgiving table has never looked more beautiful!

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A little personal reminder to everyone who ate, what Thanksgiving is really all about.

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We had a combination of family and friends and were a total of 33 people! But I love big celebrations, the more the merrier! :)

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The food table piled with all kinds of goodies!  Everyone pulled together and made a different dish. The menu was: Laura Vitale’s Turkey (made by my uncle and cousin which turned out very delicious!), scalloped potatoes, gravy, corn casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, salad, homemade sausages, potato salad, ham biscuits, cornbread, and quiche DSC_1421

Some gluten free dishes for those that are gluten free in our family…no one should miss a good Thanksgiving dinner even if they can’t eat gluten :)

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Okay,  so I didn’t get to make the pumpkin shaped pretzel rolls I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t time…and with the cornbread I used…m-i-x (*sheepish grin*). I know it’s unheard of from me because I’m totally into baking everything from scratch, but when you have so many things on your mind, sometimes you just have to find easier ways. Plus it was organic so I guess it wasn’t that bad. :)

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Loved the  idea my cousin had of putting the cranberry sauce in a grapefruit shell! It looked really pretty.

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Dessert, my favorite! It was kept on the side so that no one could sneak any pieces before dinner :)

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My cousin’s apple pie

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My very rustic-looking mini pumpkin pies. :) I tried Laura Vitale’s recipe and they turned out really delicious!

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My other cousin’s gluten free apple crumb pie

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So for dessert we had: 1 berry pie, mini pumpkin pies, 2 apple pies (1 gluten free), 2 pecan pies (1 chocolate), 1 raspberry chocolate cake, and persimmon cookies

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Both pecan pies were absolutely delicious! I have to ask my cousin for the recipe to make it myself. And yes, I was glad when we ended up with some leftovers. ;)

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I made my berry pie with a crumb topping instead of lattice topping per my sisters request

We had lots of food, and lots of sweet fellowship with one another. Plus a crazy attempt to take a big group picture, while even attempting a big group selfie. :) We managed though!

And now I want to hear from all of you! What did you have for your Thanksgiving dinner? What was your favorite dish? I hope your Thanksgiving was blessed!

You can go here and get Laura Vitale’s mini pumpkin pies recipes. It’s really delicious!

Now we can start thinking about Christmas. :) I already have something yummy to share with you!

Jessica the Baker

Apple-Berry Pie

I realize that Thanksgiving is less than a week away and my blog has been completely silent, while other baking blogs out there have been bursting with delicious recipe ideas. But seriously where did the time go?! How is it that we are already at the end November?

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 So, I decided to bring to you an Apple-Berry lattice pie!

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 For me it’s just not Thanksgiving without a pie, or two, or three…:) Wouldn’t you agree? Please comment and tell me your favorite kind of pie, I’m really curious!

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I’m planning on making this for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner along with a pumpkin pie (I hope it turns out well)

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I usually make a Cranberry-Berry pie, but this time I tried an Apple-Berry version since I had more apples on hand and less berries. In the fall/winter I usually use frozen berries since they’re not in season, I don’t let the weather take away my berry pie. :)

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Now, please forgive the quality of the pictures…it seems like I always end up baking towards the evening, and we all know that natural light is the best for food photography, but when your light is gone, you have to accept this…

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Just trust me when I tell you this was one beautiful pie! I’m so glad I learned how to make a lattice top, it really just brings this to a whole new level of beauty. And of course the test is always in the taste, and this pie has nailed it! The apples and the berries come together beautifully in a delicious blend.

So what are your plans for this Thanksgiving? Are you hosting or visiting? What are you making? Besides two pies, I’m making lots of buttermilk biscuits, cornbread muffins, and probably some pumpkin shaped pretzel rolls (hopefully mine will turn out nearly as good as the ones down below). Check back soon to see how they turn out!

Pumpkin shaped dinner buns. Fast and easy ideas for a fall pumpkin...

