Admittedly, I love to cook. Unfortunately, I love to cook in a Paula Dean sort of way. I don’t – but if I thought my arteries wouldn’t start a war against me, I’d do it in a heartbeat (no pun intended.)
I spent many moments today running back to my computer watching for updated pictures of the flakes and drifts “back home” in Michigan. Every now and then, I’d get a snippet of how my old friends and family were spending their snow day. Soon after, I put a pork roast in the slow cooker, covered it in thyme, salt, pepper, and wine, and it all began.
The next time I checked the computer, my sister had posted a picture of pumpernickle bread – fresh from the oven. I tried to ignore it. I remember the smell of fresh bread rising when I was a little girl. My mom always put the huge, ceramic bowls on top of the cedar chest in front of the windows. During the summer, the white lace curtains would flutter in the breeze and carry that homey scent from one end of the house to the other.
It couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes later that my cell phone buzzed. It was that picture… fresh, warm bread… staring at me. I could almost smell it!! Well, that was it. It was decided. I had to make make bread! Fresh rolls with pulled pork. Oh, yes.
I don’t have a bread recipe. Years back, my sister taught me to make bread without one. It’s pretty simple, and I’ll guess at it here in case you’d like to give it a try. Remember that all the measurements are approximate. I don’t measure any of it, and you don’t have to either. Just have fun and play!
In a mixing bowl combine: 1/2 cup warm water & 1 tablespoon of dry yeast
In a measuring cup: 1/3 cup milk + 1 tablespoon of butter. Microwave it about 45 sec. until the milk is warm and the butter melting. Mix together with a fork and add to the cup: 1 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar.
Pour the liquid in with the yeast mixture. Add about 1 cup of flour and mix well. Start adding more flour maybe 1/2 a cup at a time, mixing each time until you get to the consistancy of really thick oatmeal. At this point, turn out the dough onto a well floured countertop and begin to knead in more flour until you have a soft, elastic ball. I’ve learned that the firmer the dough, the heavier the bread. I like to leave it fairly soft.
Use a bit of oil to coat a glass bowl. Make sure it’s at least twice the size of the dough. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set it in a warm place to rise until doubled. This could be 1-1/2 to 3 hours depending on the temperature and the dough.
The dough is ready when it has doubled in size. You can poke your finger into the dough and the indentation will stay in place. It smells wonderful.
Lightly flour your counter, and turn the dough out of the bowl. Use your hands to gently ‘deflate’ it and shape it into a long rectangle. At this point, I like to use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into evenly-sized chunks. Form the dough into rolls the size you wish, place on an oiled baking pan, cover with the clean dish towel, and allow to rise a second time. It will take about half the amount of time for the rolls to rise.
Once your bread has risen, bake it in a 375 degree oven until golden brown. It will be crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. If you make larger rolls, they are awesome bread bowls!
I lightly butter my rolls when they come out of the oven. They’re less crusty when you do this, so it’s your choice.
It took me awhile to get the feel of making these. You get to learn the look and feel of the dough in time. I remember many a night using my husband as a guinea pig to eat my experiments! I’m betting you can find a willing volunteer.