Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I Can Smell Fresh Bread
When I was in college, I used to bake most of the bread myself. It saved me quite a bit of money, and I thought it was fun. Since moving to Copenhagen, I haven't baked anything with yeast (or a rolling pin, for that matter). While my current apartment is much bigger than my college apartment, the kitchen is a typical city kitchen with hardly any counter space at all. Sometimes, I find myself standing with a hot pot in my hands, and literally not having any place to put it down. I kept getting cold shivers just thinking about kneading a yeast dough and then trying to clean up the mess afterwards. Instead, I always ended up going to a bakery or buying bread in a grocery store. This may not have been ideal financially, but otherwise, one thing I love about Copenhagen are all the bakeries. There are several organic and even vegan bakeries, and one in particular makes amazing spelt walnut bread (unfortunately, it is super expensive, too!). The same bakery has some melt-in-your-mouth vegan pastries. I do my best to steer away from that street on Sunday mornings. ;-)

Anyway - this morning, I woke up around 05.30 AM to some guys drilling on the street right below my bedroom window (hello, I wonder if they're on a wrong time zone?!). As I opened the window to look what was going on, the scent of freshly baked bread lingered up from a bakery somewhere nearby. I thought about running to the bakery to get a fresh roll for breakfast, but some brave part of me whispered in my ear that I could make it myself, too - even if my kitchen was the size of a cupboard and my oven so small it can only fit in 9 cookies at a time. I decided to give it a try, and told myself I'd never need to do it again, should it end in a disaster.

I used fresh yeast just because the store nearby was out of dry yeast. If you can't find fresh yeast (I remember walking into Whole Foods once and being looked at like I was coming from the Moon: "Fresh yeast? What's that?!"), you can easily make the rolls with dry yeast, of course - that's what I use most of the time, too.

Easy Breakfast Rolls
  • 1 c warm water (lukewarm, if you use fresh yeast; a little warmer, if you use dry yeast)
  • 20 g (one 0,6 oz cube) fresh yeast or 7 g (one 1/4 oz packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 c rolled oats or unsweetened mysli
  • 3/4 c whole grain spelt flour or whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c white flour (preferably durum flour)
  • 1/4 c nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax, whatever you have on hand)
Crumble the fresh yeast in a bowl. Add the warm water and agave nectar, and mix until the yeast is completely dissolved. Mix in the salt, oil, and oats. Add flour gradually, alternating between whole wheat and white, until you have a soft dough - the required amount could be a little less or a little more than given above. Fold in the nuts or seeds. Mix well - preferably kneading with your hands - for a couple of minutes. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.

Knead the dough out on a floured surface. Divide into 7-10 equal pieces, and roll them into balls. Dip each roll in or sprinkle with some more seeds, and place on a baking sheet. Cover again with the tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for about 20 minutes. You can also let them rise a little less - about 10 minutes or so - and then place them in a cold oven. Turn on the oven. As the oven heats up, the rolls will rise.

Bake in 225 C (about 450 F) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown, and until the bottom sounds "hollow" when knocked on.

Since I still had over half a packet of yeast left, and as fresh yeast is quite perishable (but most of all, because my kitchen was already a mess ;)), I decided to bake a batch of sweet buns as well. The Danes prefer their pastries, but these buns are extremely common in the other Nordic countries - Sweden, Finland, and Norway. They are also real health food compared to the traditional Danish pastry. ;-)

Scandinavian Sweet Buns
  • 1 c non-dairy milk
  •  25 g fresh yeast 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coarsely crushed cardamom seeds (I was out of cardamom, so I just used 1 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp cinnamon for flavor)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 c vegan margarine, melted or softened
  • 3-4 c all purpose flour
  • raisins (optional)
  • Agave nectar or sugar + water or non-dairy milk, for brushing
  • Coarse sugar, brown sugar, vegan margarine, chopped nuts or flaked almonds for garnish (or none at all ;))
Heat the milk until lukewarm. In a large bowl, dissolve crumbled fresh yeast and sugar in the milk. Mix in the salt, cardamom, and about 1/3 of the clour. Add the melted margarine and enough flour to form a soft dough. Knead for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, knead the dough for a minute or so. Form into small buns, hide a few raisins inside each bun, and place on a baking sheet. Let rise for another 20 minutes or so.

Before baking, brush with agave/sugar + water mixture or milk, and sprinkle with the topping of your choice.

Bake in 225 C (about 450 F) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

*I wrote the measurements in the recipe loosely, as you can adjust the sugar, salt, spices and fat according to your own taste. The more fat you use, the softer - flakier - the buns; I normally go with only 1/4 cup though.

*This is the very basic recipe, and the variations are endless. This makes a perfect blueberry pie crust (I will post the entire recipe for this pie one day), sweet, filled loaf, fruit-filled buns, or cinnamon rolls. :)

I was obviously getting a bit tired by this point - I just dropped the dough onto a baking sheet, which explains the rather misshaped buns... They were perfectly fluffy and delicious on the inside, however. ;)

These tasted great, but I know nothing better in this world than sweet buns or cinnamon rolls made by my Mom - I think the magic is in her hands? :)

The verdict of baking with yeast in my city kitchen? I'd lie if I said it was pure pleasure, and I probably won't do it regularly until I get a bigger kitchen (or maybe some bread forms, which would allow me to make bread that require no kneading on a table?). I used a large Ikea cutting board for making the rolls, but it was still a little unpractical.

However, I will be posting more bread/roll/bun recipes - and recipes that require using a rolling pin - whenever I spend time at home at my parents'. My favorites include pumpkin, apple, walnut and blueberry - not to mention stollen and all the other Christmas treats...

The best news today? This is the sky outside my livingroom window right now:

Our sun is back!!! There's not a cloud in sight, just bright, blue sky. True enough, it's quite freezing outside - but we have sunshine! :)  I'm going to study fast so I can get in a nice, long bike ride or a walk in the sun this afternoon.

Have a lovely day!
posted by Seglare at Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | Permalink |


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