Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Feeling emboldened after my successful adventure with yeast when making a King Cake, I decided that it was finally time to make some homemade cinnamon rolls.  We got some snow and freezing rain on Saturday, and given how poorly they handle winter weather in Maryland, we were effectively snowed in.  I seized that opportunity to spend the morning in the kitchen, making these cinnamon rolls.

They’re pretty time-intensive, but worth it.  Trust me.  Plus, if you look at the end of this post, there’s also a tip on how to save yourself a little time by doing some of the work ahead.Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from the cookbook Cooking with Pumpkin.

You’ll need:

For the dough

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbs vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

For the icing

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ~2 cups powdered sugar

Start out by adding the flour, yeast, sugars, and spices to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk it all together so that things are well-combined.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the buttermilk, pumpkin, butter, and oil for 1 minute.  Whisk it all together until well-combined.

Fold the warm pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and add the egg.  On low speed, knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.  If things look too soft, and things haven’t combined well enough, add up to 1/2 cup of additional flour.  The dough will be pretty shaggy, and this is okay.  Just make sure that there are no pockets of flour hiding under the ball of dough, especially at the bottom of the bowl.  Mix those in with a spatula.

Scoop the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper.  Spray the bowl of the stand mixer with cooking spray.  Return the ball of dough to the now lubricated bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and cover the plastic wrap with a clean kitchen towel.  Put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place, and let it rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).

When the dough is nearly done rising, line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray it with cooking spray, and set it aside.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a small bowl, melt the butter in another bowl, and set them both aside.

After it has risen, punch the dough down, and turn it out onto a floured surface.  I used a silicone baking sheet with a little bit of flour.  Knead it lightly for about 1 minute.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12×10-inch rectangle.  Drizzle the butter evenly over the dough, and use a pastry brush to help spread it around.  Sprinkle the filling over the dough in an even layer.

Starting on one of the long edges, roll the dough into a long cylinder, as tightly as possible.  Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder of dough into 12 evenly-sized rolls.

Place the 12 rolls into the prepared pan.  Cover the pan with a piece of foil and let it rest in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.  The rolls should approximately double in size.

After 45 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and set.  Allow the rolls to cool in the pan a bit before serving.  If you’re going to frost them, you should frost the rolls while they’re still pretty warm.

To make the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract together until smooth.  Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Add as much of the 2nd cup of powdered sugar as you’d like, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.

Slather the rolls with the frosting.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing | A Nerd CooksThe author notes that the rolls are best eaten fresh, but will keep for 4 days if kept in an airtight container.

Also, if you want to get a head start on these cinnamon rolls and make them ahead of time, you can, after placing the sliced rolls into the prepared pan, cover them and put them in the fridge for up to 18 hours.  Then, when you’re ready to bake them, allow them to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 90 minutes before baking as directed.

Blood Orange Bourbon Sour

I was going to write about how the weather has been cold and we need cocktails to deal with it, but…  Who really needs an excuse to have a little bourbon?  Not this kid.

Just enjoy a drink.  You deserve it.  Treat yo self.

Blood Orange Bourbon Sour | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog A Cocktail Life.

You’ll need (makes 1 drink):

  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon (I’m a fan of Bulleit)
  • 1 oz. blood orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. lemon or lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • blood orange slices for garnish, optional

Combine all ingredients, minus the orange slices, in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until cold.

Strain into a glass with ice.  Garnish with blood orange slices.

Blood Orange Bourbon Sour | A Nerd Cooks

Mardi Gras King Cake

A friend traveled to New Orleans for work recently, and had his first taste of King Cake.  He loved it and requested that I make one.  Having never worked with yeasted dough before, I was a little intimidated.Mardi Gras King Cake | A Nerd Cooks

As it turns out, it really isn’t that difficult!  My fears have been mitigated.  Be expecting more yeasty baked treats in the future.  I have my eye on some homemade cinnamon roll recipes.

Mardi Gras King Cake | A Nerd Cooks

I followed the recipe on Joy the Baker’s blog.

Mardi Gras King Cake | A Nerd CooksYou’ll need:

For the dough

  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed to ~110 degrees F
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)

For the filling

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • yellow, green, and purple sprinkles
  • tiny plastic baby, to be inserted into the cake after baking

To make the cake, start by heating the milk in a saucepan until it is about 110 degrees F.  Remove it from the heat and whisk in the sugar, yeast, and a tablespoon of the flour.  Mix until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast starts to foam.

