Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sticky Buns (the healthier way)

Well, I just finished a post about stovetop bread in the van, now I want to do a post looking forward to an oven in my new house. The last post had the recipe I use for bread. Now I want to tell you how I plan to feed my overnight guests in my "new" home.

First, for dinner, make a batch of bread. Use the recipe from the previous post. Let it rise for 2 hours. Assuming you aren't having a lot of guests, and don't have a big family, take half the dough, and form it into a loaf on a cookie sheet or in a well sprayed loaf pan. Then let it rise for 40ish minutes while the oven heats up to 450 degrees. If you want 2 loaves of bread, double the recipe so you still have leftover dough for breakfast. After 40 minutes (or as long as you can stand if you don't have 40 minutes), bake the bread for roughly 25-30 minutes at 450 degrees.

Serve your hot, steaming fresh bread to your adoring guests for dinner. Put the extra dough in the fridge (covered up, but not air tight-I think you'll kill the yeast if they can't breath).

In the morning, get up before your guests, and get ready to make sticky buns!

You'll need:
1 cup of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of molasses
the leftover bread dough (1/2 of the basic recipe)

1. Mix the maple syrup and the molasses together. I made up some measurements, but basically you can't really have too much of the sticky stuff. You can always add more if it looks scant.
2. Grease a square cake pan, and dump most of the syrup mixture in the bottom of it along with enough raisins and walnuts to cover the bottom of the pan. Your syrup mixture should cover the bottom of the pan so the raisins and walnuts are wading in it.
3. Then spread the dough out on the counter top. It's really too sticky for a rolling pin, just use your hands and keep stretching until it's a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Then liberally coat the dough with cinnamon, again, it's very hard to have too much. Sprinkle raisins over that, and drizzle more syrup mixture on top.
4. Roll the dough up and slice it into cinnamon rolls. Place the rolls into the pan so they are touching each other. Whatever syrup you have left, rub on the top of it (which will be the bottom).
5. Bake at 325 degrees until the dough is not sticky in the middle anymore. It'll be more than a half an hour, but less than an hour. Just keep an eye on it.
6. When it's all cooked, take it out of the oven and invert the pan onto a large dish.
7. Bask in the compliments from your guests when they wake up. Depending on their personalities, you may or may not want to point out how much healthier this is than the supermarket/traditional version.


Cooking in the Van

Well, our adventures in the van are coming to a close. I'm buying a house, an old house, in poor condition in West Virginia. I should close by next week. Parts of vanliving were fun, but on the whole, it was too stressful-what with the very active 3 year old, the old van (though we had almost no car trouble, I was always worried about what might go wrong), the lack of a workshop, space, and places to park. I am thrilled to be settling down. But I always meant to do a post on van meals, and I never got around to it.

One of the problems with the van is that I had no oven to bake bread, and buying good bread is expensive ($4+ for an artisan bread). So we made do with an occasional loaf of good bread, and lots of inferior rolls, baguettes, and loaves. Until I discovered how to make bread with just a stove top.

First my bread recipe:

I found this recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer when they were reviewing the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes. I never bought the book (though I still want it, if any of my family are reading this and looking for Christmas ideas...), but I have used this recipe for my yeast bread baking exclusively. So here it is:

3 cups of warm water
mixed with
1.5 tablespoons of active dry yeast
1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt (though I typically only use 1 tablespoon of salt)

Let the yeast dissolve for a minute, then add
6.5 cups of flour (any combination of white and whole wheat you prefer
Then mix it up.

It's a moist dough, because it was designed to last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. The idea is that you can make a batch, and use just enough to cook bread for each meal. Well, it's never last more than two days for me, but I'll take his word for it.

Anyway, to make fry bread, fill a frying pan with a half an inch or so of oil and heat it up so that it's hot, but not like boiling (I didn't have a thermometer or anything. Then you just take a piece of dough, spread it out with your hands, and drop it in the hot oil. It should cook pretty quickly if the oil is hot enough. Then flip it over and cook the other side. Take it out on to a paper towel. Then eat it. If you just bought butter, you could spread it with butter. If you bought butter two days ago and it's late spring or summer, then you'll be stuck with dipping it in the melted butter. After you've finished your favorite meal of freshly picked organic kale and mashed potatoes (usually instant, because boiling potatoes takes forever and heats up the van something fierce), cook another one to dip in maple syrup for dessert.

Then all you have to do is remember to dump the oil and steaming water before you start driving tomorrow morning, so they don't end up all over the back of the van...