Apple-Berry Pie

Bottom Crust:

2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) very cold butter
4 tbsp. water (very cold)
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla

Filling:

6 Apples (diced)
1/2 cup cranberries
1/4 cup blackberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 arrowroot powder (you can also use cornstarch)

Directions:

Cut the butter into the flour and salt with a pastry cutter. Add the vanilla, vinegar, and water, and mix until dough forms. It might be a little crumbly but that’s okay. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour. Peel core and dice the apples. Ad the white sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and arrowroot powder. Pour the apple mixture in a medium saucepan and place it on the stove over medium heat until the apples become slightly tender. Add the berries and mix. Pour the filling in the pie pan lined with the pie crust. Roll out the remaining dough into about a 8″ circle and cut outstrips that are about 1/2″ wide. Brush some egg wash all over the edge and place your strips in a criss cross pattern all over the top and trim off the extra dough. Brush the top of the stripes with a bit more egg wash, bake the pie for about 25 to 30 minutes at 350 or until golden brown. Allow it to cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

Jessica the Baker

Chocolate Mousse Cream Puffs

Does anybody still get Taste of Home magazines through mail? That seems so old fashioned nowadays with all the recipes that you can find with the simple click of a mouse. We used to get them, and now we have a whole stack of them sitting there, mostly unused. While we haven’t tried that many recipes from them, our favorite eclair/cream puff recipe is from one of their issues. We’ve been using it for years, and it’s hands down our favorite recipe. I just realized that I never shared any eclair/cream puff recipes with you!  And I think I know why. Before I can take any pictures of them, they’re gone! :)

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Last Monday I made mini eclairs to bring to our friends, and I had leftover heavy cream and chocolate ganache. Thus these chocolate mousse cream puffs came to be. Waste not, want not right? :) For the longest time I didn’t know the difference between a cream puff and an eclair, until I looked it up. :)

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So they say that eclairs are oblong shaped and filled with different kinds of fillings (like creams, whip cream, custards, etc.) and covered with chocolate ganache or any icing. Cream puffs on the other hand are smaller and round. They’re usually filled with whip cream, custards, or many times ice cream. They are usually  dusted with powdered sugar, or even chocolate ganache.I guess the biggest difference between them is the shape…because you can use the same pastry dough and filling for both. So I think I’ll just call these cream puffs.

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When I made the mini eclairs I kept the same shape as a cream puff (instead of making them long oval shaped) but filled some with vanilla pudding and some with chocolate pudding…yum! The vanilla ones were topped with chocolate ganache, and I left the chocolate ones just with a dusting of powdered sugar since they were already filled with chocolate pudding

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These cream puffs were gone pretty fast! Of course, ice cream is a dessert’s best friend so that’s what we ate these with. Actually ice cream is a dessert all on it’s own, but I meant a baked dessert. :) Fruit would also work divine with these…

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Whatever you eat these with, they are extremely delicious with that chocolate mousse filling!

Hopefully I’ll be able to share with you my eclairs soon…that is if my family requests them in the near future…:)

Chocolate Mousse Cream Puffs

Ingredients:
Puffs:

1/2 cups water
1/4 cups butter, cubed1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup AP flour
2 eggs

Chocolate Mousse:

1 pint heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 tsp. butter
1/8 salt
Powdered sugar

Making Cream Puffs

Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Add the flour all at once; stir briskly until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from heat; let stand for 5 minutes to allow mixture to cool before adding the eggs. Beat well after adding each egg. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny. Drop dough 3 in. apart onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 min. or until golden brown.

While the puffs are baking make the chocolate mousse. Heat 1/3 cup of cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until just below boiling point. Pour cream over chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute. Add the butter and whisk until everything is smooth and combined. Allow the chocolate to cool. In a mixing bowl pour the rest of the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks. Fold the cooled chocolate in the whipped cream. If you feel like your chocolate mousse isn’t sweet enough, add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar until you reach your desired taste. As soon as the puffs are done baking, remove them from pan to wire rack. Immediately cut a slit in each puff to allow steam to escape; cool. Split puffs and set tops aside; remove soft dough from inside with a fork and discard. Fill each puff with the chocolate mousse and place the tops back on. Dust all the cream puffs with powdered sugar and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. You can serve these with ice cream, fruit, or both.

Enjoy!

Jessica the Baker

Amandine!

100th Blog Post!!!!