Once you see that it has started to foam (i.e., bubbles have formed on the surface), whisk in the melted butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Put the flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Fit the mixer with the dough hook.  Pour all of the wet ingredients at once on top of the dry ingredients.  Stir everything together with a spatula until it is just combined.  Now, mix the dough with the mixer and dough hook on low speed for about 5 minutes.  The dough is going to be pretty sticky.  Fear not!  Just scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure that there are no pockets of flour hiding in there.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in a draft-free place to let the dough rise.  It should approximately double in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling.  Mix everything together into a smooth paste.  Set aside.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into two equal parts.  One at a time, roll the two parts of dough into rectangles (ish… they can be ovals too) that are 18-20 inches long and 6-8 inches wide.

Spread half of the filling onto each of the dough rectangles/ovals.  Spread it around in a thin, even layer.

Roll both pieces of dough up, cinnamon roll style.  Start from one of the long sides and roll.  You will be left with two “ropes” of dough.  Try to keep them approximately the same thickness the whole way through the rope.

Take these ropes, and twist them together, starting from the center.  Bring the edges around and seal it into a circle.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  While the oven preheats, let the circle of dough hang out on top of the oven, covered loosely with plastic wrap, on top a sheet pan lined with parchment paper for about 30 minutes.

Brush the dough with egg wash.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until everything is puffed up and golden brown.  Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely before adding the glaze and sprinkles.

Whisk the ingredients for the glaze together.  It should be thick but still pourable.  Spread on top of the cooled cake.

Decorate with sprinkles!  If you’re into the whole plastic baby thing, don’t forget to sneak it into the cooked cake.


Kinkytini – Updated

So, yeah.  The name for this cocktail is still a little ridiculous.  I came across this liqueur in a Delaware Costco, and couldn’t help myself.  Kinky Pink liqueur tastes like a mango, blood orange, and passion fruit vodka.  When mixed with the rest of the ingredients, it is reminiscent of a Cosmopolitan.

It’s fruity and not too sweet.  It’s also a very pretty cocktail, and would be perfect for sipping while celebrating Valentine’s Day.Kinkytini | A Nerd Cooks

My original post for the Kinkytini can be found here.  The recipe originally comes from the website for Kinky Liqueur.

Kinkytini | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 1 oz. Kinky Liqueur
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 3 oz. cranberry juice
  • juice from 1 lime wedge

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until cold.  Strain into a glass and enjoy!

Kinkytini | A Nerd Cooks

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake

I received promotional consideration from DuClaw Brewing Company for this post. All opinions are my own.

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

Hey, guys!  DuClaw Brewing Company reached out to me, and asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of their new beers and incorporating it into a recipes.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  DuClaw is a leading craft brewery founded in 1996, makes awesome beers, and is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

DuClaw has released more than 65 unique beers and countless variations and blends, and is available in select liquor stores, restaurants and bars throughout Maryland, DC, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania (which is great for me, being from PA and living in MD). DuClaw’s state-of-the-art, 60,000 square foot brewing facility produces over 25,000 barrels per year to keep pace with an ever-expanding lineup of specialty brews. DuClaw also operates brewpub restaurants in Arundel Mills, Bel Air, Bowie, and Baltimore Washington International Airport that serve its award-winning craft beers on tap.

Now, about the beer…  DuClaw’s seasonal Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout is a perfect brew for pairing with Valentine’s Day, and is hitting the shelves for a limited time.

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

This Valentine’s Day, think about ditching the wine and serving up DuClaw Brewing Company’s seasonal Chocolate Raspberry Stout, Naked Fish.  First brewed in 2002, Naked Fish is like most stouts in that it is medium bodied, and black in color with a light tan head.  That is where the similarities stop and Naked Fish’s flavors combine to compose something truly unique.

Naked Fish incorporates the aroma and taste of roasted malt, raspberry, and chocolate; the makings of a perfect Valentine’s Day beer for sipping, or even cooking and baking (this post is proof of that!!).  To produce the exceptional flavors that set this stout apart, gourmet chocolate raspberry coffee is added to the grain bill.  With a smooth 4.6 ABV, and a dry, chocolatey finish, it’s perfect to pair with a romantic meal or toast to the single life.

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

Made with Goldings hops, and grains including pale, Caramunich, and chocolate malts plus roasted barley, Naked Fish was conceptualized by DuClaw Brewmaster Jim Wagner while angling at a favorite fishing hole and enjoying a hot cup of raspberry coffee.  Inspiration struck, he went straight home to his homebrew system and made the first batch using the exact coffee he enjoyed that morning!

Naked Fish is currently available in 12 and 22 oz. bottles in stores across Maryland, DC, Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. It’s also available on tap at DuClaw brewpubs and in other select bars and eateries.  For more information, please visit http://www.duclaw.com/beer/naked-fish/.

