Bread Knots v. Dinner Rolls

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Mr. Foodie grabbed a yeast packet out of the pantry and I looked up curiously from my computer. “Pretzels?” I asked. You might remember that we recently landed on a perfect soft pretzel recipe after many trials and errors, but it had a been a few weeks since Mr. Foodie had baked anything let alone something that required yeast. “No, let’s do bread rolls!” I used to be intimidated by bread (and still am when it comes to looking at/drooling over artisan breads I’d love to try), but Mr. Foodie just goes for it. That’s not to say he doesn’t have majorly mixed results sometimes, but instead of agonizing over the details of recipe for weeks before getting his hands dirty (like me), he just begins.

In this case, he piggy-backed off of this Soft Dinner Rolls Recipe by Beth. My first comment as I was looking over his shoulder was that the recipe was designed for a bread machine, so it did not say how long to let it rise, etc. Oh well, a fairly standard approach is to let it rise “until it has doubled in size.” My second remark, following a gasp of realization, was that I had used the last of the eggs for our breakfast and this recipe called for one. I am far from an expert on bread, or rolls, but every soft dinner roll recipe I’ve ever seen calls for at least one egg. Mr. Foodie pressed on nonetheless, substituting some veggie oil. I remained dubious.

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Because he didn’t have the egg, the texture of the dough was off, preventing him from cutting out the soft rounds that eventually bake into the soft dinner rolls. Instead he rolled them out (like Pretzels!) and tied them into knots. Et voila! Not-so-soft Bread Knots, as we came to call them. Because of the missing egg, they definitely lacked the airiness of dinner rolls, but the bread came out flakey and soft anyway. Because we did not flavor the dough or top with melted butter as the recipe suggested, the flavor was neutral. But we took care of that by topping the rolls with a pat of butter and drizzle of our farmer’s market honey.

While this recipe could not, perhaps, be characterized as a success, I wanted to share it with you anyway because sometimes I am a little too rigid in my baking and cooking. I (sometimes) won’t even try if I don’t have all the ingredients, or the time to do each and every step in the recipe as instructed. This prevents me from not only taking risks, but from learning – something I love to do. It was because of this recipe that I learned what gives a soft dinner roll its characteristic texture and flavor (ours were slightly sweet as most dinner rolls are, but lacked the browned tops that come from brushing with melted butter). And we still ended up with tasty bread knots that prompted the use of the farmer’s market honey we have (something I hadn’t even tasted properly up to that point). Not to mention the joy I get from cooking and baking with Mr. Foodie no matter how it turns out.

If you’re anything like me, you get too crestfallen when a recipe fails, too wary of new recipes you haven’t studied or practiced for weeks, or too timid to just wing it. While there is value in studying method and using the tried-and-true recipe of a chef, this is no way to grow in the kitchen.

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I challenge you to try something radically new (for you) in the kitchen this week! And since it is National #pieweek – consider making your own pie dough using my easy recipe. Don’t have shortening on hand? No problem, substitute with butter (or vice versa). As long as you have flour and some kind of fat on hand, homemade pie dough is within your grasp. Or try your hand at Pretzels (since we already did the work for you of finding a great and easy recipe). Or a focaccia-style bread recipe (great for beginner bread-makers!).

If you do push yourself this week, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

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