I had the strangest thought the other day. Actually, it’s not too strange, it’s something I’m sure a lot of people think about, but I put a virtual spin on it. Wouldn’t it be great if our lives were equipped with system restore? I know, I know..many wouldn’t change a thing, they’re happy with their lives, lessons learned etc etc etc, but personally, I wouldn’t mind a few ‘safe points” to go back to. I have three in mind and those are three where I would take a tight left, instead of a swooping right at that proverbial fork in the road.
Two of these ‘safe points’, as you would imagine, are very poignant, but one is kind of trivial and you’re probably going to laugh. I wish I could go back to early 2009 and save Herbie, my super-duper, high-octane sourdough starter ‘who’ (it’s alive!) was a little over 2-years-old when I started to neglect him.
I could have saved him, but I gave in and gave up because I had taken and continued to take a long break from artisan bread baking.
I did resurrect Herbie twice, using the same grape starter method by Nancy Silverton, (aptly named Herbie #2 and Herbie #3), but, I killed #2 in a turned off oven I accidentally turned on when I forgot he was in it, and #3 never really had a shot because I neglected him from the start. I just wasn’t baking enough bread to properly nurture him.
During my years (mid-2006-2009) with Herbie #1, the super starter, I was an artisan bread FA-NA-TIC. I had/have an amazing baking stone and a long-handled peel. I bought couches, bannetons/brotforms, special flours, barley malt powder and syrup, wheat bran, oat bran etc. I kept a drawer full of sharp razor blades and lames for slashing the dough (or any intruders). Moreover, an old, tattered roasting pan for pouring water and/or ice cubes into for steam, which gives you a rustic, crispy crust.. lived on the floor of my oven, permanently.
I even purchased a special spray bottle for misting the dough, depending on the recipe. It had a smiley face on it because it made me happy.
Yeah, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.
My bread baking obsession intensified to the point where I split Herbie into several smaller starters, eg; firm starters, whole wheat starters, oat starters, etc. I coddled pieces of old dough from one bread to firm, bubbly life to make other breads. I was baking boules, loaves, baguettes, rolls, you name it, on a daily basis throughout 2008 – up until I annihilated my knee late September ’08.
My kitchen literally morphed into a bread bakery. My signature scent was Eau de Wild Yeast and flour was my unintentional baby powder. I couldn’t seem to get either off of me completely, at least in my mind..and I liked it.
Once my obsession came to a screeching halt when I went down for the count with injury, I figured I’d start up again once I healed. Surprise! A mass of torn ligaments do not heal quickly if you don’t have rock-hard football player quads.
I don’t and would never want rock-hard football player quads, but that’s beside the point.
After surgery and a year of grueling physical therapy – which I cut short, the desire to bake artisan breads ebbed. I figured it would be a long time before I got back into baking any breads that required much more effort than opening a packet of active dry yeast. I figured it would be a long time before I enjoyed intensely flavored, crusty, amazing crumbed breads unless I purchased them from an artisan bakery. But that still isn’t the same as sculpting your own from the ground up and adding things you would never find in breads at commercial bakeries, to experiment and suit your taste.
How could I forget? You don’t need super power starters that you build and nurture for weeks (and it takes even longer to bring it to that high-octane level), then continue to nurture forever, to get sensational, rustic breads – there’s always a poolish, biga, levain, sponge..or whatever you want to call it. Anywhere from several hours to a day or two of fermentation – then you use it all in one bread recipe. No wild yeast sourdough starter, which can take weeks to develop when capturing the yeast yourself via the air, fruits, grains et al, blowing their last bubble of life when you quit on them.
Of course there was a bit of a caveat. You know me and metrics if you read my blog regularly. The gram switch on my scale is broken, not to mention I don’t trust my scale very much anyway. Yes, I know, time to shell out money for a new one, but until then, I needed a good hard roll recipe in US measurements (I also don’t trust online conversion charts – .000345678 cups of flour = what??).
THIS ONE from King Arthur looked pretty close to Angie’s, so I used it. I changed the recipe a bit – making 6 large rolls instead of 12 small rolls and added sugar to the main dough because ‘yeasties’ looooove granulated sugar and feast on it ravenously, swelling up proudly like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man.
I also used the cold fermentation method a little differently than written in the recipe. After letting the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours, I deflated it and let it do a slow rise for, well..it was supposed to be overnight, two days at the most, but life got in the way, so I would come home, deflate it again and let it do its slow rise ..for almost 5 days.
I figured I’d probably killed it and would end up with flat, dense rolls..but, surprisingly, I didn’t. They huffed and puffed and puffed and felt sturdy, meaning there was lots of structure in the dough. Not to mention, the flavor and complexity of the dough intensified the longer it chilled, similar to the artisan breads from my year of obsessive bread baking.
I was also surprised it didn’t turn into sourdough.
Here’s the best part – I kneaded 6 types of seeds, plus dehydrated garlic and onion into half the dough, you know, like ‘Everything Bagels’ but with A LOT more ‘everything’ – inside-out.
I’ve noticed that ‘Everything Bagels’ no longer give you a ton of ‘Everything’ like they used to, no matter where I buy them. Have any of you noticed the same in your necks of the woods?
The seeds I used were; shelled sunflower kernels, pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds and flax seed. With the bits of garlic and onion, plus a sprinkling of fleur de sel on top, along with more of the above seed combo…I struck gold.
I tried to make a pretty design with the seeds to submit to Bread Baking Day #56, Decorative Breads, hosted by my dear friend, Jenni of The Gingered Whisk, but once baked, the design sort of came apart. I still think they look kind of cool, so what the heck! I’m submitting the plain rolls to the January Twelve Loaves, Simplicity, A Clean Slate, founded and hosted by another dear friend of mine, Lora from Cake Duchess.
