Baking

Subpar Sub Rolls

Things have been grim here financially, and then I got sick and we had a blizzard warning on top of it. I’d bought two big packs of on sale ground beef at Market Basket, super fresh and tasty 85%, and the first of them had been partly used and partly frozen. The other sat in the fridge until the day after I’d normally have preferred to use. With everyone having suffered through fending for themselves the day before, and the burger needing to be used unless it had gone bad, I decided to make meatballs. Universally loved by all five of us, but not a meal I consider very frugal. The burger turned out to be as fresh as if you’d just bought it at an ordinary store. Given that it was well over 3 lbs, the amount that normally goes into meatballs, and that it wasn’t right on the edge, I made a big patty to freeze and at least got some freezer fodder out of it. While I was sick, with a blizzard expected, the wife went to the store and got a couple bags of ice to top off the freezer and help it keep should the power go out. Also, as a preventative to losing power, which worked. The alternative to meatballs was chili, but I could have done that on a pound of burger.

When I make meatballs, I usually make gravy and either egg noodles or potatoes. Neither were on hand. Sometimes we have them as meatball subs, for anyone who wants them that way, with red sauce (or just ketchup) and optional cheese. But there were no rolls, either! And not much bread, for that matter. I haven’t been buying sub rolls because I haven’t been buying cold cuts, because that’s expensive. When I could afford it, every 2-4 weeks we’d have subs for supper. If I’d planned the meatballs and been able to time a trip to Market Basket appropriately, I could have bought sub rolls, but would probably have bought egg noodles or potatoes instead.

Well, I’ve been experiementing with making bread, and in one case dinner rolls, so why not sub rolls? I focused on two recipes I came across, comparing what they involved if you made the batch size the same. This one looked tasty but looked like it might be too crusty compared to the result I wanted. This other one purports to be a way to match the rolls you would get at Subway. Now, I don’t know from Subway, but the picture looked like what I’d buy at Market Basket six for $1.50. With some trepidation about the volume of oil and lack of sugar compared to the other recipe and other breads I’ve made or looked at, I went for it.

This was not an entirely smooth process, given that I forgot to melt the butter before everything else was in the bowl, and that I don’t have a stand mixer. I could make a case for always moving on from recipes that assume you have a stand mixer. I usually do, but how hard could it be to just do things the old way?

Everything through the first rise and dividing the dough into eight rolls went fine. It rose enthusiastically enough not to provoke concern. The rolls, though… they would have taken hours to rise to where I thought they should be, at the rate they were going. After an hour and a half, I put them in the oven.

They tasted OK, if more like sourdough than the bread and rolls I am used to. You could definitely tell the lack of sugar. They were flat, though, completely unsuited to being a sub roll, especially for meatballs. Their best use seems to be as garlic bread, or cheesey garlic bread. Because it didn’t rise fully, the texture is pretty heavy.

I won’t make that recipe again, at least not without modifying it into something of my own. I don’t have enough bread making savvy yet to parse what went wrong without researching. Which, come to think of it, I had meant to do right afterward. “Why does second rise fail” or something like that fed to Google might give me insight. Or perhaps something on the science/principles of bread baking. That’s how I learned gravy. Best thing I found was something that described the principles of what you were doing, rather than trying to be an exact recipe, and gave insight into various types of gravy. Sometimes I have an imperfect batch, but in general I have never had gravy as good as what I make.

The Great British Baking Show

I saw The Great British Baking Show on Netflix (later I noticed it was also on Amazon Prime, which might have saved me having the audio and video getting unsynchronized so badly) and couldn’t resist checking it out. Unusually for me, I watched all ten episodes within a few days. By comparison, I have yet to finish the second set of Chopped episodes. It was called The Great British Bake Off originally. Apparently, they thought American audience couldn’t handle Philosopher’s Stone Bake Off and needed it to be Sorceror’s Stone Baking Show instead. And it’s oh so British.

The contestants were great. I especially loved Martha, Chetna and Richard. Under its British name, that was season 5, while it was the first season shown under the American name.

Early on, I noticed the worshipful way contestants mentioned Mary Berry. “Who?” I looked her up, since I had never heard of her. Or Paul Hollywood, for that matter.

Highly recommended, if you haven’t watched it. It made me want to bake, and I learned some things.

Allergy-Free/Vegan Cake

I need to do a comprehensive post or series of posts about my cake experiments. I have one recipe that works for cake that is eggless and free of dairy. The trick to finding that kind of recipe easily, if you have that pair of allergies, is to search for vegan and whatever type of recipe. Discovered that when I was doing clunky searches for no egg and dairy free or whatever. No need to be a vegan yourself, and you can ignore some of the finer points like making sure every ingredient complies strictly, but that community has done a ton of crossover work applicable to egg and milk allergies.

I’m reminded of this because today I experimented with making orange flavored cake, and recently perfected a yellow/vanilla cake variant of what started out as a chocolate cake recipe. I have the hardest time getting the chocolate version to come out great, but my son loves that flavor and can’t eat most chocolate. You know… milk chocolate.

I have also made versions with mango-peach applesauce and dried apricots, pumpkin (much better than my efforts to get a no-egg pumpkin bread to work without being too moist), mocha (in theory), and, very successfully, strawberry for my daughter’s fourth birthday. Sometimes I haven’t exactly measured the changes I’ve made, but it’s easy to take the concepts and extrapolate.

I know, I’m being a tease, but I’d also like to collect up the relevant pictures before I post it for real. Stay tuned Real Soon Now…