Dining Outside the Home: Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California. You may as well throw any semblance of willpower out the window when you cross the threshold into Solunto’s Ristorante in the heart of Little Italy. Especially if you’re hungry. Close your eyes for a moment. Inhale. The aromas alone of handcrafted breads, decadent pastries, napoletana pizzas, flavorful gelatos, and artisan coffees can mean only one thing. You’re going to be here awhile. But that’s okay. Solunto is all about family and friends socializing over a meal. Savor every bite; just leave room for more. The crisp Italian dessert shells, known as Cannolis, are filled with sweet, creamy filling. But don’t take my word for it. The pastry case is a feast for the eyes. Try one of everything. Solunto’s Bakery has “to-go” boxes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Yeast Cinnamon Rolls! Don’t you just love modern kitchen appliances? My husband already owned a countertop Bread Machine when we got married seven years ago, so today I decided to try it out. (First I had to find it. When combining two households, things get shuffled around.) The recipe booklet boasted the best glazed cinnamon rolls and the photo bolstered my confidence enough to put it to the test. I’m glad I did. The house smelled like a family-owned bakery and the warm, gooey cinnamon buns were phenomenal. The challenge came at only eating one.
YEAST CINNAMON ROLLS
Ingredients for Dough:
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Ingredients for Filling:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Ingredients for Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
Measure all dough ingredients carefully and place in the bread machine in the order they are listed: water, butter, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Select “Dough” cycle and “Start”. When the timer rings, remove the dough and flatten with a rolling pin into a 9-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Spread with 2 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon filling over the buttered dough. Roll the dough up tightly; pinch the ends to seal. Cut the dough into 1-inch slices. Place in a 9″x9″ square pan. Cover with a wet tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until double. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Combine Glaze ingredients mixing powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Remove from pan to wire rack. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Monkey Cinnamon Bread! Cutting corners can be a good thing, especially on a lazy day when I gotta have a breakfast pastry and really don’t want all the fuss. I mean, I know I can make this from scratch and allow time for the dough to rise while scrolling through social media, but honestly…I don’t wanna. I’d rather sip my morning cuppa joe, talk to my husband, and inhale the bakery aromas that drift through the house. Maybe you would, too.
MONKEY CINNAMON BREAD
3 (8-ounce) tubes of buttermilk biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a Bundt pan with butter. Set aside. In a bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into four equal pieces. Roll each piece in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Arrange in the prepared Bundt pan. Continue layering until all the dough is used. Transfer the excess cinnamon sugar (about 1/2 cup) to a medium saucepan. Add brown sugar and butter. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat. Drizzle the mixture over the dough in the Bundt pan. Bake 30 minutes or until the tops are crisp and turning golden brown. Remove from oven. Rest 5 minutes. Cover the Bundt pan with a large plate. Invert pan. Carefully, left the pan to expose the gooey sweet Monkey Cinnamon Bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Lilac, Sugar, Sugar! Here’s a way to capture the essence of an early Spring morning. By infusing lilacs into ordinary table sugar, any bakery item or tea beverage can be transformed into an European delight. The unique floral flavor of lilacs is amazing paired with lemon citrus or wild berries. Think scones, muffins, cookies, and ice cream. Or what about an aromatic herbal infusion to iced tea? I like mine fizzy with lemonade and sparkling water. How refreshing! In any event, the possibilities are endless. The next time the lilac blossoms come around, get picking. Your taste buds will thank you.
LILAC, SUGAR, SUGAR
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup lilac petals
Rinse lilac flowers under running water. Let dry. Remove blossoms from stem with scissors. Discard stems. Alternate layers of sugar and lilac petals in a jar. Close lid. Place the jar in a dry dark cabinet. Every day, gently shake the jar to mix the sugar and break up any clumps. After one week, sift the sugar to separate the dried petals from the flavored sugar. Crush the petals or discard them. Spread the lilac sugar on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet to dry one week longer. Transfer lilac sugar to an airtight container for storage.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Ingenious Bakery Bread! Some days are just made for shortcuts. The fact is, everyone needs a timesaving tip now and then. For starters, buying frozen bread dinner roll dough takes the guesswork out of measuring ingredients, which is why I keep a bag on hand. The other day I made homemade chicken noodle soup and wanted freshly-baked bread instead of saltine crackers. While the aromatic flavors of the soup were blending in the slow-cooker, the bread was rising to perfection. Together they pulled off a meal like a pro.
INGENIOUS BAKERY BREAD
8 pieces frozen yeast dinner roll dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
Spray a loaf pan with nonstick oil. Place the 8 frozen rolls into the pan in a single layer with edges touching. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Cover entire pan with a tea towel. Place pan in a warm area, free of drafts. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in size, between 2 and 4 hours. Remove tea towel and plastic wrap. The raised dough will resemble a single loaf. Brush top of dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with dill weed and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Immediately remove from loaf pan and cool on a wire rack. Brush with melted sea salt butter. Serve warm.
Dining Outside the Home: Café Gelato in Las Vegas, Nevada! In the city that never sleeps, tucked down a Bellagio corridor where the noise is left behind, you’ll discover a quaint European café a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean-style pool. Don’t be surprised by the occasional beachwear you see. Everyone is comfortable here. The casual fare includes enticing gelato in a plethora of flavors and bakery-fresh pastries, which make a nice accompaniment to abundant paninis or healthy garden salads. Feel free to share. Café Gelato makes it the perfect spot for a little R & R. Go ahead, indulge.
Dining Outside the Home: Gibson’s Donuts in Memphis, Tennessee! Who is obsessed with donuts? Anyone? Glazed. Cake. Chocolate. Powdered Sugar. Cream-filled. Sprinkles. Jelly. Bacon. Fritters. The list goes on and on. We like donuts for breakfast, snack, parties, celebrations, dessert, just about any time of day or night. That is the reason Gibson’s Donuts is such a landmark on Mt. Moriah Road in Memphis, Tennessee. Their reputation for 24-hour service requires no advertising. It’s all word-of-mouth, if you catch my drift. And they’ve been going strong for over 50 years. The donut-filled display cases keep customers pretty satisfied. You may drop by for a donut break and find yourself walking out with a boxed dozen…or two. The aromas are so amazing due to an energetic staff who work round the clock. In the end, it means the freshest donuts around.
Dining Outside the Home: Baked by Melissa in Manhattan, New York City, New York! When it’s late at night and your sweet tooth just won’t give up, the answer is bite-sized cupcakes. Oh, yeah. This Manhattan bakery came recommended to us by an energetic waiter in a local pub as well as the helpful valet around the corner who pointed us in the right direction. Think about it. Mini cupcakes, the size of a quarter, with at least 18 distinct flavors like Red Velvet, Cookies & Cream, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Chip Pancake, and Caramel Cone. At less than 50 calories each, it’s practically heaven-sent. The average customer eats 4-5 cupcakes at one time. Nice. Needless to say, we walked away with a gift box holding the coveted creations. OMG! YUM!
Dining Outside the Home: Carlo’s Bakery of “Cake Boss” in Las Vegas, Nevada! It all started when the late night dessert craving hit me. Anyone who’s had an authentic Italian cannoli will appreciate the quest for perfection. Up the stairs at The Venetian across from Buddy V’s, delicious bakery creations are showcased for all to see: abundant fruit tarts, luscious cream-filled cannolis, deep dish cheesecake, elaborate dark chocolate cupcakes topped with ribbons of buttercream icing. It is impossible to choose just one. Forget the diet and indulge yourself. After all, it’s Vegas!