Monday, September 1, 2008

The Beauty of Bread

A year or so ago a friend, who just happens to be a former "National Mother of the Year", taught me how to make a simple bread recipe and shared with me the beauty of bread.

I can see your eyes rolling. A year ago if someone had told me making home made bread was a secret to three simple meals- I would have laughed and scoffed in disbelief. Not to mention it was a next to near impossible task for the novice baker I am. I mean, homemade bread!?! My past attempts to homemade breads and rolls always turned out things that looked more like bricks or hockey pucks than something you could or would eat. It doesn't sound easy OR fun. But it's true- this recipe is so easy! And the beauty about it is with one batch you can make a pan of cinnamon rolls for breakfast, a pan of bread sticks for lunch AND make a braided (use a left-over) dish for dinner! Beauty eh? An hour or so of baking and you're done cooking for the DAY!

So yesterday, my son wanted to make "Cinnamon melts". I thought that would be a great Sunday morning treat so I pulled out the flour and yeast.

Here's the magical recipe-

Mix together
2 cups warm water- just from the tap
2 Tb. Yeast
1/2 cup sugar

Let this sit for a minute and "proof" the yeast. (Make certain the yeast is still good before you go on to the next step. How you can tell- it starts to bubble and get thick. If it doesn't- start over with a new batch of yeast.)

2 1/2 tsp. Salt
3 cups flour
Mix well with a spoon

1 egg
1/4 cup oil

3 more cups of flour- added one at a time.

At this point, I take my ring off, pour some veg. oil on my hands and go at it. After all the flour is mixed in- I put more veg oil on my counter and knead it up. I then scrape my bowl clean spray some Pam in it and place my dough ball back into the bowl to rise for 1/2 hour.

My friend, the former Mother of the Year, who is the real bread expert says "the oil adds flavor, richness and tenderness to the bread and helps the bread stay moist longer"- so don't be shy! (I use to use flour to knead my dough and no wonder my loaves were dry and hard.)

Now if you just wanted to make rolls after the first RISE you would make your rolls and let them rise another 1/2 hour then bake at 375 for 12-20 min.

But we are making the magical trio. So you've got 1/2 hour to wait.

Perfect time to clean up the counter and get ingredients ready for the next step...
I usually have to clear off a counter space to roll out the dough,
scrape up some dried peanut butter
sort the mail and random papers on the counter
do some dishes- or just throw them in sink full of suds
and jump in the shower

Okay- Now my dough has doubled.

Split the dough. Normally- I just make a few cinnamon rolls and more bread sticks. ( I mean, really? How many cinnamon rolls does one family need? We just eat them ALL- even with the best of intentions to give some to neighbors we can't resist. Just one more....)

Yesterday though- I had some leftovers I wanted to use. (Piggy back meals! I love this! I get such a thrill from using up my leftovers!). Two nights ago I made a chicken/cream of chicken soup with frozen vegetables & cheese casserole served with rice. I had maybe three serving left of the chicken casserole. So I divided my dough into THREE portions.

Preheat your oven at 375 degrees

FIRST- pull out the cinnamon roll portion.
Pour oil on your counter and roll out the dough into a rectangle.

So simple - a child can do it!

Spread with soft margarine

It probably won't take you as much concentration as my 5 year old.
He wanted "Cinnamon melts" but you'll notice he's not in any future pictures- his interest was quickly lost in "helping me".
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Sprinkle with brown sugar

roll it up like a jelly-roll

Cut into 1 1/2 inch portions

(Okay- who ever said using floss was the best way to cut cinnamon rolls out? Have you ever heard of that? Don't bother getting the floss. That will cut out a huge headache- just cut them. This is one of my favorite pamper chef tools.)
Place on a baking sheet and let rise until double. (Bake at 375 for 12-20 min.)

While the cinnamon rolls are rising.... Pull your next portion out for your bread sticks.
Roll dough into a rectangle

melt 1/2 stick of butter and pour on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle in McCormicks Salad Supreme seasoning.

Then you cut your dough into 1/2 inch strips. Dip into the butter & seasoning on the cookie sheet. Twist and lay flat on same cookie sheet. Don't let the bread sticks raise a second time. Once the pan is full place in oven and bake for 12-30 minutes. I cut them in half. Then they are cooked and ready to warm up for lunch.

We eat these by dipping into pizza sauce. They make a great snack or as a side with spaghetti or lasagna OR my kids just fill up on them for lunch. (You can use different seasoning- garlic powder, basil, oregano and Parmesan for a more Italian twist.)

LASTLY- While your bread sticks are baking, cinnamon rolls are rising...pat yourself on the back two down- one to go! Roll out your last rectangle of dough. Cut slits up the sides- but leave a center portion uncut for your filling.

Sorry the picture has my shadow in front of it... ( I really should learn some photography tips.)

Like I said before- I had some leftover chicken casserole. I wanted to spruce it up a bit- so I added some cream cheese.

By this time- your cinnamon rolls and braided bread are ready to bake. Where I live it is HOT HOT HOT- (Hawaii and NO air conditioning). So if I've got the oven on, I'm cooking everything at once, then we'll reheat in the microwave later. (But you could wrap up your braided bread and put it in the refrigerator until your ready to cook dinner.)
Both the cinnamon rolls and braided bread cook at 375. The cinnamon rolls will be done in 12-20 minutes and the braided bread in 20-25 minutes.

I wait to make this trio-combo when I have left-overs that would make tasty fillings. I mean, if I'm doing all the work of making bread... I don't want to have to cook chicken too! But some of you might like cooking more than me... so knock yourself out! You could fill it with cooked taco meat, cheddar cheese and garlic with onion- served with diced tomatoes, sour cream and shredded lettuce. Another filler my friend (former Mother of the Year)recommends is
Chicken a Broccoli:
1 cup chopped broccoli
2 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1 can cream chicken soup
1 cup mayo or sour cream
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 tsp curry powder.
(This makes enough for two loaves.)

Here's my son- enjoying his favorite- the bread sticks with pizza sauce for dipping.

And there you go!


emily said...

Ye-umm! I want to come to breakfast at your house (and lunch and dinner, too)

Sandra said...

Wow, that looks so good. I just might have to try this. Laura, I want to start a book club (for girls). I need some tips.

Lisa said...

This sounds very yummy and dangerous! I LOVE bread and hate to cook so this looks like the recipe for me!

Amanda said...

I'm not a happy bread baker, but you make this sound so simple! I'm going to try this, I'll let you know how it turns out! Thanks for sharing!

Amanda said...

This recipe is as simple as you can get! I'm not a bread person, I've always struggled to make bread, but this was such an easy and delicious recipe!

I made the breadsticks and sprinkled with garlic salt and grated parmesan.

For the rolls I used spiced pear perserves as a filling and sprinkled lightly with cinnamon sugar before baking.

I can see that I'll be using this recipe a LOT! Thanks again, Laura :)

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