Girl Versus Dough

Round Sixteen — Organic Beer Bread

It’s a beautiful thing when healthy, tasty and quick-and-easy all come together to form a bread. Elliott happened upon this beer bread recipe while visiting the Planet Green Web site and, seeing as he loves all things organic, and beer, and organic beer, I was immediately informed of his find and was asked — nay, implored — to make this loaf on his behalf. It didn’t take much convincing — after all, the recipe calls for what? SIX ingredients? Most of which (with the exception of organic beer) were sitting in the kitchen, waiting to be used? Well, if you insist, dear husband, I think I can manage to lift these arms of mine and make you some bread in 30 minutes flat.

Truth is, it was harder to find the organic flour than it was to make this recipe. We found the beer (Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager) at our favorite local wine store (Wine Knows… so clever), but when it came to finding organic wheat flour and organic bread flour, it was a lost cause. We were dumbfounded and, quite frankly, disappointed by our misfortune. It’s been a tough go of this “food revolution” we’re on ’round these parts, but I guess you just have to move on. So I substituted the organic flours for the ones I already had stored on my counter. At first, I was mildly skeptical of the idea that the beer alone would do the job of causing the bread to rise, but apparently the yeast is inherently in the beer itself, which allows the dough to rise in the oven (and thus makes it a “quick bread”). I’ve seen it with my own eyes, too, because the batter was flat prior to going in the oven and, when the bread was done, it was fluffier and rounded on the top. Who knew?

I’m not sure how I feel about the consistency of the bread. As it is considered a quick bread, it’s quite dense and moist, almost like a banana bread. To some, this may be a turnoff, but I think it makes the bread more robust and refined. And, if you’re still wary, maybe knowing that the recipe only calls for 1 1/2 cups of beer, leaving the rest to disappear down your gullet at 10 a.m. on a Sunday (What? We didn’t do that…), may change your mind. Bottoms up, my friends.

Debrief: The downside to this recipe is the lack of a specific answer when it comes to how long the bread will take to bake. I put mine in for 15 minutes, then another 7, then another 5 before it passed the “doneness test” for quick breads (clean toothpick, etc.). Still, I think I was a little overzealous in taking the bread out of the oven, because the loaf was a tad sticky. This may just be a condition of its moistness. The upside to this recipe, however, was the Samuel Smith beer (a recommendation from the recipe’s site) — definitely a keeper. Organic Beer Bread Courtesy of Planet Green (Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

1 cup organic whole wheat flour 1 cup organic bread flour 2 tsp baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp sea salt 1 ½ cups organic beer

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. 2. Combine dry ingredients. 3. Add beer. 4. Fold just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. 5. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 6. Let cool in the pan placed on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack. Extra punches: I’ve learned from multiple sources that it’s best to use the lightest beer possible for this recipe as it adds to the yeasty, beer-y taste, whereas darker beers tend to leave the bread bitter. So save the Guinness for drinking and use a lighter lager for the bread.

Ridiculously Easy Pizza Dough

kneading pizza dough

In our continuing quest for good, vegetarian-friendly grub, the husband and I decided to make ourselves a homemade margherita pizza, with our own flair (queso fresco instead of mozzarella, plus some spinach… I’d say it was a result of culinary innovation, but really it was because we had nothing else in the fridge).

I’ve always hated the buttery taste of store-bought pizza doughs, so I searched for a healthy, easy pizza dough recipe, as I’ve been longing to make my own pie base for quite some time now. Leave it to my handy dandy Food Network Magazine to come through in the clutch with a pullout section for what? Pizza. Schwing.

The recipe was so short it fit within the confines of a 3/4-by-2-inch box in the center of a list of 50 pizza recipes, and despite the gashes in my current food supply I had all of the ingredients necessary for not one, nay, but TWO pounds of pizza dough. My stars!

The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour alone, but in an effort to make a healthier dough I incorporated 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour with 2 cups all-purpose (I could have tipped the scales more in favor of whole wheat, but at the risk of make a super-tough dough I declined this time). In a matter of minutes the dough was ready for kneading, and my wonderful husband decided to take a stab (or a fist) at kneading for the first time (I guess he had a lot of stress to release).

After the dough doubled (which took just about 1 1/2 hours, per the recipe), we separated the mass in half and reserved one pound in the fridge for the next day, leaving one pound to spread thin, thin, thin across a 15-inch round pizza stone (also from Food Network — psh, what are the ODDS?)

We smeared on olive oil and crushed tomatoes; sprinkled a smattering of dried oregano, salt and pepper; and topped it off with crumbled cheese and torn spinach leaves. Into the oven for 15 minutes (barely) and bellissimo! That’s amore.

Seriously, if you’re salivating over these pictures (which you should be, because this pizza was ah-mazing), grab these ingredients out of your cabinets (or cupboards, if you are a gnome and live under a thatched roof) and get to business. It’ll be easier than poaching an egg! (I know, because I did just that this weekend.)

Debrief: This was certainly an inspirational recipe, to say the least, in the sense that it got me thinking about so many different kinds of pizzas I could make with this simple dough. Maybe a breakfast pizza or fruit pizza is in my near future.

Pizza Dough Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Whisk 3 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Make a well and add 1 1/3 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 packet yeast. When foamy, mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil; knead until smooth, 5 minutes. Brush with olive oil, cover in a bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Divide into two 1-pound balls. Use 1 pound per recipe (unless you want to make a thicker crust, deep-dish or a stuffed pizza… in which case follow the recipes on Food Network).

Extra punches: Really, you can make any pizza your little heart desires using this dough. It’s mild enough that it can be topped with anything from tomato sauce to barbecue sauce to hummus to yogurt. Go crazy! And send me the recipes.

Round Fourteen — Rosemary-Raisin Monkey Bread

So, after a series of days of movie-watching, article-reading and conversing with the husband, we decided it is in our best ethical interest to go what he says is called “flexitarian.” The term, if you are too lazy to look it up, refers to people who live on a mostly-vegetarian diet but will occasionally consume meat. For us, this means we will no longer eat meat or buy egg/milk products unless they are grass-fed or cage-free. It’s been tough for someone like me who loves her meat and has always had it readily available at the family table, but it’s important to me to start eating food that coincides with my morals. Which is why I am so happy that my morals recently coaxed me into making this recipe, which (though the name refers to an animal) is friendly to both the environment and to my empty tummy. I first read about monkey bread from another bread blog I highly regard, and when mine eyes laid upon it they widened in awe that this! — This satiating creation! This caramel-coated wonder! — was bread, indeed! I knew right then it had to be made, in my kitchen. I didn’t use that exact recipe but found another on the Food Network Web site, an overnight recipe courtesy of Mr. Alton Brown.

At first, the idea of mixing rosemary with butter, brown sugar and raisins sounded a little funky, but after stirring all of said ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, the aroma was so deliciously sweet and savory that I thanked the rosemary for sticking through the fight despite my initial cynicism. This recipe does require a bit of patience (as in, waiting overnight to eat it), but let me tell you, it is so much better than rolling pieces of store-bought biscuit dough together. May your own morals coax you soon.

Debrief: Not too much to change. Maybe I’ll try a different recipe for monkey bread altogether? I know The Bread Bible has its own with pecans. And yet, that rosemary…

Overnight Monkey Bread courtesy of Food Network

Ingredients Dough: 4 large egg yolks, room temperature 1 large whole egg, room temperature 2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature 20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Topping: 8 ounces unsalted butter, approximately 16 tablespoons 8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary 3 ounces raisins, approximately 3/4 cup

Coating: 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 5 tablespoons 1 teaspoon ground rosemary

Directions For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough and add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 8 ounces of unsalted butter, brown sugar, rosemary, and raisins. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the topping into the bottom of 2 bundt pans and set aside. Cover and store the other half of the topping in the refrigerator until the next morning.

Place the melted butter and rosemary for the coating in a medium shallow bowl and stir to combine. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Portion the dough into 1-ounce pieces; roll each piece into a ball. (You should have approximately 36 balls.) Roll the balls in the melted butter and rosemary.

Divide the balls evenly between the 2 bundt pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the bread from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the bread. Close the oven and let the bread rise until slightly puffy looking, 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread has risen, remove it and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the oven is ready, place the bread on the middle rack and bake until slightly golden on top, approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining topping in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Reheat until the mixture is pourable, approximately 5 minutes. Fifteen minutes into baking, pour the remaining topping over the bread, and finish cooking. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter or cutting board. Serve immediately.

