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Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls (really!)

I think I finally perfected my cinnamon rolls!

The dough recipe I used to use (introduced in my previous cinnamon roll post) yields rolls with a great texture and flavor. However, it is very elastic and springy, and is not the easiest dough to work with while rolling, flattening and shaping. It springs back as soon as I flatten it with a rolling pin. Consequently, the whole rolling/flattening-filling spreading-shaping operation has to be conducted extremely hastily, not exactly the kind of relaxing leisurely activities I would enjoy on a Saturday morning.

Then I found this recipe. It yields very soft, pliable dough perfect for rolling and shaping. When baked, the rolls are light, fluffy and almost flaky. This morning, I made cinnamon rolls using this dough for the second time. I don’t think I will be trying any other dough recipes for quite a while, at least as far as cinnamon rolls are concerned.

As always, most of those 12 cinnamon rolls were swiftly consumed by my two teenagers after their swim practices. I did eat a few myself, however, even though I am consciously trying to keep my diet more about simple, raw food and less about pastas and pastries. I was in the middle of reading the Indian ashram part of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (thanks to my wonderful local library now offering this and many other titles as Kindle e-book rentals), and eating the sweet, buttery pastries felt like making an evil commitment. To make myself feel better, I followed my breakfast by an hour of yoga practice and a 30-minute jog.


[Recipe] (the dough recipe is after DUFFYchan‘s recipe)


  • 240 grams Bread flour
  • 60 grams Cake four
  • 40 grams Sugar
  • 5 grams Salt
  • 6 grams Bread machine yeast
  • 1 Egg
  • Enough milk to make (egg + milk = 220 grams)
  • 50 grams Butter

Filling (combine the following):

  • 2 TBSP butter (melted)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2TBSP sugar

Icing (mix the following well together with a wire whisk):

  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup c ream cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon or orange juice

Combine the dough ingredients into the bread machine and run them through the dough cycle. The Japanese recipe owner recommends that butter be added to the bread machine about 9-10 minutes into the knead cycle for a better texture.

After the dough cycle, turn the dough onto a well-floured working surface, and split into two parts.

Using a rolling pin, each part is flattened to a rectangle (about 6″ x 8″), spread with half the filling, and rolled up into a log.

The log is cut into 6 pieces, which are then arranged in a greased 9″ cake pan.

Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Proof the rolls for about 45 minutes.

Then they are baked at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.

While still hot, the icing is spread.

Kyoto with Teenagers – Part 2 (a Quick Lunch at Kyoto Station)

(Read Part 1)

Shinkansen arrived in Kyoto in the early afternoon. The Kyoto Station itself is a magnificent piece of architecture worth some exploring if your schedule allows.

Kyoto is a MAJOR tourist destination for Japanese people as well as for overseas tourists, so there are tons of lodging options for any budget and preferences (i.e., western or Japanese styles, with or without meals). Lucky for us, my mother has some “connections” and “knows people” (aka she retired from a large life insurance company with full benefits including subsidized hotel stays) so we got to stay at the posh Westin Miyako Kyoto Hotel at a bargain price.

Westin is a 15-minute shuttle bus ride from the station. However, they have a little outpost at the station where you can remotely check in and drop off luggage. They would transfer the luggage to the hotel for you.

So we dropped off our suitcases and went to the top floor of the station building where a dozen ramen noodle shops were gathered (i.e., “Ramen Alley“). We were starving despite the sandwiches we had on Shinkansen. We settled into the first shop we came across with empty seats, and had a quick and satisfying meal.

When traveling with teenagers, spontaneity is important. I know my parents would have liked to browse around more restaurants before settling in. But my priority was to keep the teenagers’ whining to the minimum, which required us to be spontaneous and flexible.

Then we took the #206 bus for Kiyomizu-dera.

