Friday, March 27, 2009

Soft White Dinner Rolls

Finally things are getting back to normal around here after a few weeks of (what must have been) alien interference with our electrical appliances. What have I been doing all this time without my computer (and my hairdryer)? Why, I've been baking, of course!

I feel like a bit of a phony admitting this, but I'm pretty crap at making bread. Which is so sad! Especially when, one Autumn afternoon, you cook up a big pot of sweet butternut pumpkin soup and realise that nothing would go better with a big bowl than a warm, freshly baked dinner roll.

Funny, right? I mean: 'dinner roll'. I hadn't thought about them in years until we had lunch the other week at our wonderful local French restaurant Libertine and they served up the tiniest, most dense and delicious warm dinner rolls (with real French butter) and I remembered how great those little rolls could be. So elegant! And then I remembered a clipping I'd clipped many moons ago in which Nigella Lawson gave instructions for an easy milk-bread dinner roll that she promised anyone could make. And yes, my friends, I can confirm that anyone can make these delicious little...dinner rolls.

Okay, so I just like saying that. Dinner rolls. But really, these are wonderful - like something a country town bakery might make. Soft and super-white and torn open while still warm, all they need is a scrape of butter to become perfect. If you've got any left later on, they're brilliant with jam for breakfast. And if you've still got some left, you can freeze them to whip out at a moment's notice when friends drop by. And then you can show off because, yes - you baked your own bread.

Soft White Dinner Rolls
From Delicious. magazine

31/2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3 tsp dried instant yeast
1 tbs caster sugar
11/2 cups milk
25g unsalted butter

For topping:
1 egg, beaten
1 tbs milk
1 tbs sesame seeds

Combine flour with yeast, sugar and 1 tbsp of salt in a large mixing bowl.

Warm milk and butter over medium heat until butter begins to melt (around 2 minutes). Pour butter and milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix with a fork to make a rough dough. If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour. Using a machine with a dough hook or your hands, knead with until the dough is smooth and silky. This should take around 5 minutes.

Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl and turn to coat.. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for around 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Pull off golf-ball sized pieces of dough and form into little balls, forming them into five rows of six rolls. Place them around 5mm apart on all sides to ensure that they meet once risen. Cover the rolls with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 225 C.

When rolls have re-puffed, beat together egg, milk and a pinch of salt to make the glaze. Brush the rolls tops with this mixture and sprinkle tops with sesame seeds (or poppy, if you're so inclined). Bake the rolls for around 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Serve immediately or transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To freeze rolls (best done same day of baking) cool, double-wrap with cling film and pop into freezer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Best of Blogs: 5 recipes to make right now

Something terrible happened the other week: my hard drive died. I realise there are greater tragedies and evils in this world, but it has been so difficult letting go of all the old writing, photos from our trip to Mexico and pictures of my little cat, Quincy, when she (yes, she) was still a kitten. In my obsessive backing up of my PhD, I neglected all those other things I didn't think about every day that were nevertheless so important. Like the photo of enchilades with mole poblano I was going to blog about next.

But every so often we must start over - whether by choice or not. So here goes. Seeing as I'm short on photos this week, I thought I'd tell you about five of the recipes that have kept me afloat from over the past couple of weeks - recipes from some of my favorite blogs. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do.

And do let me know if there's a recipe out there that's inspired you recently; it's a nice thing to be able to share.

1. Thick, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies at Smitten Kitchen

These are so, so good. I took Deb's advice and flash froze a bag of these: they're especially good as a study snack.

2. Roasted broccoli with shrimp at The Wednesday Chef

If you've never roasted broccoli before, let this be your introduction. The vegetable takes on an utterly addictive texture and there's no easier way to prepare prawns and make sure they cook to perfection.

3. Sour cream apple pie at Posie Gets Cozy

This wonderful, delicious pie and sweet website was brought to my attention by the crazy and hilarious kids at the food paparazzi. It is easy and makes the house smell wholesome when you bake it - what more could you want?

4. End of winter carrot and raisin salad at Homesick Texan

I turned to this about two weeks ago when I felt like coleslaw but didn't have any cabbage. This salad is so much more than the sum of its parts; it is sweet and juicy and refreshing. I served it with roast chicken, but it was awesome the next day for work lunch, too.

5.Banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping at Orangette

Everyone knows about Molly Wizenberg's beautiful blog, Orangette - but here's a link in case you haven't tried her Banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping. It is moist and deeply flavoured and truely the best banana bread I've ever come across.
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