Saturday, December 22, 2012



If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens. 
 – Robert Browning 

My morning ritual begins with a mug of steaming café au lait and two pains au lait sliced lengthwise and filled with cherry jam. Sometimes husband and I sit in comforting silence, side by side, sharing the occasional witticism or a random thought as we sip our coffees and eat our breakfast. Or we flip on the radio and listen to the news, the weather report, a bit of music before flicking it back off and shuffling back to bed for a quiet half hour or so of chat and reading. Once I get back up, I boot up the laptop and check out the Huffington Post headlines as I wait for incoming e-mails. And each and every day since the Newtown massacre, the headlines have been a macabre roll call of yesterdays’ dead by firearms.
Our nation is still in shock, stunned by last Friday’s event. And the debate rages, fingers pointed, accusations shunted back and forth. Politics, culture, individuals, no one and nothing is left unscathed or without blame. I bite my tongue, trying to stay out of the argument although sometimes my anger and emotions get the better of me; yet arguing gets us nowhere. So I close the laptop and try and make it all go away, if only for a moment or two. I talk with my children, prepare for the holidays and bake. Baking soothes the soul, warms the heart and although these well-worn expressions are rather trite and nonsensical, baking is a way to forget the world around me, if ever so briefly.

With bread all sorrows are less.
- Sancho Panza in Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 

It has been pouring rain for what seems like years. On and on and on. Milky white to dirty gray, the skies fluctuate over the course of a single day, imposing a color on our mood. Slowly, oh so slowly, we get the apartment in shape: two more boxes to the basement, one more bag to the attic, one more door painted, one more set of cupboards purchased and installed. Books painstakingly make their way out of cartons and onto bookshelves. We take turns cooking and carry our plates to the livingroom where we can lose our worries in a thriller or a mystery. And in between, we stay huddled inside, he praying for sunshine and warmth, I praying for snow and bright icy skies. We decided to do something for Christmas this year (or our version of Christmas) and scurry about looking for gifts and choosing a menu. My projects and his take shape and form and color and excitement fills the air: something to celebrate!

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, 
is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight. 
- M.F.K. Fischer 

Son came over to cook with me last week. Together we made Greek-Style Preserved Lemon Chicken with Olives from a cookbook he had offered to me last Hanukkah and divine it was. Before he arrived I threw together the soft, silky dough for Greek Spiral Feta Rolls. The dough is perfect in every way: easy to put together, soft and luxurious to knead and a pleasure to cut and roll. The resulting rolls are evenly textured, light and fluffy and would be perfect with either a savory or a sweet filling. My sons love feta, always have, so this was enjoyed thoroughly. But I will soon make the dough again, replacing the cheese with caramelized cubes of apples.

I want to share these with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly all-things-yeast event Yeastspotting.

From Vefa’s Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou – published in French by Phaidon

10 ½ oz (300 g) flour = 5 ¼ oz (150 g) regular flour + 5 ¼ oz (150 g) flour T55
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs active dry yeast
5 Tbs warm water (not hot)
1 Tbs sugar or honey
4 Tbs olive oil
½ cup (120 ml) warm milk (not hot)
1 egg, separated
10 ½ oz (300 g) feta, crumbled
2 Tbs sesame seeds
Melted butter for the baking tray or dish and olive oil for the bowl

Sift the two flours together in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and the dry yeast without stirring. Add the warm water and allow to activate for several minutes. Once foamy, add the sugar or honey, the olive oil, the milk and the egg white (only the white!). Stir to moisten all of the dry ingredients and until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface (the dough will be sticky) and knead, adding flour as needed, for about 6 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean, well-oiled mixing bowl, turning the dough until it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and leave the dough to rise for about an hour or so until doubled in size.

Butter a baking dish or baking sheet large enough to hold four rolls (they will expand to about 4 – 5 inches (10 – 13 cm) in diameter) – I lined a baking sheet with oven parchment paper and buttered the paper). Make an egg wash with the yolk and 1 tsp of cold water.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll each one out on a floured work surface to a length of about 16 inches (40/41 cm) and about 7 inches (18 cm) wide, the long side perpendicular to your body. Crumble a quarter of the feta about an inch (2 cms) evenly over the dough, leaving about an inches (2 cms) feta-free along the lower edge closest to your body from end to end and about 4 inches (10 cm) along the top (the feta should be concentrated in a long line from end to end). Brush egg wash lighly all around the exposed edges and roll up the dough around the feta starting with the side closest to you and rolling up; you should end up with a long thin log. Starting at one end, lightly but firmly roll the length of dough into itself, forming a round spiral, tucking the end underneath. Gently lift the spiral and place it one the prepared baking sheet or baking dish.

Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough. Brush each spiral with the egg wash, both the tops and sides, and dust with sesame seeds. Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown and the rolls are well puffed.

Allow to cool a bit or come to room temperature before serving.


Sarah said...

Don't those look wonderful? The photographs are so cheerful and bright- it doesn't look at all like the middle of winter. I too have to disconnect from the constant bad news streaming in from news sites...sometimes silence is the best.

La Table De Nana said...

Enjoy your holidays and your family..Best wishes to you..

When you first mentioned these I knew I would be interested..happy you used your book:)

We have snow snow and more snow..and intermittently..for the 3rd power..Not great at this time of year..Falalala...

Terra said...

Freshly baked bread will make anyone happier, especially the smell of fresh baked bread in a home! Your addition of feta is really fun, and rolls look soooo beautiful! How fun to make these gorgeous rolls with your son, perfect way to spend a day inside, away from the chilly rain:-) Hugs, Terra

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those look sooooo scrumptious! Anything bready and containing feta/cheese gets my vote.



Lisa said...

I was hoping you would post the recipe for these! They look much so, I may try to make them today. That said, now is the time to enjoy the holidays and try and push aside all the awful happenings for a while, as best we can. Happy Holidays to you and the family, my friend xo

Deeba PAB said...

I want these now please sistah. How right for the weather, rainy days, and 'times' that could be better. I am so using this recipe soon. These look perfect in every way. The boy knows his books for sure! I love the rustic appeal of that first picture... Happy holidays to you and the gorgeous men in your life. This is your first Christmas in your new home. Thinking of you and sending some virtual warm sunshine to you! xoxo

Kate | Food Babbles said...

These rolls look and sound amazing! I love feta cheese and I also love the sound of using apples in these rolls as well. I'll certainly be making them soon. My daughters all love feta also so I think they'll love them. Lovely!

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

These are beautiful Jamie. I too would love them with apples or maybe even another favorite cheese; feta is not my fave!

I love your passion and share an irate sense of how things are but it is important to take a break. I let Columbine consume me; I've learned that caring does not equate to a 24/7 watch over bad events and this season especially it's important to share some tender, wonderful moments with our own families...ever more appreciative that we have them.

Enjoy this holiday season in your new home!

A Canadian Foodie said...

I am all about homemade bread. I have a graphic on my wall that reads: Of all tastes, salt; Of all smells, bread.
There is nothing that says home more. Your spirals look divine. Feta is a big hit hear, especially now that I make my own! YUM! Homemade chevre is so easy, too. You must try it!
Glad the family is home - in your new home, for the holidays with such homey goodness and love.
Happy Holidays to you, Jamie!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love savory breads and the idea of the feta swirling through this makes me swoon. And what a lovely surprise for your son! It does seem you are settling into your new kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Seriously is that even enough cheese? I am sure your suppose to add lots more.. wahhh ;)

Jamie said...

@Anonymous: I actually agree with you. The finished baked roll was so huge and fluffy, the feta was almost lost. The problem is that the dough is so thin and fine that rolling even the amount of feta I did put in was hard. But definitely add lots more!

Mairi @ Toast said...

Bread & fetam what's not to love. These rolls so light & cheese filled, love them Jamie.

Elizabeth said...

Please excuse me for commenting so late. These look brilliant!

Jeanne said...

When it rains a lot I alway ssay I feel trapped in a scene from Bladerunner, where it rains incessantly. It's fine if I can stay indoors but usually I have to trudge off to work in the rain and ruin my shoes... yuk. Quite smitten with these rolls - feta is my downfall :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I could use a morning with two of these.

Anonymous said...

Hi,Just stumbled on your blog and would like to try this recipe asap. Just one question....What is T55 flour?

Jamie said...

@Anonymous: Oh definitely make these! They are wonderful! And thanks for the question. A google search revealed:

French bread flour, the equivalence of Strong White Flour with the gluten strength for making bread, is called T55 (grade reference)

I use T55 flour when a recipe calls for Bread Flour. French flour is closer to American cake flour, I believe.


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