If somebody writes a food blog, it’s probably fairly safe to assume he or she doesn’t mind spending time in the kitchen. In my case that’s definitely true. I’d cook and bake 24/7 if my back would cooperate, and if I didn’t have to clean the kitchen afterwards. Cleaning is one aspect of culinary endeavors I could absolutely live without, but thankfully I have people in my life who are quite willing to load the dishwasher and clean the counters in exchange for good food.
Years in the kitchen have made me into quite a foodie, which is probably just a nicer way of saying that someone is a bit of a culinary snob 🙂 I won’t touch boxed anything and prefer to make what I can from scratch. It makes sense, especially in light of our family’s dietary restrictions: Gluten-free grub isn’t the cheapest, but when you make it at home, this way of eating is actually quite doable. I like knowing what I’m feeding my men (so they have the strength to clean the kitchen for me!), I like saving money (so that I can buy more good food), and I absolutely and positively love playing with food.
My obsession with all matters culinary was the main reason why I’ve been stubbornly resisting Mr. Photographer’s suggestions to buy a pressure cooker. You see, for years he’s been singing praises for melt-in-your-mouth tender meats his Mom used to make in her pressure cooker, and trying to convince me just how much time would that little gadget save me. But I’ve bravely opposed the pressure (pun intended). I don’t need darn pressure cooker and I don’t care for less time in the kitchen, thank you very much! And what, you want to tell me I can’t make the meat tender with just the good old stove and oven?! All the pressure cookers and crockpots and similar nonsense are for people who don’t have time to cook or who hate cooking! Poor souls who haven’t yet discovered that chopping and stirring and tasting can be fun! (Can you feel the foodie snobbism just dripping from my lips? Yup, and as it’s often the case, I was about to fall from my high horse and it was going to hurt.)
A couple weeks ago a friend of mine called me saying she got herself the Instant Pot, the mighty machine that does the work of seven kitchen gadgets. It was before Christmas, it was on sale, and so I thought: “What the heck, I’ll buy one too. I’ll play with it a little, declare it not good enough for what my needs, and swiftly return it. I’ll prove to Mr. Photographer that such gadgets have no place in life of a self-respecting good cook, and he’ll forever hold his peace.
Yes. Well. That was the plan.
Ever since that little devil of a machine showed up in its brown box on my doorstep, it’s been plugged in pretty much non-stop. Holy jackpot! It’s a slow cooker. It’s a pressure cooker. It’s a rice cooker. It’s a yogurt maker. It sautées, it cooks, it bakes. It doesn’t constantly ask me questions like my men do (How much oil? Is that enough water? How long do I cook it for? And do I need to stir it or not?). It. Just. Knows. Everything. By. Itself. Remember the old fairy tale about a little girl who was gifted a porridge making magic pot? She just said, “Cook, little pot, cook!” and when she had enough, she ordered it, “Stop, little pot, stop!” Well, I feel just like that little girl, except my pot doesn’t even need to be told to stop – it stops by itself when it’s time! (No sticky porridge running down my counters, woot!)
Please, I’m begging you – do yourself a favor and don’t just go, but run to buy the Instant Pot. (I just accidentally typed Magic Pot, but could’ve just left it, because, well, it’s true!) It’ll make your life so much easier, and if you want to stay in the kitchen, no one is stopping you. The pot just frees you to do something else while it cooks dinner for you. It’s as if you hired an assistant chef!
And that’s exactly what I’ve done this weekend. While the soup was bubbling away in the pot on the counter, I wrapped puff pastry around the metal molds and licked the cinnamon-y apple mousse off my spatula. And these little cream rolls are the result. My grandma used to make them each December and send them to us as a part of her Christmas cookie assortment, but I think they’re good any time of the year! They’re pretty easy to make too, especially if you buy puff pastry from the store. The baked apples will fill your home with the most delicious aroma, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to use all your willpower not to gobble them all up just as they are coming out of the oven, and leave at least some for the mousse. Be strong. I promise, when you’ll taste the crispy cream roll overflowing with the smooth sweet filling it’ll be all worth it!
Cream Rolls with Apple Mousse (Šamróle)
(adapted from http://www.bonvivani.sk; makes about 12 – 15 cream rolls)
Quick Puff Pastry for the rolls – makes about 500 g (1 lb.) of dough:
- 235 g (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 60 g (2 oz.) cake flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 250 g (1/2 lb.) cold unsalted butter
- 125 ml (4 oz.) iced water
- 2 egg whites, room temperature
- pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 125 g (4.5 oz.) powdered sugar
- 2 big apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples)
- ½ teaspoon each vanilla extract and ground cinnamon
+ 2 egg yolks, mixed with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash for brushing the rolls)
– extra powdered sugar for sprinkling the rolls if desired
- Prepare the puff pastry: In a bowl of a food processor, combine cake flour and salt; pulse to aerate. Add in the cold butter, diced, and pulse until the mixture resembles peas (you should still see pieces of butter throughout the dough). Lastly, with the processor on, slowly and carefully pour in the icy cold water, just enough so that the dough comes together. Wrap the ball of dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- While the dough is chilling, bake the apples: Wash the apples, but don’t peel or core them, leave them whole. Place them on a baking sheet, add in a little water (about ½ cup) and bake them at 375 °F (190 °C) for about 50 minutes until soft.
- Let the apples cool a little and then scrape out the pulp, leaving peel/core behind. Place the scraped out pulp into a food processor and give it a little whirl to make smooth and thick apple sauce. Transfer the apple sauce into a glass bowl, mix in vanilla and cinnamon, and set aside.
- Making the puff pastry rolls: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly butter your cream roll molds and preheat the oven to 360 °F (180 °C). Take the chilled puff pastry dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 3 mm thickness. Work fast, and try not to handle the dough too much – you want it to stay as cold as possible. Cut the dough into stripes about 2.5 cm ( 1 inch) wide and 30 cm (12 inches) long.
- Working with one strip at a time, wrap the dough around the mold, overlapping the dough slightly. Brush the dough on the molds with the egg wash and bake them for about 15 – 20 minutes, until they puff up and are nice golden brown in color. Take the rolls out of the oven, let them cool on the molds for about 5 minutes and then take them off the molds and let them cool completely.
- Make the apple mousse: Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar into a glass/metal bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), and then set the bowl over a pot of boiling hot water. Whip the egg whites in the water bath until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment and with the mixer on a medium speed gradually start adding the powdered sugar.
- Heat the apple sauce in a microwave for couple of seconds until lukewarm/warm, but not hot. With the mixer still on, by small increments start adding the lukewarm apple sauce to the egg white mixture, whipping constantly, until you use up all the apples and the mousse forms very firm peaks.
- Assembling the cream rolls: Transfer the apple mousse into a piping bag. Fill the cream rolls with the mousse, dust the tops with powdered sugar if desired, and serve.