We don’t turn the heat on until November 1, not on purpose anyway. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning in early fall, the temperature inside our 216-year-old Federal-style house with its drafty, historic windows does sink below the 48-degree thermostat setting. Then we hear the tick, tick, ticking of the natural gas-fired baseboard system lazily waking from its warm weather hibernation.

For my husband, the no-heat-until-November situation is mandated by his frugal pride and driven by his love of the phrase “Put on a sweater!” I used to complain, sometime loudly, and maybe even nudge the dial up a bit when he wasn’t home. But my mid-fifties hot-flashing self now relishes the chance to cool off quickly.

That said, I have also adopted a repertoire of cold weather culinary tricks that both yield consistent recipe results and counter the chill in the kitchen. I’m sharing a baker’s dozen here should you also find yourself working in a cold kitchen.

Give your stove a good cleaning in October. Remove the stovetop grates and burner covers and use hot, soapy water and elbow grease on those. Use the cracks and crevices attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck all the crumbs from around the heating element. Clean the oven and test the temperature for consistency, as some ovens can be off by as much as 50 degrees.

Understand that “room temperature” ingredients as listed in most recipes means they should be about 70 degrees. For consistent results, test pantry items with an instant-read thermometer to see how they measure up against that assumption.

A warmed, inverted pint glass softens a stick of butter for baking while a bowl of cold eggs come to room temperature. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Back away from the microwave when dealing with rock-hard sticks of cold butter. Place them instead under an inverted pint glass that was warmed with boiling water. After about two minutes under the glass, the butter will spread easily on your toast or be ready to cream with sugar for a cake. In colder climes, the creaming process will take longer than indicated in the recipe. So ignore estimated timetables and stick to the visual cues.

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If you also need room temperature eggs for the recipe in play (warmer eggs are more viscous and therefore mix in better than cold ones), warm them in a bowl of warm water, about 110 degrees, for three minutes or so.

Flour stored in the pantry is also likely to be chilly. When making bread, the simplest way to adjust for that is to adjust the temperature of the liquid the recipe calls for. If your flour is cold, warm the water (or other liquid) to about 95 degrees. The warmer dough will ferment actively from the beginning of the process. If you’re making pie, be aware that pie dough can feel stiff, crumbly and dry in winter months. For a flaky crust, you still want very cold butter and ice water, but warming the flour to a tepid 70 degrees before combining it with cold butter fixes the crumbly problem.

To quickly create a warm place for bread dough to rise, warm an enameled Dutch oven on the stovetop to about 90 degrees. Place the bowl of dough into it and cover. Or you can place your bowl of dough in the turned-off oven with a pan of hot water on a lower rack.

Perfect a couple recipes for slow-rising baked items (like bagels and frosted sweet rolls) that proof in the fridge while you sleep, come to room temperature while the oven preheats and warm the kitchen while they bake.

Don’t peek! Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, forcing it to work even harder (and use more energy) to get back to the proper cooking temperature.

Know that savory recipes that require more than an hour of cooking time don’t need to start in a preheated oven.

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Store your cast iron pots and pans on the back burner of your stove. They catch and hold the some of the heat that flows upward out of your oven grates.

Pizza party night is the perfect way to entertain when your furnace is still off but the temperature outside is dropping. The oven is cranked, and the body heat of a large group warms your spirits.

Even when the party’s over, keep a pizza stone in the oven. Not only does it help hold the oven temperature steady, but the residual heat of the stone also keeps the kitchen cozy longer.

Warm your dinner plates in a cooling oven. Nothing kills a hot meal faster than a cold plate.

After you’ve spread the filling on the rolled-out dough and sprinkled it with pepitas and finely diced apples, roll it up. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Apple-Ginger Breakfast Rolls with Goat Cheese and Cider Syrup Glaze

This recipe is loosely based on one published by Kentucky-based James Beard award-winning pastry chef and cookbook author Stella Parks.

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Makes 12 rolls

FOR THE DOUGH
2 cups (272g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1½ cups (180g) Maine Grains spelt flour
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1½ teaspoons kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup plain Greek yogurt

FOR THE FILLING
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted, room temperature butter
3/4 cup (170g) gently packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped, crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/2 cup toasted pepitas
1/2 cup finely diced apple

FOR THE FROSTING
4 ounces plain, room temperature goat cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature butter
2 tablespoons boiled apple cider syrup
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the dough, whisk together the flours, sugar, yeast, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer. Melt the butter in a 2-quart sauce pan over low heat, stir in the milk and yogurt. Warm the mixture to between 95 and 100 degrees. Add to flour mixture and stir to form a very dry, shaggy dough. With the hook attachment of the stand mixer, knead on low until the dough is silky-smooth and elastic, able to be gently stretched into a thin but rough sheet without tearing, 10-12 minutes.

Cover the bowl with a plate and set the dough to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 90 minutes. While the dough rises, make the filling by placing the butter, brown sugar, crystallized and ground ginger and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat until creamy, light in color, and very soft, about 3 minutes.

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Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface, dust with flour, and roll into a 13-inch square. Spread the filling over it evenly, using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the pepitas and apples on top and roll to form a 12-inch log, ending seam side down.

Slide an 8-inch strand of unflavored dental floss under the dough until you reach the middle of the roll. Cross the ends of the floss over the top and pull tight to divide the log neatly in 2. Cut each half into six (1-inch) slices and arrange in a parchment-lined 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking pan or two 8-inch round cake pans. Cover the rolls with foil and refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours.

When you’re ready to bake the rolls, take the rolls out of the refrigerator to begin to warm. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake, covered, until the cinnamon rolls are puffed and firm but pale, 30-35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes more.

Make the frosting as the rolls bake by combining the goat cheese, butter, apple cider syrup with half the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low to moisten the ingredients, then sprinkle in the rest of the sugar a little at a time. Increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until creamy and pale ivory, about 2 minutes. Spread the glaze evenly over the warm rolls. Serve immediately.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Once baked, the breakfast rolls are finished with a goat cheese and apple cider syrup glaze. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


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