Cinnamon Rolls

We are ending our Easter Brunch series with one last recipe to add to your menu. Cinnamon rolls are a crowd pleaser, and despite the multiple steps that may at first seem intimidating, they are relatively simple to make. Prepare them the night before, and then bake them the morning of your brunch.

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Before you begin, make sure to gather fresh ingredients. It might be tempting to use flour and yeast that you have had in your pantry for the past year and a half. Throw it out and get fresh ingredients. It will make a difference. Old yeast could prevent your cinnamons rolls from rising. Also, I strongly recommend using bread flour rather than traditional flour. Bread flour will make a softer, more chewy roll.

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Wether I am making cookies, cakes or cinnamon rolls, I cream my butter and sugar together for at least 7 minutes. I find that this creates smoother and fluffier baked items in the end. I also like to use the extended time of creaming the butter and sugar to start measuring out all of the other ingredients.

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The first time I made cinnamon rolls and I added the water and yeast mixture, I thought I had ruined the dough and I almost started over. It looked like curdled milk and I was sure it would never come together and form a dough. This is normal, and what you want it to look like. Keep moving forward and add your dry ingredients. I promise it will come together.

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As the recipe indicates, you may not need to add the full amount of flour. You want to add only the amount of flour that it takes so your dough is not sticky. Adding too much flour will make your rolls very dry. Once you have added the appropriate amount of flour, turn your mixer to a low speed and let the machine do all the kneading for you. 15 minutes sounds like a long time, but it will add to the fluffiness of your rolls.

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I use a pastry brush to lightly coat a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil. It doesn’t take much. The oil just helps the dough not stick to the sides of the bowl while it rises. Makes sure to turn your dough around in the bowl so that the dough is also very light covered with the oil.

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Cover the dough bowl with foil and let it rest in a warm spot for an hour and a half. Don’t rush this time. The dough needs to rise for this length of time before moving to the next steps.

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While the dough is rising, prepare your cinnamon sugar mixture and melt your butter.

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I found that it was helpful to lightly dust my work surface with flour before rolling out my dough. Start by shaping the dough into a rectangle with your hands before rolling it into a larger 12×18 inch rectangle.

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When your dough is rolled to the proper size, generously butter the dough, but leave about a half inch strip of the dough unbuttered  on the long side of the rectangle that is furthest from you. This is hard to explain in words, so take a look at the photos to guide this step.Sinclair & Moore cinnamon roles 16 Sinclair & Moore cinnamon roles 17

Most cinnamon roll recipes tell you to roll the entire sheet of dough together, and then cut individual rolls. It seems like every time I have tried that, the big roll seems to split or I stretch the dough too far, or I can’t even roll it up at all. In my frustration one evening while making these rolls, I decided to cut individual strips and then individually construct each roll. Much more manageable and I had complete success.

If you want even smaller rolls than what I created, I would suggest cutting your dough in half lengthwise and then cut the individual strips and roll up your dough. This will make much smaller portions. (I didn’t have this idea until after this shoot- I’m doing this next time though!)

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Layer your baking sheet with parchment paper and generously butter the pan. Your dough will continue to rise overnight, so make sure to leave enough room between each roll on the pan, and then butter their sides so they are easier to pull apart after they bake.

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Let them rise overnight in the refrigerator, but make sure to let them come to room temperature before baking them in the oven. Sinclair & Moore cinnamon roles 27 Sinclair & Moore cinnamon roles 28Sinclair & Moore cinnamon roles 29

The fluffy texture and soft nature of these rolls are amazing by themselves and they don’t even need any frosting. I actually regret that I smothered them in icing. Don’t get me wrong- the iced rolls are incredible too, but perhaps leave some without any icing and just enjoy the freshly baked roll in its natural form.

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recipe calligraphy and design:  la Happy

photography: Matthew Land Studios 

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Deep Dish Savory Quiche

Who doesn’t love eggs and bacon for breakfast? Now add in a soft, flaky pie crust and that combination becomes irresistible. For our Easter Brunch menu, Steve and I chose to serve a deep dish quiche containing some of our favorite ingredients. Quiche is great for a brunch, because it can be fully made ahead of time and reheated just before guests arrive. This frees you up to enjoy your morning while keeping your kitchen clean as all the dishes were done well before anyone comes over. For non-morning people like myself, this also gives you a few extra minutes to hit your snooze button.

