Saturday, October 16, 2010


I baked my first from-scratch yeast bread twenty-five years or so ago in that old Brooklyn apartment upstairs from my brother. Fragrant, golden loaves, heavenly manna, elegantly twisted Challah pulled out of my oven with all the pride and joy of a mother gazing upon her newborn infant. But the loaves were dense and hard, dry like the desert under the heat of day, heavy like my heart. So downhearted I felt that day that it was another ten years before I attempted a second time. Only to find yet another baking tray full of cannonballs in the guise of dinner rolls. But the siren’s call of bread baking tempted me all too often. Photographs of fluffy, light-as-air rolls and gorgeous, crusty loaves with soft yet satisfyingly chewy crumb teased and seduced, and I refused to give up. Try and try again (and I honestly will not say undaunted) I plunged on, kneading and shaping, experimenting, tasting until finally, finally one day….

Determination finally won out and one day I simply had a revelation and understood the secret! My stick-to-itiveness paid off and I began creating the loaves of bread that months and years before I had only dreamed about. Watching the yeast bubble and foam, plunging my fingers into soft, powdery, ethereal flour and smiling to myself as it puffed up and floated around me, pressing my hands into the soft, smooth, sensuous dough, caressing, stroking, coaxing until it responded to my touch, bounced back to me when pressed, convinced me that it was all that I had been longing for. Patience along with some good old-fashioned trial and error stirred up with a lot of love and the perfect (or near-perfect, but that is okay as well) bread arrives on our table warm and fragrant, delightfully light and tender on the inside and crusty on the outside.

Bread Baking Day has been inspiring me for just about one year. This monthly blogging event was created by Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte and has carried me through many a month, kept me going and gave me one more reason to bake bread. Cookbooks strewn across my desktop and sofa, my coffee table and kitchen table, my fingers slide down the index page as I make my choice and the baking begins. If one has a desire to learn a new skill, master a new technique, then baking alongside friends is the best way. Encouragement and support, that gentle nudge forward, a kind word, advice when needed and a smile at the end of the day no matter the results all make for the best baking experience. I have come to absolutely love baking bread; the measuring, stirring, kneading, it is all so therapeutic, a fabulous way to work out the stress, and watching such simple, basic, earthy ingredients, flour and water, yeast and salt, blend together and transform into something so perfect, so necessary as one beautiful loaf of bread is more than satisfying; it is magic.

And today is World Bread Day. Zorra opens up her virtual kitchen and hosts this 5th Annual World Bread Day event today, inviting one and all to talk about bread, bake bread, eat bread. So roll up your sleeves, pull the flour off the shelf and let’s bake!

Yes, baking bread with a friend is the best experience, the most fun and the most inspiring. This month I baked with Rosa. If you do not yet know Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums then…well, where have you been hiding? Rosa is a generous, warm and most humble person with an amazingly clever wit hiding behind her lovely exterior. Just peruse her blog and you will be amazed at her baking talent! One stunning creation after the next that still has the power to amaze me. Read any of her blog posts and her humor shines through carrying you along chuckling to each delectable recipe and gorgeous photograph. Now I am using mighty big words here, a string of superlatives, but I exaggerate not! But all of that aside – for just one visit to her blog and you can judge for yourself – Rosa has become a friend and for that I am satisfied. She truly is a kind person. And one thing that we two have in common other than our passion for baking is, well, we both participate regularly in blogging events and we both invariably wait to bake for any event until the very last minute. Which in turn makes us stress completely out. We worry and moan and look around every corner for that disaster that is surely waiting to sink our cake, curdle our cream or turn our bread into rocks. This month, knowing that I was pushing my luck and waiting until literally the last days to bake for World Bread Day, I happened to bump into Rosa and started chatting about it. And then I noticed her perfect healthy Bread Rolls and knew what I wanted to bake.

Well, it wasn’t all bright and rosy. I fairly followed her recipe and found that this first batch of rolls were too dense for my pleasure. Although not hard as rocks they were far from the light and fluffy dinner rolls that I had expected. And the flavor was too strong for me – most likely the quality of the whole wheat flour I used and the ground linseed and goji berries I added. I rolled half up in loganberry jam-filled spirals that I found tasty enough and husband enjoyed the plain rolls with his end-of-dinner cheese and wine. But back to the old drawing board. Second time the charm! I altered the ingredients and some of the quantities, I used only a combination of white and chestnut flours, added some gorgeous raw honey sent to me by my great friend Barbara, threw in a few tablespoons mixed seeds for some crunch and the rolls were wonderful! Dense yet light, chewy with the delightful crunch of the seeds, just perfect. And thanks to Rosa, with whom I was on twitter ceaselessly back and forth during this whole baking rigamarole, for her support, tips, suggestions and jokes.

The first rolls, good but not ideal. Yummy with loganberry jam center!

Perfect, tasty, light yet chewy dinner rolls

So here is to the 5th Annual World Bread Day –
I baked, I ate, I lived and did I ever talk about bread!

Also sending these wonderful Dinner Rolls to Susan, baker extraordinaire, of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting round up!

Adapted from Rosa’s recipe on Rosa’s Yummy Yums

1 1/3 cups (300 ml) warm water
2 ½ tsps (8 g) active dry yeast
2 tsps granulated brown sugar
3 ¼ cups (400 g) flour – I used French all-purpose white
4/5 cup (100 g) chestnut flour
½ tsp ground cardamom
2 tsps salt
3 Tbs mixed seeds (pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds) and more if you want to sprinkle the top of the rolls
Olive oil for brushing the tops of the rolls

In a small bowl, blend the active dry yeast and the brown sugar then add the warm (body temperature) water, stirring to dissolve the yeast and break up any clumps. Stir 1 to 2 cups of the white flour into the yeast mixture, stirring gently, adding just enough flour to make a smooth, thick paste. Cover the bowl with a towel and all the yeast to activate, from 15 to 20 minutes. The mixture should have risen some and the surface should be bubbly.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the rest of the white flour, the chestnut flour, the cardamom, salt and the mixed seeds. Add the yeast liquid and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and you have a scraggy dough. Scrape the dough together and push out onto a floured work surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, flouring the work surface as needed, until it is smooth, soft and springy. Place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap then a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm, dry place until doubled in bulk, 1 ½ hours or so.

