In the many years I have been hosting Novel Food I have contributed and received contributions inspired by a wide range of literature, from thick novels to flash nonfiction, from intense memoir to moving poems. One category of books notably absent from the Novel Food library is so-called self-improvement books, which examine a life's problem and offer advice on a way forward (I prefer to avoid the word "solution" which is better applied to math problems).
The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter1 (recommended to me by a friend), together with some articles from the Greater Good Science Center's Greater Good in Action website2 have helped me a lot recently to deal with some intense stressors and find again some balance in my daily life. I am not yet able to get into the sweet spot easily, but am working on it. If you are interested you can sign up for the Greater Good Science Center's newsletter.
The book did not per se inspire the recipe below, but it inspired me to bake bread again after a long hiatus. Baking bread (fare il pane) is one of the joys of life, but in the last year and a half I had it set aside for various reasons. With its focus on, among other things, bringing positive emotions into one's life, the book reminded me that baking bread is a reliable way for me to feel good. That and making cheese (fare il formaggio).
I selected from my archive a recipe by David Tannis3 for seeded dinner rolls with whole-wheat flour (farina integrale). The recipe rightly advocates for a long, slow rise (lievitazione) in the refrigerator to enhance flavor. I halved the quantities, made some changes to the list of ingredients and applied techniques I learned at the San Francisco Baking Institute. The rolls are great: dense but light, soft but with the lovely crunch of seeds, the perfect size not only for the dinner bread basket (cestino del pane) but also for a sandwich. And if you slice them and toast the slices you have a great base for canapé.
Note: I specify the brand for the flours I use, because flours are not created equal; however, this in not an advertisement, i.e., I don't get receive any payment for mentioning the brands.
Ingredients (for 10 rolls)
For the sponge:
- 1 1/2 cups / 375 ml water
- 2 grams (slightly more than 1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
- 100 grams King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour
- 15 grams sprouted whole-wheat flour (I use stone-ground from Capay Mills or King Arthur Flour)
- 10 grams Ultragrain all-purpose flour (or King Arthur Flour all-purpose flour)
For the dough:
- 25 grams millet
- 15 grams sunflower seeds
- 20 grams pumpkin seeds
- 20 grams hemp hearts
- 1 large egg, possibly from pastured poultry, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml olive oil
- 70 grams whole-spelt flour (I use stone-ground from Capay Mills4)
- 150 grams whole-wheat flour (I use stone-ground, hard red whole-wheat flour from Beck's Bakery5)
- 1 teaspoon / 5 grams sea salt
- a bit more all-purpose flour to dust your work surface
For the topping:
- Poppy seeds or sesame seeds
Make the sponge
Pour the water into a mixing bowl, add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Whisk in the flours to make a batter. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for about 30 minutes, at the end of which you should see tiny bubbles (yeast at work).
Soak the seeds
In the meantime, put the millet and all the seeds in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes, then drain (some water will remain in the seed mix and that is fine). Stir the seeds into the sponge.
Make the bread dough
Add to the sponge and seed mixture the egg, the olive oil, the spelt and whole-wheat flours. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Sprinkle the salt on the surface and let the dough rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes.
Lightly flour your work surface. Transfer the dough on it and knead until smoother (a minute or two). The dough will be a bit sticky: use a dough cutter to help you knead. Avoid adding flour: during fermentation the flours will absorb water and by the time you cut it and shape it into rolls, the dough will be easy to manage.
Fold the dough and place it into a clean, oiled bowl. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Better still, make the dough in the morning and bake the rolls the following morning or later in the day. The slow rise in the refrigerator allows a more complex flavor to develop.
Shape the rolls
When ready to cut and shape, prepare a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, and also a small bowl with water and another bowl with poppy seeds. Take the bowl with the dough out of the refrigerator, uncover it and flip it onto a lightly floured work surface. Scrape all the dough from the bowl. Cut the dough into 10 pieces, each weighing 70-72 grams6.
Shape each roll as follows: Flatten the piece of dough then fold the corners towards the center, then fold again inward into a small bundle. Flip it seam side down on a piece of clean work surface and roll it with lightly floured hand to shape it into a tight ball. [This short video shows my hands rolling a larger piece of dough, but should still give an idea.]
Holding the roll by the seam with your fingertips, dip its top surface quickly in the water, then roll it gently on the poppy seeds. Place the roll on the lined baking sheet, seeded side up, about 2 inches / 5 cm apart from the others.
Repeat until all the rolls are shaped. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and place the baking sheet in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hour, depending on the ambient temperature. Check the rolls' progress and when they are 15-20 minutes from being ready to be baked, turn on the oven to 375 F / 190 C.
Bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. The internal temperature will be close to 210 F / 99 C. Take the baking sheet out of the oven then transfer the rolls onto a rack. Let cool. Enjoy!
Perfect positive emotion to make, bake, smell and taste these rolls, especially when topped with some of my homemade cheese, like the (French) Neufchâtel7 in the photo or my famous crescenza (which these days I am making with half Jersey cow milk and it comes out out-of-this-world good8).
1 The book's page on the author's website
2 The Greater Good Science Center's Greater Good in Action website
3 Recipe for Seeded molasses whole-wheat dinner rolls on the NY Times
4 Capay Mills
5 Beck's Bakery
6 The number of rolls the original declares to make is puzzling: it is impossible to make 30 rolls each weighing 3 ounces from the quantities listed. Also, by my test, smaller-size rolls rise and bake more evenly.
7 On this blog: homemade (French) Neufchâtel
8 On this blog: homemade Crescenza
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the panini integrali ai semi audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
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FTC disclosure: I have received the placemat free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.