p3: Banana Caramel Rolls

#15, Caramel Rolls – Anise-spiced Banana version

54e4174ffe09414b2050c1f2b6cf90d7One of the first recipes I remember actually making on my own, and having a very undeserved sense of pride in doing so, was after I learned how to make Cinnamon Rolls in… I wanna say middle school, could have been sooner. I had yet to ever revisit making them, except in college when we made Caramel Rolls or Sticky Buns (however you wanna call it). The recipe stuck out in the book this week, probably since I’m home alone and feeling very much the urge to make sweet and naughty things, so I’ll indulge myself with this yeast-raised sweet bread; Caramel version of course, I don’t understand anyone who thinks it isn’t superior to just plain with frosting.

20150816_154314I’m putting a couple twists on things, however. First, instead of just the Cinnamon-Sugar dusting on the inside, think I’ll use up yet another super-ripe banana in my freezer and make a banana-cinnamon paste, flavored with a bit of star anise for a fun kick; also added some to the caramel. Speaking of which, I’m not using the caramel recipe in the book either; I want to, but I don’t have any corn syrup. Which is fine because, as I’ve found out, our options in the caramel roll world are quite numerous. There are a variety of techniques one can choose; my baking teacher made this sort of brown sugar-butter paste thing that was spread on the bottom. Aside from that, there’s the simplest mixing of brown sugar and melted butter, mixes utilizing corn syrup, or, and I’m thankful for finding this recipe since it was exactly the kind I was looking for, honey and spices mixed with the sugar and butter. It leads for a fun drive to experiment and find your favorite style in the future.

This particular dough recipe is actually a lighter ‘enriched’ style, using only a small amount of eggs and fat for tenderness, as opposed to the ‘rich’ category that brioche usually occupies; basically, super enriched. One can make this with the higher fat contents, in fact that’s what I plan to do next time since I looooooves the idea of a cinnamon or sticky bun with that buttery crisp edge. But for now, to the proper basics and all-around. Oh, and I’m doing the kind with nuts on it too.

Notes before continuing: I’m doing the milk substitute version, since mine decided to curdle and I had plenty of milk powder; if you’d like to use milk, or buttermilk, swap water and powdered for 9-10oz of the liquid.

Banana Caramel Rolls
6½ Tb/3.25oz Sugar
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
5 ½ Tb/2.75oz Butter or Margarine, room temp
3 Tb/1oz Milk Powder
1 large/1.65oz Egg
1 tsp/0.1oz Vanilla Extract
2tsp/0.22oz Yeast
1 cup/8oz Water, slightly warmed
3½ cups/16oz Bread Flour

F20150816_152202or Filling
1 large Super-ripe Banana
5-6 Tb Sugar
¾ Tb Ground Star Anise
¾ Tb Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg if desired