This recipe can be adapted very easily and you can add or subtract different ingredients depending on what you love. Steve and I have made different variations of this before, but seem to always fall  back on the bacon, goat cheese, artichoke, caramelized onion combination that we have here. For our spring brunch we made two quiches, one with bacon and one without for a vegetarian option. Both were delicious and it was a tough call to decide which was tastier.Sinclair & Moore quiche 1Sinclair & Moore quiche 2Sinclair & Moore quiche 3

To start, fry up your bacon in a large pan or skillet. While the bacon is cooking, slice up your onions nice and thin with your sharpest knife. Once your bacon is done, remove it from the pan and allow to cool. Don’t clean the bacon pan at all as you’ll add the sliced onions into the bacon fat to cook. This is where I warn you that this is not a necessarily healthy or low calorie choice for breakfast, but it is delicious!

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I like to make quiche in a deep dish pan, because it gives a good ratio of filling to crust. Pans like this can be found at Williams-Sonoma, or super stores like Target will usually have them too.

While your filling is cooling, it’s time to roll out the quiche crust and line the pan with the pastry. Now, usually I take a strong stance in the all-butter pie crust camp (as something inside of me screams at the thought of shortening), but Crisco is simply needed for this particular recipe. My all-butter pie dough just doesn’t work for this quiche, and I’ve come to accept it. The pastry recipe makes a very soft and flaky crust that just works much better than other recipes I’ve shared.

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This recipe is much softer than butter crusts, and it rolls out much quicker too, so beware. It can be frustrating to have the entire dough crumble and fall apart at the touch of the rolling pin. That happened to me during this shoot. If that happens to you, just take your dough and squish it all back together again and roll it out one more time. It usually helps to add a bit more flour to it, too.

If your crust does fall apart or tears (like mine did), the pan is very forgiving and you can add scrap pieces to any holes in the dough like patchwork. Once it bakes, you won’t be able to see the parts that you had to ‘mend’.Sinclair & Moore quiche 7Sinclair & Moore quiche 8

After you’ve lined the quiche pan with the crust, place in the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you finish up the filling. Here’s when it all comes together: combine your eggs, cream, cheese and onion filling all together in a large bowl and mix it up well. Once all is combined, pour into your chilled shell and use a spatula to dunk the filling underneath the egg mixture so the top stays relatively smooth. This will also keep anything from browning too much on the top.

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Lastly, loosely cover the pan with foil and pop it in the 400-degree oven for an hour. This will give you plenty of time now to clean up your kitchen and take in the yummy smells as it bakes. If after an hour it looks undercooked, remove the foil and allow to bake 5-10 minutes longer. When the quiche is done, it should still be jiggly in the middle, and more firm around the outside perimeter.

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Give your quiche plenty of time to cool, then push it out of the pan from the bottom and voilà! It should easily slide out and showcase your beautiful crust’s fluted edges. The quiche is bound to be a big hit and makes for great leftovers, too. Enjoy!

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Photography: Matthew Land Studios 

Recipe design and calligraphy:  La Happy

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Hosting Easter Brunch

I have always loved planing parties and hosting friends and family at my table.  It started for me as a child when my mother would let me help her decorate the table for each holiday dinner (I’m sure I mostly got in the way, but my mother never let on if I was!)  In middle school I saved up my lunch money for an entire year and threw a surprise party for my parents twenty-fifth anniversary (I was quite proud of this overly teal infused party complete with crepe paper bells, a  tiered wedding cake and napkins imprinted with their names.)  In high school I planned prom (I was completely out of control with this and probably planned the most expensive prom ever- I bet 17 years later my old high school is still paying off the bills I created with this prom.)  In college I spent time organizing dinner parties for my friends instead of studying (I might have chosen to buy beautiful dishes, linens and wine glasses instead of the required text books and reading materials I was supposed to be using my money for.)

