Friday, August 12, 2011

Cooking Tip: Yeast Buns

If you are going to be traveling far and wide in the middle of an ocean, you can not buy bread. You have to bake it. This makes lunch difficult. In fact, for Don Quixote, lunch is the most annoying meal of the day. DrC and the girls insist on eating something. I don't always have leftovers from the prior day, and without bread we are often left with the rather unpalatable options of crackers and cheese, mac and cheese, or Top Ramen. Lovely.

For this trip, I've fallen into a semi-regular habit of making yeast buns every morning. If you use a very active yeast, you can get the bread made, rise the dough, and bake it all before school is out. Call it about 3 hours total. Because we leave the boat as soon as the rolls are done, the added heat from the oven is not so much of a worry. A few tips when making bread on a boat:

* Buy local yeast - Yeast is a funny beast. It likes a certain set of conditions. Different yeast likes different conditions. Brewers are very familiar with the fact that yeast selection is key to the final flavor of the brew. Some yeasts like cold conditions, others warm. Some like a lot of sugars, others do better in an environment of scarcity. What is true for beer is also true for bread. Our New Zealand yeast hates the warmth of the South Pacific. Our bread absolutely sucked (e.g. it took 36 hours for it to rise) until I bought new yeast in Nuka Hiva. Ever since, it poofs like a balloon in short order with the tiniest bit of honey. So do not "stock up" on yeast. Buy enough for your passage and a little bit more. Then buy more at your destination. Local yeast makes good.

* Use warm water - Don't try to dissolve your yeast and honey in cool or cold water. Yeast likes warmth.

* Watch out for things that slow your yeast down - Yeast likes white flour, it likes a bit of honey. Everything else slows it down. That's not really a problem, but keep it in mind when you are saucing up your dough. All the tasty whole wheat and all grains, corn, rye or oat bran, additional sugars, spices, or chunks of this and that slow down your yeast. Factor that into your planning. If you add too much of these things, you can anticipate super slow rising. I make a truly heavenly cinnamon raisin roll now, but it takes 12 hours to do the two rises. Of course, it's totally worth it. We just have to plan ahead.

<b>Toast's Basic Roll Recipe</b>
Combine -
1 cp very warm but not hot water
1 tbs honey
1 tbs yeast
Stir until honey dissolves and yeast melts into a yellowy smelly goo. Let sit for about 10 minutes until the whole thing looks like a frothy milk shake.

Add -
About 4 cups of flour. I start with 2 cps of the worthless white stuff and then try to mix up the rest with grains that might actually have nutritional value. I know people who go all whole wheat, but I just can't wait that long.

Stir the dough together. You'll have to add more warm water. Just be careful. I probably add about another cup. Use a spoon until you've reached a point that the dough is elasticky and basically sticks together rather than to the bowl. If you add too much water, add more flour. The most important thing about bread is to learn the basic texture that means Happy Dough. If you are not already familiar with Happy Dough, make it with someone who knows this state. They'll show it to you in all it's transitional glory. Then get ready to go crazy if you are into precise measurement because the ratio of water to flour is dependent on the weather, humidity, temperature, yeast, sugars, and the whims of fate and chance. You must simply play with it.

Once your dough is Happy, plunk it on a floured surface and work it for about 5 minutes. You can't really overknead it, so just keep going until your shoulders are a bit sore, and the family is bitching about breakfast. Cut your dough into six to twelve chunks and roll into balls. Roll the balls in an oil, toss them in your final pain, and stick them someplace warm and protected from flying creatures. Wait until they explode and take over the pan, then throw them into your oven until they turn a lovely golden color on top.

* * *

But wait Toast! Those sound singularly dull! Which they are. I don't think basic yeast rolls are very interesting any longer. Sure, you can mess around with flours to make things a bit better, but blah. If we ate those every day, the kids and DrC would probably fire me. Once the dough is about ready to cut, I knead in a bunch of additives. Pretty much everything goes in at the last minute except powdered spices/herbs and sugars. Those should be added while you're still balancing your water and flour mix to make Happy Dough. Basically, you can go two ways with your rolls: sweet or savory.

<b>Sweet Stuff</b>
Add any of the following in any combination you'd like to make a sweet roll:
Sugars - White sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, canned fruit "juice", powdered milk, chocolate drink mix
Spices - Cinnamon, vanilla/orange/lemon/almond/hazelnut/etc extracts, all spice, cloves, nutmeg, powdered cocoa
Fruit - Mince fresh or canned anything, dried raisins/blueberries/cranberries/apples/apricots/peaches, dried shredded coconut
Nuts - Walnut, hazelnut, sliced almonds, pine nuts

Don Quixote favorite sweet roll -- Powdered milk to sweeten the dough and a brown sugar, butter, cinnamon raisin swirl with minced walnuts.

<b>Savory Stuff</b>
Add any of the following in any combination you'd like to a savory roll:
Veg - Sun dried tomatoes , olives, mushrooms, frozen or fresh spinach, onion, potato. Anything left over from the night before. Hell anything that isn't super wet. If it's wet, drain it or roll it in a bit of flour before you try to add it to your dough.
Spices - Mixed herbs, basil, garlic, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme. Yeah, again... pretty much anything. My kids didn't like the fajita seasoning, but your mileage may favor. That's the only combo they balked at.
Cheeses - The drier cheeses work better than wetter ones. Again, flour your cheese if it's wet or oily. I like to fold the cheese into the middle where it won't crispy critter while it bakes. On the other hand, that dried Kraft parm cheese adds tremendous flavor just mixed straight into the dough.

Don Quixote favorite savory roll - Provincial herbs, garlic powder, and sun dried tomatoes.

1 comment:

Behan said...

thinking back on some very excellent rolls of the savory variety on DQ... feeling inspired! Was it PDJ? or La Cruz? I dunno but I can almost taste them (olive oil/garlic/rosemary variety)!