For Caramel
6 Tb Butter, melted
5/8 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/6 cup Honey
¼ tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Star Anise
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ – 1 cup Roasted Nut of your choice, whole or roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Cream together Salt, Sugar, Butter, and Milk Powder with mixer paddle attachment until ‘fluffy’20150816_124826
  2. Add in Egg and Vanilla, scraping down sides, and beat until mixed and smooth20150816_125106
  3. Mix Yeast and Water, leaving for 5 minutes to bloom20150816_122711~2
  4. Transfer to mixing bowl, with Flour, and mix on low-medium speed until everything comes together in a mass20150816_125624
  5. Switch out paddle with dough hook and start mixing on medium speed for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth, tacky, and barely sticky, adding flour as needed. It will still likely stick to the bottom of the bowl, look for it to pass the Windowpane Test20150816_131355
  6. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, let bulk ferment 2 hours, until doubled in size20150816_152219
  7. While this is happening, make your Filling and Caramel. Combine the ripe Banana and all other ingredients in a bowl, mashing and mixing thoroughly into a consistent paste20150816_152653
  8. Separately, whisk the warm Butter, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Spices until smooth and saucy20150816_154140
  9. Spray counter with light mist of oil, transfer proofed dough to surface20150816_153326
  10. Lightly dust top and rolling pin with flour and roll out to 14”x12” (for larger buns) or 18”x9” (for smaller), the dough should end up 2/3” thick20150816_153720
  11. Spread your banana-spice paste evenly over the surface, stretching to the edges20150816_153938
  12. Roll up into a log, from the short end but really it’s up to you depending on thickness desired20150816_154734
  13. Cut log into 8-12 pieces at 1¾” lengths (for larger size) or 12-16 and 1¼”20150816_154615
  14. Spread Caramel along bottom of your baking pan/s, sprinkle with Toasted Nuts of your choice20150816_154856
  15. Lay rolls spiral-down in pan, leaving space between each, spray top with oil, and cover loosely with plastic to proof, 75-90 minutes, until dough has grown into each other20150816_173035
  16. Preheat oven 350F
  17. Move proofed dough to oven, sans plastic wrap of course, and leave to bake 30-40 minutes until developed an even, deeper golden color on top20150816_180708
  18. Remove and let rest on counter 5-10 minutes
  19. Place a larger pan upside-down on top of rolls, carefully grip edges, and quickly and smoothly flip both pans upside-down so that the still-hot rolls drop out caramel-size up. Spoon any dripping sauce back on top20150816_181512
  20. Pull some of the big suckers apart and enjoy while still warm! So good

What Have I Learned This Time?

Less Cinnamon, more ‘other spices’ required when trying to adjust flavors in something like this noticeably. Note, I’ve already made some adjustments in the recipe that SHOULD work if you wanna try it; otherwise just use all Cinnamon and the sugar.

At times, when not consuming caramel at the same time, I actually WAS able to get the banana, but I think I’d need even MORE just to make it really be a distinctive element.

Caramel Rolls are addicting… I seriously tried eating just HALF of one of these really big-ass buns on two occasions… during the same day… -cough- and both times ended up just consuming the whole thing. I’m pretty sure it’s due to that pull-apart aspect that just leads you going round and round and already eating ¾ before you know it so why not finish with the best part, the center?

Using a wider chef’s knife or something similar actually made for easy, clean cutting of the soft and stretchy dough, as opposed to trying more delicate, long slices.

Apparently caramel rolls are cooked longer than Cinnamon Rolls; I believe it’s because, in reality, the dough itself doesn’t need as much time, but one gives extra to ensure the caramel gets cooked to a certain point. Which I think is a bit bull, because I would rather have a caramel that’s still soft and gooey and running sauce-like over the thing, as opposed to it setting up into that firm almost ‘candied’ structure, though I do understand that’s a personal thing, and it still was quite addictive and good like that! But then again, I did also use a different caramel recipe; perhaps the one with corn syrup really needed some extra time to actually caramelize.

You ever see those absolutely gigantic cinnamon/caramel rolls that some diners serve, perhaps featured on TV? I now realize they’re probably not even that hard to make; just probably need to roll it out a little thicker, with less width and more length so as to roll it out into bigger, gigantic rounds. Now I really want to make one… a good reason to return for a Cinnamon Roll article huh?

Any Thoughts?

20150816_181904Well I was going to use the last part about the ‘giant’ rolls in here, but it fit better for a quick personal learning factor. I will say that having smaller rolls would be also quite beneficial… this batch gave me 8 individual pieces, and after the first day I had… 3 left. One of which I had for breakfast the next morning. So it was probably a good thing I gave the other two away to friends. And now I’m off to making a coconut milk custard to fill my sweet tooth’s incessant demands.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

We’re certainly sweeties (yuck yuck yuck), for once it’s the other things that I feel the need to adjust and play with. I almost struggled at one point, pretty sure the dough was too hydrated while it was kneading, but I think I adjusted it with enough flour rather well.

p2: Souffle

Okay, how the heck is it that out of 44 different classic French desserts they could have chosen (3 of which are all some form of profiterole, 5 or more are different Tarts, and 2 of those tarts are some kinda plum), there’s not a single damn Soufflé!? Oh, well I guess they already have a souffle in the savory side… but wait, they also have a Savory Crepe paired with a Crepe Suzette, so that logic is thrown out the window! Well I say screw them, I’m changing it! This is now the “French 45,” and we shall have Soufflé!!imagesN8HN2EYL

The Sweet

The development of soufflé is likely long-lived but shortly-documented, its transition from fried egg to pastry most likely kicking off in Medieval Times, when Whisked Egg Whites started being incorporated into a variety of dishes. Though it wasn’t until the development of Meringue techniques in the 1600’s that the true potential in soufflé could be seen, but not yet realized.

Finally, new Ovens, heated by air drafts instead of coal, made their appearance in the early 1800’s, flagging in the first “true” soufflés (certain chefs such as Beauvilliers and Louis Ude had supposedly made very similar kinds of pastries less than 20-40 years prior, but they would be either unpublished or labeled), providing an even temperature for the pastry to cook properly. The first to make notable use and publication of the technique, and thus credited with its creation, is a certain Antoine Careme, the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings, aka one of our personal Gods in the Kitchen. There’s much I could go into recounting about Careme, but that’s a post in and of itself.

untitledBesides perfecting the recipe, which he soon used to make hundreds more including the grand and famous Soufflé Rothschild (made with gold flecked liqueur-macerated-crystallized fruit), he also provided the inspiration for traditional Straight-sided cooking dish, using a similarly shaped Stiff Pastry Casing (as many oven-cooked things at the time were cooked in barely edible breads, pastries, and other handmade pots, it’s actually quite an interesting talking point, especially “chicken pot pie”).

And from there it’s history. Long years of refining old recipes and experimenting with new has lead to soufflés both precise and imaginative, along with a strong guidebook and understanding of the true “dos and don’ts,” and what we can get away with. There is of course much more to say about this and the soufflé’s history, of course, but I gotta save some material for the Cheese Soufflé whenever I get to it.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Here’s the thing about soufflé: it’s a lot easier than people think it is. It’s not this super-long, extensive recipe based off exact measurements, extremely delicate poofy little pastry that’ll break at the slightest vibration. In fact, this weird little cliché of soufflés deflating for who knows what unseen force is just plain weird and unfounded. Any simply, properly made soufflé is very durable and stuSAMSUNGbborn; it’ll of course “shrink” a bit after it’s taken out of the oven (as it’s the warm air that causes it to rise up, so it’ll of course shrink down as it cools). But unless you actually stab it while cooking, its stability is guaranteed.

And it’s all based off of only Two components: Whipped Egg Whites, and a Flavorful Base/Batter. That’s it.

Again, simple. Before cooking, whip your egg whites to a very firm “stiff peak” stage; when you pull the mixer from the whites, there will be little horns that stand straight up when turned upside down (and stay that way if you tap it). You can use this as-is, or sometimes I’ll add in a small amount of sugar around “soft peak” stage and re-whip it to stiff peaks, sorta making a “light meringue” for a bit of stability (and it can make a fun crusty bake). Fold this into the base until it looks like foamy mousse batter thing, you be the judge of what looks right, and that’s it.

Of course, that’s not where people usually have issue grasping the concept, is it? Probably most of the caution and uncertainty comes through making this actual base, how to get in that flavor you want. What recipe do I use, what proportions of individual ingredients do I need to make sure it rises properly?

Well STOP. None of that stuff matters. The only things you need to know for making your base is that A: it’s Intensely Flavorful, and B: getting the right thickness is important. That’s it, it should be strong and distinct enough to survive the “thinning” of all the egg whites we fold in, much like when you make a mousse (which is basically what soufflé is, a baked mousse). And I like to think it should be somewhere in the range of “pan/cake batter” consistency, so long as its thick enough to hold flavor and stability, but thin enough “flow” and ribbon easily when lifting a spoon. There’s of course a general range here, it doesn’t have to be exact; can have something a little loose or a little thick. We just don’t want a firm, thick, cement batter that you can’t even fold egg whites in or a barely watery one where the foam will dissolve.