Round Thirteen — Crusty Soft-Center Spoon Bread

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If ever there was a tasty bread baked for instant gratification, this is it. I was having one of those “Good Lord I reeeeeeeally don’t even want to lift a finger today” kind of days, but my internal deadline was nagging at me about how “it’s been almost two weeks and your next post is due, and I don’t care that you were on vacation in the Bahamas because what kind of an excuse is that, anyway?” This is true, being away from the kitchen because I was too busy sipping Bahama Mamas from a coconut monkey head while lying on a boat deck trying desperately to change my skin color to anything darker than the vampiric translucence it was is not much of an excuse for a belated bread post, but nevertheless, I haven’t had much time. I found this bread in Joy under the “Corn Breads” section, and I was feeling mildly southern that day (I don’t know, maybe it was my subconscious wishing to be back in warmer climates) so my hankering + laziness led me to this spoon bread recipe. Heck, I didn’t even know what a spoon bread was, and I’m still not completely sure (the closest I got to an explanation was “corn souffle“), but it sounded like something warm and slightly gooey and cornmeal-y, and if it requires nothing more than a spoon and a mouth, I’m in.

Truth is, it wasn’t much more than a slightly softer version of regular corn bread, but the golden brown, crusty edges in combination with the melt-in-your-mouth buttery center was like eating one of those baked mac n’ cheeses where you crack off the burnt cheese on the end of the casserole dish and douse it in warm, melty cheese noodles and… egads, it’s good. And very, very easy to make, too. Perfect for a day when you’d rather be back on a tropical island drinking cocktails at noon, but instead you’ve got bread to bake.

Debrief: I’m very aware that this is barely passes for a traditional bread, but if it has the word “bread” in it, I say it mildly counts. Next time I make this, I may disperse the batter in ramekins and bake it for less time so it more truthfully becomes a “corn souffle.”

Crusty Soft-Center Spoon Bread courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Makes 4 servings (which is a mighty-fine heapin’ helping, I’d say. I served mine to 8 with no complaints.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together: 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 tbsp sugar 1 tsp salt 1 tsp double-acting baking powder Add: 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal Stir in until well blended: 1 beaten egg 1 cup milk Melt in a high-rimmed 8 x 8-inch baking dish: 2 tbsp butter Pour in the batter. Pour over the top: 1/2 cup milk Bake 45 minutes or more, until good and crusty. (My overzealous oven completed its task in 38 minutes.)

Round Twelve — Levy’s Bagels

This weekend my grandfather (from my mom’s side) and my grandmother (from my dad’s side) came to visit. For lunch, my grandmother brought two pounds of German deli meat — all some sort of “wurst” — and rye bread for sandwiches, and for dinner made us her household-famous stuffed cabbage, making the house smell so much of warm bacon and sauerkraut I felt as though I was walking through the piping-hot platter itself dressed in a dirndl while simultaneously listening to “yodel-ay-hee-hoo”s in the background. After dinner we played a heated battle-of-the-sexes version of Trivial Pursuit, which only took two and a half hours for the ladies to prevail, and I thought the whole time how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family and home and actually like them, and how things so organic as these are what I love most in life.

This attraction to simplicity permeates into my thoughts about baking as well. I (almost) always refuse to eat dessert if it’s not homemade, and a good chunk of the reason I have been baking bread from scratch is because I am drawn to the idea of taking something so foundational to my daily diet and making it from tangible ingredients that I have personally divided and mixed and kneaded together into an edible (and hopefully delicious) item. I know where it came from and I know of what it is made, and I don’t need any additives or extra stimulants to make it better. Which is why, on any occasion, I would rather play a trivia game at the kitchen table with my 70-something year old grandmother and grandfather than sit on a couch and watch a rerun of “The Office” while eating Ho-Hos (which I would never do anyway, but the principle still stands). But enough of my rambling. I decided to take a stab at a recipe for a bread I think many of us take for granted when we buy them in those tube bags from the grocery store. When we buy bagels, we forget they are even bread, and we burn them and butter them and slab on top of them so much cream cheese and peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup — I’m sorry, jelly — that they become nothing more than a porous vehicle by which their gooey toppings enter our mouths. I, too, was a follower of this ghastly abomination, but since having bitten into a homemade bagel and undergoing a “bagel awakening,” I doubt I’ll ever go back to eating those oversized, cakey frisbees disguised in bagel form. The process of making these bagels was — pardon my French — really freaking hard. Leave it to Rose Levy Beranbaum to make what she calls an “easy-to-read” bagel recipe one of the most confusing and particular recipes I’ve ever attempted (no offense, Rose, but you left me feeling quite daft). I added too much flour to the sponge at the start of the recipe, and in order to fix my mistake I opted out of adding flour when mixing the sponge and the starter in the stand mixer. It worked, but, finicky as these bagels were, the process still resulted in a fairly chewy product. The rounded dough also came apart in the boiling process, so I had to put them back together with toothpicks, which, if the eater was not aware, could have resulted in a terrible bagel experience.

I must say that the “Artisan Bread Topping” from King Arthur Flour (given as a gift from my sister-in-law — thanks, Natalie!) was the best part of the bagel. Despite the fact that they were mildly overdone, their crusty outsides and soft, peppery insides made them taste fantastic all on their own — no fancy additions, no toppings, just what they were. And that was good enough.

Debrief: I think I’ll try the other method of shaping the bagels (not posted) to see if they come out less chewy. And I’ll leave off the seeds, or use one of the other topping ideas offered by Beranbaum. I learned through this process that I don’t care too much for chewy bagels.

Levy’s Bagels Courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes five 4-by-1 1/2 inch-high bagels

Dough Starter (Sponge) Ingredients: 1/2 tsp instant yeast (I converted this to a little less than 2/3 tsp for active dry yeast, as Beranbaum suggests using 1.25 the weight of instant yeast if using active dry) 1 liquid cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees F) 1 1/2 cups King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour

1. Make the sponge: In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, place the yeast, water and flour. Whisk about 2 minutes, until very smooth; scrape down the sides. The sponge will be very thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Flour Mixture Ingredients: (Optional) 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter 1 cup plus about 3 tbsp King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour 1/2 tsp instant yeast (or 2/3 tsp active dry yeast) 1/2 tbsp malt powder or barley malt syrup (I used malted milk powder because that’s all I could find, and it worked for me) 1/2 tbsp sugar 1/2 tbsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper

2. Combine and add the ingredients for the flour mixture: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, malt, sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the sponge; do not stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or, for the best flavor development, 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerated overnight, or up to 24 hours. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this is fine.)

3. Mix the dough: Add the butter if using it (I didn’t) and all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook, starting on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), mix until all the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 10 minutes if using high-gluten flour, 5 to 7 minutes if using bread flour, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons flour toward the end if the dough doesn’t pull away from the bowl. It should be very elastic and smooth and should jump back when pressed with a fingertip. Empty it onto the counter and knead in a little more flour if it is tacky (slightly sticky) to the touch. More flour will make a heavier, chewier bagel, which some prefer.

4. Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a 2-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 degrees F, or 1 to 2 hours until doubled (this part took about 3 hours for me, and even then it didn’t fully double… hmm). Deflate the dough by firmly pushing it down. Give it an envelope turn and set it back in the container. Oil the top of the dough, cover it, and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the most flavor. (If you want to make the bagels later, at this point the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)

5. Shape the dough and let it rise: Set a sheet of the parchment or lightly floured towel on a countertop near the stovetop. (Alternatively, line the baking sheet(s) with parchment or floured towels and place the shaped bagels on them so you can move them easily when you are ready to boil them.) Transfer the dough to an unfloured counter. Cut the dough into five equal pieces. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes. (There are two shaping methods here. For the sake of avoiding writing a novel, I’ll only post the method I used.) To develop slightly more chewiness, roll each piece of dough on an unfloured counter into a 12-inch-long rope. Make a ring, overlapping the ends by 2 inches and joining them by pressing down and rolling on the overlap until it is the same thickness as the rest of the dough ring. There will be a 1-inch hole in the center. This technique results in rounder, slightly higher bagels with smaller holes. Allow the bagels to rise for about 15 minutes or until they puff slightly.

6. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Water Bath and Toppings Ingredients: 2 tbsp molasses or 1/4 cup sugar (I used sugar) 1 tsp baking soda Glaze and Toppings Ingredients: 2 large egg whites 1 tsp cold water 3 to 4 tbsp poppy, sesame or caraway seeds; kosher or sea salt; minced onions sauteed in vegetable oil; and/or dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions softened in hot water

7. Boil the bagels: Bring a large pot (about 9-by-4-inches high) of water to a boil. Stir in the molasses or sugar and baking soda until dissolved. With a skimmer, transfer the bagels, one at a time, to the boiling water, without crowding them; cook them in batches of 2 to 3 at a time so that they can swim around without touching one another. If they are slightly underrisen, they may sink at first but will then rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side, gently flipping them over with the skimmer; the longer time will make a thicker crust. Remove the boiled bagels, shaking off excess water over the pot and set onto parchment or the unfloured towel to drain, then move them, using a pancake turner, to the prepared baking sheet(s) or peel, after just 30 seconds to 1 minute, so that they don’t stick. The bagels will look wrinkled at this stage. Don’t worry — their appearance vastly improves on baking.

8. Glaze the bagels: Whisk together the egg whites and cold water to break up the whites. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, and brush each bagel with the glaze. Do not let the glaze drip onto the baking sheet or peel, or it will glue them down. Brush with a second coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle any topping of your choice evenly over the bagels. (If you are using seeds, lift each bagel with a thin pancake turner or your hand, and, holding it over the pan with the seeds, sprinkle some more seeds on top. This way, you don’t have any seeds that would burn on the baking sheet.)

9. Bake the bagels: If using baking sheets, place one sheet directly on the hot oven stone or hot baking sheet. If using a peel, slight the bagels onto the hot stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, without opening it and let the bagels remain for 5 minutes. Then open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 more minutes.

10. Cool the bagels: Transfer the bagels to a wire rack and cool completely.

Extra punches: The bagels keep well for 1 day at room temperature in a paper bag. For longer storage, wrap each in plastic wrap, place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw, still unwrapped, at room temperature.

Round Eleven — Bretzel Rolls

Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little insecure about my current talents, I reminisce about the days when I used to be able to do certain things. Like do flips on a trampoline. Or fit through one of those collapsible play tunnels. Or have enough imagination to act out an entire three-hour scenario of soap-opera proportions with my Barbies. And sometimes I wish I could do things I’ve never been able to do before. Like run a marathon. Or speak fluent German. Or sustain the energy to write a novel. Alas, though I haven’t met all of my goals, this week I have been able to cross one achievement off my list: make a pretzel. Actually, a bretzel. What is a bretzel, you ask? That’s a good question, one I couldn’t answer myself until I looked it up on the glorious World Wide Web. A bretzel — more specifically, a bretzel roll — is a Bavarian pretzel sandwich roll. In laymen’s terms, it’s a yummy, warm bundle of salty, fluffy, pretzel-y tastiness. And a super-easy recipe, too.

The ingredients and process are simple — mix some yeast, water and flour in a food processor, knead the heck of it, shape it, give it a bath, and you’re done! Yep, that’s right, a bath — a foamy pot of baking soda, the pivotal moment when the dough becomes “pretzel” dough. When the little dough babies are plopped into the pot, the steam gives off that very familiar aroma you waft while walking past an Auntie Anne’s at the mall, or a German bakery — whichever is more relevant.

The dough was extremely elastic but took forever to knead — at least 15 minutes, and even then it didn’t pass the good ol’ windowpane test. When dividing the dough into rolls I used a pizza cutter to ensure more even pieces, and was pretty impressed with my craftiness. And when the rolls came out of the oven, all warm and caramel-brown with a crispy outer shell and an inner fluffy stuffing, the smell of salt dissipating from the soft crosscut in the center… Oh. They. Were. Heavenly.

Debrief: Though the recipe I found (adapted on the food blog Smitten Kitchen from Bon Appetit) strongly encourages/reminds you not to cover bretzel rolls when you store them, but instead leave them uncovered for up to two days, my rolls were as hard as rocks the following morning. In other words, eat them right when they emerge from the oven doors, or at least within several hours. But I’m sure that won’t be too difficult. P.S. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Pretzel Rolls Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994

2 3/4 cups bread flour 1 envelope quick-rising yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, which increases the initial rising time to nearly an hour) 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F) Cornmeal 8 cups water 1/4 cup baking soda 2 tablespoons sugar 1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze) Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, one envelope (2 1/4 tsp) yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes (or, with active dry yeast, closer to an hour).

Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes (in this time, I suggest prepping the water bath and preheating the oven so the rolls don’t rise too much… maybe this is common sense, but I have to remind myself sometimes).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.