I saved the best dessert for my 100th blog post! I made these at the beginning of this year, and here they find their way on my blog at the end of the year.

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This is by far the hardest most delicious dessert I’ve ever made! Forget chocolate chip cookies and brownies, these make you feel like you’re a French chef ;)

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Amandine is a Romanian dessert, a delicacy that is enjoyed as one of the nations’ top desserts. I grew up eating these as a little girl, but never dreamed of making them myself, let alone have them turn out right!

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The cake is chocolate and it is soaked in a rum essence flavored coffee syrup, and layered with a chocolate cream

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Then each piece has chocolate ganache poured on top. Clearly, to die for!

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So you could say that this is kind of like a mocha cake

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Why is this so hard you ask?

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Well, in a way it’s not that hard, but it takes a while make

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You have to get the syrup just right, and soak the cake with just the right amount of it or else it won’t taste like Amandine

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Then there’s the chocolate cream that has to have the right amount of rum essence in it

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And of course, you have to make these look beautiful!  :)

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Who wouldn’t want to have a tray full of these delicious goodies?

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They’re so pretty, people won’t believe they’re homemade

IMG_5117Once people get a bite out of one of these yummy things, they’ll love you forever! :) Trust me, these are gone in a matter of minutes, especially if they’re served at a big family gathering (speaking from experience here :) )

So if you want the recipe you know who to contact… ;)

Jessica the Baker

2 September Birthdays

We just love this Raspberry Chocolate Cake! It really is the greatest and easiest chocolate cake ever. I think this year we had it for 4 birthdays, so that says a lot! As you can guess, two of those birthdays were this September.

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I tried my hand at piping a big rose. I’m pretty pleased with how this cake turned out, trust me I’ve had far worse looking cakes before! :)

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Yep, someone was turning 8!

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My little (big!) 9/11 baby sister! Actually, she’s not a baby anymore… she’s a big sister to little miss Caroline :)

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Here is the other birthday cake for my older sister Abby

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My mom decorated it and I think she did a wonderful job with the roses (can you tell we’re pretty obsessed with piping roses on cakes? I just think it looks so pretty and fancy! )

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This birthday girl actually won third place at the Bootcamp Challenge 3-mile obstacle course a few days after her birthday! That was really a highlight for all of us!

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So even though I’ve shared this recipe with you before, I couldn’t resist sharing these other cakes with you. As you can see, there’s a million jillion ways to make a cake, all you need to have mastered is the cake and filling. :)

Happy Baking Everyone!

Jessica the Baker

Homemade Nutella

You’re probably thinking to yourself “Really? Homemade Nutella? Are you the crazy kind of person that makes everything from scratch like even your ketchup and mustard?” Well, yes and no, not really. There’s nothing wrong with buying those things from the store. It’s so easy to just grab that jar off the shelf and your done. No extra work, no headaches about whether it will taste all right. But really, did you ever read the ingredients that go into those jars?

Thanks to my sister Becky, we now no longer buy Nutella. :( Yeah, I know, you can cry for me…and that’s because of the bad ingredients they put in it, one of them being palm oil.

Anyways, we saw a recipe for homemade Nutella on Pinterest, but never actually got down to doing it (you know, some things you pin just never get done) :)

We were excited when our uncle gave us a whole bag of hazelnuts! My sisters quickly tackled the task of making the homemade Nutella.

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It was no easy work I tell you! First they had to take the hazelnuts out of the shell…

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which had to be hammered out, and that took awhile

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You may think that once you’ve got your little gems taken out, you’re close to done…not even! :)

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Then the hard part begins. Roasting, and boiling them in water and baking soda to take their skins off! Whew! That is a whole process in itself, but then you’re finally able to mix these with all the other ingredients.

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At last, you end up with this glorious hazelnut spread that we all know and love, and call Nutella! :)

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Yes, it’s a bit of work (okay, maybe a little more), but it’s SO worth making! Oh the taste! It’s just like the real thing!

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We left ours a little on the chunky side, but you can blend it in your food processor until you reach a creamy paste.

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And the best thing about this is eating it on homemade bread! Divine!

