Summer is officially here. We started her off right with a barbeque at our place last weekend, complete with pulled pork sandwiches, homemade pickles, an assortment of salads, cupcakes, backyard games and conversations with many good friends. Preparation started early. The carrots and sugar snaps were jarred with their spicy brines on Monday, to give them plenty of time to soak in the flavors that would take them from fresh-from-the-garden goodness to out-of-this-world “you made pickles?!?” delight. Friday night the kitchen was a flurry of dough mixing and fermenting, buttercream whipping and iced tea steeping. Rugs were vacuumed, the floor was mopped and the bar was stocked with all of the favorites for summer cocktails.
On Saturday, the weather was perfect - sunny and a bit too warm out in the open but perfectly comfortable in the shade of our apple trees with a light breeze whispering across bare skin. The smoker worked all day on a 10-pound pork shoulder, flavoring it and the air with the sweet scent of hickory, which, when mixed with the smell of freshly-mown grass (to make bocce and croquet a bit more manageable) should be bottled and sold with the simple descriptor of “summer”. Drinks were poured, games were played, and finally, as the sun started to dip behind the trees we all settled down in the grass with plates in our laps and vinegar dripping down to our elbows.
Sadly, I was so caught up in the great company and delicious fare that I failed at what I thought was my biggest goal for the day - to get photographs of people as well as the food. I have a depressingly small amount of photos from the festivities, a few from before our guests arrived and even fewer during the time that they populated our back yard. But I’ve realized that, while physical documentation of the event would have been nice, I’m so very glad that the day was relaxing enough to elicit deep and distracting conversations with some very good friends. And, the lack of photos gave Brian and I an excuse to have a smaller, quieter picnic under our apple trees the next day, complete with leftovers (although sadly, no pork) and the company of our dogs.
I have several recipes to tell you about from our barbeque menu, but am going to post them separately in short installments. Since we’re on the subject of yeast breads and Peter Reinhart, I think I’ll start by telling you about the homemade kaiser rolls that sandwiched the vinegar-laden slivers of 10-hour smoked pork from the Big Green Egg. Now, I knew going in that Brian’s Eastern Carolina-style barbeque would be the star of the show, but I wanted to be sure that it was delivered to the mouths of our guests via a vehicle worthy of the task.
I can't even describe to you how good these rolls were. I'll try, but I promise, mere words won't do them justice. When they first came out of the oven I was worried that they were too big, and would require mouths to be overextended in order to get a bite that would be too bread-y. When the filling of a sandwich promises to be as good as our pork was, the last thing you want is a mouthful of too-chewy bread overpowering the experience. These rolls were such a pleasant surprise - once in your hands they squished down nicely, allowing for an easy bite. And once in your mouth the bread seemed to melt away, allowing the pork to maintain its role as star of the show.
If you are thinking about tackling yeast breads, try these. Please. Though they are time-consuming, they are simple, and you will be oh so pleased with yourself. Promise.
I followed Peter Reinhart's recipe precisely, so the following recipe is completely his. I wish I had more photographs of the process because they would be helpful to explain some of the techniques. If you are interested in bread baking, I highly recommend picking up The Bread Baker's Apprentice from the library or adding it to your own kitchen collection, it is an excellent resource.
makes 6 large rolls or 9 small
For this recipe, you need to start the night before with a pâte fermentée.
Pâte Fermentée Ingredients:
- 1-1/8 cups (5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
- 1-1/8 cups (5 oz) unbleached bread flour (I use King Arthur)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 3/4 cup to 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, room temperature
Pâte Fermentée Method:
This makes enough for 2 batches of kaiser rolls.
- Stir together the flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl or bowl of an electric mixer. Add 3/4 cup of water and stir until everything comes together (or mix for 1 minute on low speed with paddle attachment). Adjust flour or water as necessary, so that the dough is not too sticky nor too stiff.
- Sprinkle flour on counter. Knead dough on counter for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with dough hook attachment for 4 minutes), until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not too sticky.
- Pour 1 tbsp vegetable oil into large bowl and coat sides from halfway down. Add dough ball to bowl and roll around to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until the dough swells to 1-1/2 times its original size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. It will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.
Kaiser Roll Ingredients:
- 1-1/2 cups (8 oz) pâte fermentée (I weighed it, to be sure I got the correct amount)
- 2-1/4 cups (10 oz) unbleached bread flour
- 3/4 tsp plus a pinch salt
- 1-1/2 tsp barley malt syrup (or 1 tsp diastatic barley malt powder - I used the syrup)
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 10 tbsp to 3/4 cup water, lukewarm
- poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)
- semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
Kaiser Roll Method:
- Take the pâte fermentée out of the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough.
- Stir together the flour, salt, malt powder if using, and yeast in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Add the pâte fermentée, egg, oil, malt syrup if using and 10 tbsp water. Stir (or mix on low speed with paddle attachment) for 1 minute, until the ingredients form a ball. Add extra water if necessary.
- Lightly dust the counter with flour and transfer the dough to the counter to begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead for about 10 minutes (I kneaded for about 8 minutes with my stand mixer) adding flour if needed, until the dough is soft and supple, tacky but not too sticky. The dough should pass the window pane test*, pictured below on the right. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for 2 hours.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 6 to 9 equal pieces (I made 6, 4-1/2 oz rolls). Clear the counter of all flour and wipe with a damp cloth to increase friction. Form the pieces into balls by placing the dough into your cupped hand. Firmly press the dough into the counter as if trying to push it through the counter, simultaneously rotating your hand in a circular motion, driving the dough with the outer edge of your hand. The dough should pop up into your palm and form a tight round ball.
- Mist the rounds lightly with spray oil, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough relax for about 10 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray the paper with oil and dust lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal (I was all out, so just used bread flour).
- Prepare the individual rolls by cutting them with a kaiser roll cutter, if you have one. I do not, so I used Peter Reinhart’s knotting method instead. Roll out the dough ball into an 8” log (about 3/4” to 1” in diameter). Tie a simple knot, pulling the ends so that you have enough length to wrap them back through the knot again. I know this is a little confusing without a picture, I promise to document better the next time. Basically, after you’ve tied the simple knot, one of the ends will wrap down around the outside of the ring and up through the middle, while the other will wrap down through the middle of the ring to be secured at the outside.
- Place the rolls, cut or knot side down, on the parchment paper. Mist lightly with spray oil and loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap.
- Proof the rolls for 45 minutes at room temperature. Flip them over so that the cut or knotted side is facing up. Mist again with spray oil, cover with plastic and continue proofing for another 30-45 minutes, or until the rolls are double their original size.
- Preheat the oven to 425*F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Uncover the rolls and prepare them for baking. I brushed mine with a bit of water and sprinkled poppy seeds over the top. My finished rolls weren’t nearly as shiny and golden as Peter’s when they came out of the oven, so I’ll probably brush them with an egg wash next time to get the same finish.
- Place the pan in the oven, spray the oven walls with water (or flick water from a basting brush, like I did) and close the door. After 10 minutes, rotate the pan for even baking and lower the oven temperature to 400*F. Continue baking until the rolls are a medium golden brown. The timing here is tricky. My 4-1/2 oz rolls took an additional 15 minutes to bake, but Peter says they will take anywhere from 15-30 for larger rolls and less for smaller rolls. My best advice is to watch them carefully. When they come out of the oven they will make a hollow sound if you thump them on the bottom.
- Remove the rolls from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving.
* After the dough has been kneaded for the suggested amount of time, break off a chunk and stretch it out with two hands. You should be able to get the dough stretched thin enough so that it becomes translucent, without it breaking. If it breaks early, it still needs additional time kneading.