Birthday Cake
Elizabeth David's Cotelettes de Porc au Cidre

Bernard Clayton's Honey-Lemon Whole-Wheat Rolls


There is nothing, nothing, better than homemade bread. Is there? I don't think so. Well, maybe the feeling that comes from making the homemade bread. The yeasty scent in the kitchen, the powdery flour on the backs of your hands, the sensation of a crisp crust breaking under your teeth and the sink of warmth below. When you find a recipe that is easy and fast and produces bread that smells so very good, you must hold on to it tightly. Make sure you bookmark this one; it's fantastic.

Excerpted in the LA Times this past June, the recipe comes from Bernard Clayton Jr.'s The New Complete Book of Breads. Not only is it easy because it uses a food processor and the dough comes together in a snap, but you can also make the dough at bedtime, form it into rolls and let them rise overnight in the fridge to be baked in the morning for breakfast. I didn't have this kind of time, so I just prepared the dough, let it rise for an hour and a half in my warm kitchen, then formed the rolls and let them rise a bit longer before popping them in the oven. Let me tell you, a warm roll as a bedtime snack is a very nice thing, indeed.

What do they taste like? Like my childhood. Grated lemon peel and whole-wheat flour and a touch of honey make these wholesome and delicious. They are best eaten plain or split and spread with plain butter. Jam or honey are too sweet for these soft rolls that taste so good on their own.

First, you pulse together flour, yeast, salt, hot water, honey, lemon peel and butter (I substituted butter for the shortening called for).
After beating in part of the whole-wheat flour, you let the batter rest a bit before beating in more to create a soft but not sticky dough.
This gets turned out and kneaded (because it will kill your food processor otherwise), until a gorgeous round ball emerges, that you cover and let rise for a while.
Form the dough into small balls (the recipe says that it makes 24 rolls; I only got 12) and let them rise until puffy.
Bake them, with a pan full of icecubes at the bottom of the oven, until browned and a wondrous perfume fills your kitchen.
Split and eat. Or if you're generous, share them with your boyfriend. You might live to regret it when you have none left a few days later. So, hoarding is also an option.

Lemon-Honey Whole-Wheat Rolls
Makes 24 rolls

3 cups bread flour (or good quality all-purpose flour such as King Arthur)
2 (1/4 ounce each) envelopes dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups hot water (120 to 130 degrees)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 to 3 cups whole-wheat flour

1. Using a food processor, attach the short plastic dough blade and add the bread flour or all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, hot water, honey, butter and lemon peel to the bowl of the processor. Pulse to make a batter-like dough. With the machine running, measure in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of whole-wheat flour. Blend well. Turn off the machine and let the batter rest for 3 minutes, until the whole-wheat flour has been absorbed. TUrn on the machine and gradually add 1 to 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour through the tube. Turn off the machine, remove the cover and feel the dough. It should be soft and a bit sticky, but a solid (not hard) mass.

2. Turn on the machine and knead for 45 seconds, until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too heavy and the processor stalls, remove and continue by hand. (If this happens, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board. It will be sticky but light. Add sprinkles of bread flour or all-purpose flour as necessary and knead by hand. Depending on how long your dough was kneaded in the machine, you may be kneading for up to 10 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Test to see if you've kneaded enough by slapping your hand on the dough, holding it there for a count of 10, then lifting your hand up. If bits of dough stick or cling to your hand, continue to knead, adding flour. If the hand comes off clean, the dough's ready for the next step.)

3. Form the kneaded dough into a mound and cover it with wax paper. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

4. Knead the dough for 30 seconds to press out any air bubbles. Using a sharp knife or dough blade, cut off pieces of dough a little bigger than golf balls. Roll between your hands to form balls. Place each ball on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, flattening slightly with the palm of your hand.

5. Brush the rolls with oil. Cover with plastic wrap that is loose enough to allow the rolls to rise but is sealed around the edges to hold in the moisture. Place the sheets of rolls in the refrigerator overnight.

6. Remove the rolls from the fridge and let them sit, covered, at room temperature for 25 minutes while the oven heats to 400 degrees. Place a small cake pan on the flour of the oven to heat as the oven heats. Have about a dozen ice cubes ready.

7. Uncover the rolls. Place them in the oven, then quickly and carefully place the ice cubes into the hot pan on the bottom of the oven (steam will rise immediately) and close the oven door. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the rolls are browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.