Almost Awesome Rolls for Christmas Dinner

a bowl of rolls with course salt on top covered with a colorful towel

It’s possible I had overly ambitious plans for Christmas Dinner, considering we were traveling cross-country the day before, but it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time: rolls, stuffing, turkey, potatoes, the other things taken care of by other people. It’s also possible I should have chosen a roll recipe that I’d made before. It’s possible I should have drunk my coffee and then started the rolls.* I didn’t though, and thus I made what were beautiful, almost awesome rolls for my mothers-in-law & family for Christmas dinner. Almost awesome even though I forgot the salt.**

Professional kitchen ethos: “Don’t serve anything you’re not proud of.”***

Home dinner party ethos: “Never apologize, never explain.”****

After crying a bit on my spouse’s shoulder over the lost opportunity of making really delicious rolls for Christmas, I went with the second guideline and served the rolls anyway. Next time! they’ll be even better.

Kindred’s Milk Bread Rolls, slightly adapted from Food52

Makes 24-30 rolls

  • 5 1/3 cups bread flour, divided
  • cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup mild honey 
  • 3 T nonfat dry milk powder 
  • 2 T active dry yeast 
  • 2 T kosher salt (don’t forget it!!)
  • large eggs, divided
  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature, plus more for coating the pans
  • Flaky sea salt 
  1. Cook 1/3 cup flour and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a thick paste forms (almost like a roux but looser), about 5 minutes. Add cream and honey and cook, whisking to blend, until honey dissolves.
  2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and add milk powder, yeast, kosher salt, 2 eggs, and 5 remaining cups flour. Knead on medium speed until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Add butter, a piece at a time, fully incorporating into dough before adding the next piece, until dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 4 minutes.

  3. Form into a smooth ball and leave in the mixer bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Butter 24 muffin tins. Turn out dough and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a cylinder, approximately 1 inch in diameter, and cut into 1 inch sections. They don’t need to be exact. Form each section into a ball and place 4 pieces of dough side-by-side in each muffin cup.
 If you have extra dough and extra muffin tins, make more rolls. If not, just free-form the rest and use them to taste test.
  5. Let shaped dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (dough should be just puffing over top of pan), about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375° F. Beat remaining egg with 1 teaspoon. water in a small bowl to blend. Brush top of dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is deep golden brown, starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and is baked through, 17 to 20 minutes for rolls. Let cool slightly in pan on a wire rack before turning out. Serve with a smile.

 

* The moment when I had both my coffee cup and a cup of flour next to the kneading mixer and, instead of adding a bit more flour when the dough was sticky, I poured in some of my coffee was a good indicator that I wasn’t yet at my Christmas Day best.

** Dear self, you know this one – always, always taste your dough.

*** Quote from Duskie Estes, for whom I had the privilege of working, once upon a time. This idea is also covered really well in what I think of as “the chef speech” in Chef, the movie. I love that movie.

**** Quote which a dear friend of mine attributes to Julia Child (and gently reminds me of every time I apologize at a dinner party). The internet now tells me the actual Julia Child quote is “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.” That works too.

 

 

 

A Tale of Two (V. Different) Breads

four mini loaves of stollen dusted with sugar

This week I made two kinds of bread: Stollen for holiday gifting (and enjoying) and Adventure Bread for holiday survival.

Stollen is not quite yet a personal tradition, but is my current attempt to meet my desire to have something homemade to bring as host gifts, etc. in the holiday season. It’s what I plan to bring with me for Christmas travel and what I snuck into the gift package for my sister’s household.* Honestly, I quite like it, but given that it’s a cross between bread and fruitcake held together with massive amounts of butter, of course I like it; also I wouldn’t be surprised if some people I know are a bit more reserved. A more crowd-pleasing recipe may supplant stollen someday as my holiday go-to.**

In the meantime though, stollen! I use the Melissa Clark NYT recipe, but with ~1/2 cup of rye flour substituted for some of the AP and with ~1/4 cup more milk. This year’s version also has more ground ginger than strictly called for due to a “reading the recipe while cooking” error.*** We’ll know how tasty it is when we open the first one on Solstice.

Adventure bread is an entirely different thing. It’s super-easy, gluten free, and vegan. I make it for myself, because it’s a great answer to “What the heck am I gonna eat?” when I find myself surrounded by cookies and busily making intricate plans for meals that are still a week away. Adventure bread makes fantastic toast and is an excellent vehicle for butter, peanut butter, pesto, cheese, or whatever else I happen to have on hand. It’s also delicious. David Lebovitz has a great write-up of how to make it. Recommended.****


*Hi Sis! If you’re up for it, the directions say you should sprinkle even more powdered sugar on top before serving. Crazy, hunh?

**Suggestions welcome!

***It really does pay to read recipes through beforehand, even if I’ve made them before, but…

****particularly as a cookie hangover cure, should you find you need such a thing.

 

A Different Winter Warmer – Beef Stock

Ah stock, one of those secret ingredients that make so many things* better, but which always seems like a pain to make. It takes planning ahead. It takes time. It takes bones, for goodness sake. But then, stock really is great stuff. I use it as a base for soups, stews, and chilis, sometimes when cooking beans or rice to make them extra rich, when braising all sorts of things. I even, sometimes, just heat it up with some added ginger or chili and have it for breakfast.

