Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sunday, August 27, 2006
Two kinds of dinner rolls in one week! Sarah came over for dinner for these, and she gave them her usual enthusiastic review. She also took four of them home for breakfast, so we don't have our regular problem of too much bread to eat. (Although I do have some leftover wheat sourdough with seeds and a few leftover butter-dipped dinner rolls in the freezer).
I have to say that I had some problems making these rolls, even with the step-by-step drawings in the book. You pat pieces of dough in a circle, then you put a little piece of butter in the center, along with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Then you pull out two sides and fold them over in the middle and you do the same thing with the other sides. Then you take some other sides and do the same thing, and you may or may not do it a fourth time. The directions say you do it a total of three times, and the drawings say four. I chose four, because otherwise there would still be one side that never got any attention.
Then you plunk them in a pan of flour, top side down, and when you're done with that, you put them top side up, with a lot of flour still on top, on a baking sheet. And then you bake them. Some of the little flaps in the middle are supposed to sort of open up, which they didn't exactly do, even though I was careful not to seal them too tight.
But never mind! These are exceedingly delicious. They're crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside, with that wonderful little burst of salty, buttery flavor when you bite into the middle. They look kind of like giant Mexican wedding cakes when you take them out of the oven, but they would certainly surprise you if that's what you were expecting.
I didn't want them too salty, so I just put a small pinch. Next time I would use a bigger pinch, because they could have had more and still not have been too salty.
Still, although these are spectacular rolls, unlike the butter-dipped rolls, I wouldn't use them for a Big Dinner because they're very labor intensive at about the same time you might be trying to make the gravy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Walnut Onion Bread

Saturday, August 26, 2006
I thought this would be just like the walnut fougasse that I made months ago, with the addition of onions. But it's a totally different bread. It's crusty, but very light, with a fine crumb. I'd kept the walnut oil that I bought for the fougasse in the refrigerator, and it was still good. (Rose warns that walnut oil turns rancid in minutes if it's not refrigerated). The baking onions and walnuts make it smell wonderfully good while it's baking.

You are supposed to bake this bread in a long, rather than a round, LaCloche. But I only have one LaCloche, so my bread is round instead of torpedo-shaped. Although I'm trying to follow the directions exactly, I figured that the shape change wouldn't make a huge difference in the final product. The onions and walnuts may not get mixed as well in a round loaf, but it was good enough.
We invited some neighbors over for bread, cheese, wine and grapes, and they were suitably impressed with the bread. I did learn that I should never let Jim cut bread, even with a serrated knife. He put all of his weight on this delicate loaf of bread while he was slicing it, and the beautiful crumb was squished. Fortunately, I'd already been able to eat my fill before it turned into a dough ball. (Because it is just all about me).

Butter-Dipped Dinner Rolls

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
If you are invited to your in-laws' house, or your future in-laws' house, or just the house of someone you wanted to impress, and you're supposed to provide bread or rolls, this is what you should take. These rolls will impress and delight everyone, and people will tell you that they are just like the rolls their grandmother used to make, which probably means they're even better than grandmother's rolls because in the mind of the person who is making that proclamation, grandma's dinner rolls have become an idealized, perfected version. One caveat, though: if your mother-in-law (or father-in-law) or a future in-law should happen to pride her- or himself on their own dinner rolls, you should not bring these because you will only upstage the aforementioned in-law, who will never love you the way you deserve to be loved.
I had some friends over for dinner tonight, and I made these rolls for them. Because it was the middle of the week, and because I figured if I was serving homemade rolls I could take the easy route on the rest of the dinner, I also served a deli roast chicken and a salad made from lots of different colors and sizes of heirloom tomatoes, capers, goat cheese, fresh basil, olive oil and sherry vinegar. For dessert, I bought a blackberry lemon tart. It was a fabulous middle-of-the-week dinner, and the guests were suitably impressed by the rolls. (And they did, indeed, compare them to grandma's famous dinner rolls).
The recipe is very simple and basic. The only confusing part was that it was unclear whether the recipe made 12 rolls or 24. At the top of the recipe, it said "makes 12." In the directions, however, it said to cut the dough in half, and cut each half into 12 rolls. That would be 24, if my lightning-quick math skills are correct. I compromised by making 15, and putting them in a 9 x 13 pan, instead of an 8 x 8 pan. That seemed to work just fine. Probably you could also make either 12 or 24, depending on whether you wanted larger or smaller rolls.
I plan to make these my standard Big Meal (e.g., Thanksgiving) dinner roll, and I hope that if I ever have grandchildren, they will remember them fondly.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Potato Flatbread Pizza

