Food for thought

I’m a girl who loves the simple pleasures. I’ve waxed lyrical about the joys of sliding into bed with clean sheets – I say it out loud, every single time the sheets are changed and if I could afford it (and the washing powder to continue it) I’d have clean sheets on every single night. Simple pleasures mean different things to different people. What is simple to me, might be someone else’s worst imagining, but thankfully none of mine seem particularly odd. Making bread is just one of my pleasures, along with cooking new dishes (especially when they turn out really well!)

Lately, I’d lost my bread mojo, having a couple of duff attempts had knocked my confidence, despite my mixer taking the strain of the kneading process. I’m not sure why; it could have been old yeast, old flour, wrong temperature, too much salt, not enough liquid…all I knew is that I was feeling a bit defeated. Until yesterday.

Saturday – I’d decided to tackle what I thought was a difficult, technical dish which turned out to be the easiest and most rewarding meal I’ve made in a while: pulled pork. I know its been everywhere – burgers with pulled pork, wraps, burritos, tacos and a thousand other incarnations. Maybe it’s a bit passé now, time for it to hush up – but I love it. The soft, melting salty shreds are simply delicious, in all its forms. I genuinely shied away from attempting it because I assumed (wrongly) that it was complicated, requiring an arm’s length list of ingredients and 20 types of kitchen utensil. Oh how wrong I was. The best bit about having umpteen food writers in the world now is that they do the hard work and research for you: case in point, Felicity Cloake, food writer for the Guardian, author of The A to Z of Eating. She has a weekly install entitled How to Cook – and delightfully, Pulled Pork is up there. She trials different methods of the same dish, tweaking and changing until she comes up with the perfect recipe. I’ve used her Cheese Scone recipe before with brilliant results, so the Pulled Pork was bound to be hit. And it was. 4 ingredients, 7 hours of cooking and 1 amazing result. Salty, smoky and chin drippingly delicious – with zero effort and absolutely minimal stress.

Photo credit: Felicity Cloake for Guardian. Mine looked like this (we just ate it before I could photograph it)

The second day of the pork was even better. Husband suggested the leftovers in rolls for tea and I’ve never been known to turn down a sandwich. I didn’t want to buy rolls for dinner, and I’d had a hankering to try making bread again – so what better occasion than to haul out my stand mixer and make bread rolls. I assumed that it would be no more difficult than making a loaf of bread and it turned out to be easier and more rewarding in the end. I used the Hairy Bikers recipe on BBC Food and while I had to add a bit more flour during the kneading stage, the rolls turned out brilliantly and even on Day 2, are still fresh enough for breakfast, smeared with last years strawberry jam that is still so liquid it needs to be poured, rather than scooped, onto the bread.

The recipe is here, along with the method. If you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook, you may not need the full 20-25 minutes of kneading time stated. Keep checking your dough for texture and elasticity and you’ll know when it’s had its time. I used spreadable butter and regular bread flour, not organic. Personal preference but use what you know and love…simple pleasures after all.

A word of note – the method recommends 8-10 minutes baking time. They were not cooked at this point and were still whiter than white. I left mine in for 20 minutes, possibly 25. They needed this to cook properly and to have the requisite colouring I associate with properly baked dough. You know your oven though, so watch them like a hawk and don’t be tempted to take them out too early and end up with raw dough in the middle.

Ingredients

  • 500g/1lb 2oz unbleached strong white organic bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 30g/1oz butter or lard, softened
  • 75ml/2½fl oz milk, warmed
  • 225ml/8fl oz warm water
  • oil, for greasing
  • rice flour, for dusting (i didn’t have rice flour – so I didn’t bother dusting my rolls; they didn’t appear to suffer for this omission though)
  • butter, to serve
  1. With your fingers, mix the white flour, salt and dried yeast in a bowl.

  2. Rub the softened butter or lard into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

  3. Mix the warm milk with the water.

  4. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix together with your hands until the dough is well combined. Bring the dough together into a ball.

  5. Using floured hands, knead the dough on a clean, floured work surface for 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and smooth. If necessary add a little more warm water to loosen the dough.

  6. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean damp tea towel or cling film. Set aside for 1-1½ hours in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

  7. When the dough has risen, return it to a floured work surface and knock it back.

  8. Separate the mixture into eight parts and roll each into a ball. Flatten each slightly with the palm of your hand and transfer the rolls to a baking tray, placing them close together. Cover the tray with cling film and set aside for another hour, or until the rolls have doubled in size again.

  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

  10. When the rolls have expanded, dust them with the rice flour (or not) and transfer them to the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through.

  11. To serve, separate the rolls and serve warm with butter.

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