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bread making

Love these measuring spoons I got at a vintage shop in town!

Why are you reading about bread on Write Naked? A few months ago I saw a blog post on bears from freelance editor Jackie Cangro. Her blog typically focuses on publishing and books, but she decided to revamp her site and start a monthly series dedicated to wildlife. This inspired me to take a few ideas I had about this blog that I was on the fence about. These ideas are related to food.

I love food. I’m interested in food writing, but haven’t branched into it (yet). Starting today, on occasion I will share some recipes, restaurant experiences, and interesting foodie trends I discover in a new category of posts on Write Naked called ‘Eats.’

FOOD WRITING TIP: Best way to break into food writing is to pitch a ‘Food Tour’ to an editor. Tip c/o the handful of food/travel journalists I met at an event last month.

I was not an adventurous eater until the past five or six years, but my love laughs when he hears me describe my palate as ‘adventurous.’ A better description would be that I am a picky adventurous eater. Today, I am a much less picky eater than I was 10 years ago. A few examples:

  • I didn’t try grilled cheese until I was in my mid-20s. Now, love it!
  • I didn’t have Greek food until I was 20 and was in Greece and had no other choice. Now I have Greek food so much my love (who claims he doesn’t care where we eat) will say no to a Greek restaurant.
  • I didn’t try avocado/guacamole until about three years ago. Now it’s part of my regular grocery list.

One of the things I have not shared on this blog, aside from my love of food is that out of all foods in particular I very much love bread and I love baking bread from scratch. I started baking bread shortly after I first moved to North Carolina about eight years ago. I scoured the Internet for bread-making tips, visited the library and read everything I possibly could about flours, yeast, starters, timing, temperature, and all things bread.

My first attempt: Baked rocks. My second attempt: Same. My first dozen attempts just didn’t work. The dough wasn’t dough. It was a glue-like blob that didn’t rise like all the books told me it would. I bought fresh yeast, different flour brands, nothing worked. Then I realized I didn’t have a thermometer to measure the water temperature for the water-yeast combo (basically the first step). So I got one and learned I was killing the yeast with my boiling water. As soon as I corrected this (and learned room temperature water works fine too): Bread!

baking bread

Making braided rolls.

Now, nearly a decade later I’ve tried quite a number of different bread recipes and have refined them into my own sure-fire ones. I am sharing one below that serves as a great sweet dinner roll base that is one of my love’s favorites. If I didn’t grab some of the rolls and throw them in the freezer before he gets to the kitchen he would eat them all himself.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s pretty versatile. You can divide your final dough in half and use one half for dinner rolls and the other you can make dessert/breakfast rolls any way you like. The latter are pretty tasty if you pair some of the combinations below with a simple vanilla-milk-confectionery sugar glaze:

  • Cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans.
  • Chocolate chips and orange zest.
  • Grated apples, cinnamon, and white chocolate chips.
bread recipes

Fresh bread!

I’ll call these T’s Sweet Rolls:

1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup water (room temperature)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg (room temperature)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups flour (all purpose or bread), plus more for kneading/rolling

  • Mix yeast and water in a large glass/stainless bowl and set aside 5-10 minutes.
  • Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  • Crack the egg in a separate bowl. Use a fork to break the yolk and ‘scramble’ the egg with the fork a few times. Pour half the egg into the yeast/water. Add the vegetable oil to the liquids and mix together.
  • Cover the reserved 1/2 egg with a tablespoon of water. Cover the bowl with tin foil or cling wrap and place in refrigerator. (For glazing the bread later.)
  • Add the dry ingredients to wet and work everything into a dough. You may need to add more flour or more water, depending on the weather. (Humid days need more flour.)
  • Once the dough has formed, loosely cover the bowl with a clean towel and let sit for 30 minutes.
  • Punch down and knead dough for 3-5 minutes. Loosely cover the bowl with a towel again and let sit for 1 hour.
  • Punch down and shape dough into whatever shapes your heart desires. A baguette, sandwich rolls, dinner rolls, clover leaf rolls, braided rolls–anything! Place shaped rolls on lightly floured baking sheets. Cover baking sheets loosely with towels. Let sit for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F. If desired, add 1-2 ramekins full of water to baking racks. This will add more moisture to the bread while it bakes.
  • Take the reserved egg/water mixture out of the refrigerator and use a pastry brush to blend together and then brush mixture over the bread. This will give it a deep glaze once it comes out of the oven.
  • Add the bread to the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  • Let cool for 2-5 minutes and enjoy!