Diet Wrecker

If you’re on a diet or otherwise trying to avoid sweet-stuff, seriously, abandon ship/post now. This one contains ALL the butter. Also sugar. Lots of sugar

Still here? Awesome, let me begin gushing about these cinnamon rolls.

These are not the typical cinnamon rolls with a cinnamon-sugar mixture laced through. These have a spiced cinnamon-brown sugar mix laced in, with cardamom and coriander. I would have used the star anise called for in the original, but a) we didn’t have any left when I thought we did and b) the grocery store didn’t have any on the shelves (what the heck Wegmans, weird place to fail on me).

Very, very addictive. We had a couple friends over for a little dessert party hang out – pretty sure all four of us had at least two rolls each. Which still left an entire pan of more. This, dear readers, is why I irregularly take baked goods into work – my desk is not in the same area as where we usually leave food for everyone. Therefore, no mindless snacking. Not saying I never eat what I bring in. Just, no where near as much as I would if we kept the excess in our apartment.

Fair warning, this is a long recipe, in terms of time. There’s two different dough rises and ingredients should come to room temperature before even starting. Look elsewhere for a quick dessert, but these can be made ahead, frozen, and then finished the day you need them.

Man, I really want another cinnamon roll right now…

Spiced Sticky Rolls
(with Cream Cheese Frosting)

Original from
Makes 2 nine inch pans, ~ 24 rolls
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 24; Desserts: 2 recipes left


  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, lightly warmed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tsp butter, unsalted, at room temperature (if at all possible)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp (ish) of vanilla extract (pretty sure I accidentally poured in more than a tbsp…)
  • 4 1/2 – 5 cups flour


  • 3 tbsp ground cinnamon OR 4 small cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom OR cardamom seeds
  • 1 cup brown sugar, dark
  • 1 cup/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature


  • 4 oz cream cheese, very soft
  • 1/2 cup milk (or less if you like thicker icing)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, more if desired (for thicker icing)
  1. Dough:
    1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and set aside until a bit bubbly, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the milk mixture, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Add 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough becomes very thick.
    2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and warm, about 7 minutes OR switch the stand mixer to a dough hook and knead until taut and smooth, about 5 minutes.
    3. Wipe out your bowl and lightly oil it. Shape the dough into a ball, place in the bowl, and then turn to get it coated with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside, in a warm place, to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
  2. Filling:
    1. Grind together any whole spices you are using until fine, then mix in the pre-ground spices. Mix the spices with the brown sugar, then cream the sugar mixture into the butter.
  3. Lightly grease two 9″ cake pans or one 9×13 inch pan. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 14 by 24 inches. You’ll want a big work surface for this. Once rolled out, slather the butter mixture thickly across the dough, making sure to spread it nearly to the edges. Roll up along the long side of the dough, into a taut and tight roll – this works better with two people rolling the dough in sync.
  4. Cut the dough roll into 24 individual rolls – we found our sharp chef’s knife worked better than a bench scrapper. Divide the rolls among the prepared pans, then cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F
    1. Making tonight: Bake until just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes (ours were slightly gooily underdone [still delicious!] at 18 minutes). Drizzle (or douse…) with the icing (described below) and serve warm.
    2. Making ahead: Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool. Freeze in their pans or a freezer bag. To finish, allow to thaw in the refrigerator over night and bake in the morning at 350°F for 10-15 minutes. Frost with icing (described below) and serve warm
  6. Icing:
    1. Beat the cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar together. Add more sugar as necessary to achieve your desired thickness/consistency.

Poaching Pears

This recipe sat in the binder for slightly more than a year (since April 19th, 2013 to be precise) for a couple reasons: one, it is a dessert recipe and those tend to sit longer with me. Two, this involves one of, if not the most, expensive spice – saffron. So, I didn’t really want to break it out except for company. But pretty much all of our company has been in numbers larger than 2 guests – and I am not peeling more than 4 pears. Not when I need to coordinate more dishes. But it was getting to be that time – that time when I really need to make it or toss the recipe. Especially since I’d passed my (entirely arbitrary) deadline of one year (well… two? but just for desserts, I swear). I did cut the recipe in half for this test run though – only two pears to peel that way and no leftovers.

Still no photos I’m afraid – replacing the camera is going to be waiting for a bit. But if I’d had one, y’all would totally get to see Adam’s food bliss face.

These are a bit cloying, but that’s kind of the nature of poaching something in a sugar syrup. So, deploy judiciously 🙂

Poach Pears in Saffron Syrup

serves 2
Original from The Spice Bible
Recipe Count – 2 left
Section Count – Dessert Binder:  1 more left (a bread pudding), Subsection – Misc: 0! All done.

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 pears
  1. Combine the vanilla, saffron, sugar, orange peel and water in a large sauce pan and mix together. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  2. While the syrup comes to a boil, peel the pears.
  3. Once the syrup is simmering, add the pears and cover the saucepan. Cook until tender when tested with a skewer or knife, about 12-15 minutes. Turn the pears over with a slotted spoon about halfway through cooking. Once cooked, remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon, set aside, and cover to keep warm.
  4. Allow the syrup to come to a boil and cook uncovered until it has reduced to your satisfaction (about 8-10 minutes to reduce by half. If you want the sauce to thicken a lot, try whisking in some cornstarch (I have not tried this myself yet – let me know how it turns out in the comments if you do, please?).
  5. Slice the pears, arrange on a plate, and spoon the sauce over the slices.

