This past January, Ryan and I were led by his beautiful and vivacious cousin, Regina, to old hardware stores, funky boutiques and artisan food stores that made my mouth water and my wallet shudder.
We shoved our hands into coat pockets and walked quickly from one storefront to the next, bracing ourselves for bursts of cold air. We laughed and talked and enjoyed the bustle of Philadelphia on a Friday afternoon. And then the smells began to come. The unmistakable, irreplaceable smells of yeasty bread. The warmth of an oven with dozens of loaves rising and browning emitted a scent that cut through the cold and captured my senses entirely.
I began pulling Regina and Ryan ahead because now my body demanded that I find this bakery, these rolls and loaves and berry studded muffins.
And then we saw it, a bakery with tall glass windows that dripped condensation; the old architecture of the 1820's housing a collection of ovens and bread baskets that could rival any bakery in Paris. I think I might have broke into a run. I pulled open the green paneled doors and the smell hit me in its fullest force; there was nothing in the world more beautiful than these loaves of bread and my family at my side.
Because bread has never failed me. It satisfies me in the evenings when my stomach needs a bit more to allow my body to sleep. When I wake in the morning, a slice of bread slathered with almond butter or jam seems far better than any breakfast pastry, any bowl of cereal. And then at dinner, there is nothing more calming than watching that bread basket float around the table, knowing that at least a roll or a slice of bread will soon be filling my plate.
These buttermilk wheat rolls are soft and light, with a delicate crumb that melts in your mouth. They are what rolls should be, and with little effort, your kitchen and house can smell as delightfully rich as that bakery in Chestnut Hill.
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1. In a small bowl, proof the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (100 degrees Fahrenheit) with 1 TBSP granulated sugar. Allow to sit for ten minutes or until yeast becomes foamy.
2. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix with a large wooden spoon. Pour in the vegetable oil, the honey, the room temperature buttermilk and the yeast mixture. Mix with a spoon or the paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid until a shaggy dough forms. Proceed to knead your dough for 5-10 minutes (either on a well floured counter-top or with the dough hook on your mixer). Your dough should become smooth and elastic. Correct any stickiness by adding a small amount of flour.
3. Place your dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.
4. Punch down your dough and transfer to a floured surface. Divide your dough into twelve equal pieces (you can make your pieces larger or smaller depending on the purpose of your rolls). Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
5. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool before slathering with jam or butter or just eating plain.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores