parker house rolls.

Gosh, I know, I know, it’s been a while.

I’m sorry.

I have so much to tell you. I could tell you about one of my dearest friend’s weddings I was in a few weeks ago (oh, I already told you about that?). I could also tell you about going to the county fair and seeing the OMG-adorable piglets and yummy funnel cake (or you could just take a gander for yourself). I could also tell you that my wrists have decided to go numb randomly and feel tingly, and how my very sympathetic, physician-assistant-studying husband comforted me by telling me I might. Have. Carpal. Tunnel.

What.

But I won’t tell you about that.

yeast.buttah.
foamy.shaggy dough.

What I will tell you about are these amazing rolls I made last night. Finally, after a long couple of weeks of running to this, that and the other thing (which, unfortunately, is still not done, but I just couldn’t hold out on you any longer!) I was able to find a few hours in my schedule to make these rolls. I found them on Joy The Baker (naturally) the other day and knew they had to be made — mostly because she mentions wearing an apron and “Mad Men,” and I’ve been pining for/watching both lately.

bench scraper, holla!

parker house rolls, pre-oven.

While making these rolls, however, I discovered that I really didn’t have as much flour left in the apartment as I thought, so after scooping out the very last smidgens of bread flour and all-purpose flour and even whole wheat flour I had around, I officially ran out of flour. I would be shocked that I, one who bakes bread often, let my kitchen go without a speck of flour, but then again, it’s been one of those weeks. All this to say that my dough was slightly stickier than I would have liked, but no less workable in the long run.

parker house rolls, close up.

These rolls definitely evoke that 1950s housewife where’s-my-lung-blackening-cigarette-and-old-fashioned-on-the-rocks kind of feeling, and suddenly you think you should be donning pearls and curling your hair and putting on bright red lipstick and walking around in heels in the kitchen. Yeah, that won’t happen. But it sure is a nice thought (minus the cigarette, ick).

Debrief: Um, I don’t know, just that these are insanely easy to make? Be careful when pulling apart the dough into 20 equal pieces — if you keep reworking it, your rolls will turn out bumpy like mine. But they’ll still taste just as good. And just make sure you have enough flour in your kitchen — but, like I said, it worked out anyway.

Parker House Rolls
Courtesy of Joy The Baker

Makes 20 rolls

Ingredients:

3 tbsp warm water
3 tbsp sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4-1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together 1 tbsp sugar, yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
Melt 3/4 of a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Add milk and heat until lukewarm. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, bread flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Add and stir in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, and dump dough onto counter. Knead and keeping adding flour a tablespoon at a time until dough is smooth and just slightly sticky, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Divide dough into 20 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange evenly on a baking sheet and cover with a towel until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
When rolls are risen, use a floured chopstick or edge of a ruler to make a deep crease down the center of each roll. Let rolls rise, covered, about 15 more minutes.
Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and brush the tops of the rolls with the butter. Place rolls in the oven 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool rolls in the pan 5 minutes, then remove and serve warm.

4

In case you’ve been pining for more recipes in my absence, you’re not alone. The fact is, I’ve missed baking, too. But it’s been the craziest of weeks, namely for one reason: A wedding.

Don’t you just love weddings? They brighten my mood no matter how I’m feeling (Case of the Mondays? Gone. Smells like cat pee in the hallway? No probs. Nasty sunburn peeling off while I’m fighting off laryngitis and can barely speak? OK, that sucked, but a wedding would still make me slightly cheery.). And this past weekend, I was blessed to be a bridesmaid in my dear, dear friend Sarah Jean’s wedding in St. Paul, Minn. It was a lovely affair.

wedding pic

Aw, pretty bridesmaids. We were fun. And pretty.

wedding pic 2

That would be the bride, brush-a-brush-a-brushin’ her teeth minutes before getting hitched. Naturally. Still, she’s dang beautiful.

wedding pic 3

Not sure what I’m doing here. I planned to look diva-ish, but I ended up looking, well, not so diva-ish. I blame the non-diva dress. Sarah’s looking mighty nervous (but excited!) before the ceremony. Clearly I pay no attention to anyone’s feelings whence trying to look like a diva.

wedding pic 4

And finally, the lovely bride, Sarah Jean, and groom, Nate. They are happy. (Though it might be for the cake, I don’t know.)

So there you have it. My big fat excuse for not baking. Don’t worry, I’ve got thoughts swirling in my head and a loaf in the oven right now (a gluten-free surprise for Tablespoon, but that’s for another day). Things are happening, indeed.

P.S. First photo courtesy of Sarah Vande Kamp; Other photos courtesy of Ashley Moore

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yummy scones.

It’s dang hot outside.

Can I just say that? I know how we all love to talk about the weather (it is, after all, the most common — pause. My husband is rapping about scientific terms behind me. What a NERD. — topic of conversation among strangers). But we’re not strangers here, are we? I hope not.

But if you are a stranger, these scones will make us instant friends. I promise you that.

holy butter.the usual suspects.
golden raisins.caraway seeds.

I was searching for the perfect scone recipe the other day. I write perfect because, well, I’m mighty picky when it comes to my scones. I’m a scone snob, I admit it. I don’t like scones that are extra crumbly. Fact. I also dislike scones with sweet fruits in them, like raspberries or blueberries. Also a fact. I’m also partial to their shape — if they aren’t in triangle form, I may or may not turn up my nose in disapproval. They’re just not the same.

That being said, I took a bit of a gamble when I decided to make this recipe. I found it on the North Fork Table & Inn’s Web site by way of Smitten Kitchen by way of Whisk The Pantry. After all this adventure, I finally settled on what appeared to be an acceptable scone recipe — a triangular, sweet (but not too sweet!) and savory, less crumbly creation. But I was still skeptical.

slab o' scone.

scones pre-oven.

You see, I’m trying to find my way around the chemistry of baking. Like, how does bread rise (or not)? Or, how do you make your own ingredients from things you already have tucked away in the pantry? In this case, I’m learning that the more sugar you add to a recipe, the more cake-like it will become. Or at least I think so. Still haven’t aced this class yet.

golden raisin & caraway scones.

What is so absolutely perfect — yes, perfect — about this recipe is that it yields the most delicate balance between a flaky, buttery consistency and that loaf-like sponginess. Not too crumbly, but not too cakey. And with the genius combination of sweet, golden raisins and hearty caraway seeds, they go perfectly with a tall glass of iced tea on one dang hot summer day. But a perfect day, nonetheless.

Debrief: This recipe originally states that it yields 12 to 16 scones, but I got a little overzealous with the bench scraper and managed to cut around 20 triangles in all. It worked out — I had a lovely mix of mini scones and regular-sized ones. That said, take the “yield” with a grain of salt — you can make as many scones as you darn well please, thankyouverymuch.

Golden Raisin & Caraway Scones
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen from North Fork Table & Inn

Yields 12 to 16 triangular scones (or, as said above, up to 24 miniature scones)

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cup pastry or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz. butter (about 1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup buttermilk (or just under a cup of regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice and refrigerated for 5 minutes)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put cubed butter in freezer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, place flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix, using paddle attachment, in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add butter to stand mixer bowl and mix until butter and flour mixture are the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk, raisins and caraway seeds, mixing on the lowest speed until dough just comes together.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently about 2 minutes until dough mostly sticks together. Roll out dough using hands or a rolling pin, into a rectangle slab about 1 inch thick. Cut into squares, and then cut squares on a diagonal to form triangles.
Bake on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Extra punches: If you are partial to a fruit scone, you can substitute 1 cup of any chopped fresh fruit for the raisins and caraway seeds, and use only 3/4 cup of buttermilk. If using fruit, also make sure you use aluminum-free baking powder, or your scones may result in a blueish tint and a slight tinny flavor.

3

mom's zucchini bread.

Friends!

I forgot to tell you (OK I didn’t forget, I just haven’t gotten around to it. There, I said it. Confession.) — I’m posting recipes on Tablespoon again. So far: Blueberry Muffin Bread, Avocado Quick Bread and today, Mom’s Zucchini Bread (yes you, Ma. Love you!). And there will be more, even yummier recipes on the way. So you should check out the blog every week for what I’m up to over there (or, if you’re here already, click on that nifty little box in the right column. The one that reads “Featured Tablespoon Blogger,” in case it’s been a long day and you still don’t get it.).

For now, a happy day to you all. It’s the weekend soon, so cheer up! Life is dang good, isn’t it? Indeed.

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slices of oat flour bread.

I’d noticed that I’ve been a little fancy lately with my recipes. Nothing over the top but, you know, none of those basic loaves. It’s just been a while.

So I thought I’d go back to a simpler time, when a handful of ingredients mixed together and left to rise makes the most amazing, tasteful bread on Earth.

Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.
measuring spoonz.oat flour.
sticky spatula.oat flour dough.

You see, as you can tell by my life story (heavily abridged, of course), this blog is about both the good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. My triumphs and my failures. Some days we win, some, we lose. And I was one big loser this time around.

After all these months (nearly a year, actually, egads!) you’d think I’d know what makes a bread rise or not. Confession: I don’t. Luck, perhaps? A tiny plea for success? Crossing your fingers as you pour the yeast into the batter? Clicking your heels together before the bread is left to proof? In my short but adventurous bread baking experience, I still haven’t figured it out.

I know a few things. I know that warm water and room temperature ingredients help out a lot. I know it’s best to keep the yeast fresh, sealed and tucked in the back of the fridge. I know that sometimes, instant yeast is SO much easier to work with than active dry yeast. I know that putting the dough on top of the fridge seems to always help out the rise. Don’t ask me why. Don’t ask me how I know. I just know. You pick these things up along the way.

And yet… after knowing all those things, sometimes, a loaf will turn out as ugly as this one. Boring, lifeless, barely risen and with a hard-as-a-rock crust.

side view.

a view from the top.

Was it old flour? Was it the fact that I put the dough in the fridge after the first rise because I was leaving to go camping for the weekend, and therefore had no time to wait for its second rise (though the directions stated clearly that the dough can be stored at this point for up to 10 days)? Was it cold yeast? Was it the fact that I thirded (yes, thirded, not halved) the ingredients and perhaps overly trusted my shoddy math? Who knows.

oat flour bread.

So here it is, folks. The seedy underbelly. The dark side of the bread baking world. A catastrophe. And yet, a tasty one at that. Because despite the hideousness of its exterior, the inside of this loaf is quite delicious. Well hand me a knife and slap me on some buttah, there is always a silver lining.

Debrief: I like to think this entire post was a debrief. I have no idea what went wrong here (I’m guessing it had something to do with the refrigeration, as that never seems to work well for me). Maybe you can venture on this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you.

Oat Flour Bread
Courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

(I’m going to give you the full version of the recipe in case my math was wrong, but, I did third this recipe because I have so many dang loaves in the fridge, the last thing I needed were triplets added to the bunch.)

Makes three 1 1/2-pound loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

3 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 cup oat flour, plus several tbsp extra to thicken the dough (about 3-5)
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Cooking spray or oil for greasing the pan

Directions:

Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a large bowl. Set aside.
Mix the flours, without kneading, into a heavy duty stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and knead with dough hook until a soft and smooth dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes (here is where the extra tbsp of oat flour may come in, depending on how sticky your dough is).
Place kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded container and use over the next 10 days.
On baking day, lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-lb. (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and shape it into a ball. Drop into the loaf pan. all to rest and rise for 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with an empty broiler tray on a shelf below the bread. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven and just above the broiler pan. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 45 minutes or until deeply browned and firm. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

9

sparkles.

Happy belated Fourth of July, all! I celebrated the weekend with my crazy — er, wonderful family on a camping adventure. We had a fantastic time playing bean bag toss, Bocce ball, Catch Phrase and Uno (yeah, we kind of like games) while sipping Coronas and watching the sun go down late at night. We also had a lot of fun with sparklers.

sunshine.
canoe.
me & my camera.
sparkler tricks.
Hope you had as blessed of a weekend as I did.

P.S. A new post is coming up oh. So. Soon! Just you wait. It’ll rock your socks off. Or knock. Whatevs.

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