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 12 whole chocolate graham crackers
  • 5 tbs butter, melted
  • 12 oz. dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3-8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup DuClaw Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout
  • powdered sugar for dusting, optional
  • raspberries for garnish, optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9-inch round springform pan with butter and set it aside.

In a blender or food processor, grind the graham crackers into fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.  You could also put the graham crackers into a plastic bag and smash them up with a rolling pin, skillet, etc., and then combine the butter and crumbs in a bowl.

Pour the graham cracker crumbs and butter mixture into the greased pan and press them into the bottom in an even layer.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan and allow it to cool completely before adding the cheesecake batter.

While the crust par-bakes, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (or in the microwave in 30-second intervals) until smooth.  Set this aside and allow the chocolate to cool slightly

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the room temperature cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.  Add the sugar, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, melted chocolate, and Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout.  Mix until everything is well combined.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan, over the crust.  Smooth the top with a spatula, if necessary.  Bake for 60 minutes.  After that hour, turn off the oven, crack the door slightly, and allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven for another 60 minutes.  After that, remove it to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely.  Cover and stash in the fridge overnight.

Whenever you’re ready to eat, dust with powdered sugar and top with some fresh raspberries.  Pair it with a Naked Fish Chocolate Raspberry Stout, while you’re at it!

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

This cheesecake is decadent and delicious.  You know how brownie or other chocolate-heavy recipes sometimes call for freshly brewed coffee or instant coffee granules?  Well, the coffee notes of the beer serve the same purpose here, and really help to deepen the chocolate flavor of the cheesecake.  The raspberry flavor comes across subtly, and is accentuated by the fresh berries.

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake | A Nerd Cooks

DuClaw Logo

For more information on DuClaw Brewing Company visit:

  1. www.duclaw.com
  2. Like them on Facebook at Facebook.com/DuClawBeers
  3. Follow them on Twitter at @DuClawBrewing

Mixed Citrus with Avocado and Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

More citrus.  Nay, ALL THE CITRUS!

I can’t help myself!  It’s so delicious and beautiful at this time of year.  It being healthy is just a bonus.
Mixed Citrus with Avocado and Lemon Poppyseed Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe serves 2 as a side salad.  Just multiply the ingredients if you’re going to be feeding more people.

Mixed Citrus with Avocado and Lemon Poppyseed Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cara cara orange, peeled and sliced
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds, plus more for garnish
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Arrange the citrus and avocado on a plate.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper.  Pour it over the fruit and avocado.

Top with more poppy seeds for garnish, if desired.  Dig in!

Mixed Citrus with Avocado and Lemon Poppyseed Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Blood Orange Bars

I’ve found myself pinning/gawking at a ridiculous number of citrus-heavy recipes lately.  The beautiful dishes that I’ve been crushing on have inspired me to start making use of all of the juicy citrus that’s cheap and plentiful in grocery stores right now.  I think you’ll start to notice this trend over the next week or so.

Blood Orange Bars | A Nerd Cooks

These blood orange bars are a riff on the Whole Lemon Bars that I blogged about 2 years ago (a post that I fully intend to reshoot and update), which originally come from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  These bars are oh so delicious, and a tad sweeter than the original version.

Blood Orange Bars | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll follow the same basic recipe, with the exception of how the citrus is treated.  Just to recap…

You’ll need:

For the crust -

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbs butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • cooking spray

For the filling -

  • 1 blood orange, zested (with the zest set aside)
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 tbs butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • powdered sugar, for dusting on top

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9×9-inch or 8×8-inch square pan with cooking spray.  Cut two 12×8-inch pieces of parchment paper.  Lay the first sheet in the bottom of the pan with the extra hanging over the sides.  Lay the second sheet perpendicular to the first sheet, allowing the extras to hang over, too.  Spray the parchment with cooking spray and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt, and butter until it forms small crumbs.  They should stick together when you pinch the dough with your fingers.

Dump the dough into the pan and press it into the bottom.  Some may start creeping up the sides, and that’s okay.  Prick the bottom with a fork and bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling.  Zest the blood orange, and set the zest aside.  Carefully peel the orange, and toss the peel.  Slice the fruit into rounds and remove any seeds that you encounter.

Add the sliced orange and sugar to your food processor (clean it out between the crust and filling).  Let it run for about 2 minutes, or until the orange is completely pureed.  Add the butter and run it again until the filling is smooth.  Then, add the corn starch, salt, and zest.  Run the food processor again until everything is combined.

Pour the filling over the par-baked crust.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the filling jiggles only a little when you move the pan.

Let the pan cool completely on a wire rack on the countertop or just pop it in the fridge until it is completely cool.  Cut into 16 squares.  Dust the top with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Blood Orange Bars | A Nerd Cooks Blood Orange Bars | A Nerd Cooks