Serving suggestions: over ice cream or with whipped cream on the side.

Fudgy Brownies

Yeah, I needed that break – Adam’s work went into overdrive and he was getting home around 10/10:30 every night. And somehow, despite doing a load of dishes every night, they seem to keep piling up.

We seem to have gotten on top of them now… even after hosting a nine person party/Feastly this weekend. In which there was all the baking – me and baking produces a lot of dishes.

Any rate, in preparation for that Feastly, I tried out a new brownie recipe – Adam wanted to make brownie pops (square of brownie on stick really. with icing!) and while we have an excellent brownie recipe, hey excuse to experiment with a new dessert recipe! I’ll take one of those. But wait, you (might) say – Laura, doesn’t chocolate give you migraines? Yes, yes it does. This is what Adam and friends from college (i.e. 10 years) are for – they get chocolate baked good, and I get honest feed back. Honestly, these are the friend who have been giving me feedback since the day I started learning to cook. They’re awesome for still being willing to try my stuff after those first couple of months 10 years ago – I had to learn to use salt. Any salt.

So these brownies – they originate (for me) from Edible Sound Bites and are very rich. To the point of I’m wondering if maybe I should look up how fudge is made, leave out the flour, baking powder, & eggs, and just refrigerate until set – violá, fudge. Huh… maybe I should actually try that. The weird cooking challenges/experiments I come up with for myself while writing these blog posts. If anyone else tries that before I do, please leave a comment on how it went!

As brownies, they need a contrasting point to them – add hint of cayenne pepper for a bit of a kick, add your favorite nuts for a texture contrast, and/or just own the richness – add some toffee or caramel for a different type of sweet.

Rich Fudge Brownies

Originally from Edible Sound Bites
Makes an 8″ x 8″ pan of brownies – cut to your preferred serving size

Recipe Count – 16 left
Section Count – Dessert Binder: 6 more left, Subsection – Cupcakes & Brownies: no more

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp pur vanilla
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8″x8″ baking pan.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or by placing the chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl which fits snugly in a saucepan of simmering water, without the bowl touching the water. Stir consistently until melted, then set aside to cool for 5 minutes. You do not want it to cool completely – the brown sugar is easier to mix in if the chocolate is still warm. Add the brown sugar and vanilla; stir to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Separately, mix together the flour and baking powder, then add it to the chocolate batter, mixing well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center is almost firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Set on a cooling rack and allow the brownies to cool in the pan. Cut and serve.


Update – yep, skipping the eggs, flour, and baking powder to refrigerate the chocolate mix does make fudge. And judging by the look on Adam’s face, pretty good fudge too.

McCormick is a gimmick – DIY Vanilla Extract

I don’t even know how/where to put this in the count. Adam and I started it in 2011. It’s probably the longest running recipe we’ve ever done.

So, why make your own vanilla extract? Everything is a trade between time and money – you can spend money in order to not spend your own time, or spend time in order to not spend your money. Assuming you have the skills/knowledge/tools to do it in the first place. Well, vanilla extract takes practically no time, no skills and is cheaper than store-bought vanilla extract. Easiest recipe ever. 5 minutes in the kitchen.  Max.

I found the idea/recipe in the end of 2011. In March 2012, we bought hippie vodka, a couple vanilla beans (totally not enough – we bought more later and the next batch(es) will use more than 2), sliced the beans open, shoved them in the vodka and stuck it in pantry. That bottle of vodka moved with us from North Carolina where I was in grad school up to Maryland – you see, we thought we were running out of the store bought extract soon enough that we’d be able to start using it in like April. May at the latest. NOPE, nope, nope, nope. We cracked that extract open, started using it, and poured the ‘daily use’ amount into the old store-bought extract bottle in August 2013.  Good stuff. No, really, it’s pretty darn tasty.

Vanilla Extract

original idea from Hints from Heloise

Makes 750 mL

  • 750 mL vodka -or- white rum
  • 5 vanilla beans
  1. Carefully cut open each vanilla bean lengthwise. Add beans to the vodka; seal bottle.
  2. Allow to sit in a dark, enclosed space for at least 30 days. Taste to see if it is strong enough. If not, continue to allow to sit until satisfied with the flavor.

As the extract is used, you can replace the liquid by adding more vodka or rum. Continue until the flavor is not strong enough for your tastes – use what’s left and make a new batch.

The are all sorts of ways to do this – I’ve seen recommendations to stick a single vanilla bean in 1 cup of vodka or bourbon (or whatever alcohol you like?), 1/2 liter of vodka mixed with 1/2 liter of bourbon or whiskey, as many vanilla beans as you can shove in… Really, it sounds like any combination of vanilla beans and vodka or bourbon you put together should work, it’s all a matter of taste.

Total cost of materials? about $17 for the vodka, another $12 (ish?) for the vanilla. That’s about $30 for 750 mL vanilla extract, or 4 cents per milliLiter. Beat that McCormick.

So, what do I mean by hippie vodka?
Swing-top closure, American grain, advertised as ‘eco-friendly’, 85% recycled (70% post-consumer) glass for the bottle, labels made with ‘100% post-consumer waste paper’, ‘send us the cap back when you’re done with it!’ vodka.

Hippie VodkaHippe Vodka