Archives for category: bread
Photo shows whole pecan rolls.

Hot homemade pecan rolls. Photo by Sharyn Dimmick, who ate the missing one.

Two of my lovely readers, Smidge and Granny, asked me separately what the theme for November would be on The Kale Chronicles. I said I wouldn’t know until Sunday. Here it is Sunday evening and I have had a little time to think about themes for November. My first theme for November is returning to solvency. To that end I sold some more books. To that end I studied the buskers at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market yesterday, watching to see who was making money and who was not: the guy playing quietly to himself and not looking at passers-by had two or three dollar bills in his hat; the guy who sat in a chair playing the blues with his face to the crowds had a guitar case full of dollar bills. Who do you suppose I plan to emulate when I make my debut next Saturday afternoon? In the spirit of solvency I will be continuing to work with what we’ve got around here: today’s recipe incorporates some of the lovely pecans Lisa Knighton just shipped out here.

My second theme for November is NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month. As a NaNoRebel I eschew the novel form altogether and have started another 50,000 word installment of my memoir, covering the history of Johnny and Sharyn, my pitiful finances and my various attempts to make money. I may post an excerpt of it here sometime in November to honor what I am doing (I spent the afternoon at a write-in at the Berkeley Public Library, scarfing leftover Hallowe’en candy and black tea, participating in “word wars” with my fountain pen — trying to write more words than dextrous young-ens typing on laptops — and feeling a little like John Henry meeting the steam drill…). At the end of the day I dropped my pen nib into my bottle of black ink by mistake and was grateful for my garage rag and bottle of water with which I scrubbed it clean, wiped the table and began to remove ink from my hands before going home to knead the roll dough that I had left rising in the fridge.

Which brings me to the third theme for November, always and forever a month of gratitude with Thanksgiving the third week in to remind us Yanks about sharing food with others, helping people and other things that got the Native Americans run out of their territory. My friend Vicki has started a month of gratitude posts on Facebook and it makes me happy to go to her page once a day and think about what I am grateful for: today it was the computer I type on and the apple pie that Mom made last night, specifically the slice of it I had for breakfast this morning with my decaf coffee.

When I was in the kitchen this morning mixing up sweet roll dough I realized that I had not had my hands in soft dough for a long time: roll dough is the lightest of yeast doughs — I can knead a full batch by hand without resorting to the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook. I used to make bread every week. I don’t know what happened to that habit — I just fell out of it somehow, between the demands of sourdough starter and the activities of daily living. I enjoyed having my hands in the fragrant dough, stirring with a wooden spoon, working in six cups of flour, greasing the bowl with a little butter before heating a tea towel and setting the dough to rise.

My pecan roll (and cinnamon roll and orange roll and spice roll) recipe comes from our trusty Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. I make a full recipe of Sweet Roll Dough, using mostly butter, amending it to include a cup of whole wheat flour for health’s sake, scalding the milk because my Grandmother Carroll always scalded the milk. Before I leave to write at the library I divide the just rising dough in half. I give half to my mother to shape into clover leaf rolls and tell her to transfer my half to the refrigerator for a slow rise when she punches her dough down.

For the pecan filling I look at The Cheese Board Collective Works: they make delicious pecan rolls except for the mornings when some misguided person throws Sultanas or golden raisins in them and I have to pick them out. Repeat after me, “Raisins do not belong in pecan rolls, which are all about pecans, brown sugar and butter.” I take inspiration from their recipe, but not proportions: there is no way I am going to include a stick and a half of butter in twenty rolls. Theirs are good. Mine will not induce a heart attack. Pecans have healthy fat for you; butter not so much. If I use half a cup of butter it will be a lot.

To make your own pecan rolls, procure at least a cup of pecan pieces. Make sure you have milk, sugar, eggs, white and whole wheat flour, butter, yeast and brown sugar and cinnamon in the house. Then proceed with the recipe below.

Pecan Rolls

Proof 4 and 1/2 teaspoons yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. (If your yeast is sluggish, add a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour)

Scald 1 cup milk.

Add to milk one stick of soft butter (1/2 cup) and 1/2 cup sugar. If you use salted butter you will not need to add any salt. Otherwise, add a pinch.

Pour milk mixture into a large mixing bowl.

Beat 2 eggs in the cup that you used to measure the milk. Temper the eggs with the warm liquid and add them to the  mixing bowl.

Add 1 cup whole wheat flour, plus 2 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour.

Check temperature with fingers. When mixture is no more than warm add reserved yeast.

Continue to add flour by the cupful until you have a soft but firm consistency. I used six cups total flour today, beginning with the cup of whole wheat and eventually adding five cups of unbleached flour, but sometimes the recipe takes as much as seven cups altogether. You know how bread is.

Cover roll dough with warm damp dish towel and go away for awhile. When dough has doubled in size, punch it down. If you do not have time to wait through the next rise, put the covered dough in the refrigerator and pull it out this evening or tomorrow morning. Let it warm and then roll it out on a floured board into a large rectangle. Roll it thin, but not so thin that it will break, perhaps 1/2 inch or a little thicker.

Let dough rest while you melt 1 stick of butter and stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar, plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon.

Spread one third of this mixture in the bottom of a baking pan (I used a 13″ x 9″ Pyrex pan), leaving a clear border at the edges with no goo.

Spread the rest of the butter and sugar mixture on the dough. Sprinkle on the pecans evenly and roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting from the short side of the rectangle. Slice one-inch rounds from the log with a sharp, serrated knife and place each roll atop the goo in the pan. Let rise for fifteen minutes while you preheat your oven to 350.

Bake 25 minutes or until sufficiently brown. Then invert carefully onto another plate so that the goo runs down over the rolls. Enjoy, perhaps with a glass of milk.

Painting Note. No painting. I started one but I prefer not to paint after dark. When I finish it I’ll pop it into the post later in the week. Meanwhile I have NaNoWords to type.

It is cherry season in California. For a few short weeks in May or June fresh cherries appear at the Farmers’ Market in Berkeley. First there are Brooks, then Burlats. Later there are Bing cherries. I eat them all. Mostly, I eat them fresh, for a snack. Lately I have been sneaking them into my morning cereal: my current favorite concoction involves 1/3 cup blue cornmeal cooked in 1 cup of milk with a bit of salt, a small handful of raw almonds pounded in a mortar, a handful of stoned cherries and a couple teaspoons of shredded coconut. This is also good with rolled oats — if you use oats, use 1/2 cup.

Do any of you have binders full of recipes that you have clipped from the food sections of local newspapers? Do you have a lot of recipes you haven’t actually cooked? Me, too. Sometimes I try one and toss it out with a “What were they thinking?” gesture. Sometimes I learn something. Sometimes I just store them, loosely organized by main ingredient, in a huge binder that takes two hands to lift off the shelf, but I know they are there waiting for “someday” when I’ll cook them.

Cherry Focaccia with Chocolate.