I guess it is just part of who I am…  gathering a group of people, creating a beautiful setting and having the opportunity to serve the people I love. There is something special that happens when people can leave their cares and worries at the door, and just simply gather around a table and break bread together. I love it. This is why I started our company and chose my line of work.  It just comes naturally for me.

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But what if it doesn’t come naturally for you?  The idea of hosting an Easter brunch might seem daunting and scary to you.  It can be easy to get lost in the details and not really even know where to start.  Cooking a meal alone might feel like a small mountain to climb, let alone trying to make a beautiful table.  You might look at the photos from our brunch and feel like you could never replicate something similar.  Looking at the big picture may feel overwhelming and you might be wondering where to even begin.

Our goal with this post is to help you know where to start and really dissect what we created.  Hopefully by breaking it down piece by piece, you’ll realize this is totally something you can accomplish.

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I definitely get more excited and inspired to decorate the table than I do about creating the meal, so lets start with that. decorations create an ambience and set the tone for your meal. It elevates the meal from something ordinary, and makes it feel special. This in turn makes your guests feel special- which is the whole point of hosting in the first place.

Start by thinking of what inspires you personally.  For me, I wanted our table to be inspired by spring. When I think of spring, the first words that come to mind are fresh, light, playful and fun. I wanted our brunch to reflect that mood and evoke the feeling of happiness. I ran in that direction for all of my choices.

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I started by borrowing the lucite flatware from my friend Brandy. I had seen her post a picture using this flatware on Instagram, loved it and asked to borrow it for the brunch. She graciously said yes! (Don’t be afraid to ask friends to borrow items for your brunch- people are usually flattered to loan things, and it saves you some money while sourcing all of the different elements to make your table feel special).  I love the classic design of the flatware while still retaining a whimsical and carefree style- perfect for the mood I wanted to create. I built the rest of the décor from there.

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I chose vases with a fun dotted pattern in addition to glasses that had the same lighthearted feel of the silverware. I filled them with spring blooms that I bought from our local grocery store. I didn’t want the flower centerpieces to feel fussy, so I didn’t really arrange anything at all- just cut the stems shorter, and dropped them into their vases. This kept it simple and very quick to put together. It also means that anyone can replicate this.

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I knew I wanted to use white napkins for a fresh look, but didn’t want to purchase expensive table linens. So I shopped at the fabric store and found inexpensive white fabric with the same dotted pattern as the vases, and used it to make a simple runner and napkins just by cutting squares and a long rectangle. I didn’t finish the edges or do any sewing; I literally just cut and ripped the fabric into the sizes I needed. I loved the raw unfinished edge of the pieces that I made. The little bit of fraying adds character to the table.

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I often add something edible to my centerpieces, both when we host at home and at the weddings we create. Macarons feel playful, and the pistachio color is perfect for spring. These little treats are beautiful as decor and are easy for your guests to grab and eat. It also helps to keep the conversation going after the meal is over, because people will continue to snack on the decor.

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To add to the feeling of fun and playfulness, I chose mismatched glasses and stemware for each guest’s place setting. Using different patterns helps the table feel less formal and keeps it from becoming fussy.

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These pistachio macarons are tasty to eat and pretty to look at. Although they can be tricky and time consuming to make, The results are so rewarding. I will be sharing the recipe I used for these macarons along with step by step guidance. Macarons can be made a couple days before your brunch, so all you have to do the morning of the brunch is stack and serve.

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We wanted to add some color to our brunch buffet, so Jamie created a simple citrus salad. She sliced up different varieties and sizes of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. She then cut off the peels to form hexagon and octagon shapes, and finished by stacking them up on a serving tray.

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We also pulled in the citrus colors from the salad with our juice bar. Now… you can choose to get fancy and squeeze your own fruit and make fresh juice…  but we don’t really have time for that. Store bought juice tastes great, and looks beautiful when served in fun bottles. I don’t have the graphic design skills to create fun tags to label the juice bottles, so I cut up chunks of the coordinating fruit to indicate what our guests were pouring for themselves. Although I love fancy tags with fun calligraphy, these little identifying fruit cups added charm and interest to our juice bar.

