easie's refrigerator rolls

autumn, breads, spring, summer, vegetarian, winterFieldandForest2 Comments
easie's refrigerator rolls | field + forest

I can understand if you think we're all about the pancakes and bread and cookies and rolls in this house. (I'm looking at the past few weeks of posts myself and thinking, phoo, that's a lot of carbs!)  That's actually not the case, and I fully intended to give you a vegetable-rich dish this week, but I'm willing to risk a bread-heavy reputation in order to get you these rolls in time for Thanksgiving.

Easie's refrigerator roll recipe was gifted to my mom by a very generous friend, and they have since become the stuff of legend among members of our family.  They have been present at Thanksgiving every year for at least the past decade.  They are what I think of when I hear the word "cakebread;" the shortening and sugar make them tender and sweet, and they are light enough that you can eat 3 of them and still feel confident in your stomach's capacity for pie (and believe me, you will eat 3 of them). If you are curious about the shortening, I tried making them with butter and ended up with a tasty, but somewhat denser result.  So I would like to play a devil's advocate card and encourage you to use shortening if possible, especially if you're like us and will only make this recipe once a year.

If you defy the laws of the universe and end up with leftover rolls, send them to me (!!!) or enjoy them with butter and jam for the next morning's breakfast.

Easie's Refrigerator Rolls
Adapted from Tre's recipe - Makes 60 small rolls (cut with a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter)

A few dough-rising notes: the time the dough spends in the fridge makes it rise VERY slowly.  You may be confused or concerned in the apparent lack of yeast activity, and you're not alone.  As long as you know the yeast was alive after you added it to the milk, sugar, and flour (i.e. you saw it bubble up after a couple of hours), you should be in a good place with the dough.  Give yourself enough time to let the dough rise the day of your Thanksgiving dinner by taking it out of the fridge when you wake up in the morning.  It can hang out for a few hours while you prep other dishes before it needs to be rolled out and cut.

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Crisco
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
About 6 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, gently heat milk, sugar and Crisco just until Crisco melts, stirring occasionally.  Set aside to cool to 105-110 degrees F (if you don't have a thermometer, cool until it is barely warmer than room temperature).  Once cooled, add 1 package yeast to the mixture and stir to dissolve.  Add enough flour to make a thick batter (about 2 cups flour), and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Cover and let stand in a warm place for 2 hours; it should begin to rise and bubble.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 3 1/2 cups of the remaining flour.  Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and mix to combine.  It is not necessary to knead this dough, but bat it while adding the flour.  If the dough is wet or sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour.  Place dough in refrigerator, covered, overnight.

Remove in the morning to bring up to room temperature (this will take 2-3 hours).  Roll out on floured board or wax paper.  Cut into rounds with a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet; space them according to how soft/browned you'd like them to be (1/2 inch apart for soft, light-colored sides, 1 inch or greater for more all-over browned rolls).  Cover and let rise in a warm place 2 1/2 hours.

While the rolls are rising, place a rack in the top third of your oven and preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Bake the rolls for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are beginning to brown (placing the rolls closer to the top of the oven will encourage faster browning).  Place in a napkin lined basket or bowl to keep warm.  These rolls are best enjoyed the same day they're made.

concord grape and rosemary focaccia

autumn, breads, breakfast, desserts, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

It is rare to walk a block in Salt Lake City without passing a grape vine or two draped over a fence or stealthily climbing a tree. Grapes grow well here, and are one of the first plants to offer an abundance of foliage in the spring. I think, for that reason, they’ve become a popular choice for home gardens since it seems like we’re all starving for something lush and green after months of brown earth and snow. They also produce plenty of fruit, more than most people can consume on their own, which is why some will reach out to the grapeless and invite us to help (and eat). There is now a palpable sense of urgency to rehome fruit since we don’t know when the first snow will arrive; the window for picking some varieties will close following a deep freeze as their skins will crack and burst as their cells expand in the cold.

But there are indeed some silver linings to the end of the season. The leaves have now all shriveled on the vines (products of dwindling temperatures and two lightening-fast freezes over the last month), and it seems almost unfair how easily one can see exposed fat bunches of grapes. You would only need to stand next to the vine with your eyes closed and reach towards it to feel the hundreds of fruits waiting to be picked. We moved up and down the fence, gently snapping stems, greedily dropping the grapes into bags that quickly became heavy and juice-stained. We stopped after twenty minutes, embarrassed that maybe we had taken more than our share and already realizing that we had no plans for the poundage now in our possession. But I daresay that, had you visited the vine after we left, you would have been distracted by the remaining fruit and would never have known we were there.