I’m making beef stock today, from stock bones I picked up at the farmers’ market**. It’s pretty simple:

  • 3-6 lbs beef or veal*** bones
  • 1-3 onions
  • 2-4 carrots
  • 3-6 stalks celery – optional if you don’t like this sort of thing
  • other veggies if you have them kicking around, though no brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.) because they’re too strong
  • maybe some garlic
  • ~6 sprigs parsley, or just parsley stems
  • some thyme, either ~6 fresh sprigs or ~1 tsp dried
  • some peppercorns, ~1 tsp
  • a splash of cider vinegar (~2 TBSP)
  • ~1/4 cup tomato paste
  • maybe a dried chili, if you like that sort of thing

If you have the time and inclination, roast the bones and vegetables at 400ºF or so for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until browned. Put everything in a pot and cover with water. (If you roasted the bones and veggies, be sure to scrape all the loving brown bits off your roasting pan into the pot as well. It helps to add some water to deglaze the pan.) Bring to a simmer****. Simmer forever – at least 4 hrs, though 12 hrs is lovely too. Add more water if needed to keep the bones covered, but otherwise ignore it. Strain. Store in fridge or freezer until you want to make soup (or have a lovely warming cup of broth or…).


*Things which are mostly, but not exclusively soups

**Yay! Misty Brook! I’ve also gotten great bones from our awesome local butcher, MF Dulock.

***Yes, veal. Veal is a by-product of dairy, so even if I don’t eat it, it still exists. Misty Brook, and other great farms out there, raise theirs humanely.

****Try not to boil it, because that will make the stock cloudy. Try not to worry too much either. Cloudy stock is still delicious.

 

Brrrr! – Ginger Hot Toddy

ginger juice, mug with spoon, and jar of honey

It is that kind* of weather out. It is that kind of day. I am day dreaming of hot tubs and springtime and we have a very long time to go before May.

So, it’s a good time to tell you about my recent hot toddy innovation** – ginger juice! Um, actually it’s really that simple. Take a regular hot toddy and substitute ginger juice for the lemon juice. It is super delicious and warming though.

  • 1 oz. bourbon (or rum or …)
  • 1 spoon (approximately 1 Tbsp) honey
  • 3 cloves (because I like cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp (or glug) ginger juice***
  • ~1/2 cup boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a handy mug. Sip. Feel a bit brighter and warmer than before. Go on to fight the good fight another day.

Note: you could also do this with ~6oz hot cider instead of the water and bourbon if you want a non-alcoholic version. That would be good. (Or with cider and bourbon. Mmm.)


 

*by which I mean “cold, wet, and dark” which is my least favorite kind of weather.

**I’m certain someone has done this before, but it’s new to me.

***I generally have Ginger People ginger juice hanging out in my fridge because it’s great to add to thai-style dishes and I like to splash it in juice. It should be fairly easy to find if you’re so inclined.

Home Again, Home Again – Chili and Cornbread

a round of cronbread with honey and butter in the background

We’re home from our American Thanksgiving gallivants, and dinner tonight is comfort food. For us, comfort food is often chili and cornbread*.

Chili is not really a recipe. Tonight’s has: onions, garlic, Serranos from the garden, salt, cumin, ancho chili, smoked paprika, epazote, yellow paprika, cocoa powder, ground beef, and crushed tomatoes. Other nights might have a different combination of peppers, maybe no epazote, and beans. Tonight’s would also have kale, if I had any, because I have a bad habit of sneaking kale into many things**.

My basic cornbread is pretty much just that, basic. I’m too much of a Northerner to claim any special cornbread skills or lore. It is good though.

  • 6 oz. corn meal
  • 2 oz. whole wheat flour (or other flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo Pepper***
  • 8 oz (1 c.) milk (any kind)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 0z. butter, plus a little for the pan

If you have a 8 to 10 inch cast iron skillet, put the cold butter in the skillet and put the skillet in the oven before preheating. (If not, just butter an 8 or 9 inch square or round pan.) Preheat oven (and skillet) to 350º.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. In a separate container (that will hold at least two cups), whisk together the eggs and milk. Once the butter is melted (melt it separately if not using a cast iron skillet), whisk it into the milk and eggs. (Put the skillet back in the oven while doing the final mixing.) Fold together the liquid and dry ingredients until just mixed. Scrape into the prepared pan and bake until firm and lightly browned, ~20 minutes.


*I also almost immediately made banana bread from the bananas that had languished here while we were out. It was almost as immediately gone. I’d share that recipe, but I just use one of Smitten Kitchen’s, so really you should just get it from her.

**Because I actually like kale.

***Here’s a connection I often think about when opening my spice drawer – Aleppo Pepper is originally from Aleppo, Syria. Syrian supplies have dried up due to the war there. I get Aleppo Pepper from Penzey’s, which imports it from Turkey, but I still never use it without thinking how global our connections are and without hoping for peace the people of Syria.