One such recipe was Ed Murrieta’s recipe for cherry focaccia. A Google search for the original publication date in the Contra Costa Times informed me that I have been saving this recipe since June 7, 2004. I saved it because it has an irresistible photo of a golden brown round focaccia, dimpled with cherries, cut into wedges, with a pile of fresh cherries in the center. It looks so pretty that I wanted to make it “someday.”

Well, folks, today was someday. I made a trip on the bus to the Farmers’ Market yesterday to buy more basil for more pesto and to buy cherries for this bread. Insert disclaimers here. One, I don’t generally like focaccia — it is too thick, too bland, with the wrong ratio of toppings to crust: I think of it as failed pizza. Two, I think chocolate-covered cherries are revolting. My Grandmother liked them: nasty, sickly cherries in too sweet milk chocolate. And cherry cordials, worse, if possible: bad chocolate filled with wet cherry filling that squirts you when you bite into it. Yuck. Three, my favorite cherry recipes involve sour cherries, either canned or dried, since fresh sour cherries are hard to come by in this part of the world. Four, I can’t stand anything cherry-flavored: cherry flavor reminds me of medicine. This includes cherry Starbursts (why, oh why?). The only exception I can think of is Royal Crown Sour Cherry candy — do they still make it anymore?

But this cherry focaccia was calling my name. First of all, it is a filled focaccia: you make two circles of dough. You put fresh, pitted cherries on top of the first circle, sprinkle it with chopped bittersweet chocolate, and put the second circle on top. Then you push more cherries into the top layer and sprinkle it with raw sugar before it goes into the oven. Plus, you need a starter to make this and I keep a jar of sourdough starter in my refrigerator at all times. I fed the starter yesterday and let it sit out on the counter while I went to the market and bought cherries.

I wanted to send you to Ed Murrieta for the original recipe, but when I Googled him the first thing I found was an article about how his entrepreneurial business had failed, leaving him to live on food stamps. Then I found some recipes including marijuana. Wherever he is now and whatever he is doing I wish him well and thank him for this gorgeous focaccia recipe. I could send you to the newspaper site, but they seem to want you to activate a free trial subscription to let you read the recipe. What can I do? I can rewrite the recipe — I did make a couple of changes.

Here’s the bad kitty confession. Murrieta’s recipe calls for bread flour. In my heyday when I had a regular job and regular paychecks I would have gone out and bought bread flour. I would have insisted on bread flour. Now I am not so proud or so picky: I use what we have on hand. I am an experienced baker and can handle sticky doughs and doughs behaving badly. So I will tell you that Ed Murrieta called for 2 and 3/4 cups of bread flour, plus additional flour on the board during the kneading and shaping phases. I winged it with unbleached flour and some whole wheat flour to give it a more rustic quality. I’ll show you.

Murrieta called for a starter made  of 1/2 tsp dry yeast, 2/3 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour. You mix this up in a glass jar with a wooden spoon, cover it with cloth and let it ferment on the counter for at least twelve hours (and up to 36). I skipped this, and just added 2/3 cup of my sourdough starter to the dough. If you already have a starter, you are good to go. If you want an official sourdough starter recipe, go here.

Focaccia stuffed with fresh cherries and chocolate.

Cherry Focacccia. 8″ x 8″ gouache on paper. Sharyn DImmick.

Fresh Cherry Focaccia with Chocolate

Make the dough first. You can pit cherries and chop chocolate while the dough rises. You can even go to the store for cherries and chocolate while the dough rises if you don’t go on the once-every-forty-five-minutes bus.

Dissolve 1 and 1/2 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm water.

While the yeast proofs, stir together in a large bowl 2 and 3/4 cups bread flour, 3 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. If you do not have bread flour and are intrepid, start with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 3 and 1/4 cups unbleached flour (You will have to add more).

Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients. Add proofed yeast, 2/3 cup sourdough starter (or Ed’s starter, above), 1 cup lukewarm water and 3 Tbsp olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until a light dough forms. If your dough is more of a batter than a dough, add flour 1/4 cup at a time.

Flour a bread board or other work surface and keep the flour handy! You might want to make sure your flour bin is at least half-full. Turn out the dough onto the board and attempt to knead it. If it sticks to the board badly, knead in more flour, dust more flour on the board, pry it up and try again. Eventually, you will work enough flour into the dough that it resembles roll dough and is smooth and uniform in appearance. If you are smart, you will oil the bowl before you put the dough back in it to rise. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and let it rise until double — 1 and 1/2 to two hours.

Now, go away and amuse yourself or clean your counters and put away your ingredients except the flour — you are not done with that. Before the dough is risen you will need to pit 2 cups (one pound) of cherries and chop four ounces of chocolate. I used a 70% Lindt bar that had cherries and chili in it.

When your dough is risen, put it on your floured board and let it rest for five minutes. You can use this time to oil a pizza pan or baking sheet.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Ignore one while you flatten, dimple and pull the other into a ten inch circle. See pizza-pulling instructions here. (Murrieta rolls out his). Transfer first portion to oiled pan. Spread 3/4 of your cherries on it and top with chopped chocolate. Flatten, dimple and pull the second circle into shape and place it on top of cherry-chocolate filling. Pinch the edges to seal the dough. Then decorate the top with the rest of the cherries, pushing them cut-side down into the dough at attractive intervals. Let the dough rest for thirty minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 and do a round of clean-up. Just before you put the focaccia in the oven sprinkle it with raw sugar.

Close-up photo of Cherry Focaccia.

Cherry Focaccia Close-up. Photo by Sharyn Dimmick.

Bake for forty-five minutes or until top and bottom are browned to your liking. Murrieta says to let the focaccia cool and then cut it into wedges. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I let it cool for approximately five minutes and then cut a small wedge, which I ate standing at the cutting board. Then I reached for the knife again, which was smeared with melted chocolate. I ate the second piece standing in front of the board. Then I cut a much smaller wedge. Then I stepped away from the cutting board, drank a glass of milk and made tea, which I took upstairs so that I did not stay in the kitchen eating focaccia.

It was that good. It was sort of like someone had taken my two favorite things, crusty bread and pie, and magicked them into a single entity. Crusty, gooey, chocolatey, not too sweet, with a fresh cherry taste on top.

Cherry season is short. If you like bread and pie, make this now. Now. And invite some friends over if you don’t want to stay in your kitchen eating the whole thing. You could just call it cherry Kryptonite.

Food notes. This recipe is perfect as is, once you get the flour right. But it is ripe for variations. Try other kinds of chocolate and other kinds of fruit: fresh figs? And then branch out and use almond paste or ricotta filling with cherries or peaches or blueberries. Yum.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads. Although I have made pretty challah many times, I was tired this morning. I have recently undertaken a vigorous exercise program, involving walking up hills at the crack of dawn. Yesterday I followed that walk and subsequent breakfast with a walk through the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, and Andronico’s grocery store, came home to put away the groceries and construct a Caesar salad with kale (note to self: leave the kale out of Caesar salads — remember those tests asking “Which one does not belong?” Can you spell k-a-l-e? It was a noble effort).

Despite taking a day off of hill-walking, I dragged myself to the grocery store (on foot) because I needed milk to make challah, Mom had grossly underestimated our milk supply and I didn’t want to use canned milk or buttermilk sweetened with soda. When I got back to the kitchen the dishwasher was on the dry cycle and I unloaded that.

photo of misshapen loaf of Challah bread

Trolls’ Challah.

Only then could I begin the business of making challah: scalding milk and beating eggs, sifting flour, proofing yeast. I briefly considered embellishments: candied orange peel sounded good, but I have not yet candied my annual supply of citrus peel — the peels are sitting in the freezer, awaiting the day when I feel like doing it. I thought of making some kind of cinnamon glaze, but then I considered how tired I was and the kind of day I was having and decided to make plain old challah, the eggy, braided bread. I would use the recipe from our old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook because I have used it before and was in no mood to mess around. Plain challah is the most versatile flavor: it can become French toast or bread pudding or croutons and will work for both sweet and savory sandwiches.

Rather than tell you what I did or what the cookbook says to do I will tell you a better way.

Film a saucepan with water.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups milk.

Set on medium heat until scalded (You’ll see small bubbles at the edges and a faint wrinkled skin on top of the milk).

Remove from heat.

In the measuring cup the milk has recently vacated mix 1/2 cup warm water and 4 and 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (2 packets). Whisk together with a fork.

Now measure 3 cups sifted unbleached flour into a large mixing bowl.

Add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.

Add to cooling milk 1/4 cup butter (half a stick), 1/4 cup sugar and a teaspoon of kosher salt.

When the milk mixture is lukewarm, pour it into your bowl of flour and stir. Add the proofed yeast.

Beat 3 eggs until smooth in your much-used liquid measuring cup. Add to dough mixture.

Now begin adding more sifted flour, most likely about 3 cups plus.

painting shows misshapen loaf of Challah, eggs and butter.

Troll Challah. 8″ x 8″ Gouache on Paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

The Betty Crocker recipe calls for 7 to 7 and 1/2 cups total sifted flour. You have now used half of that. When I got to this stage I sifted the additional flour 1 cup at a time, adding it to the dough in quarter cup increments. Today, cold and overcast, the dough took a total of 6 and 3/4 cups flour, including the half cup of whole wheat. Although I sometimes knead light doughs by hand, I used my Kitchen Aid for the mixing and basic kneading because challah calls for a large amount of flour. When the dough was smooth and elastic and pulled away from the sides of the bowl I transferred it briefly to a lightly-floured board to rest while I buttered the mixing bowl, preheated the oven to warm and heated a damp linen towel for twenty seconds in the microwave. I gave the dough a couple of quick turns and deposited it in the buttered bowl, covered the dough, turned off the oven and set the bread to rise.

Then I gratefully escaped upstairs for an hour and lay on my bed reading my copy of The Sun, the only magazine I subscribe to. After an hour I rose reluctantly to check the dough which had risen enthusiastically and begun gluing itself to the tea towel.

Prying the dough strands away with my fingernails, I deflated the challah dough and set it for its second rise. I glanced at the clock to determine that it would probably be ready for braiding just as I was ready to eat lunch.

The thing about being tired when you are a scratch cook and stock mostly raw ingredients is that there are no quick and easy lunches unless you have previously made the components. We swing from fresh-prepared meals to meals from leftovers in a regular rotation. I grabbed the nearest carrot and a handful of fresh cherries and put on a kettle for tea. The quickest sandwich I could come up with was cashew butter on store-bought raisin bread toast. True to form the tea was steeping, the toast was toasted and I had just spread the cashew butter on the warm bread when the challah once again threatened to overflow its mixing bowl.

Mom had come down for tea.”I have to braid the challah right now,” I told her and watched as she proceeded to cover the bread board I needed with lettuce and mayo for a cottage cheese salad. She finished, wiped the board cursorily and shoved it back in. I no sooner dried it and gave it a light dusting of flour when she came back and said, “I just need to get in here one more time.”

“What do you need?” I asked.

“Paprika” she answered, reaching for it.

While my toast cooled, although I shoved it back in the toaster oven, I braided the challah into three strands, tucking the ends under. I thought the braid was too long, so I double the loaf back on itself, giving it a double-braided look in the center, re-tucking the ends. I slathered a baking sheet with butter and cranked up the oven to 425 while I rummaged in the freezer for sesame seeds. I found white poppy seeds first. Fine. That would do. As an afterthought, the freezer spit four or five packages onto the floor.

I beat my last egg in the same old measuring cup, brushed it on the challah, dropped some poppy seeds on top and put it in the waiting oven, escaping upstairs with my toast and cherries. Mom turned on a program about the Buddha while I drank my tea (irony of ironies) and thought about how un-Buddha-like it is to snap at my mother. As she poured tea for herself, the lid came off the tea pot and tea fell on her robe. She was not hurt.

I carried the tea tray back to the kitchen to check the challah, In its fervor the yeast had risen magnificently but unevenly, bursting out in bulges, stretching the dough at the braid seams. In short, this was challah fashioned by trolls — it wouldn’t win any beauty contests. (No disrespect to any trolls lurking about).

photo shows cut end of Challah loaf to show crumb and color.

Troll Challah — crumb shot.

After letting it cool, I cut the end from the monster challah. I brought my Mom the coveted end slice and took a slice for myself. The bread showed its trademark yellow crumb and brown shiny crust, releasing its lightly sweet flavor in the teeth and jaws of the local troll population.

Food notes: the half cup of whole wheat flour improves the nutritive value of the bread without altering the characteristic pale yellow interior. I could see the wheat specks like tiny freckles in the raw dough, but all trace of brown disappears in the baked bread. You can, of course, make whole wheat challah, instead, but you will have to adjust the amount of flour used and knead it for at least twenty minutes to achieve any lightness. If you want pretty challah, strive to make your dough strands relatively short and entirely even, braiding with care and symmetry, just as you would braid your prettiest daughter’s hair.

In other news, even trolls, churls and snapping daughters sometimes receive blogging award nominations. More on this on Wednesday…

Painting shows Dutch Crunch rolls on baking sheet, plus sandwich on a roll.

Dutch Crunch Rolls. 8″ x 8″ Gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

In my long history of bread baking I had never made Dutch Crunch bread or rolls. I have eaten Dutch Crunch often enough to remember what it looks like with the famous crackled top, sort of like bread dough that morphed into ginger snaps. Because I needed to make a sandwich I went for rolls rather than a loaf of bread and because I needed a reliable roll recipe under the crunch topping I used my grandmother’s roll recipe. You can read that recipe here and read more about Grandma Carroll here.