(Read Part 3)

(Fast and not so Fast) Food Nation: Part 3 (Stories from our trip to Japan)

(Click here for Part 1)

(Click here for Part 2)

We had a memorable 10-course meal at a Japanese restaurant called Ganko after a temple service commemorating the one year anniversary of my uncle’s passing. The meal was primarily vegetarian with the exception of a few pieces of fish cakes on the appetizer plate (shown) and a piece of fish steamed with the bowl of rice served at the end. The main course was the make-your-own tofu pot – a tiny personal earthenware pot filled with soy milk set on a tiny burner. They provide you with the right amount of the coagulant, nigari (magnesium chloride solution), to add after the soymilk is fully heated through. The timing was important, and so was the proper stirring after adding nigari. Our tofu may not have turned out to be pretty as many of us were either too drunk or too busy talking to get the timing and stirring done right. Regardless, the tofu tasted delicious.

After the meal, my cousins and I went to my aunt’s house for more talking. Many of the kids came along. Kids were treated with these beautiful creations made of fruits and whipped cream.

Speaking of whipped cream, crepe stands are still popular after 30+ years. In the beginning, you had to go to Harajuku to find a crepe stand. Today, however, you can find crepe stands at most shopping center food courts. The one I had last week (whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries) tasted just like the ones I had in Harajuku back when I was a teenager.

On my next visit to Japan, perhaps the dollar will be stronger, or I will be wealthier. I will hopefully be able to enjoy eating out non-fast food more.

(Fast) Food Nation: Part 2 (Stories from our trip to Japan)

(Click here for Part 1)

We did a short excursion trip to Kyoto during our stay in Japan.

Summer in Kyoto is hot. Being a tourist in Kyoto means lots of walking as well as standing around waiting for a bus (the public bus system in Kyoto is absolutely wonderful and tourist-friendly, by the way). We consumed a lot of bottled waters and iced green teas from konbini, but also quite a few servings of kakigori (shave ice). Every temple’s approach path was lined with cafes offering kakigori along with souvenir shops. My kids had kakigori at every temple we visited. In the photo, my kids are about to enjoy strawberry- and blue Hawaii-flavored kakigori.

While in Kyoto, we also had okonomiyaki (savory pancakes filled with noodles, bacon and vegetables) and ramen noodles. These are all inexpensive, delicious, and very Japanese, selections.

Japanese fast food chains did not disappoint.

We had a lunch at a gyudon (beef bowl) chain Sukiya one day. We enjoyed katsu-curry (a breaded and deep-fried pork chop and curry sauce over rice), yakitori-don (teriyaki chicken over rice), and gingered pork. They were all really good, and affordable. My daughter was especially impressed by the katsu-curry.

MOS burger is the epitome of Japanese burger chains. Along with the “regular” burger (which is loaded with the signature sauce that is somewhat teriyaki-like), they serve teriyaki burgers, katsu sandwiches, and “rice burgers” (rice patties, instead of ordinary burger bun, are sandwiching the burger and sauce). There is a MOS burger outlet right by my folks’ house. My kids had burgers for breakfast twice during our stay. We went there for lunch once, also.

Mister Donut, although originally founded in the US, has become quintessentially Japanese. I enjoyed one of these bear-shaped, maccha-iced donuts at a shopping mall food court near my folks’ house one afternoon. Their coffee was excellent. It may be as good as Tim Horton’s.

Speaking of maccha, Starbuck’s in Japan sells maccha pastries. Three Frappuccino’s and a pastry cost us about $25, though. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have the “two free drinks of any value” coupon that was mailed to my mother as a stockholder perk. The pastry was pretty, but like so many Japanese pastries, it could use a lot more sugar.

(To be continued)

(Fast) Food Nation: Part 1 (Stories from our trip to Japan)

(Fast) Food Nation: Part 1 (Stories from our trip to Japan)

The yen was strong and dollar was weak while we were in Japan.

Thank goodness most of our room and board was provided by my folks. My mother fed us rice, miso soup, gyoza (pan-fried Chinese dumplings), tonkatsu (breaded fried pork chops), tempura, sashimi, stewed Japanese eggplant (mmm my fav!), salad with awesome Japanese salad dressings, and such. Thanks, mom!

But we did eat out for some of the meals. The weak dollar meant we ate quite a few meals at fast food places.

The very first morning in Japan, we were staying at Sheraton Yokohama Bay (where we had a mini family reunion later in the day), and we all woke up at around 5 AM thanks to the jet lag. By 7, we were all starving, so decided to get dressed and hunt for breakfast. There were many affordable breakfast options to choose from around the hotel, but our jet-lagged brain picked McDonald’s, comfort over adventure. The Japanese McMuffin tasted fine, but different. I think it had a significantly less grease content than the American version.

