Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Midnight Baker Strikes Again

Here we are mid-summer. I always have high hopes for waking up early, walking around the lake at dawn, finishing a yoga class by nine and making a beautiful breakfast for everyone. Well...this is not happening. My positive thinking side is saying, there's still hope, you can do it! The fact is, I am naturally a night owl and if you don't get to bed until 1am chances are you won't get up at dawn ready to take on the world. My daughter Maria seems to be following in my lead. I've started to call her the "Midnight Baker". Sweet smells of banana bread waft from the kitchen in the middle of the night. These Sticky Lemon Rolls are her latest creation, her first attempt with using yeast. She whipped the dough together, let it rise, rolled them out and packed them with sweet tangy lemony goodness. The beauty of this recipe is that the prepared rolls can sit around in the refrigerator over night and are ready to bake in the light of day.

To me a bowl of lemons on the table is art. Don't they just make you happy? To you lucky Californians, if you don't have a lemon tree, go plant one. Also keep lemons on hand for their many health benefits. I know this is a stretch since we are using them in a sweet treat recipe, but check out the many benefits of lemon and other citrus fruits phytonutrients, antioxidant and even antibiotic properties.

Look at how crusty and flaky they look. If a first timer can make them, so can you.

Top them off with the cream cheese lemon zesty glaze.

Enjoy with a steamy cup of tea or coffee. I'd get up early for these. They are wonderfully addicting. The pan was gone in hours (we did share a few with the neighbors) Stay tuned for the next installment of my "Midnight Baker". What will she bake up next?

This recipe has a lot of words...but don't let that intimidate you.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
(Recipe adapted from ( )

Makes 12 rolls

Lemon Roll Dough:
3 Lemons
1 pkg. active yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
3/4 c. warm milk (not hot)
1/2 c. (1 stick) very soft unsalted butter
1/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling:
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg (if you've got it...or use ground, no prob)
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (very soft)

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar (which we had to borrow from the neighbor)

Make the Dough:
Zest and juice the lemons. Divide the zest into three parts. Divide the juice into two parts. Set aside. (half of juice used for filling, half will be used for glaze)

In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let stand for a few minutes. With the mixer paddle attachment, stir in softened butter, sugar, vanilla and 1 c. of flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg and one part (1/3) of the lemon zest. Stir in eggs and enough of the flour to make a soft and sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 min. or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Spray the dough with cooking oil and turn over so it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let stand until it has nearly doubled in volume (about an hour.)

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger. Then work in the second part of the lemon zest with your fingers until it resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one part of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when it forms a wet clumpy mixture. (you might not need all of the juice)

Assemble the rolls:
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface roll out the dough into a large yet still thick rectangle (about 10 x 15)

Spread the dough evenly with the 3 Tbsp. of softened butter. Pour and spread the lemon mixture over the top. Roll the dough up tightly starting at the top long end of the dough. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you go to keep the filling inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even pieces. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed. Place each one cut side up into the prepared pan.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (Instead of doing this we put them in the refrigerator at this point...they can stay in there for up to 24 hrs.) When you are ready to bake take them out of the refrigerator and let them rise in the same manner.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 min.

Make the glaze:
With a food processor, or mixer beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice until well blended. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are baked smear with cream cheese glaze and sprinkle with remaining lemon zest. Let cool for 10 min. before serving, but they are best when served while still warm.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Little Bit of Heaven

"We're going on a picnic, and this is what we're going to bring..." Grandma started our nap time stories with these words and we'd fill in the blank. I usually said potato salad (but that recipe is for another post) Her technique was to get us to close our eyes and imagine this ideal picnic with wonderful food, games and family around us. Then she would tell us that is what heaven will be like.

Last month we paid a formal tribute to my Mom's life. This celebration gathered family from across the country. We cried, laughed and had wonderful times with our extended family. My oldest kids live in California and were home for an extended time after the memorial. These pictures and simple picnic food ideas are from our family picnic with all four kids home. When younger and all under one roof, we'd go to "Turtle Fountain" near the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, our favorite spot. This particular evening was glorious with picture perfect weather, lovely simple food, a dance ensemble performing in the garden, and a game of bocce ball. Dessert came later at Sebastian Joe's Ice cream, another tradition.

Picnic instructions:
Get a bag, throw in cheese, cutting board...and your favorite "hooch". Is that how you spell it? If it's in a mason jar it's legal at the park right? San Pellegrino for the young ones.

Next, get a crusty baguette from Rustica Bakery $2.50. Voted one of the 10 best bread bakeries in America (according to Bon Appetit Magazine)

Wonderful smoked ham from Clancey's Meats in Linden Hills

Plugra European Style Butter - Under the advice from my oldest son...that's all you really need. And he's right.

Check out this snazzy new teak salad bowl I found at the thrift store for 5 bucks!

That morning we all went to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market and collected fresh and locally grown buttery lettuce, radishes and asparagus. Here are a few things we created from the trip to the market.

Simple Farmer's Market Salad

Butter lettuce (or any other beautiful tender lettuce from the market or your garden)
Thinly sliced radishes

Dress with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1 to 2 cloves of garlic (smash with the back side of a lg knife and mash about 1/4 tsp salt in)
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. Flat leaf Italian parsley
Few Tbsp. snipped fresh herbs...Chives are great (whatever you like)

Buttermilk (well shaken) add enough to dressing to achieve desired consistency

Freshly ground pepper and salt
Dash of cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce

Mix all together. Taste to get seasoning to your taste.

Blanched Asparagus
Check out this "How to video" Keep it green and crisp.

Dip it in your own homemade mustard (a chance to use another mason jar...I love them)


1/4 c Colman's Mustard
1/4 c White wine vinegar
1/3 c Dry white wine
1 tb Sugar
1/2 ts Salt
3 Egg yolks

You begin with Colman's Mustard, adding vinegar for tartness and wine for mellowness; then you cook with egg yolks to give the spread its velvety smooth texture. You can season the mildly flavored mustard as suggested, or leave if plain. For gift-giving, package the mustards in jars and identify them with decorative labels. In top of a double boiler, stir together mustard, vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt. Let stand, uncovered, for 2 hours. Beat egg yolks into mustard mixture.

Place over simmering water and cook, stirring with a wire whisk, until mixture thickens slightly (about 5 minutes). Pour into small jars and let cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a month.

Makes about 1 cup.

The bubbly white flat bread in the picture is Armenian Cracker Bread...Lavash. It comes in the big rounds made by Valley Bakery. We break it up and run it under tap water quickly to soften it a bit. Great with it's Armenian and so is my family.
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