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My mom made this French Bread just in time for us to try it with out Nutella

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Let me know if you want this French Bread recipe and I’ll post it

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We’ve tried it twice now, and both times it was gone really fast. :)

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So make yourself some homemade Nutella. Protect yourself from all those harmful ingredients and enjoy something delicious! :)

You can also give these as gifts (if you don’t eat it yourself faster than you can give it to someone else :) )

And in case you’re interested in my sister’s side of the story, click here :)

Homemade Nutella
makes for 3 jars
 
200 g Hazelnuts
1 can Condensed Milk
255 g Chocolate – the darker the better
1/2 cup hot Milk
 
If you are starting with hazelnuts that are not yet shelled, you will have to follow the process of cracking the shell with a hammer. Then you boil the hazelnuts in baking soda and water for a few minutes and immerse them in cold water before you peel the skins away. Roast the hazelnuts for about 10-15 minutes either in the oven or in a dry pan over the heat. When the nuts are ready put them on a tray or a magazine and let them cool down a little. Once they are not hot anymore, place them in the food processor and start processing them. It will be quite a while, if you don’t have a very professional machine, like me. The hazelnuts will become Hazelnut butter and will look like this. When you’re done with this, start bringing water to a boil. Place a big bowl over the water and melt the chocolate.

When the chocolate has melted, pour the condensed milk in.  Mix them together. Then get ready to add the mixture to the hazelnut butter and process it some more. Add the hot milk if you find it too dense, I did. But if you like it thick, then you can leave the milk out. 

When it is creamy enough, Nutella has been created! Congrats! Brace yourself for some battle with yourself, it will be VERY hard not to eat a lot :)

Enjoy!

Jessica the Baker

The Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls

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For those of you who commented (I love receiving comments btw! :) ) here is the cinnamon roll recipe. I use a sour cream glaze which is different than the cream cheese glaze that the original recipe called for. I just think it gives it a lighter taste, and I don’t always have cream cheese on hand as much as I do sour cream. :)

Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Reserved) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp.  Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter (about 1 stick)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
  • _____
  • GLAZE:
  • 1 cup softened butter
    1/2 cup sour cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    A generous pinch of salt
    Powder sugar to taste and consistency, about 2-3 cups

Preparation Instructions

For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.

To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter mixed with the vanilla, over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Mix the sugars and sprinkle it evenly over the butter. Generously sprinkle ground cinnamon over the sugars. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.

Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.

Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd.

Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.

While the rolls are baking, make the icing: Whip all of the ingredients in a bowl, adding powder sugar until the icing is the consistency you like.  The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.

Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor. They only get better with time… not that they last for more than a few seconds.

Enjoy! 

Jessica the Baker

Cinnamon Rolls

It smelled like Christmas in July…it was the hottest day of the week, and we were baking cinnamon rolls. :) We had a friend over and we wanted to bake together, so we decided to make cinnamon rolls!

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I probably should have waited until Christmastime to post this…but I saw that I never posted my cinnamon roll recipe on this blog!

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For years my sisters and I were looking for the perfect cinnamon roll recipe, only to end up with dry cinnamon rolls. The filling would ooze out and burn the pan

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4 years ago, I saw Pioneer Women’s cinnamon roll recipe. It looked so good I decided to give it a try

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I was scared when I first tried this recipe…I was new to the world of baking and was mostly used to chocolate chip cookies and brownies (you know, easy recipes). The hardest thing I was baking at the time was donuts, so trying yet another cinnamon roll recipe seemed daunting.

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When that first batch of rolls came out of the oven and I slathered them with icing, I took a bite into what tasted like the most delicious homemade cinnamon rolls we’ve ever made! I still make them to this day!

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My taste buds wanted more, the softness was too irresistible!

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Oh the cinnamon flavor, the delicious icing! It’s like I bit into a cinnamon-sugar cloud!

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You HAVE to make these! I don’t need to go to a fancy bakery to get a delicious cinnamon roll now. All I need to do is get in the kitchen and make as many cinnamon rolls as my heart desires whenever I want. Even in July if I feel like it! :)

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And since extra icing never hurt anyone, I’m just going to add a little more

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I like my cinnamon rolls dripping with icing!

The recipe is yours, all it takes is one little comment telling me that you want it! ;)

Jessica the Baker