Later in the day, the family reunion was at the hotel buffet restaurant. It was very fancy, and the food was pretty good, but the buffet lacked organization. Also it lacked well-defined main courses. It had a great dessert bar complete with a chocolate fondue fountain, however.

We went to the Disney Sea at Tokyo Disney Resort one day. Manpris (capri pants for men) and black leggings for women dominate the park-going fashion in Japan despite the hot weather instead of the familiar shorts and tank tops. There are so few signs in the Japanese Disney Park you have to carry a park map in order to find a bathroom. (A side note: all of the hand dryers in the bathrooms were turned off “to conserve electricity.”) But the most striking thing about the Japanese Disney Park is its snack offerings that are overwhelmingly fat free and healthy. We could not find fat-loaded ice cream in gigantic waffle cones anywhere in the park. Here is the snack most frequently spotted in the park: a Mickey Mouse-shaped frozen apple juice bar.

Convenience stores (“konbini”) are the most important institution when it comes to inexpensive eats in japan. They are practically everywhere (there are two within a 5 minute-walk from my folks’ house) and offer a vast selection of delicious ready-to-eat items. My kids got absolutely hooked on karaagekun (teriyaki-flavored chicken nuggets) from a konbini chain called Lawson. They ate Karaagekun for breakfast, lunch and snack. I am more partial to konbini’s pastry selection, however.

(To be continued)








Ice cream cups from the ice box at Yamazaki Bakery

I lived in a huge apartment complex in Tokyo when I was a young girl. Our apartment was on the 9th floor, and the ground floor of the building was a market with a small bakery right next to the elevator hall.

In summer, after the supper time, I would be given a few hundred yens to go downstairs and buy four little ice cream cups from the bakery. They were packed in tiny paper cups with cardboard lids, and came with small flat wooden spatulas.

Now that I think about it, my little ice cream runs probably happened on days my mom got paid for her part-time teaching job. (She didn’t go back to work full-time and be fully corporate until after I started the junior high.)

(In winter, I would make a run for steamed Chinese buns to the same bakery.)

Nothing comes in small personal-size cups in the US. So more than a few decades later, I make my own ice cream and make it into personal-sized ice cream cookies. They keep us (mostly me) from overeating, and keep kids from dirtying every single ice cream scoop in the house (and every inch of the kitchen counter top along the way) just to produce a serving of afternoon ice cream.

My little ice cream sandwiches always bring back memories of those elevators, and then the small, cramped bakery where all of my food-related fantasies could be fulfilled if only I had enough money to buy the entire store. I am pretty sure I wrote “I want to work at Yamazaki Bakery when I grow up” in my kindergarten year book.

At any rate, here is how I make my ice cream sandwiches.

Make ice cream: (1) Cook (while constantly stirring) 1 cup half-and-half, 2/3 cup sugar and 3 eggs until thick; (2) after cooled, add 1 cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; then throw it in an ice cream maker.

Make sandwiches: The ice cream maker makes really soft ice cream. It’s too soft and too messy for making sandwiches. So I put it in the freezer until almost too hard to handle, then sandwich it with the original Chips-Ahoy cookies.

ウチの13歳女子の夏(その2、なんちゃってシナボンのレシピあり), including the ~Cinnabon recipe











[Dough ingredients]

  • 3/8 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoons bread machine yeast


  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cream cheese, melted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or orange juice, or orange marmalade)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
This morning, I made cinnamon rolls. They were hot, gooey and sticky just in time for the hungry swimmers to come home from their morning practice and finish them in milliseconds.
To get them ready in time as the post-practice breakfast for my kids, I started the dough last night in the bread baker by throwing in everything in the [Dough Ingredients] list above and setting the dough cycle timer for 6 AM. (Everyone tells you not to use the timer function when making dough with fresh milk and eggs. So if my milk spoils overnight in the bread maker, I have nobody to blame but myself. Try at your own risk!)
The dough was ready when I woke up. I rolled it out into a rectangle, spread it with the mixture of the things listed under [Filling], rolled it into a log, then cut into 12 pieces. The 12 pieces were arranged onto two greased cake pans, and were allowed to rise for about 45 minutes. (I went for a 5K run at this point. Some Saturday mornings are more productive than others.)
Then I baked them in a 375F oven for 12 minutes. While baking, I combined the stuff listed under [Icing] above, so that the icing was ready when the rolls came out of the oven. The rolls need to be iced when they are still ultra hot. A little note here – Usual icing recipes call for lemon juice. I never have lemon juice. I usually use OJ instead. However, OJ was out this morning. I searched for a substitute rather desperately, but orange marmalade turned out to be a great substitute in this case. A triumph!