After the first rise, gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto the floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape as you like: I rolled each out into a long snake, tied in a knot and the tucked the loose ends underneath. Place the shaped rolls onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet, cover once again with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise and double in size a second time, about 40 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking the rolls, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

When the rolls have doubled, remove the kitchen towel and the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the rolls with olive oil. If you like, you can sprinkle the tops with more seeds. When the oven is preheated, bake the rolls for 20 – 25 minutes or until risen and a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove the rolls from the oven and brush the tops once again with olive oil. If you like, you can sprinkle the freshly brushed rolls with coarse sea salt. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.


Happy Cook said...

Wowo you have been making bread long, these rolls look so beautiful. You know me I am a sweet lover and i love the one with the jam indise :-)
I love Rosa's blog too, I go there often as I can.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, they look so pretty, fluffy and perfect! I love your version of my recipe. Just gorgeous!

I am glad you overcame your fears of baking and finally succeeded. Breadmaking is such a wonderful act.

Thanks for the kind words that made me blush! I really had much fun and pleasure guiding you through the whole process. You are a lovely Twitter friend. :-)



Cake Duchess said...

I love this rolls Jamie. They look just perfect:)

elra said...

Gorgeous rolls Jaime.

Very well said Jaime :) I like Rosa very much too. She is truly a sweetheart !

Nicisme said...

What great shapes for your delicious rolls Jamie!
Happy World Bread Day!

girlichef said...

They're gorgeous, Jamie!! Both versions :D

Deeba PAB said...

Oh I love what you did with them Jamie, they are gorgeous! I love Rosa's blog too. This is just what I love about food blogging; so much camaraderie, so much inspiration, so much enthusiasm! Thanks for the shove to try and begin typing my post for WBD!

Jamie said...

@Deeba - Wow girl you crack me up royally! Get going! You'll miss World Bread Day!

@girlichef - Oh thanks, you baking genius, you! xo

@Rosa - See, dear, how popular you are?

Joanna said...

Great post! Love the look of your rolls and the way you write

Zita said...

Aww... very beautifully knotted, and Always adore your vintage pics :)

Heavenly Housewife said...

Oh, I wish i'd have known, I'd have baked bread too. I love making bread. There is something so incredibly satisfying about it.
*kisses* HH

Barbara Bakes said...

So glad you persevered until you achieved perfection. Love the shape and that you found a great use for the honey.

Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

I love the shape of your rolls.

Junglefrog said...

That looks delicious Jamie! I so want to start baking more bread as I think I have only ever made about two or three breads in my life... Now that just sounds wrong, doesn't it? These rolls look perfect

Sandra said...

Wow wow!!! so delicious Jamie :)))
I wanna make it next week, after Salone del Gusto
Happy Sunday to you and family

Rossella said...

Wonderful for eyes and mouth :)
I'll learn how to do them pretty soon.

Ananda Rajashekar said...

ouchm, what a colorful and beautiful looking bread, perfect for the day!

natalia said...

Ciao ! i actually love even the dense ones with the jam peeking out !

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Delicious rolls! I love the way you shaped them. Wonderful!

tasteofbeirut said...

I love these bread rolls.You can be rightfully proud of them.

pity said...

lovely bread, it looks so delicious, well done! cheers from london

Ana Powell said...

Great event.
Lovely post ♥

nazarina said...

Your narration of this luscious bread interlude is spellbound!You made me want one!

sarah said...

I always end up feeling starving after reading your posts! wish to take a bite of those dinner rolls! I have a bread machine I never used because my favorite part about making bread is the kneading.

Lorraine Not Quite Nigella said...

I had the same experience as you Jamie the first time that I baked and like you I persisted and now love it! What a wonderful event-like baking and breaking bread with people all over the world!

Serene said...

Yes! Isn't it so satisfying? When I finally was able to make bread, it was like a life goal had been realized.

Anushruti said...

Love the old world charm of your pictures. Your bread rolls are shaped so well, you must have had a great time relishing them.

zorra said...

Jamie, what a wonderful post. I have to say my first experiences with homemade bread were the same. I called my first loaves door stoppers ;-) Today we are quite good bread bakers, patient and experience is all what it's need. Thank you for participating in World Bread Day.

PS: BBD is just around the corner. ;-)

QweySpiral said...

I had the same experience baking bread, when I was young I made bricks, you could build a house with my efforts! Then suddenly, my breads are part of my mythology! We never buy breads my husband refuses to even consider buying bread when my daily baguettes are the highpoint of his day. Even our dogs seem to discriminate -we bought the puppy a hamburger for his birthday and he looked at it confused and carefully peeled the bread off and ate the meat!

Elizabeth said...

There's something about knotted rolls, isn't there? They look so wonderful.

I love soft and fluffy rolls but I also love dense rolls. Oh, let's face it. I love bread.

I'm intrigued by the chestnut flour in these. I wonder if I can even get chestnut flour... I hope so!

Thank you for sharing this recipe. What wonderful photos too!

asiangrrl said...

It's wonderful to see how you've blossomed during your experience as a blogger, Jamie. In a way, I think your breadmaking is a parallel to your blogwriting. You just get better with each try. The only difference is, you were a natural in blogwriting right off the bat. Those rolls look scrumptious.


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