Friday, August 6, 2010

Try this at least once in your life

I, like many others, am on a journey to make life simpler.  Simple doesn't mean easy.  Making household cleaners, gardening, sewing, cloth diapers...none of that is really very easy.  People are doing many different things that aren't 'easy' in an effort to have a simpler more sustainable life.  For our house, the main focus is food.  What we put into our bodies fuels it.  We don't want to be fueled by chemicals and marketed manipulations of what used to be a whole food.
It's important to work for your food so that you can feel a sense of pride as you enjoy each bite.  I like to feel connected to my food, if only a little bit, and the best way that I have found to do that is by making homemade bread.  It sounds intimidating, time-consuming, and scary.  It's definitely time-consuming, but with a little planning ahead you can make it work with your schedule.  I'm not talking about mixing something up out of a box and throwing it in your bread machine.  There's nothing wrong with bread machines, I just don't see the need since I have an oven.  All you need is your hands to do the work and your oven to do the baking.  I hope you'll make bread at least once. 
This recipe is pretty easy to start out with if you've never made bread before.  It comes together in just about 10 minutes of hand-kneading.  This isn't exactly definitely isn't whole grain, but it is a pretty fantastic chemical- and additive-free addition to your family's dinner plate.  Let's talk about Parker House Rolls.
The Parker House Roll is said to have originated in the 1870s at The Parker House [now Omni Hotel] in Boston.  I love food that has some history behind it.  This is a delicious, warm, buttery, melt-in-your mouth bread that people will be so impressed by.  Make them for your mother-in-law.  Not that you want to put on airs about your homemade bread, but you'll see.  Just make them.

3 Tbsp warm water
3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 stick butter, unsalted
1 cup whole milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Stir together the warm water, yeast, and only 1 Tbsp of sugar.  See how it's all bubbly?  That's how you know the yeast is active.  It's aliiiiiiive!!! It's aliiiiiiive!!!

Melt the butter slowly in a saucepan.  Once it's melted, add in the whole milk until it heats through.
Pour the butter and milk, once heated, into a large bowl along with the yeast mixture.  Then add the remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar, bread flour, and salt. 

See how happy the yeast is?  It loves the flour.  It is very important to use a wooden spoon to stir it all until just combined.  Don't over work it, work it, work it... 
Why is the wooden spoon so important?  I don't know, but I think there's some science to it.  Once it comes together, dump it out on the counter.  Here's where the all purpose flour comes in. 

 While you're kneading the bread, it will be way too sticky unless you add the all purpose flour.  Start out with 3/4 cup, and work up to a total addition of 1 1/2 cups if you need it. 

After kneading for about 10 minutes, it should look like this:

It should be smooth and only slightly sticky at this point.  Put it into a large bowl that you've buttered; turn over to coat in butter.  Cover it and let it rise in a warm place like you stove with the light on for about an hour.  It should look like this after it's risen:

At this point it's not too puffy, but it has risen.  It's not as tight as it is after it's first kneaded, and everything has come together into one big doughy family.  Then I just kind of press it lightly and use my pastry cutter to get about 20 pieces which I will turn into rolls.

They aren't all the same, but I just take some from the bigger pieces and add to the smaller.  Put your rolls into a greased 13x9 pan.  Then use a floured chop stick or a knife to cut a little slit in the top.

Aren't they precious?  They look like little baby bottoms.  Brush the tops with 2 Tbsp melted butter and then slide it on into the oven.  After about 20 minutes, you get this:

Hot. Buttery. Bliss.
[You can thank me later.]

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