Corn-cheese-mayo-mustard rolls, just like those from Mitsuwa Market!

Now that my trip to Japan is beginning to feel imminent, I am starting to daydream about things I want to eat while I am there. The first thing that came to my mind was the seaweed-salt-flavored potato chips. I also thought about those dainty little daifuku’s. Those are the things you can not get here in Louisiana.

Then, I thought about those good-looking breads from “upscale” chain bakeries. I drooled.

I decided to go ahead and bake some Japanese rolls instead of waiting for another month to eat them in Japan.

First, I visited good old Cookpad for some inspiration.

Then I got my bread maker to make a nice dough according to my favorite white dough recipe. When the dough was ready, I rolled it out into two rectangles, spread each with brown mustard, mayo, corn, and sprinkled with some shredded cheese. Rolled each into a log, slice each log into 12 pucks, arrange them onto 4 9-in cake pans, and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Apple-custard monkey bread (林檎とカスタードのモンキーブレッド)

My favorite Louisiana grocery store, Rouses, sells monkey bread. I thought about baking one the other day, and found a suitable recipe at the Salad-in-a-Jar blog.

The bread came out beautifully, with a great texture and buttery, slightly sweet flavor. Kudos to the recipe and its creator.

The best thing about it for me, though, turned out to be the fact that it allowed me to bake presentable “dinner rolls” without requiring me to have the skills and patience to shape the dough into presentable rolls. I am not a fan of splitting dough into “equal parts” of 12, or shaping them into pretty-looking oval shapes while getting floured all over myself.

This inspired me to try this again but this time with some sweet filling for breakfast. What I am shooting for here is those awesome Japanese snack rolls I grew up with, that are filled with sweet bean paste, egg custard, chocolate filling, or jelly, but without all the hustle of the “splitting into 12 equal parts and shaping into attractive oval shapes with the filling perfectly in the center” part.

The bread turned out quite well, and half of it was gone before the day’s end. At least some of it made it to the breakfast. Next time, however, I will try some red bean paste, and will drizzle with icing for additional sweetness.

Here is what I did:

1. Throw in the following into a bread maker pan, and run them through the “dough cycle” (this part courtesy of

  • 1 c. warm milk
  • 1 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour + 1-2 tablespoons if needed
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine or instant yeast
2. While the dough is being made, combine the following and cook until apples are soft and liquid is nearly all adsorbed and/or evaporated.
  • 4-5 small apples, peeled, cored then thinly sliced (as if you are making apple pie filling)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I was out of lemon so used OJ. It was fine.)
3. While the dough is being made and apples are cooking, make some “fake custard” by whisking together the following in a small bowl, then microwave for 15 seconds, followed by some vigorous whisking. Repeat this “15-sec microwaving” and “vigorous whisking” until it gets curdled. This is not the prettiest custard, but it’s quick/easy and does the job just fine.
  • 2 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a little vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk (I was out of milk so used half and half).
When the dough cycle is over, turn out the dough onto a floured surface, roll out into a somewhat rectangle-ish shape, spread the custard then the apples, then roll into a log. Pinch the end really well. If your dough is healthy, however, it is impossible to roll it out into a flat rectangle. But fighting the dough at this point is kind of satisfying. I enjoy it a lot, especially since I am not having to divide it into equal parts or shapeit into perfectly oval rolls.
The log is then sliced into 12 or so non- or semi-equal parts. Each of this is dunked into melted butter (I microwaved about 3/8 cup butter), and thrown into a Pam-sprayed Bundt pan. Keep the pan warm for about 30 minutes until the size doubles, then bake it in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

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