- ½ cup lukewarm water
- 1 cup All-Purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon active dry yeast
- all of the poolish
- 3½ cups All-Purpose flour
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons, each; sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds (green are shelled), flax seed, poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, dehydrated garlic and dehydrated onion..about ¼ to ½ cup reserved for topping (optional..and you can use any combination of seeds, aromatics etc..you like) Save any leftover seed combo for other bread baking or uses..or just eat it) Use only 1 tablespoon of each if only adding the seed combo to half the batch of dough, like I did.
- fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
- 1 cup hot water when ready to bake
- First make the poolish. Sprinkle yeast over water - let dissolve then stir in flour until incorporated. Cover and let it do it's thing at room temperature overnight. The surface should be covered with little bubbles after several hours.
- Using your hands, a hand mixer, stand mixer or bread machine dough cycle (ingredients in the order suggested by the manufacturer) combine the poolish with the all of the dough ingredients until no longer sticky. If you're using the seeds, garlic and onion, knead in ½ to ¾ cup of it once you have a cohesive dough. They will keep popping out, but just keep kneading and shoving them back in (a stand mixer or bread machine knead makes this part easy).
- Continue to knead the dough until somewhat smooth and elastic (it won't feel smooth with all the seeds, IF you used the seeds). Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
- After the room temperature rise..fold the dough down to deflate it, then cover the bowl again and let rise in the refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and on a floured board, divide the cold dough into 6 equal pieces. You can weigh each piece or just eyeball it. It doesn't matter if they're EXACTLY the same size, but you want it close. Take one piece of dough at a time..covering the remaining pieces with plastic wrap, and shape into balls or torpedos or teardrops (A torpedo with only one end tapered). I've linked both shapes to videos on how to do it to get maximum rise, oven-spring and spread/bloom from the slash.
- Place each shaped roll on a parchment lined baking sheet (I used a 12 x 17 cookie sheet to fit them all without the chance of them touching while rising), then cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. You will need two or three pieces to cover them all sufficiently so no air seeps in, but you want to give them room to rise, so cover loosely but tuck ends of plastic wrap under baking sheet. Let rise two to three hours, They should double in size, as you see in my photos.
- About 30 minutes before the final rise is finished, place an old roasting pan or cast-iron skillet on the floor of the oven. Pull out all the racks except the middle rack, where you will be placing the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Uncover the rolls. If you're using the seed, garlic, onion mixture, lightly spray or brush a little water on each roll, and top with reserved seed mixture, then sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel or coarse sea salt. The water will help it all stick. Give the rolls a light dusting of flour..so whatever blade you're using doesn't stick to the dough when slashing.
- Using a super sharp chef's or serrated knife, razor blade or lame..slash each roll about ¼-inch deep down the center (vertically for torpedo rolls). It should start to open within seconds and you'll see the lovely, bubbly structure of your dough in the slit, which is a good sign. If your blade isn't super sharp..like 'cut paper' sharp, you will tear and deflate your beautiful rise, plus, you won't get maximum oven-spring or that beautiful spread down the center which gives you a light, fluffy interior. Here's a video on how to slash risen bread dough.
- Have ready 1 cup of hot water. Open the oven door and quickly slide the baking sheet with the rolls onto the middle rack, horizontally so they bake evenly..then quickly pour the hot water into the pan or skillet on the oven floor. You should hear a sizzle sound. Shut the oven door immediately. The steam from the water is what gives you an amazing crust.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the rolls are golden brown. You may not be able to tell with the ones coated with seeds, but the center of the roll where you slashed it will be wide open and lightly colored (the seeds make it look lighter..as opposed to plain rolls). Remove rolls from the oven and immediately place them on a baking rack to cool. Enjoy hot or cooled down!
Don’t they look incredible?
Patty from Sucre contacted me and asked if I’d like to host a giveaway for one of their AMAZING King Cakes plus a bag of Fresh Pecan Praline Roasted Coffee. She sent one to me to try, and let me tell you, having never tried an ‘official’ King Cake before, I’m now hooked. There’s a reason the Washington Post called it the BEST King Cake! We received it in the mail Friday and it looked even better than the photo, plus it was bigger! They even included the plastic baby and beads. If you feel so inclined, you could wear the beads while you eat it. I did. Once it was opened, we started to slice it with a knife neatly and equally. One bite and we turned into savages and tore pieces off. It was gone in 20 minutes! The two tiny pieces left, in the last photo, I had to beg for, then rip from eager hands just to show you all how fast it went! I WISH I had another one. Moist, lightly sweet bread with a thick tunnel of creole cream cheese running through it. O.M.G. OH, and the glaze..it was perfect! Again..I wish I had another one, do you hear me, Patty?? I’m not a coffee drinker, but I couldn’t resist tasting the Pecan Praline Roasted Coffee. It was the best coffee I ever had, but, again, I don’t drink coffee. However, according to everyone it was “incredible”. ‘slammin’, “best flavored coffee I ever had” , ad infinitum. SO, here’s how to win this luscious King Cake and coffee. Just leave a comment..it’s as simple as that. For bonus entries; 1. Like Sucre on Facebook 2. Follow Parsley, Sage & Sweet on Twitter 3. Tweet this Giveaway – Win a King Cake & Pecan Praline Roasted Coffee from Sucre in New Orleans. Leave a comment for a chance to win! http://tinyurl.com/adavm9c Please leave a separate comment for each bonus entry. This Giveaway ends Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. A winner will be chosen using random.org. If I don’t hear back from the winner in three days after the announcement, another winner will be chose UPDATE: My friend, Megan of Delicious Dishings is also giving away a King Cake and Pecan Praline coffee from Sucre, so for a second chance to win, pop on over to her GIVEAWAY and leave a comment! Her giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, which is tomorrow, so hurry!