Well, I should say I started to make my grandma’s roll recipe, but it became apparent that I was going to need to make a few substitutions. First, I normally cook with 1% or 2% milk, but Mom had come home with a gallon of skim milk by mistake last week and we are trying to use it up. Then, when I measured the corn oil I found that I only had 1/3 cup and I needed 2 Tbsp of that for the crunch topping. Second substitution — subtract 2 Tbsp oil from the dough and replace it with 2 Tbsp butter. Done. Third substitution: Grandma’s rolls are a rich, eggy dough and I wanted a little more wheat flavor in a sandwich bun, so instead of using 5 cups of unbleached flour I used 4 cups unbleached and 1 cup whole wheat. Four: we had several bargain-priced packets of Rapid Rise yeast that I wanted to use up: normally, I use loose active dry yeast that I buy in bulk. Since the yeast bubbled adequately in its warm water I knew it was fine: what I didn’t know is how long the roll dough would take to rise.

What I like about roll dough, as opposed to bread dough, is that it is light enough to knead by hand —  I can just stand at the bread board and work. I had to add 2 Tbsp extra flour to the dough, probably because it was a rainy day. I learned from The Cheese Board Collective Works to add flour by the tablespoon when doughs are too sticky or wet to hold their shape. Sometimes it takes several tablespoons to fix wet dough but you don’t run the risk of getting dry, floury dough because you got impatient and dumped in half a cup at a time.

Just before I made up my dough I put an orange-marinated pork loin in the oven to roast. For the real recipe, visit Bewitching Kitchen. I used Sally’s marinade, but did not make the accompanying sauce. By the time I had kneaded the dough and corrected its stickiness it was time to look at the pork loin and think about side dishes. Mom wanted applesauce and thawed some and I saw an opportunity to use some cabbage.  I heated a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil and a half-Tablespoon of butter while I sliced cabbage. Since the pork loin was not done, I basted it with marinade and tossed some cauliflower and carrots in a little olive oil, adding them to the roasting pan and turned down the skillet to a low simmer to keep warm until I was ready to cook the cabbage.  We usually eat lunch at noon, but noon had come and gone before anything was ready. By the time I sliced the meat and fried the cabbage and heated plates and microwaved the applesauce, it was nearly 12:30.

Lunch was ready just when the bread dough was ready for shaping, of course. Uh-oh. Hoping for the best, I punched it down for the third time so that I could eat my lunch while it was hot. I poured my tea and brought it back down to the kitchen.   I cranked up the oven to 400 degrees and got out my dough cutter to divide the dough in half.

Perhaps because some people call Dutch Crunch “Tiger Bread” or perhaps because we still have a lot of oranges I got the idea to make half regular Dutch Crunch rolls and half orange Dutch Crunch. For the orange rolls, I zested one orange, added an extra Tablespoon of sugar to the dough and squeezed in 1 Tablespoon of fresh orange juice. I kneaded it just enough to incorporate these ingredients and let it sit while I shaped the regular Dutch Crunch rolls. I used half the recipe to make six large buns to use as sandwich rolls, which I placed as far apart as possible on a standard baking sheet that I had rubbed with a little butter.

Retrieving the orange dough, I shaped it into nine smaller buns.

Then I made the Dutch Crunch topping from a recipe provided by Daring Kitchen. The basic version called for

2 Tablespoons active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 and 1/2 cups rice flour (NOT sweet rice flour). Increase by a cup or more for homemade rice flour. I ended up using 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1/2 cup ground basmati rice and 1 and 1/2 cups ground brown rice.

When I pulled the rice flour out of the cupboard it was, of course, sweet rice flour! Undeterred, I measured 1 cup of it and then proceeded to check various containers for rice that I could throw in the blender to make instant rice flour. I used half a cup of white basmati rice and about a cup and a half of short-grain brown rice. What I learned is that the blender will make rice flour out of rice, brown or white, and probably black or red, too — there is no reason to buy any rice flour ever again.

So I whisked up the crunch topping, which looks like a thick, grainy paste, and let it sit for fifteen minutes as instructed, then used my hands to glop it onto the top of each roll, applying it liberally. By the time I had smeared it on all fifteen rolls it was time to bake them.

Silly me: I forgot that the orange crunch rolls would brown faster because of the extra sugar in the dough. Oops. I managed to get them out just in time after about twelve minutes. The regular Dutch Crunch rolls took another three minutes, probably because I made them larger.

Now I’m supposed to make a splendid sandwich. How about orange-roasted pork loin with arugula on Dutch crunch? I’ll spread the bun with a little peach chutney mixed with yogurt, but before I do that I’ll toast the bun in the toaster oven.

Food Notes: You should make this if you adore Dutch Crunch and you might as well grind your own rice, which takes less than a minute.

Painting shows ingredients for rice cakes

Rice Cakes. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

Most mornings I eat oatmeal cooked in milk to jump start my calcium intake for the day. Our house is cold and warm breakfasts are usually welcome. But because we shop just once a week, there are occasionally mornings when the milk is gone and hot cereal is not an option. Heaven forbid that I would cook my oats in water, converting them to standard gruel.

These are some of our options for mornings we are out of milk.

1) Rice cakes: take some leftover rice. Crack an egg or two into it. Add some sugar, vanilla, nutmeg. Beat for a few minutes with a fork. Scoop out by 1/4 cup measures and fry in butter.

2) French toast: take the last few slices of bread. Toast them lightly if they are not already stale. Cut them in half. Beat a couple of eggs in a shallow bowl. Add juice and zest of one orange if you like, or just add sugar, vanilla and nutmeg as for rice cakes above. Soak the bread briefly in the egg batter. Fry in butter. Serve with powdered sugar, maple syrup, fresh fruit or fruit puree

If we have sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt on hand we can just make waffles, cornbread or biscuits.

Painting shows bread for French toast, eggs, orange.

French Toast. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

If we have no milk products, sour or otherwise, we can get out our sourdough starter and make  sourdough biscuits with that, using a cup of starter, 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening, 1/2 tsp each of sugar, salt and baking soda, 1 cup of plain flour and 1 Tbsp baking powder. Mix them. Roll them. Cut them. Brush the tops with melted butter and let them sit for fifteen minutes while you preheat the oven to 425. Bake for 10-12 minutes

If I am feeling more ambitious than making biscuits and I have gotten up very early, I might return to my breakfast oatmeal and make it into some delicious oatmeal yeast bread, flavored with maple syrup. I have adapted this recipe slightly from an old cookbook called Coffee by Charles and Violet Schafer published in 1976 and now living in tatters on my bookshelf. This bread uses the sponge method, which will save you some time on the first rise (but you will have to knead it before the second rise after you add the remaining flour and salt).

Oatmeal Bread

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of rolled oats in a mixing bowl.

Measure 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil into a Pyrex measuring cup. Swirl oil to coat glass to the 1/2 cup mark.

Add oil to cooling oat mixture.

Into oiled cup, measure 1/2 cup maple syrup.

Add syrup to oat-water-oil mixture

Take that same old  Pyrex cup and add 1/4 cup lukewarm water.

Dissolve 1 Tbsp active dry yeast in the lukewarm water and stir with a fork.

While the yeast proofs, add 2 cups unbleached flour to your mixing bowl and stir. When mixture is lukewarm, add yeast and stir again. Cover with damp cloth and place in warm place to rise. Check in 30 minutes.

After your sponge has risen and fallen slightly, add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 2 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour and 1 tsp kosher salt to it.