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One of the things I love the most about spring is all of the blooming branches. The little buds are a simple reminder that spring has arrived. Putting a few branches into a vase adds height, fills the corner of a room and makes a big statement. The best part is how quick, easy and affordable it is.

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I had the vision of creating a mini bakery on the vintage buffet in our home. (I love sweets) I thought this would be a fun way to indulge our guests. (ok… you got me… I just wanted to indulge myself!) But seriously…who doesn’t love a huge spread of sweet treats and the ability to select as much of anything you want? I covered these baked goods with glass domes to create the look and feel of a true bakery.

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We’ll be sharing the recipe later this week for these soft and chewy cinnamon rolls we created. What I love about cinnamon rolls is that you do all of the hard work the night before your brunch, and then just let the dough rise overnight in the fridge. Then all you have to do the morning of your brunch is pop them in the oven. The smell of freshly baked rolls and hot cinnamon will fill your entire house and greet your guests when they arrive. (Honestly what I really great about this is that it gives me time to clean up! I make a huge mess when I am in the kitchen and doing this the night before leaves me the time to clean up so I don’t look like a hot mess when my guests arrive)

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I used to think if someone was coming over that I would be “cheating” if I didn’t bake everything from scratch. The problem was, I would be so exhausted by the time my guests arrived, that I would not enjoy my company (which defeats the purpose of hosting). It’s ok to go to the local doughnut shop or French bakery or even your grocery store and fill in your buffet with store bought items. This will save you time, money, kitchen clean-up and your sanity. The best part is, you will have saved up all of the energy you would have used on endless baking, giving you more energy to enjoy your own party. No one will think you have cheated. Your guests would prefer to have you mentally present, rather than exhausted from baking too much. (I’ve learned this lesson the hard way- and I’m still  figuring this one out!)

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As your guests arrive, pop the champagne and open up the juice bar for mimosas while you finish putting out the last of the food. (Have a towel ready in case you have a surprise like Jamie did)

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Our menu was simple: savory quiche, assorted fruit, a simple spring green salad tossed with fresh strawberries and a berry vinaigrette, and the bakery display of croissants with jam, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts and macarons. It might sound like a lot of food to prepare, but it was really quite simple when you break down the individual components (especially when you let go of your need to personally make and bake everything yourself). And remember, most of this can be done ahead of time so you aren’t rushing or stressing when your guests arrive. Pick a few key things you want to make, and then purchase everything else or you could even choose to ask your guests bring a dish to share.

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These savory quiches were filled with caramelized onions, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, bacon and diced artichoke hearts. (so so good.) Jamie made them the day before and then all we had to do the morning of our brunch was heat them up to an enjoyable temperature. This alleviated the need to get up early and start cooking and baking at the crack of dawn. We’ll also be sharing our quiche recipe later this week with a tutorial to help with your success.

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People think that Jamie and I must be amazing cooks. (umm… yeah… no…)   The truth is, we actually don’t really know much about cooking at all. It’s true that we do love to bake cookies, pies and cakes, but we haven’t really ever transferred those skills over to learning how to cook dinner.  I think this is why we love the idea of brunch.  It’s a meal that is relatively simple to put together, we can use our baking skills to create it, and as I mentioned above, most items can be prepared ahead of time so we can also be fully present and enjoy our guests once they arrive.

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Whether you are celebrating Easter or just welcoming the beginning of Spring and warmer month, there is nothing better than gathering with your friends and family over a meal filled with sweet and savory treats.  Spring is the perfect season to host a brunch, and hopefully this post gives you the confidence to invite some people over.

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Just remember to always check your perspective and priorities.  The best part about brunch wasn’t the food, the flowers or even the macarons (although those little pistachio treats are really quite tasty!)  What I’ll remember most about this morning we spent with friends was the laughter we shared and the friendships that were deepened. That’s the true purpose behind doing what we do. It’s not about impressing people. It’s about creating community, spreading love, serving people and giving them an experience where they feel welcomed and loved. Whether you brunch over homemade confections or you source the entire meal from Costco- it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t lose the perspective and purpose behind what hosting is really all about- delighting your guests.

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photos: Matthew Land Studios 

video: Cabfare Productions