Baker superiority complex…

Well, I haven’t gotten much hate mail in awhile so clearly I am being too politically correct as of late. So to rectify that, I shall bring up a topic that my friends and I were discussing the other day.

We were watching Top Chef and they all had to make a pie. The immense fear that was in the eyes of the contestants was too funny to me. It’s the fear that they all seem to get when they tell them they have to make a dessert. Now don’t get me started on the whole you know they do a dessert every season just memorize a recipe thing that I go off on every season, that was not the discussion my friends and I got into. The discussion topic was this….is it better to be a great cook or a great baker?

So I think we can all figure out where I stand on this one, but here is why…most people who can bake  seem to be okay in the cooking department as well. But I have met way too many a chef who is an awesome cook but can’t bake or make desserts to save their life (there are always exceptions I know). I am an excellent baker (though I have several sever disasters under my belt :D) and a decent cook. I used to belong to a supper club in Arizona. Every single member was  a chef except for me. When it was time for the meals to be allocated (we did it from just pulling out of a hat) people would throw hissy fits when they got stuck with bread or desserts. But the two bakers of the group always just took whatever we got and rolled with it. And for the record, every single one of those chefs would just bring bread or dessert from their restaurants.

Then there is the convenience of being a baker. It’s so much easier to bring someone a loaf of bread then say a rack of lamb or crock of chili. Doable yes, but awkward and usually needing refrigeration.

So what do you think? Better to be a great cook or a great baker?

Speaking of great baking…I present my 3am idea….cinnamon rolls topped with NY style crumb cake topping. Not sure how this craving came about, but it did. Oddly enough, I could not find a recipe for that idea :) , so I had to make one of my own.

This was such a poor choice to make. I seriously could not stop eating these. Lucky for me there was hockey that night and I could give them away. See, again, with the portable baked goods (plus one for the bakers).

This ends up being more like pull apart bread  or a cake than that of individual cinnamon rolls. But the messier the better, eh?

Baking is Better NY Style Crumb Cake Topped Cinnamon Rolls

For the brioche dough:
1/4 cup warm water (filtered preferably)
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. dried yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
8 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into dime sized pieces

For the filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

3 TBSP butter, softened

For the NY Style Crumb Topping:
2/3 cup granulate sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cimmamon
16 TBSP (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
3 1/2 cups cake flour

Place warm water and 2 tsp. of  the sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and mix with a whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes while yeast blooms.

Add remaining sugar, vanilla extract, milk, flour, and salt. Using the hook attachment, mix on low speed for 3 minutes to start bringing dough together. Switch to medium speed and slowly drop pieces of butter into dough. Mix for 10-12 minutes. Dough will be wet and sticky and will have good elasticity when stretched.

Pull dough from bowl and onto a floured surface. Using extra flour on your hands, form dough into o a ball. Place dough in an oiled, medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Proof in a warm room, 70-75F, for about 2 1/2 hours. Dough will almost double in size.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars and cinnamon. Set aside.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread butter using your hands (messy but works best) across the dough leaving a1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across surface. Press down the sugar into the butter.

Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.

With a bread knife(or chef knife), using a gentle sawing motion cut the log into rounds a scant 1/2 inch thick. These are going to be smaller than your average buns because we are adding a crumb topping to them.

Spray baking spray into TWO 9-inch Spring form pans (you can just use a cake pan, but it is MUCH easier to remove using the spring form).

Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

20 minutes before the dough is done rising, prepare the crumb topping.

Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with a  spatula or spoon until the mixture resembles thick crumbles; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Once cinnamon rolls have risen, split the crumble topping in half. As best you can evenly crumble topping on top of the cinnamon roll dough. Do this for both pans.

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes and top with icing.

For Icing:

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

Brioche recipe from Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook by Leslie Makie

Icing recipe from The Break Baker´s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Pin It


  1. I could eat crumb topping with a spoon.

    I very rarely cook something inedible, but I can make a mean cookie…

    Yummy looking recipe – thanks!

  2. I vote for cook – I have not earned the right to call myself a chef and I’m too slow and not enough origionality to claim chef BUT I am a good cook.

    What’s so tough about baking a pie. My specialty is apple with mincemeat and bourbon.

