Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Would-Be Rolls

I blame the toaster. Normally, I would take full responsibility for all of my mishaps and failures, because, as we all know, I tend to be quite the chaotic cook. But this time, it was not my fault. I swear.

I love bread. There, I admitted it. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, but I don’t think admitting this particular problem will solve anything, because the only solution for this problem is MORE BREAD. The only thing I crave more than a warm, gooey brownie (no nuts please) washed down with ice-cold milk, is fresh bread, still warm from the oven. When it comes to bread, I have no willpower. Zero. Zilch. And I am quite ok with that.

As I mentioned before, Rosemary is by far the best spice ever created. So put rosemary together with fresh baked bread, and you have perfection. I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks, a blog that makes me feel like a failure of a woman and at the same time, incredibly inspired for what someday I could be. She is a photographer, cookbook author, amazing writer, inventor, teacher, and a pretty funny lady to boot. These buttery, herb-laden rolls made my mouth water just looking at them, so obviously I needed to make them.

First of all, the recipe calls for a cast iron pan. I do not own a cast iron pan, nor do I at the moment posses an oven capable of fitting said pan. I have fond memories of a particular cast iron pan that accompanied us on every camping trip growing up. My mom was a single mom and took our safety and protection very seriously, especially out in the wild. Our pan must have been a foot and a half in diameter and about 40 pounds. While we did cook out of it, the main reason it was dragged around (and I do mean dragged- 40 pounds is a lot for a small child) was to be used as a weapon if ever the need arose. Actually, if the need ever DID arise, I have no idea how one of us would have lifted it to bonk our attackers on the head.

But I digress. Back to the rolls. The recipe said to use frozen dough, but I had some time on my hands, so I went the from-scratch route. Using the cinnamon roll dough recipe, I started the looooong process of dough making. The recipe made enough dough to feed the whole cast of the Lion King (who are currently staying in our hotel), so if I were you, I’d cut it in half. But as I plan to make some cinnamon rolls in the very near future, I was fine with the amount of dough.

The recipe calls for “scalding” the milk and oil mixture, which meals heating the liquid until just before the boiling point, stirring until the sugar dissolves and oil breaks up and mixes with the other ingredients. The smell is a delicious- think of a cold wintery night as a kid, getting a cup of warm, sweet milk right before bed. No? Maybe that was just me.

Next comes the yeast and flour. With bread, you do not want to knead the dough too much, because the more you touch it, the tougher and gummier the mixture will be. The chemical bonds break down and the gluten builds up. What does that mean? Not sure, just don’t over-knead it. I love this part. Your hands are covered in dough, there is flour flying everywhere, and the yeasty smell holds the promise of fresh bread.

I let the dough rise for a little over an hour, and it was perfect. Following Ms. Pioneer Woman’s directions, I put it in the fridge to be used later that night. I took it out a few hours later and it had risen to monstrous proportions.  If I had let it go unchecked, it would have escaped the fridge and gone over to Japan to attack some poor unsuspecting city. Luckily, I caught it in time to punch it down, pinch a few roll sized pieces off, toss them in a well greased springform pan, cover with butter, rosemary and salt, and put in the oven to bake.

This is when, my dear readers, disaster struck. My oven is small. 13 inches wide and 7 inches tall. No match for the hardworking yeast that fill the dough. I watched in sadness as the dough rose and rose and reached for the heating elements. Alas, the rosemary rolls I had slaved over for hours burned to a crisp on top, leaving the middle and bottom essentially raw. I will definitely have to attemp these again, with all the proper tools. They will be as delicious as I imagine, as delightful as the pictures. But for this batch? There was no hope, no fix. And I absolutely blame the toaster.

Frozen, Unbaked Dinner Rolls (I substituted the dough from the recipe below)
Melted Butter, Regular, Salted
Fresh Rosemary, Coarsely Chopped
Coarse Sea Salt

Preparation Instructions

-Spray a small iron skillet with cooking spray (or coat with olive oil). Place rolls in the skillet, leaving plenty of room for rising. Cover and allow to rise for several hours.
-After rising, brush rolls with melted butter.
-Sprinkle on chopped rosemary. Brush with additional butter. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
-Bake according to roll package directions (usually 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes), until rolls are a deep golden brown on top.
-Serve skillet on the table.

1 quart Whole Milk
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt

Preparation Instructions
Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. “Scald” the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks ** some pictures borrowed from the Pioneer Woman's excellent photography to show what SHOULD have been created

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