Winter warmers: Comforting breads and desserts to beat the cold

It’s the middle of Winter. Sigh.

Christmas is long gone and it seems like there’s nothing to look forward to (I mean seriously, what goes on after Valentine’s day?). I long for Spring blooms and the day that I can shed my big coat. Yet in the midst of daydreaming about Summer barbecues and glorious sunshine I believe  the best thing to do is to immerse oneself into all that Winter has to offer. Hot tea, awesome TV shows, bulky forgiving sweaters, the Oscars…. and above all:  Seasonal, warm, delicious recipes.

Here are a few of my favourite go to recipes for gooey pastries, breads and desserts.

BREAKFAST: Healthy  whole grain Banana walnut muffins

Whole grain bana walnut muffins

Whole grain bana walnut muffins

I can’t get enough of these. Feel free to use all-purpose flour instead of the whole wheat if you prefer, but the latter gives you extra fiber to keep you full throughout the morning. Another plus? This recipe only calls for  1/2 cup of sugar. The added bananas do double duty making these muffins extra moist while providing sweetness to the batter as well;  This recipe makes exactly 12 regular sized muffins. Store them in an air-tight container ou freeze them for later.

Whole grain banana walnut morning muffins recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized ripe banana, devided.
  • 3/4 cups walnuts, chopped, divided
  • 1/cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (you can subtitute for 1/3 cup canola oil)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats.
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Directions:

  1. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with  regular muffin paper liners and pre-heat oven to 350 ºF/180ºC. Make sure all ingredients are all  at room temperature.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the yoghurt, milk, eggs, butter and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
  3. In a seperate bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon until combined.
  4. Cut the banana in half; mash one half and dice the second half into small pieces.
  5. Make a well in the second bowl and, using a wooden spoon,  gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix until smooth. add the mashed bananas and mix well; gently add 1/2 cup walnuts and diced banana pieces.
  6. Fill muffin liners until almost full. Sprinkle with sugar and extra 1/4 cup chopped walnuts.
  7. Bake for 12/15 minutes until golden. Place muffins on wire rack until completely cooled.

Recipe variation:

Add 1/2 cup fresh blueberries for one of your 5 a day.

Whole grain blueberry muffins recipe

Whole grain blueberry muffins recipe

LUNCH/AFTERNOON SNACK: Dark cranberry multi-grain bread

Now, here’s the thing. I love making bread. The mixing, kneading and rising that goes into the process can give anyone that amazing feeling of acomplishment as your proud and airy loaf comes out of the oven. However  my favourite home made breads are of the dark whole-wheat variety that, although yummy, usually require different flours that aren’t readily available. As such, I confess, I use store bought multi-grain bread mix for this recipe and throw in a few ingredients of my own.

Dark multi-grain cranberry bread

Dark multi-grain cranberry bread recipe

Multi-grain bread with cranberries recipe

Ingredients:

  • 500 g (1 pound) multi-grain bread mix
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, plus extra for sprinkling.
  •  1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped.
  • Warm water
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Directions:

  1. Follow the bread mix’s manufacturer instructions to make 1 loaf; In a large bowl or in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment add the bread mix, warm water, oil, molasses and rolled oats and mix; A shaggy dough will form.
  2. Add cranberries and knead dough. If using a stand mixer, knead for about 5 minutes. By hand, knead for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and strecthy.
  3. Roll dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm place and let rise for an hour until doubled in size.
  4. Punch down dough and put it in a 20″ by 8″ loaf pan lined with grease proof paper. Smooth dough surface with a wet metal spoon and sprinrkle top with rolled oats. Let rise for another 45 minutes until doubled in size and domey.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC; Place loaf in the oven and reduce temperature to 180ºC. Bake for  about 20 minutes until top is brown.
  6. Cool 5 minutes in loaf then let cool competely on wire rack.

Serving suggestion:

Cream cheese on dark whole-grain cranberry bread

Cream cheese on dark whole-grain cranberry bread

This bread goes great with a thick layer of cream cheese; In the summer, add fresh sliced strawberries for perfect a afternoon snack with a tall glass of iced tea.

OOEY GOOEY PASTRY:  Glazed Cinnamon rolls

Please don’t be overwhelmed by this recipe. I know the directions  might seem daunting, but the steps are simple, and  just need time.  The great thing about Winter baking is that you can take a lazy, rainy, cold sunday and invest a few hours into making pastries like these amazing sticky rolls. The best part? After slicing the rolls you can freeze them and bake when needed. So take the time, make a cup of tea, and have a cinnamon roll.

Glazed cinnamon rolls recipe

Glazed cinnamon rolls recipe

Ingredients:

  •  2 cups butter, divided
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 tsp quick rising active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tsp vanilla, divided
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk, warm
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 2 tbsp flour, milk and 1/4 cup warm water. Let proof for 10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Make the dough: Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature; in a large bowl beat 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, and salt together with an electric mixer set on medium-high, until combined. Add the egg until combined.
  3. Using a wooden spoon, carefully add the yeast mixture then the rest of the flour; a shaggy dough will form.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and smooth, about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat with the oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled — about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Shape the rolls: Line a 9 by 13 ” baking pan with greaseproof paper. Melt 1/2 cup butter and cool slightly. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon and set aside. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Roll each into an 8- by 14-inch rectangle, and brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and starting at the 8-inch end, roll each into a log. Cut into 9 rolls (to get even slices, refrigerate the logs for about half and hour then cut out the rolls)*. Place the rolls in the prepared pan. Cover and let rolls rise until almost doubled — about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 325°F/175ºC. Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool slightly. Invert pan onto a serving plate.
  6. Make the syrup: Melt 1 cup butter in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla and stir until combined. Boil for 1 minute. Let glaze cool slightly than brush over warm rolls. Serve warm. **
Gooey Cinnamon rolls recipe

Gooey Cinnamon rolls recipe

* If you don’t want to make that many rolls in one go, at this stage you can freeze extras for later; just place frozen rolls  on a prepared baking pan and  follow the rest of the directions.

** If you need even more gooey goodness, in a small bowl mix 1/3 powdered sugar, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp water. Using a fork and a back and forth motion cover glazed rolls with streaks of the sugar glaze.

Recipe variation: Before rolling the logs, add chopped pecans for crunchiness.

Get messy, bake and enjoy. More Winter Warmers coming soon!

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