Monday, May 23, 2011

Food obsession

I have a confession to make: I love food.  While some people see food as a means to survive, food is my life. I am constantly thinking about the recipes I am going to make, buying ingredients, searching the web for new recipes, and watching cooking shows. I bake and cook when I’m happy as well as when I’m sad. Food is my escape when I need time to myself or when I want to forget about a not so great day at work. But food is also how I express myself and my way of making the people around me happy. I look forward to having friends over, trying to put together a menu that will not only please their taste buds but that also challenges my culinary skills.
Many moons ago, when my husband and I had been dating only a few months, I started hosting a yearly dinner for 6-10 of our friends for his birthday. I spent over a month looking at recipes and going over food combinations for this 8 course surprise dinner party (which just keeps getting bigger every year! 23 items on the menu last year!!). I had never prepared something quite so large for so many people, but I welcomed the challenge and looked forward to it (I still do every year). Seeing the smile on my friends’ face as they ate the food I had prepared was all the reward I needed, I was hooked.
But my love of food did not start over night. My parents were both great cooks. My mother mastered the art of traditional French Canadian cuisine, while my father was an amazing baker and the more adventurous cook of the family. I also grew up surrounded by my aunts and uncles’ cooking. There was my godmother who always served us a four course meal and my aunt and uncle, who would buy funky cheeses and other delicacies, and my uncle, the hunter who would give us deer or moose meat every year. But at the core of my family’s love and appreciation for food was my maternal grandmother. Growing up, I was lucky enough to live right next door to her. Every day the school bus would drop me off at her house and I would watch with amazement everything that she would make. Pies, Christmas logs, jellies, delicious soups, relish, breads, buns you named it, she made it. Everything she cooked was made with love and her biggest reward was to see the smiles on our faces when we got to eat whatever she had whipped up together that day.  In the 90’s she donated her favourite bread recipe book to my father (in order for her craft to be passed down to the next generation) who had spent many days with her studying her every move. When I got old enough he tought me everything he knew. I remember the joy on my grandma’s face when I showed her pictures of my first sticky buns and “monkey bread crown”, she almost cried she was so happy.
When I decided to start a food blog, I knew that my first recipe had to be just that. So, in honor of my grandma my first recipe is her sticky buns and monkey bread crown (known as Hungarian buns or Aranygaluska). I hope this recipe brings you as much joy and happiness as it has given me over the years! Bon appétit!

Basic sweet dough recipe 
(Originally from a Robin Hood book)

1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup cold water
¼ cup butter (margarine would do in a pinch) at room temperature
½ cup lukewarm water
4 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast (or two 8 gram packages)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
7-7 ½ cup all-purpose flour

In a saucepan (or in a glass bowl in the microwave), bring the milk to a boil. Add ½ cup sugar, the salt, the butter and ¾ cup of cold water and mix well. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes (should be lukewarm before you add to the other ingredients otherwise it will kill the yeast).

In the meantime, take ½ cup of water (has to be at 100 degrees F, otherwise the yeast will not rise properly) and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add the yeast and let sit until the mixture has at least doubled (takes usually about 10 minutes).

Pour the yeast mixture in the bowl of your stand mixer and add the milk mixture (make sure it is lukewarm otherwise it might kill your yeast!). Add the eggs and mix well at the lowest speed with the flat beater.

Add 3 ½ cups of flour to the mixture and mix using the dough hook. Gradually add the rest of the flour and mix until the dough becomes uniform and fairly elastic (will take 7-10 minutes).

Cover the bowl with a lukewarm wet cloth and place in the oven with just the oven light on). Let it rise for 1 ½ hour or until the dough has doubled.

Once the dough is ready, take out of the oven, remove the cloth and punch the dough with your fist (this stops the dough from rising any further). 

Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut it in half.

Hungarian buns (a.k.a. Monkey bread)

½ sweet dough recipe
2/3 cup melted butter
1 ½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup walnuts
½ cup raisin
½ cup Maraschino cherries (cut in half)

Grease an 8 – 9 inch metal bunt pan with butter. Set aside.
Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
In another small bowl melt the butter.
Separate the dough in 2 and form 2 cylinders.

Cut the cylinders into 1 inch pieces and roll pieces into balls.

Put a hand full of raisin, cherries, and nuts at the bottom of the buttered pan.

Put each dough ball into first the melted butter and then the sugar mixture.

Place the dough balls into the bunt pan and add cherries, raisins and walnuts between each layer of balls.

Once all the balls are in the pan, cover with a wet cloth (always lukewarm) and place in the oven (with only the light on) and let rise for 45 to 60 minutes or until the balls have close to doubled.

Pre-heat the oven at 375 degrees F and then cook for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (it is always better to place a cookie sheet under the pan just in case the syrup spills over).

Wait 5 minutes and reverse the pan onto a plate. Serve warm with lots of butter.

Sticky buns

½ sweet dough recipe
½ cup melted butter
1 ½ cup brown sugar
1 -2 teaspoons cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon)
¾ cup raisins

Grease an 8” by 11.5” by 2” pyrex pan with butter
Mix the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.
Roll out your dough into a large rectangle (dough should not be more than ½ inch thick). Add raisins on top and press them into the dough using a rolling pin.

Brush the surface with butter.
Lay the sugar mixture on top (distribute evenly on dough).

Roll the dough into a cylinder.

Cut the cylinder in half and then cut the each half into 8 pieces (about 2 inches each).

Place the pieces into the buttered dish, cover with a wet cloth and place in the oven with only the light on. Let rise for 1 hour or until the dough doubles.

Pre-heat the oven at 375 degrees F.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Serve warm with lots of butter!

Both the sticky buns and the monkey bread keep for 2 days in a sealed container at room temperature. You can also freeze them for up to a month (but if you're anything like me, they won't last that long!)

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