Sunday, August 20, 2006
If you like good food, I urge you to go buy The Bread Bibleand make this pizza. If you like good food and you don't like to cook, I urge you to find someone who does and wheedle them into baking this pizza for you. It's that good.
The dough is just made with flour, a little sugar, yeast, salt, butter, and mashed potato. I had some baby new potatoes, and I cooked those and mashed them; I'd recommend using Idaho potatoes because the new ones got a little gummy when I mashed them, although it didn't seem to make much difference in the finished product. After the dough rises, you shape it onto a pizza pan and let it rise a little more. The topping I used was sauteed red onions and spinach, sauteed mushrooms with garlic, crushed red pepper, and rosemary, and bacon bits. After the pizza baked for about five minutes, you take it out, put dollops of mascarpone cheese on it, then the toppings, and bake for another five minutes. Then, when it's done, strew on some grated parmesan.
The crust is both tender and crispy, and it's by far the most delicious pizza dough I've ever had, which may be because it actually has flavor and isn't just a cardboard-like base for a bunch of good things. My favorite pizzas have always been the cracker-thin pizzas available as appetizers at Auriga
Those are very, very good, but they're not as good as the pizzas now available from my very own kitchen. I'm thinking that from now on, Sunday nights are pizza nights at the Wolf house.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Sweet Potato Loaf

Saturday, August 19, 2006
I wish I'd taken a picture of the dough for this bread. It was so beautiful and airy, with little flecks of orange sweet potato. Not surprisingly, the bread is also beautiful and airy,with little flecks of sweet potato. In fact, if you didn't want to call this sweet potato bread, you could call it light-as-air bread, or, if you were feeling even more fulsome, you could call it golden light-as-air bread. It was the perfect bread for my poor, sore, newly-braced teeth to gnaw on too--a very moist, light bread with no seeds or caramel, like last week's breads.
This bread has a wonderful flavor, and an even better smell. It doesn't taste overwhelmingly like sweet potato, but when it's baking, the combined smell of yeasty bread and roasting sweet potato is enough to make you want to dig into the loaf before it's even done. And, in fact, only the end slice was photogenic enough for the blog because I sliced it almost as soon as it came out of the oven, resulting in some mooshy, but still delectable, pieces of bread.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Chocolate Sticky Buns

Sunday, August 13, 2006
Well, these are amazing. Imagine a tender, buttery brioche dough. Further imagine a lush chocolate ganache, a caramel sauce strewn with walnuts, and, just to gild the lily, handfuls of chocolate chips. Pretend that you never had the slightest interest in losing ten pounds. I just can't say enough about these rolls, except that it's a very good thing that I made these three days before I got my braces put on instead of three days after, because I don't think I could have smelled them and passed them up, and I would not get a gold star for being a good patient if I were to try to eat them with brand-new metal bands on my teeth.
First, let me say that I will never doubt Rose's helpful hints again. (Well, I probably will, just like my daughters ignore my helpful hints and then regret it. Or so they say). This is a very sticky dough, and after you've spread the ganache and the chocolate chips on it and rolled it up, it's even stickier. Rose suggests using dental floss to cut the roll into twelve pieces. When I made the caramel sticky buns, back in January, I thought the dental floss was a silly idea, and I used a knife. It was okay, but the dental floss trick is very slick, although it did make me feel a little like I was using a garrotte on someone.
The only slight imperfection was that the caramel was harder, and less gooey, than I'd hoped. It was surpassingly delicious, but not really caramel-y. I guess I should have used a candy thermometer, but, since I don't like making things that require candy thermometers, I pretended that this didn't.
When writing the previous entry, the sourdough wheat bread with seeds, I was in the process of deciding whether to go the bread-cheese-wine route or the cappuccino-chocolate sticky bun route for our mid-afternoon snack. I had to opt for the sticky buns because they are so wonderful. However, I had a small one.

Sourdough Wheat Bread with Seeds

Sunday, August 13, 2006
I'm getting braces this Wednesday, so I decided that I'd better make a few breads that I might not be able to eat post-braces, including bread with seeds and caramel rolls. I'm afraid that I don't have a better reason for getting braces than vanity. I always thought that when I was done paying for my daughters' extensive orthodontic work, I'd get my own teeth fixed. I woke up one day and decided that if I'm going to do it, I'd better do it now. I'm not sure whether it's crazy or not. I can certainly think of more fun ways to spend $5,000. I'd feel more justified if my dentist had told me my teeth would fall out if I didn't have braces put on, but she didn't, so I'll have to settle for vanity.
Back to the seed bread.... My sourdough starter was still in good spirits from the last bread, and it also seemed to be a good idea to use it before it went flat. (I know that I can keep it going by feeding it, but it doesn't make noise like a cat does, reminding you that it needs feeding).
This is a BIG batch of dough, probably the most dough I've ever had in my mixer. And both breads needed a lot of tending, and both were two-day projects, and I got very confused about what I was doing. I ended up baking one in La Cloche and one just on a pan. I was going to bake them seriatim in LaCloche, but I forgot to use parchment or to put cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, so the first loaf got seriously stuck, and I had to spend about 20 minutes hacking away at it. (I said I got confused).
Even so, they both turned out quite well. The non-LaCloche bread was actually more photogenic, because its torpedo shape didn't get deformed by the pan (and also because it didn't have to be hacked off its parchment), but the LaCloche was a prettier color and was crustier.
This sourdough is an extremely satisfying loaf of bread. What with the whole wheat, the wheat bran, the wheat germ, the flax and all the other seeds, this is the most healthy bread I've ever made. I felt postively virtuous eating a slice (or two or three) of this seedy bread. The only thing that is bothering me right now is whether I should have a piece of bread and some cheese and wine for a mid-afternoon snack or another chocolate caramel roll (see next entry) with cappuccino. What a dilemma!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Basic Sourdough

