Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Living up to this blog's name (7/4/11)

With 4 years of experience, I think we've mostly gotten past the humbler beginnings. Mostly. Except for this 4th.

On the weekends, Julie and I swing back and forth a lot on our choices for meals. On the one hand, weekends are lazy, and there tend to be a lot of leftovers from potlucks. On the other, weekends are a full day to do longer cooking projects. On the 4th of July (an honorary weekend day), we decided to go for it and do some baking. I found what seemed like a nice recipe for rosemary and olive oil rolls and began to put it together.

A single summer of maybe 5ish efforts at bread baking isn't a tremendous amount of experience, but seeing the recipes gave me the first red flag when it had only 3 cups of flour in it. Having packed twice that much bread flour into a loaf before, I was a little skeptical, and when the dough got to 3 cups, it wasn't even close to being ready. Not wanting to deviate from the recipe too much, I added in 3 tbsp more of flour, at which point it looked more lifelike. Still trusting the recipe, I turned it out onto a floured surface, floured my hands, put my hands in the dough and got this

I have worked with brownie and cookie dough that held together better than this! Julie furiously fed me more and more flour, and every time I worried that we would put in too much and throw off the ratio, the dough would stick more. We ended up adding at least another cup of flour, and probably a lot more than that.

Eventually, I got past my dough-webbed fingers and managed to get it into a ball and be done with kneading. The next few steps went smoothly, and we popped them in the oven for their 20-25 minutes while we prepared our red, white, and blue salad.

About 10 minutes later, we saw something steamy or smoky coming from one of the burners. At first, I was worried that I had turned one of the surface units on, and various containers were sitting there. Seeing as that didn't appear to be the case, I just assumed that it was steam from the oven. When it didn't stop, I took Julie's advice and peeked inside the oven.

I have never smoked any meats before, but I have been at barbecues and camp fires. I didn't realize it from the surface units, but smoke is smoke, and when there isn't supposed to be smoke, dinner probably isn't going to turn out well. I quickly took them out, and after Julie and I managed to start airing out the kitchen with a fan and open windows, we saw the perfectly blackened bottoms of the rolls.

In retrospect, if we were going to screw up the baking process, this was a pretty good way to do it. Since the bottom was completely blackened and crispy, the tops pulled right off, and we got warm roll tops out of it.

Recipe makers are just as fallible as anyone else, but I think this truly the first big disaster that I have had. The pumpkin pancake recipe didn't quite get the consistency correct, but this recipe was just wrong. I realize the recipe says to bake "... or until golden brown," and maybe the oven here isn't perfect, but there's a big difference between 10 and 20 minutes.

Had the recipe worked, they would have been nice dinner rolls, but nothing special. The rosemary and olive oil ended up being mostly lost and far too subtle to make it work. Rejected.

Still, Julie had the idea for and put together a nice red, white, and blue salad composed of spinach, strawberries (red), blueberries (blue), feta cheese (white), onions (more white), and some leftover balsamic vinaigrette. In retrospect, the green from the spinach gives us red, white, blue, and green, which could basically be any flag in the world. Consider us open-minded in celebrating the 4th of July.

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