If you’ve ever looked at recipes involving grapes, you might wonder why some specifically call for Concord grapes. I think experiencing their flavor is the only way to truly understand the reasoning. They are so very… grapey. Eat one (if you haven't already) and I think you’ll agree. I have heard people say that they just do not like Concord grapes, and while I enjoy them, I understand how they might feel that way. They are a gamey fruit, with a sharp, unmistakable flavor and robust, matte skin. We have small vine in our own garden, next to a separate vine of a pale green grape (Thomson Seedless, perhaps?) that offers tiny fruits with delicate skins; while the Concord grapes are almost offensively flavorful, eating the lighter grapes is akin to biting into bubbles of perfume. They are the suckling pig to the Concord’s wild boar, and more of a crowd pleaser, I think. But they do not hold up well to cooking, and are best consumed off of the vine (or out of the bag).

If you cannot find Concord grapes or don’t want to use them, a seedless red variety will do well here. Use grapes that are relatively firm when gently squeezed; aging grapes  that are beginning to wrinkle will give you more of a raisin effect when baked. If you choose to use a seeded variety and remove the seeds yourself, give yourself an extra half-hour to do so and only serve this bread to people you really like.

 Concord Grape and Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from Ripe, by Nigel Slater - makes 1 loaf
(Richard would like you to know that this is one serving, though Nigel claims it can serve up to eight)

3 1/4 cups white bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115˚F or just barely warm to the touch)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
14 oz concord grapes, halved and seeded, divided
1 tablespoon pearl sugar
large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
little confectioner's sugar

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the yeast and sugar into the warm water, and set aside for 5 minutes (this is called proofing, and allows you to make sure that your yeast is alive).  You should start to see little bubbles on the surface of the mixture after a few minutes; this means the mixture is active. (If you don't see bubbles, your yeast may have expired, or your water may have been too hot.  Check your yeast's expiration date, and try again with new yeast and fresh water).  Once your yeast has proofed, add the mixture to the flour and salt along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, stir with a wooden spoon, and turn out onto a generously floured board and knead lightly for 5 minutes.

Once the dough feels elastic and "alive," put it into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel (this creates a humid environment to help support yeast activity and keep the dough from drying out) and set in a warm place to rise.  It will take approximately one hour to double in size.  (If you haven't already prepped your grapes, now is an excellent time to do so!)  Once the dough has doubled, punch it down gently to release some of the air.  Add half of the grapes to the dough (while still in the bowl) and gently knead them in until they are evenly distributed.  Tip the dough out onto the parchment lined pan, and shape into a flat circle.  Pock the surface with your fingers, like you are playing piano on the dough, and scatter over the remaining grapes.  Cover the dough with the tea towel and return to a warm place to rise.

Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220˚C).  Once the dough has expanded to almost twice its size, drizzle over the olive oil, and scatter with the pearl sugar, salt, and rosemary.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until well-risen and golden brown.  The focaccia should feel springy when pressed.  Leave to cool slightly before dusting with confectioners' sugar.  Cut into thick wedges and serve warm.

Notes on making this ahead of time:  Focaccia is best eaten within a few hours of baking, and will lose its magic when stored overnight.  If you cannot complete all of the steps in a single day, make the dough, place in the oiled bowl, and store, covered, in the fridge to rise overnight.  Let the dough come to room temperature for 1/2 an hour in the morning before kneading in the grapes and shaping it for the second rise.  You may again store the dough in the fridge for the second rise if necessary, letting it sit out of the fridge for 1/2 an hour before baking.

autumn fruit and goat cheese crostini

autumn, breakfast, snacks, vegetarianFieldandForest4 Comments

I wrote a very long post today.  It's not here (I decided to save you from reading it just yet; you're welcome!) but I think I wrote it because I'm coming up on my two year anniversary at work and I'm feeling a lot of feelings. Like "holy crap!" and "what the hell!" and "is two years a long time or a short time!" and "who can say!" and "I'm hungry!" The I'm hungry part is because I forgot my lunch today, but I'm including it as it is certainly adding to this feeling of sensory overload.

This is a day where I will get home to no leftovers and few staples, and make this crostini.  Any fruit you have on hand is appropriate in this recipe, but my favorites are figs, peaches, and pears.  I slice them thinly (you can make more crostini from a single fruit that way), and indulge my sweet tooth by drizzling them with honey or maple syrup.  I plan to make a bunch of them and eat them in the waning sun while I think my two-year-work-anniversary-thoughts and read this book.

Autumn Fruit and Goat Cheese Crostini
makes 20-24 crostini

1 baguette, cut into 20-24 1/4-inch thick slices (reserve any remaining bread for another purpose)
8 ounces fresh goat cheese (chevre)
2 peaches, halved, pitted, and thinly sliced
5 figs, thinly sliced lengthwise or cut into wedges
1 Asian pear, thinly sliced
Honey or maple syrup

Spread the goat cheese on the baguette slices, making sure to coat any nooks and crannies where you plan to place fruit (this keeps the juices from seeping into the bread and making the crostini soggy).  Overlap thin slices of fruit on the cheese.  Place on a serving dish, and drizzle with honey or maple syrup.  Serve immediately.

Make ahead: you may slice the baguette ahead of time and store the slices in an airtight container; the cut fruit will oxidize after a while, so it is best to slice them only when you are nearly ready to serve the crostini.