  3. i agree – being a baker is better… and yes, us bakers are usually pretty handy in the cooking dept too :) that means we can offer to full 9 yards when it comes to dinner parties :)

  4. I think I’m pretty good at both, but find baking to be much more therapeutic. I like precise measurements, etc., so baking fits into the way my brain works a little better than cooking sometimes. And it still fascinates how such simple ingredients like eggs, flour and sugar can turn into some delicious treats!

  5. Is there really the same amount of flour in the topping as in the dough?

  6. First – this recipe is SICK!!! But to get to your question – I’m a Libra who is in an eternal search for balance. So I think it’s best for folks to be well-rounded and know how to bake AND cook :)

  7. This is one of your best ideas yet! I’m craving one of these like you won’t believe…

  8. Those rolls look just amazing! I would never have thought to put a crumb topping on cinnamon rolls, but certainly will try it, they look so good ~

    On the topic of baking vs cooking, I prefer baking, and I’ve got the cookbooks to prove it! I’m a pretty good cook, but I don’t do gourmet – I’m more of the home-style cook. I would never try a roast of lamb, or anything that fancy, but chili? You bet! =)

  9. just looking at this creation makes my answer clear–’tis better to succeed at baking!

  10. Bakers are forced to measure ingredients. That is why they make better cooks. You can’t just toss in a little of this or that when you bake.

  11. Baking for sure. I’m not a bad cook & I can do most meals from scratch (dumping a few prepackaged foods & a can of soup together is not cooking!). However, cooking feels like a chore while baking is fun. Baking is so precise & orderly-maybe that’s why I like it better.

  12. Well first, yum. But you already knew that. Second, I was nodding my head through this whole post. I cook like I bake – i.e. I follow the recipe and don’t make many substitutions. I am just beginning to branch out and get more creative and it is hard for me! I always get pissed when watching Top Chef and people get all whiny when they get dessert – like it is something lesser or beneath them. We bakers cook all the time!

  13. I’ve noticed since I went to pastry school that savory and pastry cooks’ minds are wired a little differently. I’m ok with them not getting why you shouldn’t measure ounces of flour using the liquid measuring cup (yes a coworker did this), so long as I don’t have to fabricate meat or make sausages.

  14. Bakers rule. reasons –

    1. People think it’s intimidating, thus giving us an ego boost.

    2. Everyone cooks, but not everyone bakes.

    3. A well made cake is much more appreciated than some chicken.

    4. Baking means sharing, which means happier friends.

    5. I bake, so it has to be the better of the two :P

  15. I agree with you. I would much rather come home to homemade bread than chili. I know my husband would rather that I know how to cook really well (and I know he would pick that too for himself), but I would rather bake. As usual, your recipes are mouth-watering delicious looking and one day I will have to get off my butt an make one of them myself.

  16. Sometimes being a great baker is a bit of a curse because people are always expecting you to bring something amazing for dessert,nobody ever expects you to come to their house and cook them dinner!

  17. I get giddy when they do desserts on Top Chef for that very reason. But I’ll be damned if one of them doesn’t always dump sugary egg over bread and make some winning bread pudding every time!

    I’ve done both professionally, baking and cooking. Both are equally challenging in different ways. I do think bakers come out on top. But when I say bakers I mean people who generally try a lot of styles of baking, so they’re well versed in many disciplines. Pastry, more than baking. Anyone can dump a box mix together, make cupcakes and call themselves a baker. Someone who makes pastries can poach fruit, make an emulsion, temper eggs and fold whites gently into a batter. Those are examples, but they are tough disciplines. So is measuring and the chemistry behind knowing why if you overbeat that macaron batter, they puddle out rather than puff. We’re smarter.

    Cooks do deserve some recognition though. Theres a real artistry to good knife skills, and flavor profiles and various cooking techniques. I think Top Chef has become a shabby example of that as it seems they all just toss random stuff together and pretend it was intentional. You can act on a whim with cooking. Baking takes time and thought.

    So, I’d go bakers, but don’t diss the cooks.

  18. That looks amazing.

  19. this looks and sounds absolutely amazing. cinnamon buns and crumb topping? no dessert has ever been more up my alley than this! thanks for sharing!

  20. My mind doesn’t come up with anything half as good as this if I’m up at 3AM….

  21. Oh wow these look divine! Love the pull apart – cake – cinnamon idea!

    Personally I like being a better baker than cook as a lot of my friends can cook but not many of them bake so they always love things I make for them. Everyone loves sweet treats

  22. wow….4 hours later and it was all worth it! Thanks for posting this recipe, I shall be making it again and again and again….