This is when you knead it. I like to knead on a lightly floured bread board for at least ten minutes. If your dough is too sticky, add flour by the tablespoon until it is workable: dough will vary by the amount of moisture in the air, the temperature of your kitchen, the particular grind of the flour. Please add a little flour to the board, to your hands, or to the dough itself if you are having a lot of trouble with it: doughs containing honey, syrup or molasses are stickier than those that don’t, but you are going to love the flavor of this bread, so persevere.

After at least ten full minutes of kneading, you may want to add a little butter or oil to your mixing bowl. Rub it all over so that the dough won’t stick. Then plunk the dough back into the bowl, dampen your tea towel with warm water, wring it out and set it on the bowl again, placing the dough in a warm place for its second rise. Check it again in 30 minutes (or forty if you are reading a great novel). When it has doubled, take the time to grease two loaf pans or one loaf pan and a pie or tart pan if you want to make a round loaf. Using butter to grease the pans will add to the flavor of the finished bread.

Take the bread dough out of the bowl and set it again on your lightly floured bread board. Cut it with your dough cutter or bench scraper into two equal portions. Roll the first one up like a jelly roll and tuck in the ends: with any luck it will fit your loaf pan. Take the second piece of dough and roll it into a ball, continually tucking any edges under and smoothing the top. Place this ball in your pie or tart pan. Return shaped loaves to the oven to rise for fifteen minutes, then move them somewhere else while you preheat your oven to 375, making sure a rack is in the middle position with no rack above it (You should have already moved it when you were using it for the rising dough, but if you didn’t, do it now).

Painting shows loaves of oatmeal bread.

Oatmeal Bread. 6″ x 6″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

When your oven is hot, set the loaves inside and putter around for ten minutes, doing dishes or having a cup of tea. After ten minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and go back to reading your novel. Resurface in 30 minutes to check your bread: when you thump it, it should make a good solid thumping sound and the crust should have some brown color. When it thumps satisfactorily, remove it to a cooling rack. Mom taught be to remove the bread from the pans so that the crust does not steam in the hot pans: if you do this, you will get a crustier, chewier crust.

Now go away again: if you cut the bread hot you will ruin the texture. It’s best just to forget about it for awhile. When it is cool or almost cool, you can slice it and savor the beautiful bouquet of maple syrup. Whatever you do not eat immediately makes lovely toast tomorrow and the next day.

Food notes: On rice cakes: these rice cakes are not Asian rice cakes. They are the kind of rice cakes some people make in Louisiana: a fried cake made of sweetened rice bound with eggs. On oatmeal bread: for its most wonderful qualities, this bread requires maple syrup. None of the other ingredients are expensive, so splurge every now and then and make it. Can you make it with honey or golden syrup or malt syrup or brown rice syrup? Yes, you can, but it will not be the same and not yield the same deliciousness. Can you make it with more whole wheat flour? Of course you can, but, once again, you will not get the same bread: whole wheat flour will make it browner and heavier and wheatier. I keep the whole wheat flour to a half cup for the nod to health, replacing a little nutrition in that unbleached flour, but oats are good for you, too. Happy breakfast.

Equipment notes: Few things make me happier than having a dough cutter. I baked for many years without one, but it is the easiest thing to use when you need to divide yeast dough.

Painting shows loaf of black bread and a few ingredients

Winter Bread. 12″ x 12″ gouache, watercolor and pencil. Sharyn DImmick

I am a water sign and a watercolor painter. I think about water. I love to swim in open water. I like to take hot baths. And I conserve water. On a blog which shall remain nameless I ran across the suggestion that leaving your sink faucet running while you chop onions will cause you to cry less. I ran to the comments field to beg all who read the post not to leave their water running. My friends in New Mexico and Colorado know not to waste water. People in Africa know not to waste water. Some of us don’t understand that potable water is a limited resource and we need to treat it as a limited resource. When you turn on the faucet, water comes out. For now. If you or your landlord or your parents or your roommates have paid the water bill. If you are lucky, you live in a place where the water is good, drinkable, not polluted. Where I live we have good water: it is soft. It tastes good right out of the tap.

Recently, I read another blog post, a wonderful round up of all the things you can do with citrus peel. You can candy it — I knew that. You can zest it. I knew that, too. You can compost it. Check. You can make it into cleaning products. But some people make citrus salts. And some people make liquor. And some people make flavored sugars. You should read the wonderful post yourself.

One of the reasons I loved this post so much is that it was full of lovely things to do with something that we often waste. And one of the reasons I like learning things people did in the past is that some people had some good ideas about how to use things fully. Citrus peel is a lovely thing, quite edible and useful. Water is a lovely thing, drinkable, useful and quite versatile. Please don’t waste it.

Now, it’s winter in the Northern hemisphere and winter has got me thinking about Northern people, perhaps some of your ancestors and mine. People who lived where it was cold. People who lived where crops were limited. Many of those people grew rye. Do you know where this is going? I am offering you some northern winter bread to go with your water. Perhaps you will make some citrus marmalade to spread on your bread where it will look like trapped sunshine. Just saying. Perhaps you will eat winter bread with summer’s blackberries or raspberries preserved in a jar, or your friend Carol’s boysenberry jam.

Anyway, this is winter bread. It is dark. It is hearty. It contains yeast and all manner of dark things: coffee, molasses, cocoa. Don’t get excited — it’s not sweet: it is winter bread and the holidays are over for now. You can eat chocolate bread on Valentine’s Day if you want to, but it is January and Heidi Swanson across the bay aka 101 Cookbooks posted a recipe for black bread, the stuff I call winter bread. Her recipe is even darker than mine because it includes the dark, bitter flavor of caraway seeds. Caraway is bitter enough that it should have made it into the bitter herbs for the Passover table. I passed on the caraway. Her recipe also has golden flecks of carrot in it. You might like that. I might like it, too, but I made winter bread without carrots or caraway this time around. You can make it, too.

Winter Bread, inspired by and adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Black Bread

Get out a 1 cup  glass liquid measuring cup. Put 3 Tbsp butter in it and microwave for about fifteen seconds. Empty butter into a large mixing bowl. It doesn’t have to be melted, but should be soft enough to slip out.

Now, measure 1/3 cup molasses into the same cup.

Pour it into the mixing bowl. It should slide right out. If it is recalcitrant, use a rubber scraper or a clean finger to help it along.

Take the greasy, sticky measuring cup and add 1/2 cup lukewarm water to it.

Dissolve 1 packet or 2 and 1/4 tsp active dry yeast in the water by whisking it with a fork. Set aside for now.

Add to your bowl of butter and molasses:

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp instant espresso powder diluted in 1/4 cup warm water

2 tsp kosher salt

Now add your proofed yeast to the bowl. Get it all: use a utensil or finger — fingers are truly useful in the kitchen.

Measure  1 and 1/3 cups rye flour. Add to your bowl

Measure 3 cups unbleached flour or bread flour into your bowl.

Have a cup of cool water at the ready, plus 1/4 cup flour for work surface, plus additional flour.

