I have a plan, and it involves you. Yes you my lovely readers , I know you’re there. I see your visits in my little WordPress ticker. Said plan is going to have to wait to happen until after the holidays, though, as I know all of us will be pretty strapped for time this week.

For now, I’d like to talk about bread.

You see, I recently got a request from my friend Rachel for the recipe to my apparently magical dinner rolls that I had served at the Dinner Party of Dooms I and IV. I also served a veganized (is that a word?) variation of these for Dinner Party of Doom III to use as the buns for my black bean sliders. Of course there was no magic involved with either one. I had the sore shoulder muscles to prove it, my hands cramped and exhausted from hours of kneading, my eyes strained from carefully following every letter of a recipe on the page of one of my great-grandmother’s cookbooks  (shown below).

These cookbooks, this particular one especially, were my culinary school growing up.  Sure, I could have easily pursued this love as a career in the first place and saved myself 12 years of putzing around drunk and stupid, but I really wanted to be a rock star at that point.

Ah well, such is life.

Anyway, from the bookshelves of my parents’ dining room the legacy of my late great grandmother Mimi taught me what a double boiler was, the difference between poaching, simmering, and boiling (about 20 and 40 degrees F), and since these books were written in the 1940′s all of this kept me away from my mom’s early-80′s model microwave, as a result I probably avoided a herculean brain tumor.

Thanks, Mimi!

The first thing I ever remember making from a real recipe was bread. Banana bread, made with real bananas that were real ripe because my mom would keep buying them and we would eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead. At first, the thought of touching them was gross; their soft, crinkled skins blackened with neglect and our indifference to nutrition. Illogically I thought my eyes would see something horrifying if I cut it open, and the aftermath would require years of therapy to become well-adjusted again. Rather anticlimactically, though, it was just soft, sweet mush.  With a satisfied shrug I went on to complete the recipe, working faster than I probably should have so the whole thing could go in the oven just in time for me to tune into “Hey Dude” on Nickelodeon.

The horrifying part was yet to come, though, as in my rush I mistook the “Broil” setting on my mom’s oven for “Bake”.

Hey, you live and learn, right?

Anyway, before I start flapping my gums(keyboard) again, I have three recipes for you. One is for the dinner rolls, pictured at the top of this page. Another, the modified vegan version as I made them for DoD III. The third and final one is for the banana bread of which I speak.

I’m sure you’ll have a better first go at it than I did.

Dinner Rolls (ala DoD I & IV). Mostly straight from “The Boston School of Cooking” by Fannie Merritt Farmer. Mostly.

2 cups scalded cream
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 head garlic, minced
3 tbsp yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 egg
6 cups bread flour

Add butter, sugar, and salt to milk. when lukewarm, add dissolved yeast, egg, and cups of flour. Coat hands in vegetable, olive oil, or butter and knead. The oil on your hands, obviously, is to keep them from getting too gooey and sticking to the dough. Add the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth or paper towel and let rise for about 1 hour, when it’s doubled in size. Knead in the garlic and the rest of the flour, and continue kneading for a good 10 minutes. Coat the dough with half of the melted butter, cover again with a damp cloth or paper towel, and let rise for another hour.  Then knead, flour if needed, coat the dough with the rest of the butter, and let rise for another hour. Preheat the oven to 425F.

When the dough finishes the third rise, shape into ball. To each dough ball, pinch the sides and pull the dough to the bottom, creating tension on the top. Arrange closely in baking pans, brush with butter if you wish, and cook for about 12-15 minutes.

Vegan Dinner Rolls/Hamburger Buns (ala DoD III)

5 cups  all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy milk
1/2 tsp active dry yeast dissolved in 1 tsp warm water (not hot)
1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed in 3 tbsp hot water (from tap is fine)
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp olive oil + 1/2 cup
1 head garlic, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 cup basil, finely chopped

Mix flour, water, and soy milk together with a wooden spoon coated in olive oil until it’s  a rough dough.  Let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Pat some olive oil onto your hands and work the yeast, salt, flax mixture and 2 tsp olive oil into the dough. Add extra flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Knead for another 10 mins. Transfer to a large bowl well-coated in more olive oil, turning to coat dough.

Cover with a damp paper towel and let dough rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in size – about one hour. Gently knead it for a few seconds to degas it, then pour in the red onion, garlic, and basil and knead them in really well. Pour a little flour over the dough as you’re kneading to keep it from getting sticky again.  Cover and let dough rise for another hour, then knead and flour as needed again. Pour olive oil over dough and knead in. Cover, and let it rise again for 30-40 mins.

Turn out onto floured surface. After shaping into a ball, pinch dough from the sides into the bottom of the ball to create a tension on the top and press in the palm of your hand.  Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with Rub buns lightly with olive oil *or* melted Earth Balance (if you want a more buttery flavor).  Cover with a towel and let rise for 45 mins. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees while they’re rising. Bake for 10-12 mins.

Banana Bread (also from “The Boston School of Cooking”)

(hey, I didn’t have a picture of any banana bread I made, so here’s this nifty pic of one of my favorite obscure childhood cartoons. Enjoy!)

3 ripe bananas
2 cups flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
A handful of walnuts, crushed
1/4 cup brown sugar

Crush bananas with fork. Beat in eggs and add the sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda and add into a 5×9 loaf pan. Sprinkle with walnuts and brown sugar.