Now all you have to do is pick your flavor and find a simple way to make it taste good. Vanilla Soufflés are basically just made with Pastry Cream or a thick Anglaise; a Chocolate often made by melting the delicious goodies with a bit of milk and adding it to some egg yolks, sugar, and flour (similar to lava cake batter). If you wanted a Citrus soufflé, just make a Curd (lemon, lime, blood orange, whatever); Fruits you can just puree whole, maybe mix it with something (very classic recipes have you adding sieved fruit to sugar cooked to the “hard crack” stage). I’ve even read an article about a chef who just ignores any fats (egg, milk, whatever) and just thickens Juices and Flavored Water with Corn Starch.

There’s no real rules so long as it’s, again, flavorful and has a good, foldable thickness. Of course many chefs try and dissuade from the use of Fats (as just stated); which I do agree with, and I usually try and use only a little of those, the idea being that the fat will slide between the delicate network of the long protein strands in the whipped whites, thus taking it apart. But I just love the richness it’s able to add, along with the ability to make an ideal “batter” simply (most of the things I mentioned earlier are basic custards or cake batters), and so far hasn’t actually affected the soufflés I’ve made to any noticeable degree. Besides, the very classic soufflés are basically egg whites folded with the yolks, only flavored.

Just don’t use Butter. For the love of god, NO BUTTER; you’ll have enough on the baking dish as is. You can stick with milk and yolks, they’re a little more of an indirect lipid source. You’ll have enough on the baking dish as is.

Now we just have to fold in the egg whites. You can do this with the batter at room temp, or some recipes do it soon after MAKING a Hot base; though I don’t like the idea of folding egg whites into something HOT (too much risk for destroying the delicate air bubbles), having it “warm” wouldn’t be an issue, and can help in the rising qualities. Just don’t use the batter while cold, it will weigh things down (in a sense).

As far as cooking vessel goes, any bakeproof ceramic/porcelain/whatever (NON-METAL) thing works. Little ramekins are classic, or you could use a casserole (I saw Jacques Pepin make one in a long rectangle one). All it has to be is WELL BUTTERED, very thoroughly; get the rim too. After which, you can choose whether or not you want to “dust it with sugar,” giving a fine coating on the bottom and sides. People say this “helps it climb,” but really it’s just to get a little crunchy coating around the sides.

Oh, and fill it to or very near the top; there’s no reason to leave room for overflow, we want to give our soufflés the best chance to grow Straight Up. Actually, one of the ways toSAMSUNG help this, so it doesn’t sort of mushroom out over the sides, is to wrap a chimney of parchment paper around the dish.

Final thing, concerning cooking temperatures and time. Usually sticking to 350-375 is a good bet, I’m liking this one thing I’ve found of starting the oven at 425 and turning it down to 375 as soon as the soufflé goes in. Of course smaller ramekins will cook faster than the large ones; about 12-15 minutes, with 25-30-ish for large casseroles. Feel free to open the oven and give the dish a little prod to see if it’s set or jiggles; again, they’re sturdier than what we’ve been told.

Quite a lot of recipes also have one cooking it in a hot water bath, like custards… which I just don’t like. There doesn’t seem to be a NEED for it, and it just prevents it from any chance of getting a nice little texture on the crust.

There we go, Soufflé. With all I wrote you’d think it was difficult (I know, I tend to ramble incoherently and ongoing at times, my apologies), but if you look at the individual points made I promise it’ll now look a lot more approachable than it did before. So let’s bake one shall we!?