You can make this with a mixer with a dough hook. I do sometimes. But this time I hand-kneaded it: it was a new recipe. Rye flour takes a lot of kneading to make good bread and hand-kneading made it easier for me to make adjustments and keep track of how it was going.

First I stirred it. Then I mushed it with my hands. It was still pretty dry and shaggy with wet bits. Finally, I filled a cup with water like I’ve told you to do and spread 1/4 cup of flour on my bread board. Then I dumped the not-quite-bread-mass out on the board, added a little water with my fingers and started kneading. Do you know how to knead? It’s really folding the dough on itself and pushing it forward, letting the weight of the dough work on the dough, then repeating. Endlessly — it will seem that way the first time you knead a loaf of rye or whole wheat or sourdough: it can take awhile to work the proper amount of flour and water into your dough. If the dough will not pick up the flour from the board after several minutes, it is too dry — add some more water. If the dough is super-sticky and gloms onto the board, add flour by the tablespoon and work it after each addition: as you knead bread it tends to get drier and less sticky. You want it neither dry nor wet. It should feel sort of like your ear lobe. Touch it. Like that. Rye bread can take ten or twenty minutes to knead. It’s winter. Slow down. You can sing to yourself as you work: rhythmic songs are good: “I’m gonna WASH that MAN right OUTta my HAIR…”

When it’s done, butter or oil your mixing bowl, put the bread in it, cover with a warmed, dampened linen or smooth cotton dish towel and set it in a warm place to rise, for instance an oven that has been on “Warm” for a few minutes and then turned off. Or an oven with a pilot light. Or a pre-warmed clothes dryer.  Go away for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half. When it has doubled in size, reward it by deflating it: push on it to let the air out. Form it into a rustic round and put it in a tart pan or on a baking sheet to rise again. Check it in half an hour. Preheat your oven to 425. Take a sharp knife and cut an “X” or cross in the top of your bread. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350. Check again in 25 minutes. Bread is done when it makes a nice sound when you thump it. No thump? Bake it some more.

Then you have to let it cool. I know, but if you cut it hot, the middle gets icky and soggy. So wait awhile. You have my permission to cut it warm — barely warm. Eat with unsalted butter. Or jam. Or marmalade. Dunk it in your soup. Get out the cheese. You know what to do.

Food Notes: Oh yeah — I added just a touch of orange juice and zest — I had half an orange sitting on the counter. You can use brewed coffee instead of instant espresso. Use whatever salt you like and adjust accordingly. For a completely different, lighter, sweeter rye that incorporates more citrus, try Swedish Rye Bread.

Painting Note: I’ve had the blues lately, so I decided to inventory my paints. I found I had a lot of ultramarine blue. As in four tubes. I had some other blues, too, so I made a tablecloth of blue stripes with blues straight out of the tube: starting at the left, the stripes go cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, violet and then repeat. The window frame is mostly cobalt. The glass has mauve pencil underneath the blue created by all of the pigments in the water.

painting depicts meal of bread, soup and salad for January

January Feast. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

In January I crave greens. After the excesses of the winter holidays with their meat, squash, bread, potatoes and sweets, I want things sharp and bright-tasting while still needing warm dishes to chase away the chill. Thursday I cooked all day and hit upon that classic meal of soup, salad and bread.

I started with the oven on for Savoring Every Bite’s caramelized oranges and made some granola while I was at it, plus roasted a kabocha squash. Then I cleaned leeks and peeled potatoes for soup, scrubbing the potatoes first so that I could toss the peels and tough leek greens into a stock pot for vegetable stock. While that boiled, I sauteed 3 sliced leeks, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of minced ham and some crumbled dried rosemary (use fresh if you grow it) in 2 Tbsp butter. As that cooked I peeled and diced about 1 pound of yellow Finn potatoes and added them to the pan to brown a bit. I then covered them with a pint of chicken stock and four cups of water, covered the pot and let them cook. Then I got out the mandoline to shred Savoy cabbage — I shredded nearly half a head of cabbage and set the mandoline aside for another use later.

When the potatoes were tender I mashed some of them and left some chunks. The soup was a little watery, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it continue to cook uncovered.

Meanwhile, I got out three small fennel bulbs, whacking off the stalks and fronds for the vegetable stock pot, along with the tough outer pieces. Then I cut each bulb in half and shredded it with the mandoline over a salad bowl. I scored the peel of 1 large navel orange into quarters, saving the peel to candy another day, and segmented the orange and sliced the segments, putting them into the bowl with the fennel. Then I took my remaining orange-sesame vinaigrette and poured it over the oranges and fennel and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.

I turned off the soup and let it sit (I added the cabbage ten minutes before reheating and serving it).

Then I turned my attention to bread, an orange-cumin yeast bread adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. The warm oven from caramelized oranges, granola and roasted squash would help the bread rise. Here’s my modified recipe

Orange Cumin Bread

Juice and zest 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)

Scald 1/2 cup milk and set off heat to cool.

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or measure 4 and 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast).

Into large bowl of stand mixer, measure

1/2 cup sugar (any kind will do)

4 Tbsp corn oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground cumin, plus the scalded milk and the orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup warm water

Mix to combine and then add dissolved yeast. Mix again.

Now add 4 cups unbleached flour and

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

Switch to dough hook, or knead by hand, remembering to knead for at least ten minutes to develop the gluten. This dough can be sticky so you may need to add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time or keep flouring your kneading surface.

Put dough in large bowl (I use the same one I mixed in) greased with a little oil or vegetable shortening. Cover dough with damp smooth kitchen towel (I warm my towel in the microwave for twenty seconds) and set bowl in warm place to rise until double (about an hour). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (thirty minutes this time). Meanwhile grease two standard loaf pans.

When bread dough has risen for the second time, deflate it and shape into two loaves. Put loaves in prepared pans and let rise until dough is even with the edge of the pan. Fifteen minutes before it gets there, slash the dough with a sharp knife — I make two parallel diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf — and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for forty minutes, until crust is brown and tapped loaf sounds hollow. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Now you can heat up your soup, toss in the cabbage, take the salad from the fridge and feed some happy people.

Soup notes: Any kind of potatoes will do for this soup — just don’t use purple ones! If you are a vegetarian, omit the ham and chicken broth in the soup and prepare it with vegetable stock or milk and water. If you are an omnivore and don’t have ham on hand, you could substitute bacon or prosciutto. If you don’t have leeks, substitute onions. If you don’t have Savoy cabbage, use another kind — anything but red or purple which will give you an undesirable color.

Bread notes: Mark Miller’s recipe calls for dried milk and orange juice concentrate — I have adapted it to use whole foods instead. He also calls for starting with whole cumin seed, toasting it and grinding it. I have done this and it is good, but if your cumin is fresh or you can’t get cumin seed, you can just use ground cumin. If your cumin has been around for awhile, toast it in a dry skillet. This bread is light and wheaty: for a variation, try reversing the proportions of cornmeal and whole wheat flour. Like most breads with fruit in them, it makes excellent toast.

