Quick and Yeasty (and quite delicious two days later…)

To yeast, or not to yeast.

Just recently I tried baking up my first batch of quick rolls made with yeast.

So, usually… if I want rolls then I make a batch of hearth bread (flour, water, salt and yeast–just basic) and mold the dough into rolls. Lots of the time I add rosemary, because we’re addicted to rosemary rolls here at the Meyer Casa.

Sometimes I make rolls by using baking powder and butter and eggs and such. There’s a recipe for gruyere rolls in my Crabtree and Evelyn Cookbook that I succumb to now and again.

But never have I baked a batch of quick rising (quick rising typically means lots of yeast,  plus some eggs, and probably butter!!!) rolls made with yeast. Wow! New! Super fantastique! Obviously I still have a lot to learn when it comes to baking…

So, just to be confusing, I posted the photo above, and it does NOT show one roll made with yeast and one roll made with baking powder, or some such other comparisony thing. No, they are both yeasty rolls and the one on the left collapsed. I thought it was hillarious and snapped a shot–with the lovely Lion (which looks like a sun) made by the hand of John Ronan in the background.

You already know–there is a huge difference between a bread product that rises with baking powder and/or soda, and something that is leavened by yeast. Sometimes the difference isn’t immediately apparent, and that’s actually the point. When things are warm, and out of the oven, our senses take over and it’s ALL GOOD!

But later. That’s the difference. A scone that is five hours old, made with baking powder, just isn’t all that tasty. But a roll like the one above, a yeast-leavened roll, kept safe all night in a little cozy basket, then popped into the oven and smothered with homemade plum jam in the morning? I promise you, it’s just as amazing as it was the night before. Maybe better–because there’s green tea too.

So, here’s my basket of yeasty rolls. They were fairly tasty with our dinner, but oh, so amazing in the morning.

And I shared some, just in case you’re thinking that I’m getting a bit off track with my giving (which I do from time to time.) I took several of these very rolls over to friends who were hosting my daughter for homework, and when I was presenting them with my typical explanation I realized that they own a pizza restaurant and that maybe I had picked the wrong folks to give a bread product to.

But later, they said Thanks! And that they liked them!

So, there you have it. Hoping to post the recipe soon to these fun little buns.

And wishing you all good cheer, and happy baking, and thanking you for your continued prayers for our beloved godpapa.


Simple Giving

New French bread recipe

One mix, three rises, short bake

First batch given to neighbor–Bob

Second batch given to a woman out for a walk

I’ve been trying a new bread recipe this week. Fiddling with a mix of flour, water, salt, and yeast that is famous in Provence, France. Once I understand the method a bit better–I’ll share the recipe with you here.

One of the many things I love about baking is the simplicity of the ingredients. As I move from the cupboard to the bowl and back again, measuring and sifting and sprinkling in the salt, I always recite those four ingredients in my head. Flour, water, salt, yeast.–so few ingredients, yet each one so essential to the final loaf.

I’ve been blogging less, now that it’s Lent, but baking just as much. And my adventures in giving have continued. On Tuesday I had an extra French boule, and set out to give it to a neighbor, who lives in a charming little house on the corner, but whom we see only now and again. I don’t even know her name.

But she wasn’t home.

Just down the street, only a block away, three little munchkins, all five years old–triplets–were running and shouting and cavorting in the street. It was easy to walk their way, toward their laughter. Two neighbors were talking. Two men I’ve never met. How can we have lived here in this neighborhood for ten years and still know so few?! It shames me.

I approached the grownups and introduced myself. “Who wants a warm loaf of bread?” I asked, smiling. The loaf was small, so I handed it to the single man who lives in the house with all the beautiful succulents that we admire. He introduced himself as Bob. I then met Mark, the father of the triplets; they live across from Bob and have the sweetest little home that has a forty foot palm tree hovering over it, and ranunculas that come up each spring. I promised them a bigger loaf in a few days. It was about time I had made a move toward neighborliness…

On Friday, another loaf of warm French bread in hand, (but still too small a loaf for the triplet family) I picked up my two big kids and some of their friends from school. We looked for someone on the street to give it to and eventually found a mom sitting by a stroller, looking tired, looking strained. The newborn was sleeping. I approached her; she was holding a cell phone, but not talking. “I baked an extra loaf of bread today and would like for you to have it. I know what it’s like when you have a newborn in the house.”