Friday, August 11, 2006
My first sourdough starter seemed to have gone defunct, so I had to start a new one--my second New Zealand starter. I hope that this one lasts long enough to see me through the remaining two sourdoughs. I'd forgotten how long sourdough bread takes to make. I started it on Monday, and baked it this morning (Friday). I have kind of a love-hate relationship with sourdough. It's unpredictable and unreliable and it takes forever, but it does make a fine loaf of bread. Jim just got back from a week in Washington D.C. this afternoon and was greeted by this sourdough, just waiting for him to take pictures of it. He obliged, and we ate a few slices with wine before dinner. Then, as long as we had bread, we decided that it might as well be dinner, so I cooked some bacon, sliced a lovely heirloom tomato, got out some lettuce, and we had BLT's that were as good as the bread.
I think my oven has somehow guessed that I'm about to get rid of it, because it's browning too much on the bottom and not enough on the top. But the kitchen remodel is still months away, so this one has to see me through for another 29 loaves. I'll do some experimenting with my weekend breads.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Sunday, August 6, 2006
Being a Midwesterner from birth, I have never had a bialy. I had really never even heard of them until I started perusing The Bread Bible. The closest I'd come to bialys was Max Bialystock in "The Producers." It turns out that bialys are named for their hometown, Bialystock, Poland, which is probably where Max or his ancestors hailed from. Or maybe it's just a joke.
Having no bialys to measure these against, I don't know if they're authentic or even close to it. I do know, as Jim said, they're the best bialys I've ever had. I tried to make a combination of the regular bialys. which have a pocket of onions and poppy seeds, and the crispy, flat bialys, which have an egg white wash and poppy seeds scattered all over the top. I think mine are a little flatter than a standard bialy but not as flat as the flat one. Whatever--it was awfully good. In fact, I don't understand why you can buy bagels (mostly bad ones) in any Midwestern city, but bialys have never caught on. Maybe their time is coming. Maybe I'll open a bialy stand when I retire.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pretzel Bread

Saturday, August 5, 2006
The most extraordinary thing about this bread is its pre-baking bath in a lye solution. Yes, that's right, you dip it in a caustic drain cleaner solution before baking. At first I wondered if Rose was kidding her readers, just to see how faithful they'd be at following directions. So I Googled "pretzel and lye," and, sure enough, there are all kinds of recipes that say the typical shiny pretzel glaze is due to a lye dip. (Of course, most people with pretzel recipes admit that they personally didn't go for the lye). I decided that I might as well be authentic.
As a public defender, I know that Red Devil lye (the kind specified in the recipe) is used to make methamphetamine. I also know that the local drug task forces go around to hardware stores to tell them to be on the lookout for people who buy lye, or the other nasty things used to make meth. I was kind of scared to go into the hardware store and buy my Red Devil lye, but I thought if I just did it very casually, no one would suspect me. All went well until the hardware store man found the lye for me and asked me what I was going to do with it. "I'm not going to make methamphetamine," I blurted. Dang! That was stupid. Now he looks suspicious. "Are you going to make soap?" "No, bread, actually." He seems very dubious. "Thanks!" I say cheerily, bound on escape, and I pay for the lye--in cash, of course, so they can't trace me.
Once home with my lye (Red Devil seems to have gone out of business, by the way, so I got the only other brand. I feel bad for the Red Devil people if the methamphetamine craze has put them out of business), I again have doubts about the wisdom of this lye bath. There are all kinds of bold-face cautions in the recipe: Use rubber gloves! Put a cloth over your face so you don't smell the fumes! Don't touch the lye solution--it will burn! I wonder why it won't burn my throat, but I decide just to have faith that Rose will not want to kill off her most faithful fans, so I go ahead with the lye dip.
It's actually a very, very easy bread to make, once you get over the trauma of the lye. You just mix everything together, shape the bread, and let it rise for a short time. And it's quite good: enough whole wheat flour to give it a little color and heartiness, bread flour for good texture, and coarse salt sprinkled on top to make it pretzel-y. Once again, Jim and I eat much more of the fresh bread than we intended to do. Or at least than I intended.