This month I am participating in citruslove, a glorious collection of seasonal citrus recipes, #citruslove. Check ‘em out here at the bottom of the post. Click on Linky tools there to see all the submissions.

painting shows loaf of Swedish bread

e

While I was away for the weekend my Mom bought some oranges. I wrote about eating my first orange of the fall and winter in Taos, New Mexico in November, but these were the first oranges we have had in the house since spring. Suddenly oranges are calling to both of us. I planned to stir up a lunch of bread and soup to warm us up this cold day. Plenty of beets, turnips, carrots and half a head of cabbage dictated borscht, brought together with chicken broth from the freezer, the last few cherry tomatoes on the vines and a package of dried mushrooms (my sister-in-law likes Ukranian borscht with mushrooms in it).

When I asked Mom if she wanted Swedish rye or whole wheat bread to go with the soup, she said, “Swedish rye. We haven’t had that in a long time.” Indeed we haven’t — I only make it when I can get fresh oranges. Now, I know you can buy oranges any old day at the grocery store and that they come from Florida, Israel, Mexico, goodness knows where. Since I live in California, I eat and cook with California oranges in season and one of the first things I make when they come in in the winter is this sweet rye bread, flavored with orange juice and zest, anise seeds and raisins.

I learned to bake this from my childhood friend, Lori Johnson. I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, substituting orange juice for some of the water in the original recipe. This makes wonderful toast and dynamite peanut butter sandwiches.

Into a large mixing bowl, measure

1 Tbsp shortening

1/3 cup molasses

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp anise seed

In the 1-cup liquid measuring cup that you used to measure the molasses, place 1/4 cup warm water and 1 package active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 tsp).

Beat yeast and water with a fork. Let yeast proof while you

Zest one orange into the mixing bowl.

Then cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into a 2 cup measuring cup. Add water to reach 1 and 1/2 cups total liquid. Add this to mixing bowl.

Add 1 cup sifted unbleached flour.

Check temperature. If contents of mixing bowl is now lukewarm or cooler, add proofed yeast and stir.

Next add 2 cups rye flour and beat until smooth (I use a large wooden spoon). There will be flour clumps. That’s okay — you are beating to develop gluten in the rye flour and the lumps will vanish if you beat hard and long enough. The batter should turn glossy.

Stir in 1 cup raisins, a few at a time, incorporating each batch before adding more (Exposed raisins will burn in the oven’s heat).

Add 3 to 3 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour until you have a soft dough.

Let dough rest 10 minutes.

Knead dough until smooth — at least ten minutes. Form into ball. Grease your mixing bowl and place dough in it. Cover with a damp warm towel and put in a warm place to rise until double (I check it in about an hour: rye flour slows the rising time of bread). Punch it down. Let it rise again until double. Grease loaf pans, or round pans or baking sheets. Divide dough in half and shape into two standard loaves, round loaves or free-hand braids. Preheat oven to 375. Let rise again. If you wish, you may slash the tops of the loaves ten minutes before putting them into the oven.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until crust sounds hollow when thumped. For best texture, let the bread cool on a rack before cutting.

Food notes: If you must have an additional holiday touch, you might substitute dried cranberries for the raisins. I have not done this myself. Heidi of 101 Cookbooks has a link to some rye flour shortbread cookies on her recent sticky gingerbread post: I am thinking of making them with anise seed and orange zest to duplicate the flavors of this bread in cookie form.

All you candy-makers please visit again on Wednesday December 14 for another recipe by Susan Darm, featuring English toffee.

painting of my Grandmother's Kitchen

Grandma’s Kitchen, El Cerrito, CA. 8″ by 8″ Watercolor pencil and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick.

My Grandma was not a great cook — maybe not even a good cook: she was a home cook who fed threshing crews, a husband and seven children on very little money. But she could make bread: my Mom remembers her making bread in a huge dishpan, four loaves at a time. She made jam, too, and I am sorry not to have her recipe for berry jam (she died before I got interested in canning) — I don’t know what kind of berries she used. Not strawberries, but maybe blackberries and raspberries together? I don’t know. She made excellent chicken and noodles and a nice cocoa cake. On holidays she brought the rolls.

Mom made rolls, too, but not for Thanksgiving or Christmas. She liked to make “bread rolls,” a less rich roll dough. She liked to use dried milk. Grandma always used fresh milk and scalded it. She warmed the flour and the eggs. She used oil rather than shortening or butter.

After Grandma died at ninety-six, I took over her roll-making job: I make yeast-risen oil rolls. I make cloverleaf rolls in a muffin tin greased with Crisco because that is what my Mom always did. The recipe comes from Grandma. The shape comes from Mom. My contribution is sometimes to sneak in a little whole wheat flour, but everybody else likes it better if I don’t: the consensus is that we should be allowed to eat white flour on holidays, along with pie and gravy and stuffing and whipped cream. “It’s only for one day,” Mom says. Two, if we’re counting Christmas, but hey, why be literal-minded?

Here is my grandmother’s recipe for rolls.

Scald 1 cup of milk and pull off burner to cool.

Dissolve 4 and 1/2 tsp of yeast (two packets) in 1/2 cup lukewarm water by sprinkling the yeast into the water in a one-cup liquid measuring cup and beating it with a fork

To the scalded milk, add:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup corn oil. You can add this stuff while the milk is still warm — it will speed the cooling.

While the milk is cooling to lukewarm, if you want to imitate my grandmother you need to warm the flour and eggs. This is how you do it.

Turn on your oven to warm or low. Measure 5 cups sifted flour into a glass, metal or ceramic bowl. Bury 2 large whole eggs in the shell in the flour. Turn off the oven. Set the bowl in the oven for a few minutes until the flour is warm to the touch. This is a good trick for cold kitchens: the warmed flour gives the yeast a little boost.

Remove eggs from flour (or just take 2 eggs out of your fridge) Beat the eggs until blended and whisk them into your milk-oil-sugar mixture. Pour liquids, including eggs over flour. Add dissolved yeast.

Knead until dough is uniform, soft and spongy — about ten minutes by hand. The dough should be soft and light, but not sticky. If it is a humid day, you might have to add more flour, but you only want to do that if it is impossible to knead.

Cover your bread bowl with a warm, damp tea towel (I like linen and find that dampening it and microwaving it for twenty seconds gets it warm enough).

Set bowl in warm oven (warm from before — your oven should not be on at this point) or other warm draft-free spot. We have been known to run our clothes dryer for awhile before turning it off and setting the covered bowl of dough inside to rise. Let dough rise until double — I’m going to say an hour, but you need to go by volume rather than time.

Punch dough down and let it rise again. This will take half the time of the first rise.

While dough is rising the second time, get out your Crisco vegetable shortening that you bought to make pie crust. Grease two normal-size 12 cup muffin tins or 1 12-cup muffin tin and one 6-cup one. This recipe will yield eighteen to twenty-four cloverleaf dinner rolls, depending on how big you make them. If you have extra dough, plop it in a small greased bowl and make a bun.