She laughed, and took it with a thanks, and the kids and I continued our after-school journey home.

It takes such basic ingredients to bake one loaf of bread. Wheat flour, a foodstuff known to man for thousands of years. Salt, a mineral used in every culture, in every land. Yeast, found in the very air around us. And water.

And giving is just as simple. A walk down the street. A knock on the door, or a wave of the hand. A word or two, and a smile. A quick exchange–the bread passing from my hand to another’s.

I find this time of giving, during Lent, when we seek to strip ourselves of all the extras, as especially poignant. Flour, water, salt, yeast.

Walk. Greet. Smile. Give. It makes me want to sing that old shaker tune…

Hum with me:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Sourdough through Security

No mixing, or molding or baking. Or giving today…

I’m flying out to France and all week I’ve been wondering if sourdough starter qualifies as a liquid. I thought about putting a call in to someone at the airlines, but that was just a quick thought. You know what it’s like to call the airlines. Who knows how many people I’d have to talk to before they got to anyone who even knows what sourdough starter is…

Last night I floured up my starter to make it more dough-like. What I’m most worried about is that the yeast might go crazy in the altitude and blow up in my luggage! My ancestors, when they brought it from the Pyrenees over the mountains, across the ocean etc… didn’t have to worry about cabin pressure, did they…


Since we do have a washing machine in the house in France (granted, it’s a bizarre machine that requires 10 green balls to move the clothes around the interior, although we’ve lost a considerable amount of the balls, because when you remove the clothes the balls fling out, too, and bounce all over the floor and under the fridge and such…) anyway, since we do have a washing machine, I figure if the starter does somehow ooze all over, I can just wash the clothes and continue on with life.

I’ll also have a wee bit of starter in my hand luggage, just as a back up.

And the point of bringing the starter is purely nostalgic. I want to recapture some of the home yeasties and bring them back. I want the starter to finally see its birthplace. I want the mother dough to have this opportunity to reconnect with its roots. Aren’t I a nice caretaker? Plus, it’ll be fun.

Okay, wish me safe travels.

Badly Behaving Yeast and Science Class

Half recipe–French–two jacos

Mixed 8:15 pm Saturday

Molded 9:30 pm Saturday

Retarded in fridge all night

Baked 8 am Sunday

Gave to Mrs. G and Ciara

This batch of bread was close to a disaster. It’s either the new flour ( Gold Medal “Better for Bread” –I bought it because it was on sale. :()…  …0r yeast that is old and very unzippy… I forged ahead, and baked this floppy dough all the same, knowing that warm, fresh bread is good, even when it’s bad.

So that’s one of my first tips on baking for you. Even when you flub it up, it’s almost always still pretty good. I’m a good flubber–so I should know. This loaf, for Mrs G was a flubber. As a consolation prize, while the oven was still hot, I threw in a batch of cookies to boot.  You can make almost anything better with an added batch of cookies.

But  know this: Mrs. G deserves more than a loaf of bread and a small batch of cookies. Talk about giving! She teaches science to a gaggle of girls every Thursday morning, my daughter being one of them. Does she charge for this year-long class? No… If she did, I would be happily writing her out checks instead of baking her loaves of bread. Cheers to you, Cheryl, and all your science experiments!

Anyway, back to the bread. I think the batch was a flop because of lame yeast. I’ll know next time I bake, since I’ll proof the yeast first and see how it responds in front of my eyes to a little warm water. Typically I don’t proof yeast; I just mix it straight into the flour while dry, and activate it as I’m mixing and kneading the dough.

Now for the photos so you can see just how bad this batch was. Here’s the dough in the fridge under a brown towel. Retarding dough for an hour or more is one of the great secrets of not being a slave to your bread. More on that later. (And check out those Brussel sprouts!)

floppy in fridge

And here’s the floppy dough.

floppy dough

And here it is baked.

floppy dough--baked

I hope Ciara and Mrs. G enjoyed it. They had to stay home from church this morning because Ciara was unwell.  Cheers. We love you, Mrs. G–and thanks for being an incredible science teacher. Maybe the next lesson could be on badly behaved yeast?!!!