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Blog

breathless

Andrea

Hi, friends. How are you? Goodness...well, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? We’ve missed a lot these last few months...such as apples. A trip to Boston and Halloween. Pumpkins and cranberries. The second anniversary of Bella Eats. And then there was Thanksgiving, and the first snow, and a trip to Florida and, finally, Christmas and the end of another year. Wow. So many opportunities to share food and photos and life with you all and I missed them, each one. I don’t want to start this first post back after three months gone with an apology, so, I won’t. Instead I’ll just say “Hi!” And, “I’m back!” And finally, “If you’re still here...thank you!”

What I do have to say about these last three months is this...they were full. So very full. The full you feel after an extraordinary meal; one that involves ten-too-many bites, an unbuckling of pants, and a slouching down in one’s chair followed by a long, low groan. So satisfying, but when you look down at your plate there are still ten more bites waiting, and you think to yourself “Can I do it?”. Somehow, you do, and at the end of it all you’re left with no choice but to lie down someplace dark and quiet. 

The thing about those big meals is that they are typically surrounded by a tableful of loved ones, conversing and laughing and drinking and eating right alongside you. They are so jovial and supportive that you don’t even notice the fullness until it is too late, and then they are there to moan and groan with you, and to reminisce about the wonderfulness that was the meal consumed. Been there? I thought so. And that is precisely what the last three months has felt like.

I am typically a very stick-to-the-path kind of girl. I follow directions well, read books and watch shows in sequence, knew what I wanted to be when I grew up at twelve years old. But three months ago I took a detour; strayed from the road I’d been traveling and forged a new trail through uncharted territory. 

I quit my architecture job in order to pursue photography as a career. 

That sentence leaves me giddy; so full of excitement that it is difficult to sit in this chair and continue typing. Not only is it unbelievably amazing to be chasing after a dream I never thought possible, but the unwavering support of family and friends has left me breathless.  There are scary moments, certainly, when I peer ahead and begin to doubt my ability to move forward with sure and confident steps. But then, out of nowhere, I’ll receive an email or phone call or Facebook message or tweet (what a funny world we live in, huh?) and I take another step, and another, and another until I am running so fast that I fear I won’t be able to stop. I am breathless, I tell you.

Finally, with the conclusion of a semester of teaching and 100% of my concentration set on photography, I have time for Bella Eats again. This fact I find nearly as exciting as my decision to change paths; to move towards a big dream shimmering at the horizon.  Bella Eats is part of that dream and, in fact, even the generator of it. Without this site I may not have renewed a passion for photography born long ago and lost in my pursuit of architecture. And I certainly wouldn’t have met all of you, or formed real friendships with some very inspiring and brave individuals. I owe much to this place I’ve carved from the world wide web and the people I’ve connected to through it, and am happy to finally be able to give some of that energy back.

And now, let’s talk about breakfast.

Recently, breakfast has slipped into the role of “Andrea’s favorite meal with friends”. It is usually enjoyed out, at any one of a handful of local joints, with someone I most likely haven’t seen in some time. That seems to be the case with most of my friends these days, who all seem equally as busy as I, and the breakfast hour is one that isn’t typically prescheduled for some other task. It is a mighty fine way to kick off a weekday, leaving you content and happy from the time, food, and news shared. 

If I could, I would make each and every one of you these sticky buns one morning this week. They take a bit of planning and an early morning wake-up call, but the end result is quite worth the effort. Paired with a cup of coffee and perhaps a few slices of crispy bacon, the soft, pillowed interior makes the perfect vessel for a sticky sauce of caramel and cranberries. We made them twice within a week, once for Thanksgiving guests and again for friends...just because. 

CRANBERRY ORANGE STICKY BUNS

adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice
makes 8-12 large sticky buns

Ingredients

  • 6-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar plus 1-1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon)
  • Caramel Glaze (see below)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with paddle attachment. Whip in the egg and orange zest until smooth. Add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve the desired texture. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77˚ to 81˚F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
  2. Ferment the dough at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.*
  3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll the dough with a rolling pin or press and stretch with fingertips, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking. Roll or press into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long. Don't roll too thin, or the resulting buns will be tough and chewy. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, from the long side. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1-3/4 inches thick.
  4. Coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1-1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the cranberries. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.** Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  5. Proof at room temperature for 75-90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.***
  6. Preheat the oven to 350˚F with the oven rack on the lowest shelf. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on that oven rack to catch potential overflow.
  7. Bake the sticky buns for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep in mind that the sticky buns are really upside down, so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done in order for the underside to be fully baked.

CARAMEL GLAZE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp orange extract

Method

  1. Cream together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and butter for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add the corn syrup and orange extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

You probably will not need all of the glaze for the buns. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use, it will keep for months in a sealed container.

NOTES:

* When the weather is cool I warm the oven to its lowest setting, 170˚, and then turn it off. I place the fermenting dough in the oven to rise and have much better luck than just leaving it on the calendar in our 60˚ house.

** Clearly my baking dish pictured was too small.  But it's pretty, so I dealt with it.

*** The first time I made these I made the dough and fermented it the night before I wanted to bake it. After shaping the rolls and placing them in the pan on the glaze I covered them with plastic wrap and refrigerated them. I set my alarm for 4 hours before I wanted to put them in the oven, took them out of the refrigerator, and went back to bed.  They came out beautifully.