When dough has doubled again, punch it down and form cloverleaf rolls by pinching off three balls of dough. They should be about the size of the circle you make with your thumb and forefinger, unless you have huge hands, in which case they can be a little smaller. Place three balls of dough in each greased muffin cup: as the dough rises and spreads it will fill the muffin tin and leave you with rolls.

While your rolls complete their last rise, go ahead and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Do not put the rolls in it yet. The rolls are ready to go in when they have risen above the edge of the muffin cups.

Bake rolls in 425 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot — or at least warm. You can eat them cold later — and you will, if there are any left. We eye them jealously and fight for our share. Sometimes we make more during the holiday weekend if we feel we have been shorted.

Food Notes: These rolls are simple and good. You can add a touch of butter to the milk mixture if you like. You can also substitute up to 1 cup of whole wheat flour for unbleached flour or bread flour — add more than that and you will lose their marvelous lightness and beautiful creamy color. My brother would say just lose the whole wheat flour altogether and my Mom would say to hold it to a quarter cup. You can, of course, use only one packet of yeast or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons — if you do, things will just take a little longer: these rolls take me about two and a half to three hours total time.

self-portrait of Sharyn Dimmick at Occupy Oakland with meditator and wolverine rolls.

Self-Portrait at Occupy Oakland with Wolverine Rolls. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor penciil. Sharyn Dimmick

Last week was quite a week: I landed in Oakland, CA, for two days of vocational tests so that some poor soul can help me find a suitable day job. The testing center sat across the street and several stories above the site of “Occupy Oakland.” To get to my testing site by 9:00 AM I had to leave my house when it was barely light, loaded with reading material, pens, water, a thermos of milk and enough food for lunch and to get me through five hours of testing. I went back today for the third and final testing shift.

The first day I took sourdough bread, Cotswold cheese, an apple, two homemade spice snaps and a zucchini-gingerbread muffin. The next day I don’t remember what I took, but it was similar: apple, cheese, bread. I eat my lunch in the park where the demonstrators gather.

Monday I had off from testing and got to stay home all day. I took advantage of the hours at home to mix up some sourdough of my own, using recipes from my favorite bread book, The Cheese Board Collective Works (Read more about my most-used cookbooks here). Sourdough breads are made from wet, slow-rising doughs so it helps to have a whole day to make them.

I made a batch of wolverines, a round, part-whole wheat, sourdough bun, containing dried sour cherries, apricots and pecans (I used walnuts). The original recipe also calls for golden raisins (sultanas), but I see no reason to include them.

About now, you are either turning away in horror at the dried fruit, or you are hoping for the recipe. Alas, I must encourage you to buy your own copy of The Cheese Board Collective’s book because the instructions for making the sourdough starter alone take two full pages. Wolverines are made from a recipe called “Suburban Bread” (another full page), but they get their own page, too, and you also need to read the pages on shaping, working with sourdough and making sourdough in a non-commercial oven. Me? I’ve done this before.

Anyway, a “quick” batch of wolverines takes over nine hours if you already have your sourdough starter on hand. That I had — my “Cheese Board” starter gave up the ghost a couple of years ago, but I made a new sourdough starter from another recipe four weeks ago and have a healthy batch in the fridge that must be used weekly. I’ve been making “cowboy biscuits,” leavened with sourdough, soda and baking powder once a week, but Mom informed me on Sunday that she liked regular baking powder biscuits much better. Oh well. So I had the sourdough starter and we love wolverines. “We” love bread of all kinds (except perhaps sourdough biscuits and Irish soda bread), but we are particularly partial to crusty yeast-risen breads. I like wolverines so much that I ate two last night when they came our of the oven, had one for breakfast this morning, and took another for lunch today with some more Cotswold cheese. It is with the greatest restraint that I am not eating another as I type but am instead eating cold green beans with a bit of basil.

I ate my wolverine sitting on the ground in a sunny spot next to the bicycle lockers. The tent city was much larger than it had been on Friday afternoon and there were a lot of new booths and information tables. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship does sitting meditation there, so I sit with them after I eat my lunch while people talk, the wind blows, traffic signals send their audible walking calls, a clock tower chimes the half hour. I think about my blog and day jobs when I forget to focus on my breath or sounds or sensations. I “sit” on my backpack, pretending it is a zafu, putting it between my knees and sitting astride — it makes a pretty good substitute, although I can feel the lumps made by my water bottle and thermos.

Vocational testing doesn’t tell me much I don’t already know: I like writing, painting, singing and cooking. “About” page gives you more of the scoop on this. I’ll write for hire. I’ll teach writing practice for hire. I like to sell paintings. I sell music CDs too. I sit with the Buddhists for free and I cook for free. Long, complicated projects like wolverines don’t phase me because I like to take my time doing things and make things from scratch. Sourdough baking is a big adventure — if you love yeast baking and are up for a challenge, get yourself a good instruction book and go for it on a day when you can be home all day (or all night for you night-owls). If you don’t have sourdough starter on hand, you’ll need anywhere from three days to two weeks to mix it up and get it going vigorously. If you go for the Cheese Board book, you’ll find wonderful recipes for pizza and many quick treats such as muffins and scones in addition to the sourdough chapters.

Occupy Oakland is calling for a general strike tomorrow. I imagine the Peace Fellowship will be sitting there again. I will be “working” at home again and grateful to be there with my computer and my paints, a pot of black tea and at least one more wolverine.

Cowboy Sourdough Starter (adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works and the “Rocky Mountain Sourdough Starter” recipe in The Book Lover’s Cookbook).

Get a glass jar with a non-rusted metal lid. Please note: this metal lid is the only metal object you will allow near the starter and you don’t want the metal to touch the starter. Big pickle jars are good. Punch several small holes in said lid, as though you want to keep something alive in the jar (You do!)

Place 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour or bread flour in the jar.

Add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or rye flour

Add 1 tsp kosher salt.

With a wooden spoon, stir to mix well. Do not use metal while making or handling sourdough starter.

Dissolve 2 and 1/4 tsp  baking yeast (equivalent of one packet) in

2 cups warm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the friendly yeast)

Add dissolved yeast to jar and stir again with your wooden spoon until it is mixed well.

Place a folded linen or cotton smooth kitchen towel on top of your jar and set it in a warmish place where you can remember to stir it twice a day. You will be leaving it out for at least two or three days — remember, you want it to sour. Save the lid for later — you don’t need it at this stage. The towel allows your local yeasts that live in the air to join the yeast in the jar.

Check the starter twice a day. When it is bubbly and smells like yeast you can bake with it by taking it out cup by cup and adding it to biscuits, pancakes or yeast breads. Whenever you remove a cup of starter you need to add a cup of water and a cup of flour to the starter jar.

Sourdough starter is designed to be used once  a week or more often. You can store it in the refrigerator. Sometimes liquid separates and rises to the top. You can either pour this off or stir it back in. It will keep for months if you use it regularly. Watch out for mold (mine has never molded): if your starter develops visible mold or bad smells throw it out, wash your jar thoroughly and start again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 184 other followers