Banana Soufflé
2-3 Egg Yolks
2 Tb Flour
1 Tb Salt
1 Tb AllspiceSAMSUNG
1 tsp Cinnamon
2-3 Tb Sugar, plus extra
½ cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Rum
1-2 Overripe Bananas (depending on size)
5-6 Egg Whites
Butter, as needed

Directions

  1. Thoroughly whisk egg Yolks, Salt, Flour, Spices, 2 Tb of Sugar and Half of the Brown Sugar until pale and fluffy.SAMSUNG
  2. Move rest of brown sugar into sauce pan with Rum, heating to a simmer until melted. Remove to let cool.SAMSUNG
  3. Mash Bananas, whisk into Yolk along with the cooled rum syrup. Taste and adjust alongside consistency with extra flour, sugar, rum, banana, or whatever desired/needed. Reserve until ready to bake.SAMSUNG
  4. Heat oven to 425F.SAMSUNG
  5. Take Ramekin/Casserole dish, thoroughly rub Butter into bottom, sides, corners, rim, etc (I suggest twice). Sprinkle with leftover Tb of sugar, shaking and turning around to evenly coat the bottom and sides.SAMSUNG
  6. In Stand or Hand mixer, whip egg whites to Stiff Peaks. If desired, sprinkle and mix in a couple Tb of sugar on low speed, turning back to high to re-whip towards stiff peak stage.
  7. Gently fold the beaten whites into your banana base, 1/3 of the eggs at a time.SAMSUNG
  8. Quickly transfer to your cooking dishes, filling to or as near to the top as possible.SAMSUNG
  9. Move to oven, immediately turning the temperature down to 375F. Cook until Browned, lightly Crispy, fully Risen and the center is Set, about 25-30 minutes for larger casseroles and 10-14 for small ramekins.SAMSUNG
  10. Serve immediately alongside Rum Sabayon and Banana Ice Cream.

My Thoughts

So easy, so delicious, I really love making these soufflés. I don’t think the one I made turned out perfect, but that’s fine, it’s an easy fix. Which is another great factor to making this classic dessert: when something goes wrong, you know exactly how to fix it (and in an easy way), which is more than what we can say for other baked goods.

If it’s dense and doesn’t rise, you need more egg whites/a thinner batter; if it’s too big and delicate, less; spongy and shrunk, overcooked; still batter-y inside, cook more next time; if it doesn’t rise straight and “tents” instead, more butter on the sides (I think I needed some on the rim); if it seems too moist and tender (hard to describe what I mean, but you’ll know), reduce the liquids in the base, and so on and so forth.

I still have yet to “know” what the proper and classic soufflé is supposed to be like structurally; is it supposed to be cake-like, really moist, egg-white-y… there’s been a lot of results from different recipes I’ve tried out. But as long as it tastes damn good, and hits that comfort spot in your soul, and looks pretty, that’s all that matters.

Which certainly happened with the Banana. It was like everything right with banana bread, and custard, and warm cake… all together. Actually, with the Sabayon and Banana Ice Cream (super easy and tasty, just blend frozen bananas), it sorta reminded me of reconstructed Bananas Foster. Just needed some sea-salt caramel and a crunchy topping to complete the idea.

Despite the various rambles and unclear conjectures, I do hope this post may help encourage a few people to try making their own soufflé. If you do, you’ll have to tell me the results!

Possible Pairings

It all depends on what kind of soufflé you’re making, but a good “general” choice is Moscato d’Asti, or a Sparkling Demi-sec. Moscato is great with different chocolate dishes, is light in body to not override, and of course why not have bubbly with this air-pocketed pastry?

untitledAs far as my Banana one, I’m sort of craving something with botrytis, but I don’t want that thick, heavy syrup that a Sauternes can get. One of the simpler, more affordable St. Croix-du-Mont or Loupiac would be great (two regions near the legendary Sancerre, same style but less concentration), maybe a Coteaux du Layon from Loire, so long as one of them has Botrytis.

Though I don’t consider them on a regular basis, if you can find a dessert wine made from Chardonnay, that would probably be a good drink with the banana. Again just avoid anything heavy. Oh, maybe a Vidal Ice Wine would be good.Amontillado-sherry-287x300

A tasty, lighter sweet Rum to pair with the tropical fruit, brown sugary-ness, and of course the Rum Sabayon. Ties into the idea of bananas foster better too.

And in the world of fortifieds, I could totally go for a sweetened Amontillado Cream Sherry, so long as it’s made well. I do love a good sherry, and rarely do the cheaper sweet stuff, but this could work. Port wouldn’t really work, except maybe a “White Port.”