  23. I am a much better baker and more adventurous in baking when trying new things out.
    With cooking, I quite like my rut of same ole things that I do. I might never get taken out for dinner, if the dinner was better done by me! But my desserts are had to beat.
    Your crumb cake cinnamon rolls look very naughty good.

  24. I’m slightly irritated when chefs scoff at the thought of making desserts (I’m a bit on the defensive when it comes to this issue.) I think if you can bake, then the entire culinary world is yours for the taking! :D

    I noticed that the brioche recipe for these delicious looking cinnamon rolls came from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. I think I’ve read through the entire book at least 5 times! I’m just waiting for my stand mixer to arrive before diving in. :-)

  25. I’m glad you liked it…it does take a time with all the rising. :)

  26. Mmm this looks amazingly delicious, i love anythying with cinnamon yum!

  27. I totally agree with you about chef’s not being able to cope with baking but baker’s totally being able to deal with cooking. Bakers win!

    Those inventive crumb cake topped cinnamon rolls look incredible!

  28. I am a better baker than cook because I prefer baking. The attention to detail feeds my minor OCD tendencies. I can cook and can make up recipes as I go along, but I get more satisfaction from baking. I think some of the issues folks have with baking is that you have to be more precise when you bake. Yeah you can fudge somethings with baking, but there is only so much leeway with substitutions. Cooking can be more forgiving if you put in the wrong amount of something with a few exceptions.
    I do have to laugh at the contestants that have gone to culinary school that freak out over having to do a dessert. They had to have taken some sort of dessert class at school so it shouldn’t be too terribly foreign to them. And knowing that at some point some sort of dessert is going to come up, how hard is it to learn a pound cake recipe or shortbread recipe? both of those can be transformed into something new just by what you pair it with.

  29. Pea, I’m on transition to a new boss and he’s a sweet and lovely person (maybe the angels felt sorry for me because of the last 5 years…). :) He loves cooking and has even taken a cooking course – we talk lots about it. But as far as baking is concerned he doesn’t know much – when I bring him cookies, brownies, he gets so impressed, it’s actually funny. He almost died when I brought him macarons the other day… “How on earth did you make these”, he said. :) To him, baking is a complicated thing – and the guy can bone a whole chicken, for crying out loud. :)
    Sorry I haven’t been around lately, and it’s my loss, because there are several delicious posts I missed!

  30. Ok, so I’m late. I’d still like to vote – it’s much better to be a great baker!!!

  31. Just found your blog via “Baking Bites.” I think it’s best to be a good baker. Like you, I love to bake (and am pretty good at it), but I also enjoy cooking. I just like baking a little more (OK, probably a lot more).

    Also, I love cookie dough and cake batter more than just about anything. How else will I have access to such delights if I don’t bake? :)

  32. I wholeheartedly agree that I would prefer to be a great baker and a decent cook than the other way around. It is far easier to brighten someones day with homemade baked goods brought into the office or at a party. Plus there is just something so cheery about homemade baked goods – they can either make your super happy and chipper, or they can be sultry and sexy too. I don’t really see cooking go that way. But guess as a baker I probably wouldn’t. :)

  33. This looks delicious! Will be making it soon.

  34. I find baking a stress reducer whereas cooking causes stress. I can’t handle having three pots boiling on the stove, a blender running, the oven pre-heating, the chicken marinating and the timer going off.

    However, with baking I can turn on the music, get out my ingredients and one step at a time make something delicious that my friends can’t wait to eat. So much better.

  35. Being in college, I am on a limited budget obviously, but I saw this recipe and just HAD to try it! Instead of making a cake crumble topping (I didn’t have cake flour) I 2 used instant oatmeal packets, about 1 cup of flour, same amount of brown sugar/sugar, and 1.5 sticks of butter to make almost like an apple crisp topping but more crumbly. I also only have $.96 walmart cake pans, so instead I cut parchment paper to fit the bottom circle of the pan and left two “flaps” one on each end, and used them to pull the cake out of the pan onto a plate. Turned out GREAT!! Me and my roommates love it! I will be making it again soon :)

  36. …I also don’t have a stand mixer…so the good ole’ hands were all I had! Took a LOT longer, but actually worked just as well!


    Speak Your Mind


    Log In